neelwrites/wintersareawinwin/nonfiction/myfavouriteseason/09/09/2017

WINTERS ARE ALWAYS A WIN-WIN

Image result for cold winter days

By Neel Anil Panicker

We all have our favourite  season of the year, don’t we?

Winter is my favourite season. I have always loved the winters.

For me the joy of winters begins much before the actual four month long winter season sets in.

 There is that slight chill in the air, especially in the early mornings, when while walking past long blades of grass over to the park, you feel the slight moistness in the air; the soil, if you care to touch leaves you with a sweet tangy wetty feeling.

 And soon enough the air above changes as the sky changes hues, quickly going from bright red to mauve, to mahagony and a hybrid orangish, magenta,  pink mix.

 

The air all around becomes dense and hangs like bat’s overhanging wings casting long dark shadows all around.

All through the wintry chill you feel as  if enveloped in a dank embrace as the sun, hitherto bright and sparkling, begins to play second fiddle, only occasionally peeping out through dark nimbus clouds, showering small little petals of  heat, just enough to warm the cockles of puckered hearts.

Winter is also the time when I get to cover myself in glory, adorning my already stocky frame in layers and layers of my favoured clothing materials__be it plain jet black and smoky maroon silk scarves, pure leather multi-pocketed jackets, knee high boots et al.

Winter again is when my sartorial senses come to the fore allowing me to raid the cupboard to extricate the best of woollen wear, dusting and drying them weeks ahead, even sending them to the dryers if need be, and then gloriously waltzing down the chilly snow laden streets, gently rubbing mummified fingers wrapped in gloved hands and exhaling deep pearly breaths into the rarefied air.

And how can I forget the gastronomic pleasures that await a foodie such as me during this cold season!

Leisurely mornings are best savoured lying tucked in bed under the comfort of heavy silk blankets while biting into hot samosas and pakoras dipped in green chutneys, sipping hot Darjeeling tea in crystal glasses while locking horns with crosswords and sudokus.

I mean I can go on and on as there is no end to the delights that await me come the winters for this is one season that I never whine about but instead always pine for.

©neelanilpanicker2017 #nonfiction #winter  #myfavourite season

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neelwrites/nonfiction/essay/350words/14/01/2017

WHO GIVES A CRAP?  WE DO.

 By Neel Anil Panicker

The other day I heard our PM Narendra Modi rolling up his sleeves and then after the customary ‘Mitron’ salutation, going forth to ridicule his bête noire and heir apparent to the Congress throne, Rahul Gandhi, even going to the extent of mimicking his speaking style and then ending with the downright demeaning “the kid seems to be learning to speak now”.

Agreed, detractors of Rahul may have a long list of grievances against him including his apparent “non-speaking skills”, his utter lack of political acumen,   his ability to keep putting his foot in his mouth every single time he opens his mouth.

But does that in any way allow one, and especially so, the PM to deride and denigrate and demean the poor soul from every single forum that he graces?

And if you are one of those who doesn’t care a crap about the Congress Party and/or what ails its most prominent poster boy, then all I can say to that is: I am sorry, but I do care a crap.

And that’s  because it is not just about competence or the lack of it; it is not merely about a particular party enjoying brute majority or another tottering in the doldrums, it’s also not just about one being a leader with spell bound oratorical skills or another one who looks as if he suffers from lifelong stage fright.

It is about certain abstracts that help a society remain social if not sociable; attributes that one can’t put a monetary value to such as dignity of the individual and respect for all including and especially towards those who may not match upto our expectations.

I hope Mr Modi and his ilk who day in and day out throw around their awesome weights to pull down ‘outdated’ symbols and institutions and people not to their likings and temperaments realize this.

And I hope this realization dawns sooner on them than later for even if they don’t give a crap, the right thinking, peace loving citizens of this country and elsewhere do give a crap.

