The useless ‘royal, divine wealth’

“I went to the Vatican and I saw that the ceilings were made of gold. And I heard the Pope saying the church takes care of poor children, but if so, sell the ceiling, JP. Do something! I was angry with him. For the same reason I got angry with so many people. Because they are two-faced. Because they say one thing here and then another thing there. Because they stab you in the back. Because they lie.”

That was the comment from the football legend Diego Maradona about his visit to Vatican palace and I remembered this when I read about the ‘honesty’ of the Travancore royal family that the mainstream media is celebrating right now. It was all started when the stock-taking of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum began by the supreme court order. Everyone is surprised at the amount and value of the wealth that was found inside the secret hideaways inside the temple which comes close to Rs. 1 lakh crore and one more secret vault is yet to be opened. This makes the Padmanabhaswamy Temple the richest temple in India.

Since the matter has become a topic of interest to general public, there are many discussions going on about the royal and ‘divine’ wealth. The wealth that was found in the temple is of the old Travancore royal family. In other words, it is the wealth of the old Travancore princely state and it’s people. In short, it is the people’s money, through taxes and everything, that the old Travancore king had added to the temple and the deity through the process of “thRippaTi daanam“. And through that process, the kingdom of Travancore and it’s wealth was ‘surrendered’ to the deity and the temple. Still, it’s only symbolic and the king continued to be in his position; just that his designation was changed to ‘padmanaabha daasa‘ (meaning, the servant of Lord Padmanabhan), looking after the God’s wealth and kingdom for him.

The thing is, no one would dare question a king like Marthanda Varma who was a conqueror and as was the practice with any king, he would do as he please. The royal family had kept their secrets and this wealth in the name of Sri Padmanabhan, even during the merger of Travancore with Indian Union. Which means, they have denied the right of people to know about their ancestral wealth (which includes the hard-earned and no-so-hard-earned money of their ancestors) even in the march towards a newly built democracy.

As a result, the lakh crores worth of wealth of the people were hidden and useless. Not only that it is useless, now, from what I assume from the news, every tax paying citizen will have to bear the cost of safe-guarding this useless wealth. As per the news reports, one of the royal family members seems to have asked proudly:

“How many royal families in the country can be proud of keeping things like this? You should understand that two chambers out of the six have not been opened for more than 150 years and it there that the treasure trove has been kept safely”.

I would like to tell him that if the royal family was honest as the media and they themselves celebrate to be, they would have spent that wealth for the welfare of people. This is not the hard-earned money of their labor. They once did the mistake of ‘surrendering’ it to a God, then with not surrendering it to Indian Union and now by justifying all those actions. And our slavery mentality celebrates this as an act of honesty.

Now who would tell them what Maradona told the pope?

‘My Fellow American’

Here is “My Fellow American“, an online film and social media project, that is trying to do something about Islamophobia with sharing stories of people and trying to raise awareness. Checkout their website My Fellow American and also watch the teaser video below.

In all the material I have seen and read about Islam and the common perceptions about it, I have never seen or read a convincing speech like the TED talk given by Mustafa Akyol which makes a lot of sense. A must watch.

Mess in the name of Thrissur Pooram

A panthal built in the center of the Swaraj Round road (image courtesy:

I had written earlier about how festivals make life of the ordinary citizens living in the place a mess. There is something similar, or perhaps even more disturbing thing going on in Thrissur for years now. A part of the festival celebrations make the lives of Thrissurians a mess for almost 3 weeks an year.

Swaraj Round in Thrissur is a circular road in the center of the city and it is the busiest road in Thrissur. During Thrissur Pooram, the two participating temples would erect three huge, multi-storied panthals in this road. All three panthals are built at the center of the road, thus making the traffic blocks as long as 3-4 kilometers. It would take so much time and fuel to get you where you want to be inside the city. Not only that, even though the Thrissur corporation had left pre-defined holes for panthals in the refurbished Swaraj Round road, the panthal makers dug the road to create new holes on their own this year.

