On issues that matter …

The historic, the academic and the mundane March 22, 2018


“The Pandavas never really came here. These caves, carved stones and temples only tell you their stories…” my guide was upfront with the disclaimer as I stared into what were supposed to be the individual living quarters of the Pandavas, carved out of a monolithic stone. Legend has it that during their years of banishment to the forests, the Pandava brothers with their common wife Draupadi, had lived in the picturesque port city of Mahabalipuram.

Like with many of India’s heritage sites religion, mythology, folklore, verifiable history and fertile imagination blend seamlessly into the many stories that surround them.

Honestly, walking around these ruins of Mahabalipuram elicited a mixed bag of thoughts and emotions that ranged from the divine to historical to academic to the mundane, wondering once again about India’s rich and checkered past and if and how much of it has a bearing on my identity today.

the historic…:

The ancient seaside temples and other heritage monuments of Mahabalipuram on the southeastern shores of the country were commissioned and built by the Pallava Kings between 7th and 9th century. Historians will tell you that most of those relics were destroyed or submerged in the sea following tsunamis, notably one in the 13th century.

Explorations did uncover remnants of temples under the sea, some of which had popped up as recently as 2004 when the sea receded just before a devastating tsunami.

But ask some of the old locals and they’ll tell you that it was a wrathful Lord Indra, King of the heavenly devas, who, overcome with jealousy at the beauty of the earthly city being enjoyed by mere mortals, caused a stormy deluge that destroyed most of the temples. To his credit, Indra saved one – the Shore Temple – which, of course stands forlornly even today, mercifully protected as a UNESCO heritage site.


Elsewhere as the guide interprets for me the gigantic rock murals, whether depicting Lord Krishna lifting the Govardhan or the descent of the mighty Ganga, or an ascetic looking Arjuna standing in penance – all artistic renderings of popular narratives from the epic Mahabharata – one realizes how stone as a medium of communication has not only survived through civilizations of the ancient past to the present, but may perhaps outlive the virtual media civilization of the future.



The academic…:

Indeed, as Canadian theorist Harold Innis posited in the early ’50s, applying the dimensions of time and space to various forms of communication media can actually give a better perspective on their significance to civilization, and the rise and fall of empires.

Innis saw stone as a time biased medium, which, although limited in reach, carried its stories over generations, and bolstered stability, community, tradition and religion –  stuff that’s so deeply ingrained in the Indian ethos that even in the 21st century we do not know where one begins or ends, incorporated as it is in the form of story, song and myth in our daily lives.


The lack of sophistication in these carvings indicates they were not so much about showcasing artistry as they were about perpetuating legends.

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Is it any wonder then that legends carved out on some of these stone mountains are as alive today and might remain immortal as the mountains themselves? Which also makes me bow in deep reverence to all those uber visionary emperors and kings of ancient India who knew the importance of preserving history and how!

… and the mundane:

For all the fuss heritage buffs like me make about preserving these ancient treasures, one has to give space to the young Indian who believes in the here and now. Like the vain among them who think nothing of scratching out their names on these treasures of history, the lovelorn too should be tolerated for finding the conducive nook under the giant rocks of this protected site. The entire area is nothing but a local park for couples attempting to make their own memories not without the blessings of the old kings and gods.

Uncomfortably close, the past here is literally jostling with the present.

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My most exciting sighting: The countless small open workshops scattered along the streets of Mahabalipuram producing amazing traditional hand carved stone sculptures. This is sculpture heaven!


My takeaway from Mahabalipuram: The harshness of the salt-laden wind and surf is evident in the sandpapered look of the many indistinguishable carvings on the temple walls, on the parapets, etc. of the Shore Temple. There’s an uncanny eeriness around it, as it stands alone, pining the loss of its companion temples in what was supposed to have been a colossal complex – conveying melancholic whispers over the warm sea breeze, beseeching the sea to part and restore old glory. I dare wish for another tsunami if it can be of help.

Srirekha Chakravarty






Tweaking your expectations March 17, 2018


Now, I don’t know what I was expecting… laughably perhaps, but a cross between New Orleans, Goa and somewhere in the south of France. Wishful imagination, no doubt, but really, I wanted to see meandering sand speckled streets along the sea, white and gray bungalows with bougainvillea-laden balconies, tree-shaded outdoor restaurants, quaint looking curio shops and access to the commune of the world ….

