Friday, November 04, 2005


Was it a conspiracy of fate that Republican Rome in her dying throes produced such men of eminence the likes of whom the world has seldom seen, leave alone seen holding the centre stage? Like some ethereal apparition they appeared in brilliant effulgence and then faded away heralding a period of universal gloom.

When the civil wars of Marius and Sulla were over, when the banks of the Tiber were breathing the draughts of relief once again, there emerged men of exceptional caliber to guide the destiny of Rome. The names of Julius Caesar, Cicero and Pompey the Magnus reverberate today with awe and splendour across the long corridor of time. What was it in the Roman psyche, in the Roman ethos and in the Roman upbringing that gave us these men of indomitable spirit and lustrous mind which lesser mortals throughout the ages have tried to emulate and only a few have succeeded?

Cato the Younger, named after his great grand father, Cato the Elder, was no exception. He has gone down in history for his stubbornness and incorruptibility. There were many exceptional facets to his character and his whole life upheld the ennobling qualities that Providence bestows upon her favourite. He was born in Rome in 95 BCE, of Patrician parents and was orphaned at an early age. His maternal uncle brought him up along with his siblings. Even at an early age he showed his mettle when he refused to be bullied by elder students, his teacher or by any political big-wig.

On coming of age Cato left his uncle’s house to live independently and studied philosophy and moral and political questions. In his day he was the greatest practitioner of Stoic Philosophy. He tempered his body to withstand the extremes of heat and cold and could do with a minimum of food and clothing. He used to avoid the luxury of riding a horse and often traversed long distances on foot when his compatriots and juniors sat on the saddle.

Cato saw military service in Macedon where he commanded a legion. He shared with his soldiers their work, food and living quarters. He was a frontline leader of his men and was strict in discipline and punishment. He enjoyed the undiluted love of his legionaries. Later on he visited the Roman colonies in Asia and conversed with the famed Philosophers, especially the revered teachers of the Stoic school.

On his return to Rome he was elected a quaestor which entailed supervision of the treasury. Cato made a thorough study of the taxes and kept a close watch on functioning of the tax collectors. He did not hesitate to punish those guilty of embezzlement and extortion.

Afterwards he became a senator and he never missed a single session of the house. He was the first to arrive and the last to leave after the day’s business was over. Cato publicly rebuked them who shirked their senatorial responsibilities.

The women in his life

His relations with women were to say the least, strange, if not downright confusing. He was initially betrothed to Aemelia Lepida who was earlier engaged to Cornelius Caepio. This suitor had declined to marry her and Cato was free to make his proposal which he did as per custom. Matters were progressing amicably and the marriage was destined to take place in the not too distant future when Cornelius reappeared on the scene, proposed to Aemelia and ultimately married her. Cato was infuriated and insisted on dragging the pair to court for breach of faith but was prevented by his friends. A distraught Cato gave vent to his ire by penning some vitriolic poems.

Cato later on married Atilia. She bore him a son and a daughter, the famous Porcia who was to have the legendary Brutus as her second husband. At the height of the Cataline conspiracy when Rome was engulfed in tumults and chaos everywhere, when her very existence as a sovereign republic was precarious and the conspiracy was being passionately discussed threadbare in the Senate, there happened an unseemly incident that forever riveted the hatred of Cato for Julius Caesar. A letter was brought in the Senate to Julius Caesar which Julius read. Cato lambasted Caesar for ignoring the affairs of the state and indulging in frivolous pursuits. He further alleged that Caesar was in league with the conspirators and was indulging in clandestine activities. Caesar handed over the letter to Cato to read aloud which was a love letter from Cato’s sister to Caesar. Cato was humiliated and disgusted. For Caesar had a notorious reputation of sleeping with and debauching his political opponent’s wives. Later on Cato divorced his wife Atilia for adultery with the same Julius Caesar.

He then married Marcia Phillipa and was happy in her company. Cato had an admirer, Quintus Hortensius, matured in years, a renowned orator and a man of great virtue. Quintus desired to have an alliance with Cato by marriage and proposed to marry Cato’s daughter Porcia. "For," said he, "though this in the opinion of men may seem strange, yet in nature it is honest, and profitable for the public that a woman in the prime of her youth should not lie useless, and lose the fruit of her womb, nor, on the other side, should burden and impoverish one man, by bringing him too many children. Also by this communication of families among worthy men, virtue would increase, and be diffused through their posterity; and the commonwealth would be united and cemented by their alliances." Cato answered, that he loved Hortensius very well, and much approved of uniting their houses, but he thought it strange to speak of marrying his daughter, when she was already given to another. Then Hortensius, turning the discourse, did not hesitate to speak openly and ask for Cato's own wife, for she was young and fruitful, and he had already children enough. Neither can it be thought that Hortensius did this, as imagining Cato did not care for Marcia; for, it is said, she was then with child. Cato, perceiving his earnest desire, did not deny his request, but said that Philippus, the father of Marcia, ought also to be consulted. Philippus, therefore, being sent for, came; and finding they were well agreed, gave his daughter Marcia to Hortensius in the presence of Cato, who himself also assisted at the marriage. This caused a massive scandal in Rome but Cato, the stoic, remained unperturbed. Modern feminists may scream ‘murder’ that in this rather peculiar affair Marcia was never consulted but such was the genius of those times that Marcia dutifully consented to her husband’s and father’s requests.
Stranger it may seem that after the death of Hortensius, during the consternation at Rome on account of Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon, Cato remarried Marcia.
En passant it may be relevant to mention that the great Octavius on being made Augustus Caesar and Emperor divorced his wife Scribonia and hastily married Livia who was then big with her husband’s child, after first compelling her husband to divorce her.

The Cataline conspiracy

Now we come to the Cataline conspiracy. Cataline a noble youth of Rome led a dissolute life and had dissipated his patrimony quite early. He planned to take over the Senate and the administration by force with the help of his associates and colleagues, brothers in profligacy all; in short a revolution. However this conspiracy was detected and Cataline fled from Rome fearing retribution. Two of his co-conspirators were arrested and their fate was being deliberated in the Senate. Cicero and Julius Caesar spoke in favour of exile and their speeches bear testimony to their clarity of thought and nobleness of spirit. Cato spoke last and a truncated portion of his speech is being presented to have a glimpse of the capacity of a brilliant mind.

"My feelings, Conscript Fathers, are extremely different, when I contemplate our circumstances and dangers, and when I revolve in my mind the sentiments of some who have spoken before me. Those speakers, as it seems to me, have considered only how to punish the traitors who have raised war against their country, their parents, their altars, and their homes but the state of affairs warns us rather to secure ourselves against them, than to take counsel as to what sentence we should pass upon them. Other crimes you may punish after they have been committed; but as to this, unless you prevent its commission, you will, when it has once taken effect, in vain appeal to justice .When the city is taken, no power is left to the vanquished. But, in the name of the immortal gods, I call upon you, who have always valued your mansions and villas, your statues and pictures, at a higher price than the welfare of your country; if you wish to preserve those possessions, of whatever kind they are, to which you are attached; if you wish to secure quiet for the enjoyment of your pleasures, arouse yourselves, and act in defense of your country. We are not now debating on the revenues, or on injuries done to our allies, but our liberty and our life are at stake.

