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It could be my age or this age. Forget books, I don't even sit watching a movie hours together. Nothing is fascinating enough, riveting enough. Blame it on 'seen it all, heard it all' syndrome, blame it on short attention span due to one line whatsapp jokes.

So I surprised myself by completing Roy's book, sitting till post noon.

War stories are really disturbing. It makes one question the existence of humanity in this world.  And in worst cases, it makes us wonder are we in any way better than wild animals - at least they kill their prey - for their food.

But again those stories belonged to another world, another time. World war, afghanistan etc.

But this book - Arundhati Roy's Ministry of utmost happiness -  is from our country, our people, this present time. And that realization is very very scary. As scary as the news you read some times.

Amrik Singh is an army officer who has blood of many kashmiris on his hands - both militants and civilians. For him it is sport, catching them, torturing them, and causing 'encounters'. But then there was a mishap with a journalist Badri. This draws lot of media attention and Singh is moved away from field work, rebuked - a little bit, assigned to desk jobs. Then he moves to USA with his family.

A few years later there is  a news report which says he has killed his wife and two sons and shot himself in USA.

When asked whether he killed Amrik Singh, Musa - one of the protagonists who is a Kashmiri ex-architect, presently militant, says  "No. But we did not let him forget the past. Me, other Kashmiri journalists, lawyers. We kept appearing in his garage reminding him of the past events. May be this caused him to self destruct".

A question worth asking is - why is military deployed in a state? When police is insufficient to protect the state. From whom? From terrorists and militants. Protect who? The common people. But what really happens? Are the common people, the innocent civilians protected? Or, are they targeted? Abused, killed and encountered?

Is it a co-incidence that I read about AFSPA (Armed forces special powers act) in today's newspaper? According to the report  there have been 186 cases of human rights abuse in the last 4 years in the states where AFSPA is enforced. Almost half of these cases are from J&K.

Remember Irom Sharmila who fasted for 16 years to end AFSPA in Manipur?

I googled what are the powers given to the army in this special powers act (which was incidentally started by British to curb Quit India Movement in 1942) Here are the ones which drew may attention
  1. Army can arrest any one  who has committed cognizable offence or is reasonably "suspected" of having done so and use the force needed for the arrest
  2. Stop and search any vehicle or vessel reasonably suspected to be carrying such person or weapons.
  3. Army officers have legal immunity for their actions. There can be no prosecution, suit  or any legal action against them !!!!

And of course we are a democracy. And we have great culture which taught us "sarve janaaha sukhino bhavantu"

Coming back to the book, one drawback I feel is the author has so much to say, about so many different abuses happening in this country, and she tries to put all of them in  a single book. So reader feels there is no cohesiveness. But then again - Tilottama - the rebel has come beautifully. And Anjum's story not so much. It is hard to believe that any family will accept the fact that their teenage son will leave home and start living with hijras, instead of trying to 'cure' him.

But again, in our country we do need such story tellers to wake us and stop us 
from the huge wave of 'stupidification'


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Someshwara shataka

ಚರಿಪಾರಣ್ಯದ ಪಕ್ಷಿಗೊಂದು ತರು ಗೊಡ್ಢಾಗಲ್ ಫಲಂ ಈವಿದಾ
ಮರಗಳ್ ಪುಟ್ಟವೆ ಪುಷ್ಪವೊಂದು ಬಳಲಲ್  ಭ್ರಂಗಕ್ಕೆ ಪೂವಿಲ್ಲವೆ
ನಿರತಂ ಸತ್ಕವಿಗೋರ್ವ ಗರ್ವಿದಂ ನೃಪ ತಾಂ ಲೋಭಿಯಾಗಲ್ ನಿಜಂ
ಧರೆಯೊಳ್ ದಾತರು ಪುಟ್ಟರೆ ಹರ ಹರಾ ಶ್ರೀ ಚೆನ್ನ ಸೋಮೇಶ್ವರ

Will a bird in the wild go hungry just because one fruit tree dries up? If one flower withers, will not the bee get any flowers? If one haughty king is miserly, will there be no patrons (of poetry) on this earth?

ಕೆಲವಂ ಬಲ್ಲವರಿಂದ ಕಲ್ತು ಕೆಲವಂ ಶಾಸ್ತ್ರಂಗಳೋದುತಂ
ಕೆಲವಂ ಮಾಳ್ಪವರಿಂದ ಕಂಡು ಕೆಲವಂ ಸುಜ್ಙಾನದಿಂ  ನೋಡುತಂ
ಕೆಲವಂ ಸಜ್ಜನಸಂಗದಿಂದಲರಿಯಲ್ ಸರ್ವಜ್ಞನಪ್ಪಂ ನರಂ
ಪಲವಂ ಪಳ್ಳ ಸಮುದ್ರವೈ ಹಾರ ಹರಾ ಶ್ರೀ ಚೆನ್ನ ಸೋಮೇಶ್ವರ

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