It could be a matter of perspective, but, honestly, I didn’t see any of that in Pondicherry, the famed Union Territory on the coast of the Bay of Bengal in southern India.

To be fair to myself, there was some basis to that imagination, even if exaggerated. I had heard so much about the French Quarter, about Aurobindo Ashram, about Auroville, and of course about the big blue sea.

Visiting Pondicherry’s French Quarter is akin to visiting a single monument or tourist attraction in any place; it’s not an entire town. It takes less time to check out this French Quarter than it takes to check out the Eiffel Tower from the street below.

For anyone who doesn’t understand the ‘French’ connection in Pondicherry, well, it all began with the French East India Company in the late 1600s when the occupiers ensured their quarters were separate from those of their Indian subjects. And thus came about the French Quarter or the more racially specific White Town, and the rest being of course the Indian/Tamil Quarter or Black Town (at least no one says that anymore).

The French occupiers formally left India in 1954, but successive Pondy administrations have managed to retain the colonial influence or the ‘White’ hangover if you will, over at least a few square blocks on the seaside.

To be fair to its claims, there are a number of those charming old French villas on clean, tree-lined streets, many of which have been converted to heritage hotels and fine restaurants. Those few blocks do look different from the rest of the country or just a street off of it for that matter.




The famous Aurobindo Ashram lies in that quarter, but again, keep your expectations low because visitors/tourists are allowed nothing more than to sit in quiet contemplation around the Samadhi of Aurobindo, rest everything in the building being ‘private’. If you aren’t really the contemplative type, you’ll come out thinking: “That’s it?” Well, that is about it.


I am not one to complain about communes. Especially if they profess an ideology of non-distinctive humanity. More power to them, I guess. But for the uninitiated tourist who has just heard about a modern city of alternative (spiritual?) lifestyle and lands up at Auroville, I’m afraid his/her curiosity is not likely to be fed well. What you get is a ‘free pass’ to walk really long stretches of wooded pathways to come up to a spot about half a mile away from where you can see a giant orb-shaped building covered in golden discs sitting in the midst of several acres of manicured lawns. That’s supposed to be Matri Mandir or the meditation center of Auroville, which one can enter only with prior booking.


Since looking at a giant orb-shaped building covered in golden discs sitting in the midst of manicured lawns from half a mile away is not my thing, I came out thinking: “That’s it?” Turns out, that’s about it, if you are not a commune member that is.

To be fair, this alternative city is indeed conducive to peace and a lot of quiet. It makes you want to listen to yourself.

And now about the big blue sea. Promenade Beach is the most prominent beach area, more so for the locals who make good use of the road alongside it for walking, as it is cordoned off to traffic in the mornings and evenings. But, although crowded, who doesn’t like happy (traffic free) streets, right?

Whether intended or unintended, the wide promenade with its parapet diminish the sandy beach to just about a width of 10-15 feet; and the wave erosion and force-resistant concrete tetrapods  down below greatly discourage wetting your feet in the sea.




There are other full-fledged beaches – Paradise beach (an island beach which is accessed by boat on a river that joins the sea at that point); the Serenity beach, Rock Beach, Auro beach, etc., but unfortunately, walking the beach all by myself is not my thing. So, instead I reserved a table for one at the fanciest French villa restaurants in White Town and enjoyed my two-beers-potato wedges-white sauce penne pasta-crème brule-1500 rupee dinner, in the quiet company of my smart phone picture gallery. That, I can tell you, was my most satiating experience in Pondicherry.

So what’s left of this experience, you ask? All of the rest of Pondicherry, of course! What I described so far is just the best and only a fraction of the union territory. The real Pondi is a teeming, cacaphonic small south Indian town where you sense nothing other than the loud, incessant blaring of a few million horns from every single vehicle that’s out on the roads. Traffic rules are as vague and dispensable as in any part of India.

But this town is not without its own quirks.

So I was stuck in traffic one day. My driver pointed to a huge flower bedecked truck up ahead following a ‘festive’ procession with drums, others loud instruments, random street dancers, fire crackers, chants, etc. Turns out it was the funeral procession of one of the most dreaded gangsters in town who was apparently killed in a gang war (I’m not making this up).

So I was stuck in traffic again another day. Luckily I was on foot and somehow managed to move through the stalled traffic. Turns out, up ahead was the entrance to a famous temple in town and right at the entrance, in the middle of the road, were four men performing vahana puja (prayers for a new vehicle) of their new scooties!