Often, Conscript Fathers, have I spoken at great length in this assembly; often have I complained of the luxury and avarice of our citizens, and, by that very means, have incurred the displeasure of many. I, who never excused to myself, or to my own conscience, the commission of any fault, could not easily pardon the misconduct, or indulge the licentiousness, of others. But though you little regarded my remonstrances, yet the republic remained secure; its own strength was proof against your remissness. The question, however, at present under discussion, is not whether we live in a good or a bad state of morals; nor how great, or how splendid, the empire of the Roman people is; but whether these things around us, of whatever value they are, are to continue our own, or to fall, with ourselves, into the hands of the enemy.

In such a case, does any one talk to me of gentleness and compassion? For some time past, it is true, we have lost the real name of things; for to lavish the property of others is called generosity, and audacity in wickedness is called heroism; and hence the state is reduced to the brink of ruin. But let those, who thus misname things, be liberal, since such is the practice, out of the property of our allies; let them be merciful to the robbers of the treasury; but let them not lavish our blood, and, while they spare a few criminals, bring destruction on all the guiltless.

Do not suppose that our ancestors, from so small a commencement, raised the republic to greatness merely by force of arms. If such had been the case, we should enjoy it in a most excellent condition; for of allies and citizens, as well as arms and horses, we have a much greater abundance than they had. But there were other things which made them great, but which among us have no existence; such as industry at home, equitable government abroad, and minds impartial in council, uninfluenced by any immoral or improper feeling. Instead of such virtues, we have luxury and avarice; public distress, and private superfluity; we extol wealth, and yield to indolence; no distinction is made between good men and bad; and ambition usurps the honors due to virtue. Nor is this wonderful; since you study each his individual interest, and since at home you are slaves to pleasure, and here to money or favour; and hence it happens that an attack is made on the defenseless state.

But on these subjects I shall say no more. Certain citizens, of the highest rank, have conspired to ruin their country; they are engaging the Gauls, the bitterest foes of the Roman name, to join in a war against us; the leader of the enemy is ready to make a descent upon us; and do you hesitate; even in such circumstances, how to treat armed incendiaries arrested within your walls? I advise you to have mercy upon them, they are young men who have been led astray by ambition; send them away, even with arms in their hands. But such mercy, and such clemency, if they turn those arms against you, will end in misery to yourselves. The case is, assuredly, dangerous, but you do not fear it; yes, you fear it greatly, but you hesitate how to act, through weakness and want of spirit, waiting one for another, and trusting to the immortal gods, who have so often preserved your country in the greatest dangers. But the protection of the gods is not obtained by vows and effeminate supplications; it is by vigilance, activity, and a prudent measure, that general welfare is secured. When you are once resigned to sloth and indolence, it is in vain that you implore the gods; for they are then indignant and threaten vengeance.

In the days of our forefathers, Titus Manlius Torquatus, during a war with the Gauls, ordered his own son to be put to death, because he had fought with an enemy contrary to orders. That noble youth suffered for excess of bravery; and do you hesitate what sentence to pass on the most inhuman of traitors? Perhaps their former life is at variance with their present crime.

In conclusion, Conscript Fathers, if there were time to amend an error, I might easily suffer you, since you disregard words, to be corrected by experience of consequences. But we are beset by dangers on all sides; Catiline, with his army, is ready to devour us while there are other enemies within the walls and in the heart of the city; nor can any measures be taken, or any plans arranged, without their knowledge. The more necessary is it, therefore, to act with promptitude. What I advise, then, is this: that since the state, by a treasonable combination of abandoned citizens, has been brought into the greatest peril; and since the conspirators have been convicted on the evidence of Titus Volturcius, and the deputies of the Allobroges, and on their own confession, of having concerted massacres, conflagrations, and other horrible and cruel outrages, against their fellow-citizens and their country, punishment be inflicted, according to the usage of our ancestors, on the prisoners who have confessed their guilt, as on men convicted of capital crimes."

Ultimately Cato’s view held sway and the conspirators were summarily executed.

The death of Cato

It goes without saying that Cato led one of the most exceptional of lives. His death or rather the manner of his death surpasses all that he did in his life. Rome was then facing civil strife [49 BCE-46BCE]. Julius Caesar was demanding his pound of flesh which the Senate was reluctant to give. Cato, who harboured a visceral loathing for Caesar, since the Cataline affair, was most vociferous in condemning the excesses and rapacity of Caesar. But when the dye was cast and Caesar crossed the Rubicon with his legions, the hapless city was all turmoil; those inside rushing out and those outside rushing in. The Senate’s sole defender Pompey the Great was old in years and his best was behind him. Caesar led Pompey a merry dance all the way and at the decisive battle at Pharsalus, Macedonia, defeated him round and square. A fleeing Pompey sought refuge in Alexandria, Egypt, where he was slain by the Ptolemies. Cato had accompanied the Senatorial army to Pharsalus and after the rout Cato settled in Utica, Africa [near present day Tunisia]. Caesar with single minded determination landed in Africa and decimated the remnant of the Senatorial army at Thapsus.

Cato on hearing the news was unwilling to live in a world ruled by Caesar. It was not for him to seek clemency from any one, least of all from Caesar, and live the rest of his life in peace. Cato committed suicide by falling on his own sword and disemboweling himself.

Thus ended the life of Cato: a man uncompromising in his beliefs, who stood alone and unrepentant in the face of formidable adversity and who was the foremost champion of liberty.

Seneca, the philosopher and tutor to Caesar Nero, wrote: but lo’ here is a spectacle worthy of the regard of God as he contemplates his works; lo here is a contest worthy of God- a brave man matched against ill fortune. I do not know, I say, what nobler sight the Lord of heaven could find on earth, should he wish to turn his attention there, than the spectacle of Cato, after his cause had already been shattered more than once, nevertheless standing erect among the ruins of the commonwealth.”

The summing up

That Cato was the foremost stoic of his day is needless to mention. Zeno of Citium was the first to establish the Stoic School of Philosophy at the ‘Stoa Poikilos’ in Athens at about 308 BCE. However the concept of Stoicism was first adumbrated by the great Socrates and trickled down to the later generation through his student Antisthenes the Cynic.

Stoicism has now come to mean indifference to pain but initially Stoicism taught freedom from passion by following ‘reason’. The Stoics knew that human flesh is heir to passion and hence unavoidable; but they sought to avoid emotional troubles by the practice of logic, reflection and concentration.

The very kernel of this philosophy was to be free of suffering through ‘Apathy’ as the word apathy was then understood i.e. objectivity or clear judgement. To the Stoic, ‘Reason’ not only encompassed logic but was a votary of that celestial wisdom which the Greeks called logos. The four cardinal virtues of the Stoic Philosophy are wisdom, courage, justice and temperance.

The peculiar marital arrangement of Cato which caused a lot of confusion and scurrility at Rome has never failed to raise indignation in the later ages. To get a proper understanding of the institution of marriage in ancient Rome one must seek refuge in the sterling essay of Professor Ferrero ‘Women of the Caesars’ [1911]

‘The individualistic conception of matrimony and of the family attained by our civilization was alien to the Roman mind, which conceived of these from an essentially political and social point of view. The purpose of marriage was, so to speak, exterior to the pair. As untouched by any spark of the metaphysical spirit as he was unyielding--at least in action--to every suggestion of the philosophic; preoccupied only in enlarging and consolidating the state of which he was master, the Roman aristocrat never regarded matrimony and the family, just as he never regarded religion and law, as other than instruments for political domination, as means for increasing and establishing the power of every great family, and by family affiliations to strengthen the association of the aristocracy, already bound together by political interest.’

