Thursday, February 3, 2022

THE CORD BY SREDHANEA RAMKRISHNAN: A Review





Often we ponder the causes that drive a writer to give shape to his thoughts in the form of literary art. We seldom consider the reasons that motivate us readers towards literature and art in general. The laymen take it for granted. Is art such a social or cultural product that we should take for granted as a side-effect of human existence? When the IS demolished the statues of Bamiyan, the underlying message was clear. Art is not just a natural byproduct of humans interacting with humans or nature or supernatural forces. It takes a conscious effort, a step towards the unknown, to entrench oneself or the culture in the world of art. Art, like science and philosophy, takes the torch of investigation forward. Its most important function. Literature, the art of words, is our concern here. “The novel is a meditation on existence as seen through the medium of imaginary characters,” suggests Milan Kundera in his Art of the Novel

Milan Kundera


Certain novels draw our attention not just by their subject matter but also by the treatment of the subject. The craft of novel writing involves a complex amalgamation of the subject matter with the language, metaphors, metaphysics, thoughts, philosophy, plot and story. The Cord is one such novel. Commendable in its shortness and economy of style, The Cord hits all the right notes of emotions, thrill, drama, and suspense through the span of the narrative. 



George Bernard Shaw



The Cord is a brutal story of a father and son who are taken apart by the currents of history. Both of them carve their life out in the armed forces. They settle down in their respective geopolitical sides: one in Pakistan and the other, in India. The novel deals with one of the most complex and difficult existential issues: life in the armed forces. Usually, such narratives that include armed forces portray their valour, glory, and patriotism. There are certain classic exceptions though, such as Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man, a play that made the Modernist mind question its loyalties, and Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms, which enabled us to let go of the burden of putting ourselves to the test of the grand virtues borne by the soldiers. 


Ernest Hemingway


Sredhanea Ramkrishnan puts us to the test of experiencing the agony of a soldier’s moral crisis. Set in the immediate backdrop of India’s partition, The Cord masterfully captures the uncertainties of the era. Historical figures such as Cyril Radcliffe and Christopher Beaumont are behind the officiation of the partition of the two nations. They appear on the pages and shock us with the gruesomeness of reality. Azad leaves his family. They are migrating to Pakistan due to the newly revived religious sentiments of Major Ashraf Ullah, the father of Azad. The reason for the absconding of Azad is at first unclear to his family. His father, mother and younger sister were left behind in Pakistan, and Azad finds in India his new home. 


The novel moves with a tightly woven plot and strong character moments. As the story moves towards its climax, the readers are given a glimpse into the function of the novel: to explore an existential question. The question the novel explores is perhaps as old as humanity’s entire life span but seldom explored. What truly motivates a soldier, the love for one’s family or the love for the nation? 


The Cord captures many emotions, ideas, and complex events with clarity. The economy of words is a surprising aspect of the novel that may serve as a good lesson for aspiring writers. A compatriot of Sredhanea, I remember wondering while reading The Cord on the author’s gift for writing a complex narrative with such a small number of words. Every word counts in this novel, and every pause matters. The visual aspect of writing is yet another takeaway. The writer shows the story rather than telling it. The novel in the Indian English writing tradition often relies on the expositional narrative, which strikes mostly an authorial monologue. This is absent if not mostly silenced in Sredhanea’s work. 


The novel also breaks free from the confinement within the historical territory. The characters that are placed in the complex historical situation of the partition are players in the ensuing fictional narrative. Thus, The Cord gracefully nestles itself within the niche of historical fiction, still offering the flight of imagination of a fictional narrative for the readers. The Cord would certainly provoke thoughts. Those open-ended scenes, matters unsaid, would entice a reader to visualise the remaining part in his or her mind providing an ideal ground to take part in the creative process. 


The Cord is Sredhanea Ramkrishnan’s debut novel. It proves her to be a unique voice among Indian English Writers. Published by Zero Degree publishing, The Cord comes in a cover designed by Vijayan. The cover image does justice to the themes and concerns of the book. Some chapters are epistolary, designed as the inland letter, an old letter-writing sheet usually bought in post offices in India. In the present day, when letter writing has mostly undergone an advanced makeover in the digital form, the inland is no longer seen. The book is priced at Rupees 290 only and is available for purchase on Amazon.     


In Jayanthi Sankar’s Foreword to The Cord, she speaks about the depleting severity of borders in the present world. Borders in the past were more poignant and threatening. Distances and physical separation in today’s world are overcome by the various conveniences invented by digital technology. Conceiving borders with its gruesomeness is perhaps more necessary today than it was in the past. This helps one to learn why some of us made the decisions they made in the pages of history- personal or national. This may be the reason a reader finds The Cord and engages oneself in the pages of this novel. 