©neelanilpanicker2017#essay#igiveacrap#350words

neelwrites/nonmfiction/essay/17/12/2016

ESSAY-NONFICTION
Of kites, winds, and flying high
By Neel Anil Panicker
A certain amount of opposition is a great help to a man. Kites rise against the wind, not with the wind. John Neal, the great American writer and critic was not off the mark when he said this. History is peppered with more such rich tales of struggles and successes thereafter right from Christ and Mohammed and Buddha to Abraham Lincoln and Malcolm X and Winston Churchill___the last, the man who battled the wrath of Hitler and saw England through the tumultuous World War Two years. I am of the firm conviction that a person should welcome all manner of adversities in his life as they not only help build character and discipline but spur one to greater glories.
Take the case of the ongoing cricket series. What a match has it been. If India trumping the formidable Englishmen is a sweet enough pill, the icing on the cake, though some would add a nice little cherry to that as well, has been the sheer brilliance of our very own Virat Kohli, who incidentally notched up his third double century of the year.
Predictably, thereafter naysayers came in and the rather inconsequential English bowler James Anderson butted in with a particularly nasty comment that just about questioned Kohli’s achievement and alluded to “favourable pitches behind his success with the bat”.
While cricket aficionados would dismiss this unbecoming comment with the contempt it deserves and tell Anderson and his ilk to simply “go, fly a kite”, knowing Kohli as we do, it would be a safe bet to say that he would take this opposition in the right spirit and harness it to his advantage.
Moreover, now that the subject of kites has cropped up, it reminds me that in less than a month’s time the Equinox occurs in this part of the hemisphere and we will be celebrating Makar Sankranti, the festival that celebrates the Sun’s entry into the Equator, kicking off the long Indian summer season.
Though I have been a kite watcher and a player of some calibre almost all my life, it is only now in the past few years that I have looked at this joyous activity with fresh eyes, as something more than a cherished childhood pastime; as a great dispenser of some every elemental life lessons.
Harnessed to the Earth, the kite is symbolic of humility even as it soars up in the skies waiting patiently, expectantly rather, for the wind to cross its path and to ruffle its frail self. Unfazed by strident opposition, the kite holds on, steady as the Rock of Gibralter, unruffled by the twists and turns of its fellow beings (read enemies), to take off into the stratosphere, inviting awe and a fair amount of envious looks and odd barbs.
So, come 2018, in Lords, England when captain Kohli continues to send the red cherry racing to the boundary as he most certainly will, then he would need to thank a certain Anderson for stoking the fires of passion in him with his outlandishly offensive remarks. Yet another affirmation of the age old maxim that criticism and opposition are the best insurance against failure. So, if one wants to scale the heights of glory then the war cry should be ‘keep them coming, man’.
(c)neelanilpanicker2016#nonfiction#essay#kite

neelwrites/essay/USelections/the beginningoftheend/17/11/2016

WHY AMERICANS HAVE GONE MAD

By Neel Anil Panciker

A week ago the absolute unthinkable happened. I watched on television the less comical, more tragical spectacle of a slithery seventy year old bronze haired man daubed in mismatched silver and horrendous pink thundering from the stage his silver tongued note of thanks to the people of America, to at least all those who elected him to become the next President of America.

As the camera panned the crowd I noticed  that amongst his retinue of supporters who cheered every single word and gesture of his__standing and thumping their fists from all around the overfilled convention hall__were a sizeable number of women, mostly White.

I switched off the idiot box in exasperation.

I am angry and let me to tell you why. Angry that citizens of the most powerful nation of the world could elect someone like Donald Trump to be their President for the next four years.
Trump supporters, (and mind you they lurk in every nook and corner of the  world), nay sayers,  fence sitters and generally do no gooders might go ahead and argue that why and how does it concern me, sitting here in India, a million miles away, who gets elected as America’s President.

“Why bother over someone who is not your President or Prime Minister?” is their argument.

But then that’s exactly my point. We just don’t care if the problem is not immediate to our concerns or affects us in our daily lives.