Elsewhere he writes ‘More important still were the woman's dower and her personal fortune The Romans not only considered it perfectly honourable, sagacious, and praiseworthy for a member of the political aristocracy to marry a rich woman for her wealth, the better to maintain the lustre of his rank, or the more easily to fulfil his particular political and social duties, but they also believed there could be no better luck or greater honours for a rich woman than for this reason to marry a prominent man. They exacted only that she be of respectable habits, and even in this regard it appears that, during certain tumultuous periods, they sometimes shut one eye.’

Cato was the last obstacle to Julius Caesar toward absolute dictatorship. The death of Cato has been panegyrised by innumerable authors and poets. Reckon it will be in the fitness of things to mention the name of Joseph Addison, the English politician and litterateur, who wrote the play “Cato- a tragedy’ [1713].

Here are some nuggets from the play:-

‘Tis not in mortals to command success,
But we’ll do more, Sempronius; we’ll deserve it’

‘A Roman soul is bent on higher views:
To civilize the rude, unpolished world,
And lay it under the restraint of laws;
To make man mild, and sociable to man;
To cultivate the wild, licentious savage
With wisdom, discipline, and liberal arts
The embellishments of life; virtues like these
Make human nature shine, reform the soul,
And break our fierce barbarians into men.’

‘To strike thee dumb, turn up thy eyes to Cato!
There may’st thou see to what a godlike height
The Roman virtues lift up mortal man.
While good, and just, and anxious for his friends,
He’s still severely bent against himself;
Renouncing sleep, and rest, and food, and ease,
He strives with thirst and hunger, toil and heat;
And when his fortune sets before him all
The pomps and pleasures that his soul can wish,
His rigid virtue will accept of none.’

‘Better to die ten thousand thousand deaths,
Than wound my honour.’

George Washington was highly enamoured of this play and had it played to his troops in America during the American war of Independence. Furthermore he often paraphrased some quotations from this play while writing his letters.


Project Gutenberg
Sallust The Cataline Conspiracy
Plutarch The Life of Cato
Ferrero The Women of the Caesars
Addison Cato- A Tragedy

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


The months of the calendar are very much a part of our lives and whatever we do in them add up to our net worth and existence .But this is old hat; what is interesting is the story behind their nomenclature.

The months are derived from the Roman calendar of antiquity and the words are Latin. Originally the year had only ten months starting from March and ending with December. It was only to be expected that the early Romans should honour the God of War at the very beginning of the year. But more of it later.

It was the genius of Numa Pompilius, who was entrusted with the charge of Rome after the founder Romulus passed away, that added two more months to the calendar. Numa was not a Roman in the truer sense of the term; he was a Sabine. But he was the most cultivated of the people in Rome, indeed a savant if not a sage .He added the first two months, January and February.

January is derived from the Roman God Janus. Janus had two faces, each facing the other, signifying strife and bellicosity. The temple of Janus in Rome had massive iron doors which were always open except when absolute peace reigned, which happened only twice in Roman history; once in Numa’s time and once again during the golden period of Augustus Caesar. Incidentally January is juxtaposed between two years, the old and the new and hence may be visualized having ‘two faces’ looking forward and backward.

February, the second month of the year, is derived from ‘februa’ meaning purification. On the Ides of February i.e. the 15th, the festival of Lupercalia was held. It was a fertility festival consecrated to the preservation of domestic animals from wolves (lupus means wolf) .Lupercal is mentioned in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar .It is worth remembering that the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus were suckled by a she wolf during their childhood. In this festival a young boy used to run around clad in a short garment, striking the onlookers with a branch of a tree as a mark of purification.

March comes next. As mentioned earlier it is named after the Roman god of war, Mars, corresponding to the Greek Aries. Originally it was the first month of the year in the ten-month calendar, later becoming the third after the introduction of January and February. Julius Caesar was poniarded on the Ides of March.

The fourth month is April. There are two concepts as to its derivation. Some claim it honours Venus, Aphrodite in Greek, which appears farfetched as the first two letters are A&P and not A&PH[Φ]. However others believe it is derived from “apert’ or to open (aperture) as in this month the buds open and flowers bloom. Spring exerts herself in right earnest.

May is the next month and is an abbreviation for Maia, the mother of Mercury, Hermes to the Greeks. It is rather strange that Maia should merit a full month as she is not a member of the Olympian twelve. Her son Mercury is however a proper Olympian and is the patron God of thieves, traders, doctors, musicians and many more. His wand, the Caduceus, is the modern emblem of doctors all over. Incidentally the term Hermaphrodite [we all know what it means] is the illegitimate son of Hermes and Aphrodite. The pre-Hellenic function of Hermes was that of chief psychopomp, carrying the soul of the dead to Hades.
His mother Maia then was a substitute for the mother Goddess whose cult was suppressed by patriarchal Hellenes. Naming the month after Maia was a sort of atonement for this injustice

June is named after Juno, Hera to the Greeks. She was the matriarch of the Olympians, being the consort of Jupiter. As Jupiter has a planet to his name, and the largest one at that, it is only proper that his wife should have a month to herself.

That July is named after Julius Caesar is very wall known and he had himself named it so; a matter deemed offensive to his assassins. After the conquest of Egypt, Julius had lengthy discourses with the Egyptian astronomers and he made a sincere attempt at the calendar’s correction. Previously it was called Quintilis, the fifth month. That Julius would choose the fifth month to lend his name to was natural; he claimed Venus as his ancestress. The number five in Latin is V, the first letter of Venus. Furthermore to the ancient mystagogues V represented an isosceles triangle with the base up and apex down, resembling the female reproductive area [Does anyone remember the ubiquitous red triangle of the seventies?] hence symbolizing birth=regeneration=life itself. The reverse triangle with the base down and apex up signified a pyramid =delta=death.

Augustus Caesar named the sixth month Sextilis after him .This happened to be the most inauspicious month to the Romans .The rape of the Sabine women had taken place in this month and this outrage was one of the curses of the Roman republic and the empire. Augustus took upon himself to wipe away the stain of this month. Rome was founded by the two brothers Romulus and Remus with all the riffraff of the country, fugitives, runaway slaves, thieves and the like. But they needed women to breed who were difficult to find. Romulus hit upon a plan: to abduct the Sabine women from a religious gathering. It was executed with precision and Rome had the required women for raising families.

Nothing much need be said about the remaining four months of the year as their names indicate their chronology: - September, October, November& December signifying the seventh eighth ninth and tenth months respectively. However as Lupercalia is spoken of earlier, so a brief mention may be made of the chief Roman festival, the Saturnalia. It was held in December during the winter solstice and the whole of Rome were literally ablaze with fun and gaiety. The Festival lasted four days initially when the later of the Caesars of the Julian house put in a fifth honouring the youth of Rome and called it Juvenalia.

On Emperor Constantine embracing Christianity every attempt was made to suppress the polytheistic religion of Rome which was called Paganism; and what better way to bring it about than celebrating the birthday of Jesus Christ during the Saturnalia? The Bible nowhere mentions the birthday of Jesus; the Church of Rome persisted and ultimately Paganism withered away.

Calendar is derived from the Latin word Kalend meaning the first day of the month. The word month itself means moon, moon= mon=month; the lunar
cycle takes a month.