So I see these huge bill boards all over town akin to movie hoardings, each with dozens of smiling/laughing faces on them with either a garlanded couple or a garlanded man in the foreground. Turns out they are hoardings sponsored by ‘friends’ of newly married couples or someone celebrating a birthday! Who says only politicians, movie stars and models adorn hoardings. You got money, you got a hoarding!

My takeaway from Pondicherry: To get close to your expected experience

  1. Stay only in a sea-facing French villa accommodation in White Town at whatever the cost
  2. Book in advance to better access Auroville’s offerings
  3. Visit the quieter beaches
  4. Get onto the streets only before 8 am and after 8 pm. That’s before the traffic wakes up and goes to sleep at those hours respectively.
  5. Go with friends

My two random acts: Walking into a free exhibition of photographs of the sadhus of Benares at an art gallery on the Promenade; and spending a half-hour in a discounted book fair full of fiction best sellers on a side street and not buying anything.

My moments of happy in three days: Going nuts in an agarbatti shop next to Aurobindo Ashram.

Wait, the best of all sights in Pondy: As I waited on the tarmac of the tiny Pondicherry airport to board my flight out, noticed a neat line of little kindergartners in uniform on a field trip with their teachers, to see the planes! Death by cute!

Srirekha Chakravarty











Motorcycle diaries and other stories March 15, 2018

For the most part, my travels this month were a breathless race against the oncoming summer heat. While adrenaline – for getting better at solo-tripping – carried me through some, the people I met along the way made the journey easier and the experience absolutely new.

Of all the southern Indian states, Karnataka, I think, is the most underrated. While Tamil Nadu tends to be chauvinistic about its temples and Kerala its beaches, Andhra Pradesh and now Telangana come across as a tad arrogant in what they may or may not have to show leaving it to you to find out for yourself; but Karnataka’s sits almost shyly with its abundant treasures of history, heritage, religiosity and nature.



I think I left a part of my heart and soul here, among the boulder-laden mountains of Hampi strewn with magically hallowed stone temples and still majestic looking ruins of Emperor Krishnadevaraya’s prosperous empire, as I time traveled through ranges that seemed to hold more intriguing stories set in time and space than the depths of the seas.

What made Hampi memorable was the making of my own version of motorcycle diaries – pillion riding on my guide Ravi’s bike as he zipped over hills and dales, through lush fields and along docile rivers, past somnolent villagers and intrepid foreign tourists and from sunrise vistas to sunset points – pretending I was on horseback galloping my way into the 15th century.

At one point I almost blamed Ayn Rand and her fictional hero Howard Roark for influencing my architectural orientation towards the post-WW II steel and glass structures, or what we would like to believe to be the ‘modern’ age of building construction. The question is what hits the emotions deeper: Is it the functional neatness of the square and stark skyscrapers that rise in defiance of nature and its benign laws, or the symphonic lyricism of ancient sculptural architecture that harmoniously blends into its natural geography.

The answer perhaps lay between the degenerative and slumming potential of modern urban architecture, and the stoic withstanding of temporal vicissitudes by the mesmerizing temples and excavated remains of fabled kingdoms that I witnessed in Hampi.

Case in point: The Vijaya Vittala temple complex here houses a beautiful mantapa with 56 musical pillars that use the elements of nature –and ancient Indian ingenuity – to produce music when tapped rhythmically.  No electricity, no batteries, no software chips. Hundreds of years on, they still work!



Remnants and ruins of the prosperous Vijayanagara dynasty that include gigantic monolithic Ganeshas, Lingas and Nandis; idol-less temples atop the hills; urban engineering ingenuity in the water systems, the endless stone plazas that made up the bazaars of yore where gold, silk and spices were sold by the sack; the Emperor’s royal platform from where he surveyed and enjoyed the performances and festive celebrations of his people; folklore about Mongol traders, carved depictions of a society of empowered women; sculpted perpetuation of the religious epics, mutilated sculptures that bear witness to hateful and intolerant Mughal invaders,  all transport you to an era of riches in art, culture, piety and royalty seamlessly blending Jain, Buddhist, Islamic, Persian, Portuguese, Egyptian and Chinese influences.


