lone leafImage by Shelly Paul

Perfection – Everything has to be just so

If mother nature adhered to our current definition of aesthetic perfection – largely governed by the rules of symmetry – rivers would flow in perfect straight lines and turn corners at precise right angles, mountains would be pyramids, trees in the forest would be aligned in perfect straight lines like military battalions, where each tree would stand ramrod straight, every branch attached to the trunk at an exact angle of forty-five degrees, every leaf in perfect symmetry. The ones that do not adhere to this rigid perfection would be shed by the tree for its non-conformity.

Nothing out of place. No grey areas. No anomalies. Because anomalies are viewed as irksome, simply because they do not conform with the majority. Such perfection in mother nature would not only be boring in its monotony, but would jeopardize life on this planet because of its unforgiving rigidity.

Resurrection, St.George Church, Edappally, Kochi
Image by Shelly Paul

A monologue with God because dialogue seems impossible

God – The Omnipotent, Omnipresent, benevolent creator of this world

Hello God,
I have heard so much about You, growing up. I hear You are a kind, benevolent, just and fair God, although I am not sure if that was the case when You tested Abraham’s faith.

By the way, I am not here to discuss the Bible. I want to talk to You about money. Why do You need so much money? Why does The Almighty, who created this universe in a week, with a day to spare, need so much of his favorite creation’s legal tender?

Nandhalala

(Original poem by Bharaithyar)

On the wings of the raven Nandhalala1 – is manifest
The black of your hue, Nandhalala;

In all the trees that come into vision, Nandhalala – is manifest
The green of your hue, Nandhalala;

In every sound that is audible, Nandhalala – resonates
The music of your song, Nandhalala;

palimpset-shop window/Shelly Paul
Image by Shelly Paul

Polytheism – worship of multiple gods.

When the people of Macondo1 saw an actor die in a movie and reappear as a completely different character in another movie, they decided they, “…would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats.”

But, we are not some primitive people from the fictitious Macondo, we are modern people who live on the, ‘Information Highway’. We know intellectually, that movies are commercial ventures made possible by modern technology, built by a large crew of invisible people with the actors being the only visible part of that venture. We know in our minds that actors are people, who portray scripted characters, as navigated by the director.

These actors are nothing like the fantastic characters they play on the screen. They are ordinary people, just like you and me. Yet, somehow seeing them up-close, smiling at us – not straight at the camera, but at me, the movie-goer – inviting us into their homes, into their lives, into marvelous worlds of fantasy and magic, sharing with us their travails and their triumphs, somehow tug at our heart-strings, making us believe in the impossible, just like when we were little children wishing for magic.

unhappy queen Unhappy Queen / Illustration by Lekha Murali


Mythology – A study of myths
Myth – figment of collective imagination

It was a time when sun was the only clock. It was long before the era of verified and meticulous documentation, long before the ancient languages had rudimentary scripts developed by primitive linguists.

It was a time when people began exercising vocal chords to express themselves, when the evolving species was still figuring out which of the weeds agreed with humans and that carrion could be detrimental to one’s health.

The tribes would huddle around the communal fire and try to dine with whatever food, that was the result of the latest experiment. That’s when they talked about the things they could never fathom.

Without awareness, their imagination took wings and built extraordinary worlds where magical people lived –

sunset at vellore/shelly paul
Image by Shelly Paul

A religion’s origin, that is lost in time. A religion, that has survived the influx of many other religions, cultures, its own corruption and foreign invasions. After several thousand years, Hinduism is still the predominant religion in today’s India. It is more a way of life than a religion. It permeates into everything that’s Indian. That is why it is hard to separate India from Hinduism. Everyone who is born Indian does have a degree of Hinduism within them doesn’t matter the religion they are born into currently.

"Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible, descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often with human blood, destroyed civilization, and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now." -From Swami Vivekanda's speech, at the World Parliament of Religions, Chicago, 1893

While absorbing the news about the fanatical murders of the Charlie Hebdo staff, I was reminded of something Mr. Lewis Black said on a talk show. In the stand-up routine, ‘The End of the Universe’, he wraps up the show talking about faith. He talks about the importance of balancing faith with a sense of humor. In course of the segment, he says, “…and that’s what happens when you don’t laugh. You get all wound up in what you’re believing in and nobody goes ‘eh,heh’ and you’re ..you’re screwed.”

That is the role of a satirist in our society; to go ‘eh heh’, when group-think takes over people’s minds. Especially in today’s era of ubiquitous information, it is easy to isolate ourselves by cherry picking whatever suits us without