An ode to Hypatia:

Thou Art Not Born For Death, Immortal Bird
No Hungry Generations Tread Thee Down
John Keats

Let us now praise famous women and our mothers that bore us [no pun intended]The woman I am about to praise this delightful autumn morning was indeed famous but she was never a mother; for she died as she lived; a spotless virgin dedicated to the cause of mathematics and philosophy.

Hypatia was the daughter of the mathematician and philosopher Theon. Theon had written an excellent commentary on Euclid’s geometry, and his name would have been well remembered by posterity had not his daughter outshone him.

Hypatia was born in Alexandria in 370?A.D. Alexandria in those days was the capital of Egypt. Egypt was a part of the Roman Empire and had a Roman governor. Its populace was various and mixed: native Egyptians, Greeks, Jews and Romans. Indeed Egypt was the melting pot of the whole world where East met the West.

There all the religions had existed in harmony: ancient Egyptian, Paganism of the Greeks, Judaism of the Jews and Christianity of the later Romans. Theon was Greek in origin, and a Pagan by birth.

Alexandria was then one of the greatest cities of the Empire if not of the whole world. It rivalled Athens and Rome as a centre of excellence. There were no unemployed or unemployable in the whole city; even the lame and the blind found something worthy of their labour. The Alexandrians manufactured papyrus, blew glass and wove linen. Furthermore the trade of Asia and Africa passed through Alexandria on the way to Rome, its harbour was blessed by a splendid lighthouse on the island of Pharos. Though founded by Alexander the great, it was the genius of the Ptolemies, the ruling dynasty, that raised this city to celestial heights. The Ptolemies patronized art and culture and Alexandria boasted one of the greatest libraries of antiquity, nay, some scholars believe it had the greatest library that ever was. Librarians, teachers and students were funded by the public exchequer to devote their time and energy studying and teaching. Theon was the chief librarian during his longevity.

In addition to the library, Alexandria had a magnificent temple of Serapis which paralleled the Parthenon of Athens and the temple of Capitoline Jove at Rome. It was a unique blend of the best of the Egyptian architecture with the creators of the Athenian Acropolis. The Egyptians and the Greeks worshipped there. Serapis was credited to being the source of the Nile and was responsible for the annual flooding which made Egypt the coveted granary of the Roman Empire.

Hypatia was the student of her father from whom she learnt her mathematics .She is credited with writing commentaries on the Arithmetica of Diophantus, on the Conics of Apollonius and the Arithmetical canons of Ptolemy. All these books are now lost. Later on she travelled to Athens where she learnt Philosophy and became a teacher in the Neo-Platonic school. It may be recalled that the study of science and philosophy was no easy matter for a woman in those days and to excel at it and become a teacher was simply unheard of. Hypatia not only excelled but her renown spread far and wide.

This Neoplatonic school was founded by Plotinus, Porphyry and Iamblichus. She was the greatest votary of this philosophy in Alexandria and her classes were always full of students eager to learn the mysteries of human existence. There exists an interesting story of Hypatia being constantly pestered by one of her over-eager pupils for her amorous favours which many modern-day feminists cite as an example of sexual harassment in those days. Far from it; sexual harassment has little to do with sex and even less with harassment, it is all about power and supremacy. As Hypatia was more powerful than her pupil the allegation of sexual harassment holds no water. Hypatia however dissuaded her ardent pupil by displaying a bloodied sanitary napkin and exclaiming “This is of my flesh. If you love me you have to accept this also.” The horrified pupil beat a hasty retreat. For, truly, if a man loved a woman he loved her in her entirety, including her red roses and white roses [menstruation and leucorrhea].

Hypatia taught at the museum of the academy which stood near the temple of Serapis. She had refused many suitors, for philosophy was her first and only love. Many were the students who traveled by land and sea from Athens and Rome, Constantinople and Antioch to hear her expound the intricacies of Plato and Aristotle.

But those were strange times, harsh times. Less than a century earlier the Emperor Constantine had embraced Christianity and it had now become the state religion. Rome was no longer Pagan, it was Christian. But Christianity was split into multiple sects and creeds. The capital was shifted from Rome to Byzantium, now renamed Constantinople. Christianity, the religion of love and compassion, was turned inside out by their followers and preachers. Christians persecuted Christians on specious interpretations of the Holy Book. The history of this period makes gory reading. The streets of all the major cities of the Empire were littered with the corpses of the devout; even elderly matrons and young ladies were not immune to unmentionable and unspeakable violations.

A semblance of normalcy, and only a semblance, was restored during the reign of the most Christian Emperor Theodosus. The orthodox faith now became the official religion of the Empire and all other forms of worship were prohibited by law. Christianity was young and virile. With utter viciousness she sought to destroy all the temples, shrines, religious texts and emblems of the unbelievers. She had the might of the state and the sword of the Roman Army behind her.

At Alexandria, power was shared by a prefect who was a civil magistrate and by a bishop who was the spiritual leader. The bishop at this period was Theophilus who is described by Gibbon as “the perpetual enemy of peace and virtue; a bold, bad man, whose hands were alternately polluted with gold and blood.” To the everlasting shame of the orthodox faith the ignominy of the destruction of the Alexandrine library lies in the sullied hands of Theophilus. Unquenchable being his zeal and fury, he now proceeded to raise the temple of Serapis to rubble. He succeeded majestically in this disgraceful enterprise and one of the marvels of antiquity was forever lost to us.

After the death of Theophilus, his nephew Cyril succeeded to the bishopric. Cyril was raised as a monk, and now he enjoyed absolute power in Alexandria, basking in the confidence of the Roman Emperor
Theodosius. There was indeed a civil magistrate, Orestes by name and a Christian by faith, who tried to prevent the excesses of religious fanaticism of the bigots.

But Cyril was made of a different stuff. Little did he care for religious tolerance and the niceties of human behaviour. Gibbon mentions "Without any legal sentence, without any royal mandate, the patriarch, at the dawn of day, led a seditious multitude to the attack of the synagogues. Unarmed and unprepared, the Jews were incapable of resistance; their houses of prayer were levelled with the ground, and the episcopal warrior, after rewarding his troops with the plunder of their goods, expelled from the city the remnant of the unbelieving nation."

The Jews who had lived in Alexandria from the time of Alexander were now finished as a nation. Alexandria lost a cultured and creative minority.

Orestes however made an attempt to check this lawlessness of Cyril and his supporters but to no avail. The Emperor of Rome was a puppet in Cyril’s hands. Orestes used to confide in Hypatia, the most famous personage of Alexandria, who advised him not to lose heart. Orestes although a devout Catholic did not subscribe to the religious fanaticism sweeping through Alexandria.

Having tasted victory in his action against the Jews, Cyril cast his vision on the most spectacular icon of Paganism, Hypatia. Gibbon writes ‘In the bloom of beauty, and in the maturity of wisdom, the modest maid refused her lovers and instructed her disciples; the persons most illustrious for their rank or merit were impatient to visit the female philosopher; and Cyril beheld, with a jealous eye, the gorgeous train of horses and slaves who crowded the door of her academy’

It was the year 415 A.D. Cyril decided to strike. On a clear day as Hypatia was boarding her chariot to go to the Academy hundreds of half starved monks set upon her, dragged her to a nearby church, stripped her naked and flayed her alive with oyster shells, spattering the walls with her innocent blood. The horror is unimaginable and the disgust is revolting. A woman of repute whose very shoestrings Cyril was unworthy to untie, lay brutally massacred by the goons unleashed by this excellent representative of the Christian faith in a church where the saviour of mankind was worshipped.