The panthal work would begin almost 2 weeks before the Pooram day and it would take 3-4 days after Thrissur pooram to remove it. This means that those who go to the city for these three weeks are really screwed. Not to mention about the plight of those who live inside the city limits. Many suggestions had been made earlier to move panthals in the large space that the Thekkinkaadu ground has or at the least to move it a little to the road side. But nothing has been done about it since this is something that involves religion and it’s customs.

This panthal mess has been going on in several parts of Kerala when there is a church or temple festival. In my parish, we used to have panthals in the road for the annual festival and there had been two accidents. Once, the panthal slanted in the heavy rains and in another year, a truck hit one side of the panthal. Since then, the panthal was moved to a corner of the church ground.

I hadn’t really bothered about this traffic until I learned driving and last week I faced the music twice when I had to pass through the city to go some place. It is high time the authorities do something about this and the public let them do it (though the authorities and police have many suggestions, they hesitate to implement it because there is much religious and community sentiments).

Photos from the last year’s Thrissur Pooram

Save the space, please

Aattukaal Ponkala - Railway station prepaid counter

If the above photo made you think that you were looking at an offerings counter in a temple, look closer. You are looking at the prepaid auto-rickshaw counter at Trivandrum Central railway station. This photo was shot at 6 in the morning on February 14th Monday, after a tiresome night train journey. I was running towards the pre-paid counter because there would usually be a long que there if you got down from the train a bit late. The prepaid center has two ticket counters and both of them would have long ques when trains were arrived. But this Monday, I found one of them to be closed. Not just closed, they made a temple out of the place that bordered carefully with hollow bricks. So the que at one counter went on to the walk/drive ways and the traffic policemen had to control the line.

This temporary setup was made by the prepaid auto-rickshaw drivers for their Aattukaal Ponkala celebrations. They had a photo of the Goddess, a lamp lit, fruits as offerings and most of them all, a pot placed at the forefront for money offerings (which is out of the frame on the left hand side of the photo above) from the travelers. Aattukaal Ponkala was still one week away.

I don’t understand who gave them the right to use this busy public space to mint money. And how come nobody talks about it or no paper posts a photo of this, because such looting in the name of religion and such gross misuse of public space are publicly agreed upon.

On Janmashtami

I saw this photo on this year’s Janmashtami day in Google Buzz. I don’t know who clicked this but it is such a moving image. Many people say that there is nothing special about it as this is a common sight in some places in Kerala for Muslims to get their kids dressed as Krishna and make them take part in Shobhaa Yaatra on Janmashtami day.

I wonder what those hate mongers would think seeing this beautiful picture.

To the pissed-offs

Recently I posted this comment in Facebook about the news that the BJP led Karnataka state government has banned cow slaughter. In India, fanatics of various religions always give us something to write about.

So the comment was this and it seems that some people got pissed off by it:

Holy Cow! It’s official now. You can’t eat beef in the BJP ruling Karnataka state anymore. The new-age Vegetarian converts, mostly consisting of people who took on Vegetarianism as part of Brahminical Elitism and who have already declared a ‘food casteism’, can now thrive upon this news. And BJP is silently forcing their communal agenda on the people of Karnatak state. Not that it surprises me.

And I wanted to say a couple of things to those who have been pissed off by my comment and pouring their anger on me throughout facebook. The pity is that they don’t even have the guts to quote my name in those pissed-off comments and make strange references.

So to them,

  • I do not hide my views and opinion under the rug, like you.
  • I do not think silence would help the cause of peace.
  • I do not think everybody who keeps silence on issues is a person who stands for harmony.
  • I think learning, thinking and writing/talking about is the first step towards changing something.
  • I do see your selective response on selected issues/comments. Do not think I am an idiot who cannot see your closet fundamentalism.
  • I do not have to express myself for “publicity”. I have had my fair share of media presence, even though I’ve never asked for it.
  • If I cared about popularity and publicity, I would just resort to singing in my blog, saying beautiful things that the public would agree upon, like you.
  • I will not trade my commonsense for your acquaintance. I already have a solid set of friends who understands me.