Who were those people with such strength and softness in their hands to create such magnificent monuments? What was their typical day like? Were they treated well by the King? What were their aspirations? What made them laugh or cry? Were they happy?

I saw a number of mammoth boulders with a series of rectangular holes in them. My guide Ravi tells me they used to pour gun powder, salt and hot water through those holes to blow the rocks into submission before sculpting them. Well, I haven’t verified that story or the one about Lord Krishna and his 16,000 girlfriends that Ravi interpreted from the carvings on one of the temple walls.

As I wistfully searched for my likeness among the many sculptures on those stone walls, I was sure I lived then with the same spirit even if in a different body.


My best accomplishment: Topping the Anjanadri Hill (575 steps J) in Kishkindha, the birthplace of Lord Hanuman, about 5km from Hampi town.

My most picturesque moment: The coracle ride on the Tungabhadra. Getting off the coracle from time to time to climb wily rocks that led to small hidden temples. Crouching low on the coracle to get under a cave formation in the rocks overhanging the river, and just listening to nature, was the high point.

My moment of surprise: Café Italiano across the road from lush running fields on Hippie Island in the Kishkindha valley. Foreign tourists, whiff of high smokes, Latin music: Suddenly Goa!

My moment of Zen: The abode of poet-saint Purandaradasa on the banks of the Tungabhadra River.

Shout-out to Archeological Survey of India for their amazing excavations of Krishnadevaraya’s lost kingdom and relics far beyond, and the dozens of priceless sculptures now displayed at a museum in Hampi.


Belur, Halebid, Shravanabelagola:

Toward the south of Karnataka, the Chennakeshava temple in Belur and the Hoysaleshwara temple in Halebid are perhaps the finest specimens of some of the most intricate of Hindu temple carvings and architecture, standing almost intact since the 12th century. Although built in the Vaishnava and Shaiva traditions respectively, both temples are adorned with extensive depictions of Jain and Buddhist friezes as well, a testament to the inclusive society prevalent at the time.

Much as I relish the idea of living in the glorious past when temple architecture flourished, I must thank modern technology which made the amazingly handy smart phone camera possible that can take as sharp a picture as the best of DSLRs (in my humble opinion), otherwise I would’ve needed at least two more sets of eyes and a couple of layers more in my brain’s memory to fully register these two wondrous temples.

What blows the mind is the sophistication and mastery in craftsmanship of the sculptures inside and on the outer walls of the temples. The precision, the cut, the smoothness, the finesse and the beauty that preface the stories makes you desperately want to know those sculptors, artisans and designers by face and by name.


My takeaway: Since there isn’t much else to do or see in Belur or Halebid, it is tough to plan a visit specifically to these two places. So plan a big one across Karnataka and make sure to include them. If Indian, you will find renewed respect for your existential identity.

In Shravanabelagola, Gomateshwar Bahubali has been standing tall (58ft) and stark but for a supple creeper around his arms and legs, since 993 AD. Of pilgrim importance to Jains, this sacred son of the first Jain Tirthankara, purveys the holy land from atop the Vindhyagiri hill that takes more than 700 stone steps to reach the top.

With a visage exuding equanimity, the majestic bare torso of Bahubali, which had changed color to a rust red thanks to the elaborate Maha Mastakabhisheka (anointment), is a glorious sight to behold whether you are a follower or not.

And yes, I climbed all those steps – barefoot – to reach the top of the hill and at least 300 more to level with the Bahubali.


My takeaway: Jainism is as serious a religious business in this country as any other. Unless you are a devotee, avoid the mastakabhishekam period to visit; the huge, elevated platforms for devotees and mammoth scaffolding around the statue kind of minimize the spectacular impact of the towering statue.

And do pause long enough to savor the view from the top before you climb down.



Coorg for me was as much a luxury getaway as it was an aspirational fulfilment to pretend to own a plantation. I managed both by opting for a homestay deep inside a 50-acre coffee plantation chirpily named Chilipili Estate.

Now there are people and there are places that make travels memorable. Chilipili Estate and its generously companionable owners – Dilip Ganapathy and wife Darshan – epitomized the Coorg of my imaginations. Long walks on winding hilly roads, trees and nothing but tall greens everywhere, spice in the air, songs of birds by the day and crickets by night, homemade wine on the porch, precious solitude and actually audible thoughts.