These monks were the real barbarians in those days" The monks, who rushed with tumultuous fury from the desert, distinguished themselves by their zeal and diligence ... In almost every province of the Roman world, an army of fanatics, without authority and without discipline, invaded the peaceful inhabitants; and the ruin of the fairest structures of antiquity still displays the ravages of those barbarians who alone had time and inclination to execute such laborious destruction."

Thus perished Hypatia who had the mind of Socrates and the spirit of Plato in the body of Aphrodite. Her crime? She was a woman, an intellectual and a Pagan. Three heinous offences in those days, sufficient to label her a witch and harlot, when men like Cyril were championing the cause of the Catholic church. For his labours Cyril was canonized and made a saint! Well done Cyril.

Hypatia was the glory of her age and the wonder of ours. The world had to wait the revolutions of sixteen centuries when another woman could equal her in intellectual pursuits. The murder of Hypatia heralded the Dark Ages when scholarship of any sort was frowned upon and condemned by the church. The best books of ancient Greece and Rome were consigned to the flames. Little, very little, of the majesty of the writings of the ancient sages remain.

It will be only befitting to give a few quotations attributed to Hypatia before ending.

"Life is an unfoldment, and the further we travel, the more truth we comprehend. To understand the things that are at our door is the best preparation for understanding those that lie beyond."

All formal dogmatic religions are fallacious and must never be accepted by self-respecting persons as final.

Reserve your right to think, for even to think wrongly is better than not to think at all.

To teach superstitions as truth is a most terrible thing.

Wonderful isn’t it?



Mangasar M Mangasarian : THE MARTYRDOM OF HYPATIA

Kenneth Humphreys : MURDER OF HYPATIA


Wonderful to Tell


This is an excerpt from the 45th and 46th chapters of the immortal Latin book THE GOLDEN ASS by Lucias Apuleius. For sheer imagination and hidden wit this book ranks with the very best of the genre; and for unrivalled entertainment one does not know where else to search. Incidentally this is the only Latin novel of the pre-Christian era to have survived the ravages of time. I have relied on William Adlington’s translation [1566] for a grasp of the story. Lucius has used the first person throughout and I have done the same otherwise I believe the charm would be lost. Lucius, the Latin, on his peregrination lands up in Thessaly, Greece, where through magic and witchcraft he is transformed [metamorphosed] into an ass. He retains his human power to think and understand but alas, the power of speech is denied him. His physique though is that of an ass. Many wonderful adventures befall him and this is one of them.

‘Lend me your ear, reader: you shall enjoy yourself’

My master, the soldier, sold me to two of his underlings, the Baker and the Cook for a paltry sum of eleven pence. The Baker baked sweet bread and other delicacies and the Cook prepared superb meat for his master. They shared their hearth and victuals in common and would often take me from one place to another to carry their goods and I was like a brother to them. I was very happy to stay there; for at night after the day’s work was done and supper was over, they would keep many a dainty dish in the chamber where I was kept, before they retired to their rooms after shutting the chamber door. The Cook kept dishes of pigs, chicken and fish and the Baker laid out a table of fine bread, cakes, pastries and biscuits dipped in honey. Now I had my heart’s fill of these savouries and I was neither a fool nor an ass to spare the meats and eat hay. For a long time matters proceeded like this, for I was an honest ass and I took a little of one dish and a little of another to remain undetected as long as possible.

As time passed I became sturdy and commenced devouring the whole dishes which made the Baker and the Cook to suspect something fishy. But they never mistrusted me and were on the lookout for a thief. As no thief was apprehended they soon came to charge each other of infidelity, as follows ‘you have broken faith and promise by stealing the choicest meat and selling it for profit; yet you take your share of the residue that is left. If you do not like our partnership let us go asunder; for the heavy loss I sustain because of your greed will soon cause fraying of the tempers and much else besides’. To which the other replied ‘I praise your cunning and sophistry. After secretly taking away the meat you start complaining whereas I have suffered your thievery for a long time without complaining as you were a brother to me’. After discussing the matter over a length of time they settled the issue amicably swearing
by the very Gods of Olympus. They endeavoured to catch the thief by whatever methods necessary. It neither was in their imagination that a humble ass standing alone in a corner would eat such meat nor were they inclined to believe it was the handiwork of mice or harpies to polish off whole dishes of meat. Meanwhile being fed on such delectable dishes I became muscular, my skin became glossy, my hair developed a luster and I became robust and gallant in every part. This led to my undoing for it dawned upon the duo that I was appearing ever so sleek and shiny in spite of hardly eating any hay. When the time came for their rest they went to bed locking their chamber door and peeped through a hole. They saw me doing full justice to the meat and the cake, and without bothering for their loss, fell into peals of laughter. Wondering exceedingly at this marvel, they called in the servants of the house to show the voracious appetite of the ass. Such was the din created by the laughter that the master of the house rose up and wished to be told the reason of such hilarity. After being a party to it, he too peeped through the hole and on being satisfied, he ordered the door to be opened so that he could watch the scene without any encumbrance.

When I saw that everyone was viewing me with pleasure I became more bold and continued eating without the least shame. The master however ended the episode by bringing me to his parlour and spread all kinds of meat on his table for me to savour. I greedily ate up all the meat that was placed there. Being pleased with the novelty he ordered a servant to place wine before me which was immediately complied with. Everyone watched eagerly to see what would happen; but I did not require much of a prodding. I put my lips together and finished off the whole wine in one suck. Overjoyed at this unheard of phenomenon, the master called forth the Baker and the Cook and paid them four times the amount they had paid for me and took possession of me. He handed me over to his hostler with the admonition not to spare any expense for my comfort. This he did and did well and to further curry favour with his master he taught me a thousand etiquettes; not that I needed much teaching. Among other things he taught me how to sit on my tail at the table, how I should leap and dance holding my forefeet high in the air, on being asked a question how I should nod my head and if I wished a drink or two, to gaze constantly at the pot. Everything that he taught me I did obediently and I could have done the same without his teaching but I feared that had I done so I would be considered to be bewitched and thrown to wild animals. In a short time my fame was spread far and near and my master was renowned all over the country because of me. The onlooker would say ‘there goes the man whose ass will eat and drink with him, that will dance and if questioned will show signs easily understandable’.

Before proceeding further I must tell you who my master was and of what country. He was Thiasus, born at Corinth which is an important town of Greece and had held many important offices and was now elevated to Lordship. To show his benevolence to the masses he wished to offer a public show of gladiator fighting for a period of three days and had now come to Thessaly to purchase wild beasts and fighters.

After he had bought the necessary items for his show he became homeward bound. However he would neither travel in a chariot or a wagon nor would he ride a Thessalian horse, a French stallion or a Spanish mule. He had me nicely caparisoned with a brave harness, with purple coverings, with a silver bridle with pictured cloth. I was trimmed with barbs of gold with shriveling bells hanging from my neck. Such was I decked up to bear my master who with soothing words rode on my back and rejoiced to have me as a Servant to carry him, and a Companion to share his victuals at the dining table.

A long while later, after traveling by land and sea, we arrived at Corinth where the multitude came to see us, not out of any reverence for my master but to see me as I my fame had preceded me. My master made a lot of money, as people rushed in to see my pranks and the master had the gates closed so only the paying public could enter. I became a highly profitable companion to my team.