Now that I said all of these, I guess they can still get pissed off. 🙂

Disguised as democracy

In my post about Prof. Joseph’s hand-chopping incident, I had written about the intrusion of religious elements into the liberal, democratic and political spheres of Kerala in disguise. I think this is more dangerous than the Hindutva politics because Hindutva politics is there on the surface for everybody to see. Hindutvavaadis thrive on anti-minority sentiments and extreme Hindu-nationalist views, and everybody knows that. Hindutavavaadis never hesitate to boast upon their beliefs (except for the grooming campaigns of Narendra Modi these days), but on the other side, the hard-core Islamists chose to play different. When they learned that terrorism and an extreme Islamist movement is a growing concern in the public, they put on the mask of liberal activism and tried to play more left than the Left. While the Left in Kerala has left itself to be rotten, there was an empty space in the field of activism that was available for others to occupy. And the Islamists were quick to fill in that space. It is said that ‘even the BJP is Leftist in Kerala’. So the best way to get public acceptance was obvious – be more left than the Leftists.

The first step in that direction was taken long back – starting with media. A prominent Malayalam weekly and news daily is owned by such a group. They invited the prominent figures in the socio-political-liberal sphere to write for them and made a mark. Then came their student/youth organizations. They started campaigns and agitations on several issues – Capitalism, Globalization, Bourgeoisie, Western Imperialism, Environment, Development, Human Rights etc. When they shouted slogans against America and Israel, their tones were sharper than the Communists. When they talked about freedom of speech for M F Hussain, they kept mum on the threats and Fatwas issued to Taslima Nasreen. When they talked about Imperialism and Human Rights, they never talked about the Islamic imperialist countries and the grave human rights violation in those countries.

When Madani was released from jail, he also played the same political card. Madani was smart. He saw the possiblity of a wider political spectrum and thus included “Dalits” in his come back. The term “Dalit” had already become a fine selling point of all political parties by then. Madani also banked upon the same “anti-imperialistic” politics of the other Islamist organizations.

But people failed to notice it or chose to ignore. And our socio-political leaders kept taking part in their meetings and that image has been used to boast upon their public acceptance. And now the final step – Jamaat-e-Islami is forming a political party in Kerala. And what is their declared obective? Their Wiki page says, “Establishment of (Islamic) way of life in all aspects of life“. And their core doctrine? “the Divine Being is solely Allah, there being no God except Him, and that Muhammad is Allah’s messenger“. Tell me how it is different from the dream of a Hindu nation proposed by the Sangh Parivar.

Now we have a number of such “political parties” and “activist organizations” in our public sphere. And the news of bombs and detonators being placed in the public spaces and people being hacked in the name of religion is increasing day by day. Even though some of the socio-political leaders and intellectuals have turned a blind-eye towards such developments, the consolation is that there are people like Hameed Chennamangaloor who have been voicing against these groups openly since a very long time. And publications like Mathrubhumi weekly having open debates about this as cover stories. But that is not enough. People have to stand up and say, we don’t want an Islamic or Chrsitian version of BJP or Sangh Parivar. We don’t want religion in our political space. We don’t want that one God or multiple Gods and their doctrines to rule us, instead the secular ethos envisioned by the founding fathers of this country. We want to keep our democracy in place, how much shortcomings and failures it has.

Lessons from the questions

The news of a Malayalam professor whose hands have been cut off by a group of Muslim extremists is the talk of Kerala these days. Professor Joseph’s right palm was cut off by a gang of six people while he was returning home from Church on a Sunday. Two Popular Front activists have been arrested in connection with this incident. Popular Front, of which the accused are members of,  is alleged to have links to Islamic terrorist organizations like Lashkar-e-Taiba and SIMI (Student Islamic Movement of India) as is read from their Wiki page.

