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THE GOAT THIEF BY PERUMAL MURUGAN: A Review

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Reading Perumal Murugan is equivalent to stepping into a flowing river. My first encounter with Murugan is The Goat Thief. It’s a collection of ten short stories translated into English by N. Kalyan Raman. A south Indian by birth, at first I looked at Murugan’s creative universe with some scepticism. I doubted the possibilities of engaging with the noetic realm of the characters to the extent Perumal Murugan does in this collection. The natural and the supernatural could be seen merging in all the stories of the collection. The real meets the surreal also. Every reading and rereading of these stories render them with a meaning unexplored in the earlier attempt. This makes him a versatile writer.
I heard of Perumal Murugan for the first time through a controversy a year ago. The author had written his own obituary following the subversion of his Tamil language novel, translated into English as One Part Woman. The Goat Thief is his first collection of short stories in the English languag…

WHO IS AFRAID OF PRIVATE-BUS OPERATORS?

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I would like to bring to your focus two different yet connected issues today.
I came across a newspaper report that instilled memories that were seemingly dead beneath the ashes of time.
It was an April evening. April was summer in Kerala. The late April campus was especially oriented towards the end semester exams and of course, a steaming series of work for a teacher.
It was about five years back. I worked as a Guest Faculty at a reputed institution, back then.
I was coming back home after an especially tiring day at college. The usual bus I took had left from the bus stand at Thalassery at the usual time. I was a bit late that day to reach the bus stand. So I missed that bus.
The reason for that was to be immortalized in my later writing life.
I went to a book fair at Thalassery old bus stand. Books have always been my craze. I bought Edgar Alan Poe’s collection of short stories with a yellowish cover and the title “Penguin Classics” on top of the front cover.
Then I went to the bus…

TAKING ACTION: Motivation

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I know that you are a person of immense potential because I believe in the theory that everyone is born equal. I may be wrong. It doesn’t matter. If you want to be the best in your field, be successful. Everyone dreams of success, only a few live it.

You need to take the decisive step, that journey, that phone call, or send that email with your bio-data attached, or see that person face to face in order to make the magic happen. The magic of success is the denominator of all human actions. Momentum creates consistent action and thereby success. Without a move, there is no hope for momentum in life. so taking action is more important than planning action. 
The greatest threat humanity faces is perhaps global warming. As individuals, we face our own version of a cataclysm: non-action. You act when you log into Whatsapp Messenger or Facebook. That’s good action, right? Does it take you anywhere close to where you want to be in the next ten days? If the answer is no, then you know what kin…

THE CATALYST CALLED PAIN: Motivation

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A connection between your present and future is evident. What we do in the present is paid for in the future. Someone keeps the accounts. Call it the cycle of nature. Therefore, it is important to realise how important it is to live with a mission. Every step counts. What’s your life’s mission? Have you taken your first step?
The process to convert your present into future is automatic. The process to convert future into the success you planned for in the present is not automatic, and requires consistent effort.
Pain is the catalyst that converts the present dream into a future reality.
I am talking about the pain inflicted in the process of fighting for your dreams. Don’t bypass pain. Pain, on the experiential level, is like a book of wisdom.
You must differentiate between the pain of the world and the pain of your mission. Run as much as you want from the pain of the world. But the pain of the mission is yours to experience and learn from. Don’t run from it.
Have you a chance to find…

MOTIVATION: The First Step Rule

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The first step is always the worst step. This is the irony of life. It is our first step that we make some of our greatest mistakes. It is the same step that we learn some of the greatest lessons of life. The first step has the trap of inexperience. It is also the doorway to opportunities.
You either take your first step or perish consumed by inertia or non-action.
What’s your greatest dream? Whatever it is, the moment of achievement is born with the first step. 

The Mr You in the future might be that elegant human being, fully developed, and self-actualized. You are murdering that individual by not taking the first step towards your goal.
After the first step, at least for a couple of days, don’t look back. Don’t think about the past. Don’t recollect the pain. Let’s go back there later. Now, it’s time to arrange our stuff… to look for further opportunities, to take the second step in the journey. Remember, your first step always offers you the possibility to choose the next.
Only the f…

REPETITION: An Old Story

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"Champions keep playing until they get it right.” - Billie Jean King In repetition lies the reality of success. Repetition without total commitment and passion is, however, a waste of time.
Often, in classrooms, I give repetitive writing exercises to my students. Most of them would certainly show a tired face or boo my instruction right away. I always take it as a good occasion to tell them the significance of repeating words and sentences on paper.
I unveiled the same measure in an English Literature classroom about six months ago. I saw the tired faces. I saw the silent frustration and the booing from the backbench.
“All great writers did this exercise. This is the rhythm of creation. Write, repeat… write, repeat.” I sing sang my words into that chaos of conflicting interests in front of me. 
“Didn’t you get the reason why I want you people to do this?” I asked.
“No,” they said. “Why do we care?”
I looked into their faces. Innocent, yet affirmative. I thought, why on earth did I…