In the gallery there was a noble and rich lady who was delighted to behold me, and finding no recourse to her passion and perverted appetite paid continuous attention to me like Pasiphae in the story of ‘Pasiphae and the Bull’. Being exasperated she promised a substantial reward to my keeper, the hostler, for the pleasure of my company for one night. The hostler readily agreed and after I had supped with my master at his parlour, my keeper took me to the lady’s residence. She was waiting eagerly for me: I am not able to tell you in exact detail how things were prepared for our enjoyment but four eunuchs were reclining on a bed of soft downs, the cover was a cloth of gold and the pillows on which this lady was accustomed to place her head were tender and delicate. On our arrival, the eunuchs did not delay the commencement of our sport and locked the door and departed. The chamber was well lit with lamps that gave a clear glow. The lady undressed and was nude to her naked skin and taking hold of a lamp she anointed herself with balm and did the same to me. She specially anointed my nose and afterward kissed me lovingly; not as they do in brothels and seraglios but with deep purity and sincerity, all the while moaning these words ‘you are the one I love, you are the only person I desire, without you I cannot live’ and other such words that women use when they are burning with passion.

Then she took me by my halter and laid me down on the bed which was nothing unwelcome to me as she was a beautiful woman and I had already had wine at my master’s and she had rubbed balm on me. But a thought perturbed me quite a lot: how could I with my large and hairy legs embrace so fair a woman or how should I touch her smooth and silky skin with my hard hooves or how could I possibly kiss her delectable lips with my monstrous mouth and stony teeth or how this lady who was young and tender will receive me.

If I hurt this woman in any way, I knew, I was sure to be thrown to the wild animals. Meanwhile this lady kissed me and with burning eyes said ‘you are my rabbit, you are my sparrow’ and shortly afterward embraced my body all around and had her pleasure of me. I realized then that the mother of Minotaur had no cause to complain when she was covered by the Bull. When the night was over with a lot of joy and very little sleep the lady went to my keeper to bargain for me for another night. My keeper readily obliged partly for gain and partly for discovering a new pastime to please my master. My master on being informed of my new luxury was mighty glad and thought about exhibiting my prowess in the open for which a search had to be made for a suitable woman as the lady I was accustomed to ‘do’ could not be displayed on account of her wealth and status.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Hyderabad : A Charming City

We checked into a hotel in Paradise Circle in Secunderabad which was much to our liking. It was not a fancy place but relatively neat and cozy. It was an out and out a veggie joint and the notice board glaringly declared that consuming alcohol and eating non-vegetarian food in the hotel premises are strictly forbidden. So far so good. However the room manual, as well as the printed receipt, had this in small print “It is forbidden to bring in sex workers in the rooms”. Wonder of wonders! I am a family man and I had been to Hyderabad with my better half. Not for me to indulge in this luxury however enticing it may seem. But for men traveling alone, I reckon a few moments with an understanding female in total privacy is a sure tonic for weariness. So what if she is a strumpet! Later on I realized that the hotel lacked two wholesome amenities; there was no residential doctor and, I understand, there was no residential ghost either. A residential ghost or two would have definitely added to the charm of the place.

The star attraction of Hyderabad is no longer the fabled Charminar but
the much publicized Ramoji Film City. Ramoji Film City is about 25 kilometres from Paradise Circle and a taxi ride brought us to our destination. Surely Ramoji Rao has invested a lot of money in his dream project. It is indeed a place worth visiting and revisiting. The entry fee of rupees two hundred is worth every penny.

We spent five hours there, and, believe me; we could not do proper justice to a quarter of the sights. It is an ersatz world of tinsel and make-believe. Immaculate lawns of verdant green rolled majestically to our view as we passed by in our guided tour with glimpses of plaster of Paris statues strewn in between. We had to climb a hillock to soak in the full grandeur of the environment. Post lunch we were entertained to a live action replay of a Hollywood Western, reminiscent of say ‘Gunfight at O.K Coral’. We visited the caves and saw the Hindu God Nataraj, in its adamantine incarnation, execute the ‘Tandav’ dance with frightful élan.

Paradise Circle is named after the restaurant Paradise renowned for its biriyani. We savoured the delicacy and truly it lives up to its reputation.
The kebabs were undoubtedly tasty but it lacked the crisp flavour of kebabs cooked over simmering charcoal fire.

Where Secunderabad and Hyderabad meet is the Hussain Sagar – a ponderous lake having a monolithic statue of Lord Buddha at its middle. A cool breeze wafts through the waters and the traveler can get some relief from the sun, idling his time under the canopies. As the sun sets and night encompasses the land, the lake is a pleasure to view. Smart fluorescent lightings add an eerie luster to the romance of the place. Not for nothing is it a favourite haunt of lovers, assembling in pairs to imbibe the vesper flavours.

The Birla temple is not far off where those with a religious bend of mind can visit and offer their prayers after climbing some stairs. Not that it leaves the devotee rather short of breath but those with compromised lungs beware.

Salar Jung Museum has a reputation to keep. It is the finest art museum in India and the prime exhibit, the century old clock, which chimes the hour every hour, draws crowds by the hundreds. The statue of veiled Rebecca is sheer poetry in marble. How was it sculpted remains a mystery to me. The salon of European paintings and sculptures on the first floor, with exquisite nudes in alluring postures, simply takes the breath away. Time flies surreptitiously to the avid museologist engrossed in unraveling the artifacts on display.

Charminar rules supreme at the heart of the old city and one has to climb a flight of stairs to reach the first floor. Though the walls are pretty disfigured by graffiti, there is a musty aroma to the place giving the visitor a benediction worth the travail. Nearby are the shops doing brisk business in trinkets like colourful bangles and ear rings. The famous pearls of Hyderabad are available here and women spend hours shopping to their satisfaction.

A foray to the Golconda fort is a must. Climbing to the top is quite a labour . A panaromic view of Hyderabad can be had for the asking. The whole place is seeped in history. From the very bowels of this fort [which was a diamond mine previously] came the fabulous Kohinoor diamond. The son-et-lumiere at 7pm when the best known voice in India [big B’s] expounds the history of this place in English ought not to be missed at any cost. However the tourist should be well advised to take a supply of mosquito repellants with him.

Jubilee Hills is another place worth a visit. This is where the people who have made it big live. Hyderabad Circle, a shopping mall, caters to the cognoscenti. The Vengal Rao Park is but a short distance away, where well manicured lawns with an enclosed lake are a delight to the tourist.

Regarding more mundane matters let me say that the roads are cleaned
regularly and there is hardly any sign of garbage piling up. Driving is indeed a pleasure as no potholes jar the motorist. At busy intersections there are flyovers to ease the traffic. However I was surprised to find an alarming propensity to jump the red light, especially by the two-wheelers. The traffic police indeed do a commendable job and are very helpful. It was rather disturbing to see beggars, mostly lepers, seeking alms by the roadside; surely an anachronism. During my sojourn there, the Traffic Chief had gone nuts, wishing to introduce some newer concepts in Traffic management and restricting some busy thoroughfares in Jubilee Hills to one way vehicles only, leading to inevitable chaos and confusion.

