Religion / 10.01.2016

I found myself residing once again in a locality exposed to holy noise – the simultaneous narration of the azaan from about a dozen mosques that renders the resulting sound completely unintelligible. This time there was one difference – one of the mosques had amplified itself beyond the reach of the competition and its imam had specialized in a quasi-sermon at six every other morning. Whether it was for a live audience or just for self-improvement I don’t know but almost every word of the narrative was now intelligible. After a few iterations, almost entirely repetitive, I figured out the pattern. The narration, about fifteen minutes in duration, was divided into two equal halves – the first communicated a list of things God doesn’t want people to do and the second a matching list of things God does want people to do. Needless to say,...

Music / 14.07.2011

By Anjum Altaf In a discussion of the arts, it was mentioned that middle-class families in India encouraged children to learn classical music because it was a mark of high culture; it made one special in one’s esteem and in that of others. It was then asked why classical music was not healthy in Pakistan given that much the same considerations should be applicable across the border. It is my sense that the question was less an expression of belief and more an opening for a discussion and I am going to exploit that to speculate on some topics of interest. The one-word, and not altogether flippant, answer to the question is God. Hindu deities (Krishna and Saraswati, to mention just two) not only approve of but delight in music. Whether Allah approves or disapproves is still in doubt with no resolution in sight while the camp of disapprovers continues to add adherents.
Religion / 09.07.2009

I do not know God’s will but I can (hopefully) spot the logic of an argument about God’s will. That is what I wish to do today. I have been intrigued by a comment from reader Tahir on a post about Imran Khan. Tahir says: “It is beyond my understanding how Imran is dividing people. As far as religion is concerned, this division has been done by God.” Where do you go from there if you accept that as a valid starting point? It seems to me that if God has made the divisions (among and within religions), there must have been some purpose in doing so unless we assume that divine actions were without purpose – which is something we do not want to do.
Ghalib / 17.06.2009

We resume the series with a she’r that illustrates well some of the underlying beliefs of The South Asian Idea: nah thaa kuchh to khudaa thaa kuchh nah hotaa to khudaa hotaa Duboyaa mujh ko hone ne nah hotaa maiN to kyaa hotaa 1a) when there was nothing, then God existed; if nothing existed, then God would exist 1b) when I was nothing, then God existed; if I were nothing, then God would exist 1c) when I was nothing, then I was God; if I were nothing, then I would be God 2a) 'being' drowned me; if I were not I, then what would I be? 2b) 'being' drowned me; if I did not exist, then what would I be? 2c) 'being' drowned me; if I were not I, then what would exist? 2d) 'being' drowned me; if I did not exist, then what would exist? 2e) 'being' drowned me; if I were not I, then so what? 2f) 'being' drowned me; if I did not exist, then so what?
China / 17.05.2009

Why should we write about China on The South Asian Idea? For many reasons: First, comparisons between the economies of China and India are becoming increasingly common. Both are categorized as emerging dragons and new global superpowers. In fact, a new name has been coined to refer to these twin stars of the future – Chindia! Second, both represent amongst the most ancient, continuously-lived civilizations with very rich histories. It is possible to understand more about ourselves through a comparison of some aspects of these histories. Third, both China and India are large, billion-plus countries and there is much discussion of what each can learn from the other.
Ghalib / 13.03.2009

Ghalib says in his letters that in moments of despair he was given to reciting this she’r: raat din gardish meiN haiN saat aasmaaN ho rahega kuchh nah kuchh ghabraayeN kyaa night and day the seven heavens are revolving something or the other will happen – why should we be perturbed The meaning is open to interpretation and the reader is encouraged to refer to the commentary on Mehr-e-Niimroz for more on the literary wordplay. The most common interpretation is as an expression of resignation in the face of overwhelming odds that an individual feels powerless to confront (as, for example, the 1854 epidemic in Delhi that Ghalib refers to in one letter). And indeed, at such times, it is a great consolation to be able to leave one’s fate in the hands of a power greater than oneself. Two thoughts come to mind: First, note that Ghalib takes recourse to this remedy...

Religion / 28.02.2009

By Anil Kala [A curious man standing on a beach, blissfully unaware that earth is round, wondered what lies beyond the horizon! He embarked on a long journey in a dead straight line to explore the end of earth. Nature was kind; his journey progressed uneventfully but sluggishly. He crossed the ocean, walked across the desert and overcame mountains and as was inevitable passed through the same spot from where he had begun his journey. It was a long time ago; things had changed during his sojourn. He could not recognize the place and said, "Deja Vu". We are like this man unaware, always asking, "What beyond that? What after then"? ad nauseum. Like Neti Neti*, these questions are absurd. There are no straight lines only warped space and warped time. The ends are seamlessly joined with the beginning like in a loop. We pass through same...

Education / 10.02.2009

By Anil Kala There is a celebrated episode in Mahabharata known as ‘Yaksh Prasn’ (Yaksh’s Queries) which culminates in this question:   Kim aashcharyam? (What is the most amazing thing?)   Yudhishthir answers that despite knowing the inevitability of death our incessant desire for immortality is the most amazing thing.   The answer seemed very impressive to me until one day I thought this is really silly. I realized that things said in a dramatic manner often escape critical scrutiny. For example, that our desire to live at every cost is the most natural thing and the crux of our existence; without it life will not last another day. Didn’t Buddha say, ‘Being born is cause of all our miseries’?  Therefore if there is no compelling desire to live why would anyone want to live? What seemed amazing though was the conduct of Yaksh Himself. This entity claiming to be a...