One has to get to Madikeri first, the big town with the bus stands, big restaurants, and the multitudes of noisy cargo shorts-holiday T-shirts-cap-and sneaker wearing desi tourists, about 20km from Coorg. Madikeri is also the closest shopping point for the residents of Coorg. Dilip, who was running errands in Madikeri at the time, picked me up and there from began my true vacation.

The sole heir to the family’s property, which his paternal grandfather had gained as a war grant for his service during World War II, Dilip is a warrior in his own right, fighting along with other concerned plantation owners to safeguard Coorg’s environment from mercenaries and colluding governments. His wife Darshan is a story unto herself. A pro-trekker, she’s circumambulated Mt Kailash twice already, last winter trekked 105km on the frozen Chadar River in Ladakh, and is planning another trek this fall in Spiti Valley.

But that’s not just what is likeable about them. They are the perfect hosts. He can fill the mini-fridge in your room with the beverage of your choice, and she makes meal spreads, whether breakfast, lunch or dinner, with at least eight courses. Milk is fresh from the two in-house cows (both about to deliver baby cows!). Five varieties of homemade wines on the house with each dinner (available to buy). Coffee, black pepper and cardamom from the estate (also available to buy). Dilip also gives you a guided walk through the estate.


A half-day trip from the estate covered Tala Cauvery (origin point of Cauvery River) and a bare-foot climb of the Brahmagiri Hill (356 steps) where the Sapta Rishis are fabled to have sat in penance. The view all around, is to live for.

My most enjoyable moments: Long, chatty evening walks with Darshan. And my own morning discovery on a 6km walk around, the Chilipili Shiva temple – a tiny naturally formed Lingam nestled under a canopy of two gigantic rocks, with a bubbly stream traipsing next to it. I could have died there from sheer tranquility.


Those two evenings on the Chilipili Estate, sitting on the porch downing a couple of pints, staring into the pitch dark, in the knowning comfort of the protective trees all around, time was irrelevant because I owned every breath and beat, I owned my life.

Srirekha Chakravarty











Time and Travel February 2, 2018

Few in this world today have the luxury of owning absolute time. Time that is free of schedules, time that is free of mundane needs, time that is free of responsibility and time that is not entangled in relationships.

And then if you have someone generously enabling you to spend that time any which way you want, consider yourself blessed royalty, that is, if you don’t give in to conceit and consider it your good karma.

So with time and money taken care of all I needed was to pool in my latent energies, dig up my buried enthusiasm and set out to tick off the only item on my bucket list – Travel.

Thus begins this discovery of places, not some unexplored, exotic destinations, but places that everyone has been talking about forever – yeah, kind of like watching ‘Godfather’ forty-five-and-half years after everyone’s watched it – to show my gratitude to time that gives and preserves. Loosely, I would call it a heritage trail but along the way if I find something meaningful, I’ll tag it under “Purpose found.”

There’s also this sudden sense of urgency to visit these places – places that clock history, places that stand testimony to time, places that I could easily have belonged to. The urgency stems from an innate sense of distrust of the age and era that I am living in where human fickleness is enough to wipe out my inheritance as a human being.

So, stretching the theme of unbounded time, I set out to gallivant across India first, landing in whichever part that works out best, but sticking to the intent of touching every state, with no purpose other than to feel and experience. The jottings are to be nothing in depth, just the first thoughts, a whispering journal, if you will.

So here I go….


Ajanta & Ellora Caves (Maharashtra – India)

In understanding German philosopher Immanuel Kant even peripherally, one can concur with his theory that a thing of beauty has no purpose other than being beautiful. Beauty, I paraphrase Kant, is the form of finality in an object, when perceived separately from the representation of an end.

So it didn’t matter to me that the beautiful sculptures in the caves of Ajanta and Ellora nestled in the western mountain ranges of Maharashtra represented the revival of Buddhism or Hinduism or Jainism, but simply that they came from a rather fertile part of human creativity called aesthetics. From the gigantic to the intricate, the caves and the carvings are simply fluidity in rock.

The scale and scope of human imagination, the pure mathematics of structural design and architecture, and sheer strength of human endeavor that one witnesses in these caves is mindboggling. From a time perspective, some of the Ajanta Caves range in antiquity between second century BC to second century AD and others are from fifth and sixth centuries. And of the Ellora Caves, the Buddhist caves date back to 500-700 AD, the magnificent Kailash temple (of the Hindu excavations) to 760 AD, and the caves with the Jain sculptures date back to the ninth and eleventh centuries.