The Deccan Chronicle, the local newspaper, can hold its own against the very best of the country. There was a shocking news of Arab men marrying local Muslim women by paying a large dowry and then leaving them to fend for themselves. I had come across some peculiar advertisements of many Muslim lawyers boldly publicizing their expertise in arranging international marriages [whatever that may mean]. Meanwhile I read an interesting article on local aphrodisiacs highly in demand by the Arabs. It seems there are two varieties; one, a drug, a legitimate produce of the Unani School of Medicine and the other was a liquid extract of the humble earthworm which is used for rubbing in. May the Almighty succour the naïve!

The public transport is well organized. Buses are frequent, relatively comfortable and the fares are competitive to boot. The ubiquitous autos are always there to ferry you places and I believe they don’t take the passengers for a jolly ride. But for the pedestrian, crossing the street is often hazardous and one should keep his eyes wide open.

All said and done the visit will remain memorable and I must be thankful to Hyderabad for allowing us to have another honeymoon after so many years.

Friday, September 23, 2005



A beautiful movie which makes you laugh. The story is nothing to write home about; at best it features the predilection of men to cheat on their spouses.

And who do you think is best qualified to attract the emotion and devotion of these men? The femme fatale of all times; the ultimate in men’s desire: it is the scintillating, mesmerizing nymph of the Ocean- BIPASHA. At long last India has a woman carved by the very chisel of Praxiteles and she bewitches the audience from her first appearance in the dance number ‘Pyar ki Gali’.

It’s a hilarious comedy all the way. Salman Khan plays the master philanderer, coaching his less fortunate friends in the ways of the world.
And what a soup they all fall into!

There is never a dull moment in the movie; it is pure and simple entertainment with a capital ‘e’.

The comedy of errors at the hotel in Mauritius was a master ploy, a necessary diversion. The atmosphere gets warmed up there and the story races to a jocular climax.

No, Bipasha does not perform a strip tease as many of her critics believe nor do we lesser mortals catch a glimpse of her lingerie. She acts well though and her physique blends harmoniously with the story to give us
a couple of hours of celestial bliss and forgetfulness. The primal enchantress Circe could not have done better.

Keep it up Bipasha!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

komolika affair

The Komolika Affair

The scandal from Calcutta to have hit the headlines recently or to put is as the Americans say ‘the shit has hit the fan’ is the much talked about Komolika affair.

Komolika Banerjee is an up and coming Bengali T.V actress in her mid twenties. She has a Bachelor’s degree in English from Calcutta University to boot. Her father was a retired Professor in one of the colleges in Calcutta, now retired.

She fell in love with a colleague of hers Krishakishore Mukherjee who was a T.V. anchor in one of the local channels and married him. Marry him she did, but, secretly in a temple in a far away village in West Bengal. Why this secrecy?

After her wedding she went to stay with her husband in a flat in a multistoried apartment at Behala, Calcutta. According to her statement she had sex with her husband after the wedding,[ presuming she did not have sex earlier, either with her husband or with any other man] After some time she came to know that her husband was already married and his wife lived in the same apartment but on a different floor.

Being wiser now she refused to have sex with her husband, who getting infuriated assaulted her and drove her out.

That is the gist of the matter as per her complaint to the local police.

Now this affair raises some interesting questions.

Is she an absolute greenhorn, a novice that she consented to marry in a remote temple in a remote village by exchanging garlands? She is a qualified woman and ought to know that such a marriage is not recognized in a court of law. Why didn’t she insist on a proper registration of the wedding?

The women I have talked to in this regard are of the unanimous opinion that she is a ‘nyaka’, a Bengali word that defies an English translation. But I will try to explain by giving an example.

Say, a woman having experience of premarital sex puts on the airs of a virgin on her wedding night during a traditional arranged marriage and cries the cry that must be cried on the nuptial bed to simulate her defloration [Sir Richard Burton: Arabian Nights] and somehow manages to paint her bed sheet red on the morrow is an exemplary ‘nyaka’.

It is the height of stupidity to lodge a complaint with the police in so sordid a matter and be the laughing stock of society. What exactly does she want now after having lost her maidenhead to a Casanova, a wolf preying on young women and who has a wife at home? She is certainly not the first woman to have such an experience and she will certainly not be the last.

It is earnestly hoped that better sense shall prevail and we will soon see the end of this disgusting yet lurid affair.

Saturday, July 23, 2005


Lord Macauley

Reckon I would not be very wrong to say that we owe it to the English in general and men like Macauley in particular to have civilized our morals and our manners. What were we then? Mired knee deep in superstition, burning alive widows, indulging in child-marriages and a thousand other abnormalities if not aberrations was the order of the day. It was the English who put paid to all that.
Macauley is one person whom every Indian simply loves to hate; I do not know why. It goes without saying he was an ardent Empirist. But he was the man who gave us the Penal code and regularized our laws. He was strict in his morals, judicious in his opinions and phenomenal in his erudition. What is patriotism can only be properly understood by reading
his essays and his History of England. He may be guilty of hyperbole but he was not squeamish, nor did he believe in ‘puffing’. There was no gloss and tinsel in his writings.
For those of us who love the English language, Macualey is a must read. In his ‘ Minute of 2nd February 1835 on Indian Education’ he says ‘Whoever knows that language [English] has ready access to all the vast intellectual wealth, which all the wisest nations of the Earth have created and hoarded in the course of ninety generations’. Nowhere was he derogatory toward the Indians. Surely Macauley was more sinned at than sinning.

Sunday, June 05, 2005


Mad Hatter’s Harpoon

Bankura is sizzling now. It’s next to impossible to venture out after 12noon.
The merciless sun beats down with all its might and furore and the hapless traveler has a torrid time. But then we have no choice, for venture out we must, for its part of our existence, as it is said that “MAN MUST EARN HIS DAILY BREAD BY THE SWEAT OF HIS BROW”.

The other day I had a lesson in humility. It was early in the morning, at daybreak; I was up and about taking a morning walk, as is my custom, when I felt like having a cup of tea from a roadside stall. Few stalls were open then and only one was fanning the flames of his coal oven. The shopper- keeper’s assistant brought out a dish containing the previous night’s leftovers of potato fries [known locally as Aloo Chop ] which he scattered to the pigs and dogs scavenging the ground in front of the stalls. There was a mad scramble between the dogs and the pigs for the leftovers with a murder of crows pitching in. I can hardly believe my eyes now, for I saw a woman emerging out of nowhere, as if a psychopomp, shooing away the birds and mammals alike and partaking herself of the food from the ground however besmirched with dust they might have been. She put them to her nose, sniffed it, found they were not all that putrid and promptly wrapped them in the folds of her saree and vanished from where she came. She never came to me begging for alms and I am not certain if she was not in the Lord’s mind when he said “I was hungry yet you did not feed me.”

Bankura like all cities surely has its vices but unlike Kolkata there is very little extortion. Street smart thugs do not approach house builders for donations nor do they insist on supplying the building materials however of poor quality they may be. This is in stark contrast to the simple Kolkatan who is left to fend for himself and who has no freedom to choose his own hardware store. I only pray that Bankura keeps alive her undefiled virtue for all eternity.

Bankura Medical College has the unique record of 15 thousand deliveries in one calendar year! Are there no other hospitals where childbirth can take place in the whole district? What are the other hospitals doing? Has Bankura’s fame spread so far and wide? It should be really taxing to the doctors and the para- medics to provide adequate care to all the mothers and their babies.