But then that’s precisely the reason why a person with a stinkingly large amount of money and questionable bonafides was able to tap into the fragile sentiments of the vast underbelly of anxiety driven, debt ridden near jobless working class America and able to whip up a xenophobic rage so fierce that it ultimately saw them turning in multitudes to vote him into office.

The election of this evil Pied Piper who so very cleverly has deceived a lot of ‘mice’ into falsely believing in his promise of Utopia, is to say the least, the death knell of morality in this world.

It is the beginning of the end of justice and fair play and of our belief in the higher and nobler ideals of righteousness and decency.

It is not just a huge body blow to all right thinking men and women of America who fought tooth and nail to keep that megalomaniac, pussy grabbing, bad mouthing, deranged sadistic monster called Trump, but it is also a triumph for a miniscule but increasingly burgeoning belligerent gang; those  purveyors of sexist and misogynistic ideologies; the sellers of myopic dresams.

It is the ultimate thunderous seal of approval for all manner of social misconduct; the proud chest thumping uproarious acceptance of sexual abuse, rape and incest.

The triumph of such an obviously farcical cartoon as Trump is a victory of bad over good; a sure shot boost for all sexual predators and rapists out there in every city and country of the world; those men of all ages and hues and colours and sexual preferences who brazenly carry out their despicable acts of perversion, playing with and abusing the trust and innocence of young kids and poor, hapless women who are  forced to silently suffer such indignations and utter humiliations even as they find their voices stifled and their spirits crushed by an increasingly masochistic world that conveniently glosses over and in some cases, as witnessed by the elevation of Trump as President, hails them as rightful acts of male machismo that are treated as the birthright of the vainly rich and insanely powerful.

I am sadly ashamed and deeply shocked that innocent, educated and hard working American White men, and quite a few women too, bought into this monster serial abuser’s sales spiel of restoring the dignity of the White majority; of setting right the alleged wrongs of a skewed labour market; of restoring the primacy of hitherto ignored small towns and cities of America and hoisting them as the next big thing__the new epicenters of wealth and prestige.

But more than all this, even more shockingly repulsive is the sickening thought that despite being fed lurid details of the litany of sexual misadventures indulged in by this man and his masochistic and bombastic acceptance of the same, a vast majority of otherwise well informed White Americans and quite a few non-Whites as well bought into this utter nonsense and whipped up homophobic rage and angst masterfully choreographed up by Trump and his dubious gang of self serving supporters

Clearly, all those who voted this man to the chair of the most powerful man on Earth have bartered their souls in the mistaken exchange for what they believe is the beginning of good tidings.

By electing him they have invited the Devil into their homes. And for Trump, he simply gets a much larger canvas now to shamelessly play out his debauchery and indulge in gory sexual fantasies;, only this time, it comes with legal sanction.

The election of such a vain, vile and unrepentant sexual predator is the most immoral thing to have happened for a long, long time.

Very tragically, for once, bad has trumped good.