ACTOR DILEEP: When the Mob Dictates the Punishment

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Events like what has transpired in the previous few weeks related to the arrest of Actor Dileep used to be rare in Kerala society about a couple of decades ago. With the growth in visual media and the arrival of digital media, the news has metamorphosed into a show. If it’s a show, there must be a director. Who is the direction of this grand show?
The police have taken actor Dileep to various places for evidence collection. Various media reported that mobs have chased the crew with angry slogans. Perhaps, this is the bottom end of the mountain of showbiz looks like. It’s a deep bottom filled with dark irony.
The value of any actor in Malayalam cinema is based on the number people who cheer for him or her. This is the same criteria for much of Indian cinema. The irony is that the same number of people make a mob that pursue someone, whatever the reason is.
When a mob dictates punishment, the potential to postpone justice for the given culture increases. We have seen the same in Northern…

WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT TO FOLLOW YOUR DREAM?

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If you have a dream that keeps you awake all night, that inspires you, motivates you, fills you with enthusiasm and hope, gives you the courage to face any challenge, then you must do something to materialise it. Enthusiasm is a language that our soul understands. It’s an instruction from the realm beyond ours.
If a dream, a desire, or a thought fills us up with enthusiasm, that dream, desire, or thought deserves to be actualized. It is meant to actualize anyway. Whether you would become its bridge to this world or not, is the question.
If it is, a dream about writing a book that fills you with enthusiasm, that book must be written. That book is meant to be written. Someone will write it if it’s not you. But where is the magic if it’s not you who is writing the book?
I have seen people whose life standard could officially be classified ‘pathetic’ in terms of our general culture. But some of these people have a radiance about them. I cannot name these. They are in search of their key mom…

DILEEP, MALAYALAM CINEMA, AND THE FUTURE OF A MEMORY

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How well the episode of public scrutiny played out through the past few weeks if not months in the media! “The Actress Abduction Case” was relayed in the media as if it was a mega reality show. The investigation and the various twists that followed were all showcased for the hungry audiences. It was a classic thriller of a certain variety, which even nullified all other competitions and nailed the attention of the audience.
There was a victim. There was a perpetrator, (who for some people, due to some reason, was also a scapegoat). There was a show.
What Kerala witnessed though the past few weeks is the ultimate pinnacle of the showbiz. I say ‘ultimate pinnacle’ because show business has attained new heights in this mega reality show. The showbiz entered into the discourse of morality and ethics, not on a silver screen, as usual. The difference, this time, is that the showbiz entered into the realm of reality and played foul and is caught in doing so, on screen.
In the age of camera an…

HONEY BEE 2: The Angels and Subalterns of Malayalam Cinema

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More than the success of this film, a controversial day made it appear on my radar. A prominent actress was abducted and attacked in Kochi. Among the reports that poured in after the assault, someone mentioned that the actress had played the female lead in Honey Bee 2. Someone had used this as an instance to criticize the society and culture in general for promoting such films. This scene occurred in a mainstream news show. The discourse was later repeated in various news shows. When a woman is attacked on the streets of Kochi, Kerala’s financial capital, a different sort of moral consciousness rose up.
The discussion of morality that is foregrounded here is not that same stand of moral policing that shamelessly dances on the streets of Kerala when a man and a woman share an intimate moment in public. This moral show is a different one. The whole culture takes part in it and a sexist bias takes over the discussions that follows. The victim is victimized further to the point that the s…

THE WATER DREAMER: Thoughts on Water, Poets, and Contemporaneity

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Blood has dried up, the blood of humans. You can smell the dried up blood of the man of the future in your surroundings. The blood of humans is the water of the soil. Humanity’s blood is in the water of the earth.
In Kerala, the culture is exceptionally sensitive towards the water. However, because the culture is a consumer-centred one, water deficiency threatens in the scarcity of drinking water only. The consumerist culture doesn’t bother too much about the scarcity of water in agricultural pursuits. The thought process is that someone would grow the food we want and bring it to the market. If we have the money, why bother thinking about who cultivates all the food and how.
Deep within the culture of this land, I have always sensed an agrarian spirit. This spirit has dried up due to two reasons, in my opinion: availability of opportunities in gulf countries and crazes for white-collar jobs.
It is common sense that these two cultural phenomena are not direct reasons for the scarcity of…

FORTUNATE CHOICE: A Review of The Judas Strain

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Being a writer, I believe in the power of reading. Reading is like physical exercise. It’s lovable. It’s also hard. Reading requires a bit of pushing around from the part of the person or teachers.
            Since I am my best student and the world my best teacher, I take cues from the reality that plays out around me. Occasionally, I get fortunate enough to pick up a good thriller. I said fortunate because often, due to a prejudiced mentality, cultivated by years of academic training, people like me ignore thrillers. We consider thrillers a mere pass time genre, a meaningless fluke.
            This mentality is hard to put aside. Even if one succeeds in keeping oneself at bay from the scorching eye of the prejudice, the thought that someone will criticize always haunts.
The Judas Strain was available at a generous discount through Amazon. I bought it a year ago, kept it in my home library, and never opened it until six months before. Although I did open it before six months, I coul…