Thursday, November 18, 2021

NECTAR OF ALL WORLD RELIGIONS by Ishwar Joshi Awalgaonkar _ A Review

 




I have been mulling over a pestering question. The question is connected to a book that I have been working on. How would an inter-religious couple bring up their child? The answer is on the table for everyone to see, open and uncomplicated. It’s easy. They will bring up their child without any religion and let him choose a Faith all by himself when he comes of age. What an idea sir Ji!


It’s schadenfreude to just let the child -future adult- choose a religious faith from the available options as if it’s as simple as choosing a data pack from your cellular company’s advertisement. As in the case of choosing the data plan, any decision awaiting a choice from a bunch of options always entails stress and anxiety. Is choosing faith as easy as choosing a data plan? Remember, this is not the data plan for a month or a year. This is a plan for your soul, which may have implications for an eternity to come. 


Also, there is the question of human rights. The child has the right to know and live in the faith of parents. Hiding it from him/her does not solve the problem for you. Instead, it will create a bigger problem. If a couple chooses not to talk about religion to their child, it will be like disowning a child your legacy. He or she has the rightful claim on your heredity, legacy, and tradition. 


So what would an interreligious couple do? Inter-religious marriages or relationships are a reality in India due to its vast array of religious faiths. It is when this question started haunting me, I came across a book titled Nectar of All World Religions. By merely perusing the title and its blurb, I instantly knew that I must jump into its pages right away to find the answer to that confounding question. 


The author begins with his first encounter with Gita. Then he moves on to reveal the realization that the messages in Gita are not just abstract topics. Instead, the teachings of Gita are practical and connected with our life. The author explains his many readings of Gita. After reading the Gita five times, he stumbled across the Holy Bible. “Eager to know” if reading The Bible will give him the same experience as the Gita, he decided to “read it cover to cover.” “In the course of the next five years,” the author says he read all the major texts of the twelve major world religions. 


Written by author Ishwar Joshi Awalgaonkar Nectar of All World Religions carries 1000 Selections from 11 Spiritual Traditions. The book begins with the Bahai religion, gives a brief narration about the faith and then moves on directly to quote the sayings from their sacred text: Kitab I Aqdas. 


This is followed by Buddhism. The way images are integrated into the Kindle edition seemed invaluable, especially because I have gone through the Kindle edition of the book. The selected passages from the Buddhist sacred text Dhammapada is a remarkable read. We learn that “Wonderful, indeed, it is to subdue the mind, so difficult to subdue, ever swift, and seizing whatever it desires. A tamed mind brings happiness.” There are several pearls of wisdom quoted directly from Dhammapada here. What appealed to me more was that it is not the whole of Dhammapada. The book contains only selected sections from the holy text. This, therefore, can be a great help in letting a reader gather knowledge about a certain religious tradition within a short period by going through the sections. 


Christianity follows Buddhism. The selections from the King James Bible felt so poignant to read through. Since it is a selected collection from the holy texts, these selected passages often reflect the author’s intention also. By going through the selections one may find the possibility to rise higher in life by capitalising on the moral, spiritual, and psychological side of human existence. The selections from the Bible are not given as per the categories as in the original text, such as under the name of the writer or title of a particular book in the Bible, as is usually seen. These selections appear without any mention of their specific source. 


Confucianism follows. It tells us to “Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles.” This is followed by Hinduism. Selections are given from the Bhagavad Gita. As mentioned earlier, the particular details regarding the source, such as chapter names are not given. The book performs its function with efficacy by indulging in strengthening our inspiration to read and understand these great spiritual classics. Selections from the Quran adore the pages next as this section is about Islam. Jainism and its sacred text Acharanga Sutra follows and we are faced with the question of the meaning of life. 


Judaism and its sacred text Tanakh follows and teaches us the cosmic truth that “God is with you in all that you do.”


Sikhism, its sacred text Guru Granth Sahib and Taoism adore the pages and we merge with the ageless wisdom of the Tao te Ching. Zoroastrianism gave us the Zend Avesta, of which we take a glimpse here. These sacred glimpses give us wisdom. This wisdom is not the divisive wisdom of the world, but the wisdom to love your neighbour and honour their faith. 


Like the Second Vatican Council affirms regarding interreligious dialogues, “The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.” 


In the conflict-ridden world we inhabit, friendship and tolerance would go a long way in finding solutions to many of our present problems. Nectar of All World Religions by Ishwar Joshi Awalgaonkar teaches the similarity in all the world’s mainstream religions. This book thereby initiates an effort of showing tolerance towards people of differing faiths.