©neelanilpanicker2016#essay#USelections

neelwritesblog/moviereview#01/pink/23/09/2016

SOME STILL DON’T KNOW THAT A ‘NO MEANS NO’
By Neel Anil Panicker
It is a great movie. It has stellar performances from the entire ensemble cast including yet another once in a lifetime performance by none other than the superstar of the millennium__the ageless superstar Amitabh Bachhan who like good old vintage wine seems to be getting better and better with age.
Gosh! The man never ceases to surprise us with his talent, energy, enthusiasm and, may I add, sheer histrionic talents.
For short of any good word all I can cry out and say is ‘Outstanding’ with a capital O!
And that goes for the pulsating, roller coaster movie as well. In fact there is any one movie that stands out heads and shoulders above the mindless nonsense that is dished out of late in the name entertainment by that merchant (more peddler!) of dreams__Bollywood, then this is it.
Yes! You might have guessed it by now. I am talking about the movie PINK__ the movie that is running to packed audiences in theatres all over the country; the movie that not only packs a punch in terms of stellar performances and gripping courtroom scenes that come alive with gut wrenching dialogues delivered as if straight from the gut; but the movie that not only takes a hard, unstinting look in the eye at the way a deeply feudal, patriarchal India thinks and believes, lives and conducts itself not just inside its homes but also on its increasingly unsafe streets, pubs and other entertainment hubs, inside grim police stations and lawyer’s chambers, and inside the minds and hearts of a society deeply entrenched in centuries old antediluvian, misogynistic viewpoints.
A society that thinks of its women as no better than a piece of meat, worth only to the point of its being an easily available delicacy spread out on the dinner table.
A society that pigeon holes women into narrow, constricting boxes; straitjacketing them into categories much like chattel that need to tied up and moved around, thrown and abused, beaten and harassed and even molested and raped; and when they as much as raise their voices in protest, to very quickly, shamelessly and quite conveniently brand them as women of loose characters, women who drink and drive and dare and bare and therefore very much deserve what they get.
The movie does an excellent job of exposing the double standards of Indian society vis- a- vis the way we treat our girls and the more importantly goes onto to emphasize, and quite correctly, that the problem lies in the way we have brought up our men.
The movie’s thesis is brought alive through some very thought provoking dialogues. which though no doubt intended for mass appeal, are successful in carrying home the message.
So when Mr Bacchhan speaks out in that haltingly, mesmerizing deep baritone of his “Aaj tak sab log galat direction mein effort karte rahe hain…we should save our boys, not our girls…because if we save our boys then our girls will be safe”, not just do the audiences erupt in loud cheers but also the message of women’s rights and their empowerment is powerfully driven home.
And that brings me to my ultimate point, which is that it is movies like these that show a mirror to society and are the hour of the day.
However, till such time that we imbibe in mind, body and spirit the fact that women__irrespective of who they are or where they come from or what they wear or even who they are with and at what hour of the day or night __must be respected and looked upon as equals, it is better for the ‘better halves’ of society, especially Indian society, to be on the alert around certain men who still somehow don’t get it that when a WOMAN SAYS NO, SHE MEANS NO.
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neelwritesblog.openlettertopm/19/09/2016

OPEN LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA
Dear Mr Narendra Modi,
At times keeping quiet may be a virtue, especially when all others around you are making unnecessary noises.
But what does one do when such noises go beyond human tolerances and begin not just to jar our senses but also to attack our brains with a ferocity that threatens to smash our brains to smithereens?
What do we do then?
Well, if it is a person or even a group, a reasonable option would be to move away from all this; to go to a place where the noises do not reach; a place of safety where tranquility and peace reigns.
But, then, what do we do when the culprit is not a person or a group but an entire nation and the victim is not just a person or a group or even a region but every single person of a nation?
What do we do when that evil nation is our next door neighbour Pakistan and the hapless target of its diabolically evil plans is our dear country India?
Do we still sit with folded hands and wait for the attacks to stop; to hope and pray that the animosity and antagonism; the hate and the evil slowly lessen and fade out with the passage of time?
Or, do we once and for all put an end to this madness; this mindless, senseless vicious cycle of slayings and killings? Do we cross the borders and teach Pakistan a lesson in good manners that it will remember for all its life?

Time is precious and we are currently sitting on a time bomb that can explode any moment. I will not waste a single moment here and come to the point.
As an ordinary law abiding citizen of India, I am writing this on behalf of the over 1.2 billion people of this great country not just to convey our deep anguish and hurt over the attacks at our army base yesterday or even to express our condolences over the despicable, utterly cruel, evilish act which has lead to the snuffing away of the lives of over 17 of our brave army men?

No, Sir, this is not the time to dwell on what happened yesterday or what has been happening for all these years. Nor is it the moment to mourn over the deaths of countless others of our brethren including innocent civilians of this great nation who have been slaughtered over the decades by these inhuman merchants of death from across the border.
The purpose of this letter is to beseech you nee tell you in unequivocal terms to put an end to this utterly senseless, barbaric act of Pakistan once and for all by declaring war on that evil incarnate called Pakistan.