Besides being wonder struck at the physical strength of the men (and women?) who carved such beautifully lyrical sculptures out of hard rock mountains, what made me wonder was the survival over the centuries, and consistency in narration of the great epics and puranas, be it the Ramayana or Mahabharata or stories surrounding the innumerable gods and goddesses of the Hindu scriptures or the Buddhist lore, all of which are depicted on the walls and ceilings of these caves.

A critique, if at all, would be of the Indian authorities who, at some recent point, found the worth and usefulness of preserving these treasures.

As for my take away from Aurangabad, the point of stay to reach the caves (a town Kant would otherwise have found no inspiration from): Families first, super helpful friends of friends, hurda party (please google it), and a dozen rich versions of the humble paan from Tara Paan Center.




The images here don’t do justice to the feelings they evoke when you see them in the caves.

Until my next discovery in time…

Srirekha Chakravarty



Alternative Hopes for Alternative Facts January 24, 2017

Ah well I guess it behooves this blog to talk Trump because it’s the first since he has been sworn into the Oval Office – an already refurbished Oval office to be precise.

The new Donald Trump administration in the US has ably, and expectedly, started off on a brand new theme that is likely to be the bedrock of his reign. The theme being: Alternative Facts. Oh yes, that’s the new mantra the post-truth world seems to be waking up to and although it has been a guiding light for many a political leader across the world, it has found legitimacy in the active lexicon of the Trump Administration.

This is an era when truth is simply what you believe in and what you want to believe. Where there are facts, there are always “alternative facts”, they would have us believe.

Coming from administrations, as with regimes, people are used to a certain amount of secrecy, the closed door meetings, the situation room decisions, the intelligence briefings, the classified dossiers, the need-to-know-only files and so on. Although a lot of that got blown thanks to platforms like WikiLeaks and people got a good glimpse into the shenanigans of the government agencies and top administration officials, by and large the media community trusts the information released by the White House, and in turn people trust the media that reports on that information. And that unwritten rule, it would seem, has been dispensed with by the Trump yarn spinners who are peddling information from the sacrosanct podium in the White House briefing room, that they have labelled, “alternative facts”.

For the die hard supporters of President Trump, alternative facts, much less facts, do not seem to matter. Clearly, they see a proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. My only prayer for these people is that his many promises to them do not end up as alternatives to hope.

The most common refrain among the more rational of Trump supporters and some of those that didn’t vote for him seems to be “let’s give this guy a chance” and see what he can do. And I would like to think I am among those that holds an unapologetic, if not indulgent curiosity on how transformative the Trump era will prove to be for America and the rest of the world.

So, here I am preparing myself mentally to overlook the fact that he loves to stress upon and exaggerate his audience numbers and ovations; that it will be a long time before he gets over the fact that he won the primaries (!); that he lies with impunity; that he has surrounded himself with waxy ‘yes’ men and women; that he keeps reminding us of how smart he is; and that he has created a sphere of alternative reality which his followers have unquestioningly embraced. And these are ‘facts’ that can be cross checked.

But in all fairness, as I expect the worst of President Trump in the years to come, I am also open to his unexpected best to show up. Alternative hope, maybe?

Srirekha Chakravarty


A Presidency of limited vocabulary January 17, 2017

For all Americans, I guess, “Happy Democracy” greetings are in order. Come January 20, as they step into the new Presidency with trepidation – no kidding, they are all in it together whether they celebrated or protested on National Mall on inauguration day or watched the circus of democracy live on TV or simply slept through the great transition – this is the democracy they helped shape.

Before they go to bed tonight, there are a few things that they should all collectively pray for President Donald Trump to do or not do, not just in the interest of Americans, but in the larger interest of the world.

Personally, if my understanding of human psychology is right, I’d say Trump is all bark and no bite. And even the bark is almost invariably from the safety of his private surroundings as he sends out obnoxious tweets, or from the comfort of having his family behind him or having rabid fans in front. Face to face and one on one he is desperate to get the other person to like him. And it shouldn’t take very long for the rest of the world to realize this.

Nevertheless, while all I expect is a daily freak show with previews on twitter, I think it might help Americans to start praying.