The incident has to be condemned and the culprits should be brought to justice, as we cannot excuse any form of terrorism or extremism, regardless of which community it comes from – the majority or minority. But there are a couple of issues attached to this incident.

The problem arose when Mr. Joseph, a professor of Malayalam in Newman College Thodupuzha, included a narrative in a question paper that he prepared for the students of the college. The narrative was from an article written by film maker/politician P T Kunjumuhammed. Kunjumuhammed had written about the script that he wrote for his award winning movie “Garshom”. He wrote that the scene in which the protagonist of his film talks to God was inspired by a lunatic in his hometown. So the lunatic would call God and God would respond “what is it, you son of a dog“? (I am unsure that “Son of a dog” interprets it’s Malayalam usage “Naayinte mone” well though). The question that came with the narrative was to supply the punctuation.

P T Kunjumuhammed’s article:

Kunjumuhammed's article

The controversial part of the question paper:


Prof. Joseph took the passage and instead of leaving the lunatic nameless (as in the original passage) he added a name (which he did not have to do) and the name he chose was Muhammed (which also he did not have to do as there are many other common Muslim names if he had to give one). This was really unnecessary for Prof Joseph to include such a twisted version in the question paper. When this became a controversy, the college management and Church apologized for having to hurt the Muslim sentiments and they suspended Joseph when the question paper became a controversy which was a rightful thing to do.

But this gruesome act of extremists leads us to another thing – how a group of radical Islamists have begun to unleash their terror openly in the Kerala society. They are in large numbers and comes in different names. They have infiltrated into the liberal, democratic and political spheres in disguise. And if they are not stopped now, Kerala will soon become an Islamist playground. The under current is already on.

Why Polygamy?

Because for men, it teaches leadership – says Mr. Rizdam. And it helps women control their desires and jealousies and bring them closer to God, says Rizdam’s wife Dr Gina Puspita. Both of them are supporters of Polygamy Club (yes, you read it right) in Indonesia.

Coming to think of controlling the desires (and thus bringing their men closer to God), the women out there should have asked their husbands to stick to monogamy, right? So does this mean that the women don’t care if their polygamist husbands are rot in hell? But it is not just about Indonesia. About an year back, a famous cleric from Kerala had justified polygamy because “Women’s menstrual cycle prevents them from sexual contact for 5-6 days“!

Anyways, not all women in Indonesia think in the same line as Dr Gina Puspita. For example, Nursyahbani Katjasungkana says this:

“When the scripture revealed to the Prophet Muhammad its direction on polygamy, it was during the time of war,” she says.

“I believe it was a direction to the Muslims of that time that all the victims of war or widows and children who lost a father or a husband have to be protected. That’s the message of the scriptures – it wasn’t really a command to men to have a second or third or fourth wife.”

Love Jehad?

Three of my good friends who are Christians married Hindu girls. All three of them were either studying or working together when they first met and fell in love. The girls got converted to Christianity. What do I call this? Love Crusade? I would like to know what Catholic Church has to say about this.

Two of my Hindu friends married Christian girls. The girls got converted to Hinduism at Arya Samaj offices. What do I call this? Love Karseva? I would like to know what Viswa Hindu Parishat has to say about this.

I have mentioned this over and again in many communications that at least in Kerala, those who have to compromise on their religion for a wedding happen to be Women. I have said that this is more of a gender issue because I have never heard of a boy converting to his girl’s religion to get married.

However, when the boy happens to be a Muslim and the girl happens to be a Christian or Hindu, why is it linked to the word Terrorism and an immediate interest in calling it Love Jihad? Why is it that our media even called it an organization without even investigating a little? Why are they remaining silent now that the DGP has submitted a report before the court that there is no such organization and no indication of anything like Love-Jehad? How could the Catholic church shamelessly join hands with VHP in keeping the numbers of the herd intact?

To conclude, an old online acquaintance of mine who happens to be a Muslim married a Christian boy some years back. Both of them have not changed their religions.

What do I call THAT?