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Patriotism through parody - my review of Shashi Tharoor's The Great Indian Novel

I consider Shashi Tharoor to be one of India's finest contemporary minds. His genius shines through in his every enterprise - be it oratory, writing or political commentary. I recently discovered another arrow in his intellectual quiver, comedy. The Great Indian Novel is a work of comedic genius - a grafting of the Woodhousian tradition of wry, hyperbolic humor over loud and noisy 20th century India. For fodder, Tharoor takes two of India's grandest stories, the Mahabharata and the Indian Freedom Struggle and fuses them into an irreverent comedic masterpiece. The idea to merge these two drastically different stories is a spark of pure magic. In retrospect, these tales possess remarkable synergy that makes this fusion very natural and spontaneous.

In the grandest sense, both these stories ponder the 'Idea of India'. The Mahabharata asks the question whether Bharat is the land of the usurping Kauravas or the DharmicPandavas. The Freedom Struggle asks whether India can a…
Recent posts

My review of Papillon

Papillon -- the semi-autobiographical account of Henri Charriere's escape from a French penal colony -- was a rage when it first released in 1969. It had a little something for everyone; a swashbuckling hero's escape from a corrupt regime's clutches, set in exotic tropical locales. True to his name, Papillon rises above his inner demons like a delicate butterfly, seeking redemption.

Fitness goals

Since it's been a while since I wrote anything on this blog, I thought I might share my current fitness goals with all of you. I am a strong believer in expressing your goals to as many people as you can -- your friends can be a great source of motivation and they will be a lot more accommodating of your efforts to achieve them.

As some of you might know, last year I struggled with severe cubital tunnel syndrome on both hands for close to 5 months, during which I had to completely stop all resistance training and cardio. Apart from the occasional stint on the elliptic trainer, I had a mostly sedentary life. I tried to keep my diet in check, but my weight slowly rose from ~170lb in November '15 to 181 lb in May '16. 

With my cubital issues resolved, I restarted weight training and cardio in mid-May. The key was to start slow. My strength had decreased by roughly 50% on all major lifts and my endurance had dropped by roughly 40%. I began with three days of full-body train…

Is a plant, an animal?

One of the objections against Veganism that my last post evoked was that 'plants have feelings too and that Vegans are shying away from the ethical implications of killing plants'. I think that's a very valid question and deserves to be examined. I took a few days to ponder on this question and at the end of it, I stand by my last post's conclusion - "It is unethical to cause unnecessary pain and suffering to a living being. However, to survive one must do what one must."

The implications of the second part of my statement should be clear - if you have no other option to survive,  apart from eating meat, you should eat meat. Not doing so would lead to wilful starvation which is a form of violence against oneself.

Now let's evaluate if eating plants is subject to the same ethical compulsions as eating animals.

A Vegan dilemma - To kill or not to kill

A few weeks back, I was involved in an agitated debate with a friend on whether the consumption of meat by humans is justifiable. He was interested in this question from a philosophical/ethical standpoint, while I was interested in pushing my agenda of vegetarianism. Hence, it was not an impartial debate from my perspective. Over the course of two hours, our discussion arrived at several islands of thought such as the definition of sentience, the ability to subjectively evaluate one's environment, the ethical implications of humane meat farming and so on. For instance, we spent close to an hour arguing whether we can categorize animals on a spectrum/scale of sentience. He argued that cats/dogs are vastly more sentient than ants, while I countered that ants can collaborate and build architecturally complex ant-hills, which cats/dogs cannot.

An Introduction to the Forms

Plato's Theory of Forms is rightly considered one of the great philosophical theories of all time. Within a single theory, Plato managed to answer, or at least consider, diverse questions in ontology, metaphysics, epistemology and ethics. The idea of the Forms are referenced or alluded to in much of Plato's initial work but eventually becomes the centerpiece of his philosophy from the Republic onwards. Though there are numerous articles online that explain the Forms, I could not find anything that was simple enough to be understood without knowing philosophical jargon. In this article, I will try to touch upon the broad highlights of this theory without resorting to any complicated jargon. Irrespective of its applicability to modern life, the Theory of Forms represents a fascinating step forward for human thought and deserves to be known and appreciated by all.

Reflections on a relationship

The shelf above my dressing table is home to a picture of Lord Balaji from a 2012 calendar, a small plastic Krishna, a miniature bronze Lakshmi and a framed portrait of my father. Each morning after a shower, I would stop in front of this shrine and close my eyes for a few moments. Some years back, I would mentally voice my hopes for the day - 'do well in the upcoming exam', 'help me kick this cough', or 'let that girl like me a little!'. Nowadays, I hardly have the time to call out His name a few times. This morning, as I was beginning this 10 second tryst with my faith, I noticed a smudge on my father's picture. I picked it up, wiped away the dirt and found myself gazing at the man. Ever since I can remember, people have told me that I look like him. I rarely agreed then. And yet, each year as my face hardens into age, I see more of my father in the mirror. I know that in twenty years, I will be just like the image in this frame. Hopefully, a bit thinner…