Pray that he does not directly or indirectly start a war – any war – US-Iran, Israel-Palestine, North Korea-South Korea, Russia-Poland, China-Japan, India-Pakistan. His tweets alone are capable of launching a thousand war ships. And the world cannot afford war-induced inflation or recession. It took almost a decade for the world to get to economic stability in the wake of the post 9/11 wars.

Pray that he doesn’t go after Mexico with a vengeance. An impoverished Mexico will mean pouring into the US of more drugs, criminals and illegal immigrants. And no wall will be high enough to keep them away.

Pray that he does not cut humanitarian aid or funding for the United Nations and NATO. Again, poverty in the Third World will mean more potential ISIS recruits.

Pray that he does not fan the passions of the radical nationalists within the country. A civil war fueled by racial tensions would be hard to put out.  All the guns in the country will find cause for indiscriminate use. And Trump will not have enough people to blame.

Pray that he holds good on bringing manufacturing back to the US. Let’s see if he can bring Apple back along with its couple of billion dollars in cash reserves stashed offshore to save on taxes, and more importantly make Apple pay its fair share of taxes to Uncle Sam. This I dare Trump to do more than him building that darn wall along the southern border. Getting a small air conditioning plant with 750 jobs to stay put in America is not really an “art” of deal making.

Pray that the mainstream media gets a grip on him. A discredited media and intelligence community in the eyes of the common people is a free ticket to dictatorship.

And please pray that someone gifts him a thesaurus. Believe me, his limited vocabulary will get tiresome, especially since it’ll rarely go beyond I, Me, Myself predicated by the adjective “terrific”.

Srirekha Chakravarty



When liberalism degenerates into elitism… November 15, 2016

Honestly, I think Americans need to just hit the pause button in their brain and take a deep breath. Like the past several months of campaign cacophony wasn’t enough for them, their brains are now having to deal with the reality of wrapping around the outcome of the Presidential election.

When 61,047,207 people vote for Hillary Clinton to be their President, there is bound to be heartache when the guy that only 60,375,961 people voted for becomes the President. It was heartening however, to see the outpouring of angst and frustration onto the streets of American cities by kids who, in this age of technological interconnectedness, perhaps find the conservative call for exclusive societies unacceptable.

Still, for all those who voted for Hillary Clinton, and those who voted against Donald Trump, and those who wrote in their vote for Harambe, here’s a piece of advice: Get over it. It’s not Trump’s fault that he won. Remember the movie ‘How to lose a guy in 10 days’? Well, Trump’s campaign objective seemed to be, ‘How to lose an election in 10 months’. But what is a guy to do when 60 plus million people fall in love with him despite himself?

Who said democracy was an easy way of life anyway? As difficult as it is for those who run it, it is even more difficult for the people to decide who they want running it. There are no perfect choices, nor are there perfect voters. And when it comes to electing a President, more often than not, we are only electing the presumptive best of the given and not necessarily the best that ought to be.

Scarily enough, an emerging reality of democracies the world over is that increasingly, winning candidates are being perceived as standing singularly for those who voted for them rather than as unifying representatives for all including their ideological opponents.

We saw something similar in the election of Narendra Modi two years ago. It’s undeniable the popularity Modi still enjoys among his electorate and general followers.

Unfortunately such popularity of individuals of redoubtable agendas always seems to fall outside the sanctimonious ambit of the so called liberal media making them myopic to what some people on the conservative right see.

Sometimes, I feel, intellectualization and even over-analyzation, kills objectivity. But more than that it is the arrogance of the intellectuals, especially the armchair variety, that clouds their view of the polarizing political phenomena, which ride inherent inequalities in society. Like for instance, in this opinion piece in The New York Times the other day, one Pankaj Mishra writes that Modi “appears to be an opportunistic manipulator of disaffection with little to offer apart from the pornography of power and a bogus fantasy of machismo.” Mishra sees Trump following that lead.

Opinionators like Mishra should know that gobbledygook pontification such as this is not read by people who support the likes of Trump and Modi. Worse, such verbose ideation insulates those who do read it, from ground realities.

My liberal bashing does not automatically put me in the company of the irrational. It is just that I hate the ironic degeneration of liberalism into elitism.  My ilk does not wear labels.

But Mishra’s ilk should know that human society is not a factory assembly line where all products are identical. And that in a democracy, everyone – including racists and conspiracy theorists – get to be heard.  They have the vote. They just have to wait their turn.

Srirekha Chakravarty