As I finished reading this book, my initial intuitions were confirmed. Indeed, it is true that all religions carry the light of Truth, objective Truth regarding God and the salvation of souls. It clarified my thoughts further. Now, backed with the insight squeezed out of this volume, I could safely take off with my new story where I try to find the fate of the children of inter-religious couples. The answer is clear: the children of inter-religious couples must be educated in the religious faith of both parents and grow up with the distinct teachings of both Faiths. 


Sunday, July 25, 2021

What Should Be The Word Limit For Writing A Story For 10th Standard?




For any student of the tenth standard, the skill to write independently matters a lot.  In many cases, this skill weighs more importantly upon the tenth standard student than the student of any other class, which includes students doing their higher education, up to Post Graduation. The second more important occasion that turns up demanding more from the student in terms of one’s writing skill is Post Graduation. The graduation and the earlier phase, the higher secondary, are just building stages where the student must build one’s skill to write like a breeze the idea that rises to the brim of his or her conscious mind. The tenth standard is crucial because it is the gateway to higher education, in all disciplines. 


The term story means any write-up. It could mean an article or an essay. It could also mean the classic definition- a piece of creative writing, in a short length, a fictional story or a non-fiction story. "Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man, and writing an exact man,” remarked Francis Bacon, the renowned English Essayist, political thinker, and philosopher of the seventeenth century. This may be his opinion on the skill of writing but it matters very much to us because it is evident through observation that to write one requires clarity in thoughts. 

Francis Bacon

The “exactness” Francis Bacon talks about can be interpreted as this clarity. Once your ideas have a clear contour, and when they speak to you and the world with a clear voice, you can think about steps to achieve clarity of mind. This means a step-by-step thinking method that can help you write with ease and efficiency. If you write your essay or story in this manner, you can create an effective piece of literature. What remains in your mind after the completion of the work would be the framework of clarity, like a residue or trace. If you are diligent enough, you can use this framework of clarity to pursue further success in writing. 

 

Another matter of significance is the word count of your work. If the document you write is too long, it is pertinent to think that you may lose interest in your writing halfway through. If your work is too short, it may be less clear and appear incomplete with the ideas you visualized in your mind clearly, still not mapped in your writing in its entirety.        



For a student of the tenth standard, the word limit for a story should be 250 words. This is the generalized ideal word count, accurate for a fifteen-year-old to complete a story idea. But if you are diligent enough you can use words as they come to you and present your ideas accordingly as per their length and breadth. Your work may also be shorter, like those of Francis Bacon’s. Francis Bacon used a style of writing known as the aphorism that was characterised by the directness of sense and shortness of the length of sentences. You can read Bacon, Philip Sydney, and many other writers remarkable in the history of English literature and choose your style.

 

Always remember, the purpose of writing is to connect with the reader. So always write with a reader in your mind. This reader could be your teacher or your friend or parent. Whoever you are writing for, write with sincerity.  

 

If you are interested in knowing more about the process of writing and publishing books, please feel free to let me know in the comments below. 

 