A sight that often plagues me is of men easing themselves on the roadside in Bankura, and for that matter all over the country where I have been. The Indian male is indeed a versatile subgroup of Homo Sapiens Sapiens and has no compunction in opening his fly and exposing his genitals to the elements, such that any quick eyed woman traveling in a rickshaw can at once identify the offender to be either a Hindu or a Mussalman. And spitting everywhere is his birthright literally; wasn’t it for this very reason our fathers served time in the prisons during the freedom struggle? Pan and Pan Masala are an integral part of our subculture, isn’t it?

I was talking to a charming lady, a home maker of fifty two summers, and I casually asked her what she thought of a man who kisses his wife goodbye
in a not so public a place as Dumdum airport when heading for a trip abroad .
Mind you, it was a closed mouth kiss and not an opened mouthed one I was talking about. She was absolutely scandalized. “It is against Indian culture” she asserted and kissing in public was “open sex.” No, I didn’t tell her that our robust ancestors, who built the temples of Khajuraho and Konark for all to see, admire and seek solace according to their own interpretations, thought differently. They were no hypocrites. They certainly knew what they were doing. And those temples are the much touted landmarks of Indian culture! Poor thing, she can’t see the wood for the trees. I didn’t ask her about homosexuals and same-sex marriages though; it would have been the proverbial last straw.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

another worthy from bengal

I shall be talking about another Bengal prodigy now. He is none other than
Mr .Subir Guha, Chief Judicial Magistrate , Calcutta City Civil Court and ex- Principal Secretary, Ministry of Law, Government of West Bengal; a legal luminary indeed!

This middle aged individual was married in 1974 that is nearly 31 years ago.
He has two children, a girl aged 29 years and a boy aged 26 years. So far so good!

Now this worthy luminary decides to legalize his marriage, not with his wife of 31 years but with another woman whom he claimed to have married way back in 1995 and who has borne him a son in 1996. In his application to the Registrar of Marriages he claims to have been an unmarried bachelor at that point in time in 1995, A GROSS TRAVESTY OF TRUTH.

Agreed, his marriage in 1974 was not registered, as few marriages then were, but his children do carry his name on their Birth Certificates as the father. In addition, recourse to D.N.A test can always be had to prove or disprove paternity.

The Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court is now seized of this matter and we all hope that proper justice shall prevail in this obnoxious episode.

Little does it matter to us? Suffice it to say that this eminent personality, highly educated, gives a false declaration to the Marriage Registrar to serve his nefarious ends.

I wonder how often he sat in front of a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi while administrating justice. Did he ever suffer a pang of conscience for misrepresenting facts well known to all? What law prevented him from keeping mistresses and concubines in the sly? Why, for heaven’s sake, does he have to deny his grown up children, the offspring of his loin, their legitimate patrimony and heritage?

May 15, 2005

Tuesday, May 10, 2005



Wednesday, May 11, 2005

At long last we have an A class murderer hailing from a well to do Bengali family. Long have we lamented the paucity of hard core criminals among the sophisticated Bengalis. Whatever crime of deadly passion or deadlier cunning, that were committed in Bengal were done by the hired guns of Bihar or by the Urdu speaking minority living in filth and poverty in the fringes of Calcutta.

But now we have a criminal whose accomplishments will put many scholars to shame. He is a scientist with impeccable credentials; a nuclear physicist attached to the Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre at Salt Lake, Calcutta. He is Dr. Probir Dasgupta, whose wife Ileena belongs to one of the more prestigious families of Calcutta. Her father was a Barrister of repute who had a rather insidious hobby; he used to buy gold ornaments whenever he had the urge and that was not too infrequent. He had amassed a Pluto’s harvest.

Ileena’s mother was a teacher and later Principal in a reputed ladies college in North Calcutta. Ileena had a younger sister, a spinster Pritha, by name, who used to stay at her father’s house and who to complicate matters had lately taken a lover, although a shady one.

Now the picture crystallizes: between Dr.Dasgupta and the inheritance of his in-law’s property there is one woman who was on the verge of matrimony.

Dr.Dasgupta was ably assisted in his design by Ileena, the fruit of the same womb that bore her sister Pritha.

One fine morning in the month of April 2005 the unsuspecting Pritha paid a visit to her sister’s at Salt Lake, Calcutta. What transpired in the house is not clear at this point in time but Pritha was found dead and her brother –in –law was in an unseemly hurry to dispose off the dead body by cremation. It was an act of some quick thinking by the driver of Pritha’s car that saved the day for justice. Post mortem examination revealed that Pritha was smothered and throttled .Her brother in law was the prime accused and as of date it seems that he has confessed to his crime.

Whether third degree methods were used to get the confession is not known but it is an established fact that Calcutta Police is notorious in this respect.

Therein lies the rub; here we have a scholar who does away with his sister-in-law for furthering his already substantial property. What value education? A well born person turns out to be ill bred. What were the lessons he learnt at school? What did his parents teach?

There is another interesting case that shocked the discerning reader. A private teacher murdered his daughter to marry his teen-aged student! O Tempora, O Mores! This teacher
took his son, daughter and his paramour to a hill at Rajgir, Jharkhand, and finding his opportunity pushed his daughter over the cliff. Murder most foul, most repugnant! This teacher had carnal knowledge of his student’s mother [consensual] and also of his student [forcibly].When was the last time a veritable Casanova fornicated with the mother and daughter? Now this teacher is cooling his heels behind bars. The mother of the student easily dispensed her sexual favours for her daughter’s education; it seems she was also aware of the illegitimate relations her daughter had with the teacher. Avarice knows no bounds. A woman of modest means plumbs the very depths of depravity to enhance her daughter’s prospects!

What more are we to behold? Are we living in Buddhadeb’s Bengal or in Caligula’s Rome? Our sexual proclivities are getting so bizarre that Tiberius would have approved and Nero would have applauded. And we Bengalis claim to be the most cultured people in India! Agreed one swallow never a summer makes, but then such horrendous crimes come to notice in so quick a succession that we are at a loss to think otherwise.

Bengal, my beloved Bengal, what have we done to be subjected to such devilish aberrations? What God or Goddess do we worship to merit these monsters in human form? Its time now for all Bengalis, nay all Indians, to wake up and take notice of these malignant sore afflicting our body. Its not poverty that is our curse but the most ancient of the vices, greed, that is suffocating our soul.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

manmohan singh

Our beloved Prime Minister

Dr Manmohan Singh is our PREMIER. We may search high and low but never are going to find a better man for the august office.

A man of remarkable integrity, profound erudition and impeccable behaviour. The Lantern of Diogenes could not shine upon a worthier person.

Indian politics is a mysterious substance; on the one hand we have worthies who should be behind bars for the security of our polity and on the other hand we have a saint of a Prime Minister.

However a thought often plagues me. Am I to believe that among all the notables in the Lower House [Lok Sabha] there is no one to befit the P.M’s chair? Is the Congress party so destitute of talent? A Prime Minister should come elected by the people; he or she must face the rough and tough of the hustling.

We watched and we watched in utter amazement the non BJP coalition springing a surprise on the nation by hosting Mr. Devegowda and Mr. Gujral to the venerable chair and we were certainly not amused.

Don’t you think it was an insult to the nation?

The Congress Party should have the decency to bring Dr. Singh elected to the Lok Sabha.
Isn’t there any safe seat for the Congress? Can’t a Congress M.P be made to resign and Dr.Singh is asked to contest?