The Lamb- A Poem



All those

who walk 

on the Way

are unified

through the sacrifice

of the Lamb. 

~~~~


Friday, June 4, 2021

Post Graduate Mercy Chance Examinations by Kannur University

 ബിരുദാനന്തര ബിരുദ മേഴ്സി ചാൻസ് പരീക്ഷകൾ


19.04.2021 മുതൽ നടത്താനിരുന്ന 2013 ഉം അതിന് മുൻപുമുള്ള അഡ്മിഷൻ ബിരുദാനനര ബിരുദ (സപ്ലിമെന്ററി - മേഴ്സി ചാൻസ്) പരീക്ഷകൾ 15.06.2021 മുതൽ സർവകലാശാലയുടെ താവക്കര ക്യാംപസിൽ വച്ച് നടത്തും.


പ്രൊജക്റ്റ് മൂല്യനിർണയം / വാചാ പരീക്ഷ


ആറാം സെമസ്റ്റർ ബി. എ. സംസ്കൃതം പ്രൊജക്റ്റ് മൂല്യനിർണയം / വാചാ പരീക്ഷ 08.06.2021 ന് ഓൺലൈനായി നടക്കും. രജിസ്റ്റർ ചെയ്ത വിദ്യാർഥികൾ പരീക്ഷാകേന്ദ്രവുമായി ബന്ധപ്പെടുക.


for more details: https://www.kannuruniversity.ac.in/en/

Saturday, April 3, 2021

ERI by Pradeepan Pampirikkunnu_ Comprehension Questions

ERI by Pradeepan Pampirikkunnu 


Readings on Kerala

Readings on Kerala (1A02ENG)

I Semester UG Common Course




Comprehension Questions:


  1. Who is Eri?

Eri, the character represents the historically downtrodden people in the Parayan community in Kerala. Eri has an inter-caste identity. He is born to a Parayan father and a Malayan mother. 


  1. Who is the narrator of the novel?

The narrator of the story is a research scholar who belongs to the Malaya caste. 


  1. Why is the character Eri important for the narrator? 

The recovery of the history of Eri is important to the narrator because he was impressed as a subaltern linguist by the legend of Eri. The narrator had heard stories of Eri from his father. 


  1. How did Eri help Raman to find his way home?

Eri applied a medicine from his duppi in his kurya to Raman’s eyes and he was able to see in the dark. 


  1. Did Rama Panikar have a good collection of books in his home library as he claimed? Why?  

Rama Panikar had claimed to have a great collection of books. However, the narrator could only find four palm leaf folders. So apparently, it wasn’t a good collection as he claimed. 


  1. Why did the father use the phrase “white cloth” to describe Eri according to the narrator?

The father told his son that Eri wears a white dress, indicating purity and cleanliness, which is a symbol of upper caste sensibility. 


  1. Describe the mode of teaching practiced by the Ezhuthassanmaar?

Ezhuthassanmaar travelled from one place to another and taught writing. They stayed in a place and taught Amaram (Amarakosham), Kavyam (Manipravalakavyangal), Enjuvadi, etc. to the children there.


  1. What did the Antharjanam want from Eri?

Antharjanam requested Eri to use magic to seduce her out of her husband’s house so that she would be excommunicated. 


  1. What happened to the Antharjanam?

Her husband, who was sixty, had passed away. She was only twenty years old and wanted to experience more from life. However, as per the tradition of the Brahmin community, she would be forced to live inside the house without any contact with the world outside for the rest of her life. 


  1. Why did Eri decline the request of the Antharjanam?

Eri declined the request of the Antharjanam because he believes that it is impossible to live together without love. He said that he lives his life with a sense of justice and God has no role in it. The anguish suffered by the Parayan community is the reality of his home. He asks her forgiveness before leaving her there.


  1. Who was Iringal Kanara Panikkar?


Iringal Kanara Panikkar was a skilled manthravadi. He was also a vaidyan who knew the Sanskrit language. He was an expert in podiatry and the treatment of fits. 

Curing Caste by Sahodaran Ayyappan_ Comprehension Questions

Curing Caste by Sahodaran Ayyappan_ Comprehension Questions


Readings on Kerala
Readings on Kerala (1A02ENG)

  • I Semester UG Common Course 


Comprehension Questions:

  1. What, according to the author, are the two types of cures for the caste disease?

Sahodaran Ayyappan suggests two cures for the caste disease: one is applied from the outside and the other is from the inside. 

  1. Why are external ointments not effective for the caste disease? 

The cures that are only applied externally leave the real causes of the caste problem unsolved. External ointments or solutions applied outside are short-lived. 

  1. What are the symptoms of caste disease according to sages? 

According to sages, hate, gossip, and nationalist rhetoric are symptoms of inwardly drawn caste disease. These symptoms exist dormant in the collective psyche of society. 

  1. Explain the phrase “hate rhetoric”. 

Hate rhetoric is hate speech. Individuals who nurture caste- bias are prone to become successful as politicians who rally masses in the name of caste and hate speech. Politicians exploit caste disease to gather support and secure power. 

  1. How do those who have faith in caste glorify caste? 

Those who have faith in caste glorify caste by equating caste with truth, morality and divinity. For them, breaking caste is forbidden and living casteless in a society is a cause of shame. 

  1. Whom does the “medico” in the poem represent?

The term “medico” indicates a physical or doctor, which here means the doctors who treat society, the social reformers. 

  1. What is meant by the word “dogma”?

The term dogma means blind faith of unquestioned belief. Ayyappan speaks about the importance of exterminating the dogmas of caste in the poem “Curing Caste”.  

  1. What happens when the dogmas and conventions of caste change? 

When change occurs in dogmas and conventions of caste, human beings can appreciate each other fully. 

  1. What is the power gained by those who are cured of the caste disease?

Only those who are completely cured of the caste disease can observe the defects and qualities of a person.

  1. Mere intelligence and learning are not sufficient to gain full human potential. What else is needed? 

Without getting rid of caste, according to Ayyappan, no result shall be obtained by mere intelligence or learning.