Dear Mr Modi, The other day we saw you in the arms of your mother, feeling loved and wanted.
The picture of the two of you__ proud mother and obedient, loving son, arms and hearts entwined, warmed the cockles of our hearts.
Our chests swelled with pride looking at this pure, unadulterated celebration of sheer human joy.
The picture also told us a few things about you. That you are a good man; a man of deeply ingrained noble values; a man blessed with a good soul.
It also reaffirmed our faith in you. It showed us that in electing you as the leader of our country, we have not erred one bit.
That the overwhelming mandate by which we elected you as the prime minister of this nation was a well thought out, judicious decision and will certainly not go to waste.
Dear Modiji, you come from a nation of iron men, men of steel, men of mettle who know how to settle__disputes and all__once and for all.
The time has come for you to repose that trust, to fulfil your promise, to tell the world and its neighbour what India and Indians are capable of.
We have heard your roar. It is time you go for the kill.
It is time you pick up the gun to put the gun down.
That is the only way to usher in ache din.
Yours in anticipation,
A citizen of India
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neelwritesblog.wordpress.com/kashmir-02/india/27/08/2016

We want Kashmir but do we want the Kashmiris?
By Neel Anil Panicker
Sorry, I don’t practice the brand of nationalism that you do. That was how I retorted the other day to a friend of mine who had the temerity to call me an anti-national.
He didn’t just stop at that. In fact, he went to the other end of the spectrum and accused me of being a pseudo secularist as well. My only crime: I had espoused the cause of all those hapless children who are languishing inside the four walls of their battered homes or lying around in abysmally poor and overstretched hospitals that dot the once beautiful Valley of Kashmir; I spoke about my anguish at how their faces and limbs have been scarred and damaged by pellets and bullet injuries with a few unfortunate among them even partially or fully blinded, quite unfortunately caught in the crosshairs of a fierce almost two-month old battle between the separatists and the Indian armed forces.
The very same person, a highly respectable married man who dotes on his two dear little school going kids was all chagrined and highly offended and even went to the extent of calling me an active member of the pro-Kashmir brigade.
All simply because I happened to empathise with the plight of innocent Kashmiri children who are virtually confined to a life behind closed doors and face a dark uncertain future with no idea of when they would be able to go back to their schools which remain shut for an interminably long period.
Don’t these children have a right to education and a future; or are they to be treated merely as the discarded and forgotten children of a lesser God__a god unkind enough to leave them languishing and hopeless; their lives at the mercy of religious and self-serving bigots and fundamentalists of all hues whose only objective is to the forever keep the pot of insurgency burning so that they are able to perennially keep the flame of extremism alive and in the process derive political, economic and religious mileage out of the decade old strife?

Relatives of a Police officer Bashir Ahmad,who was killed by militants

Anantang: Relatives during the funeral of Police officer Bashir Ahmad,who was killed by militants in an attack along with another policeman,at Larkipora Ashmuqam in Anantnag district of south Kashmir. In two days militants killed five security personnel including three BSF Jawans in south Kashmir. PTI Photo(PTI6_4_2016_000189a)

I asked the same question to my good friend and he answered back in full am, his voice rising and his speech rousing all who bothered to care, “Kashmir is an integral part of India and we will kill anyone who even dares to think about usurping it.
All very well said and highly patriotic. After all we Indians have never lacked in jingoism and wear our nationalism with much pride on our sleeves. But then why did my friend clam up when I asked him about the plight of Kashmiri children?
Are they any different from his own children? Or are they not the children of India?
What my good friend and all others who subscribe to his skewed logic need to realize is that the fight here must be as much for upholding the rights of the residents of Kashmir as much as it is about protecting the once ‘Heaven on Earth’ pristine land of Kashmir.
You cannot have your cake and eat it too. For what good is it if we have all of Kashmir but minus its inhabitants___the very beautiful Kashmiris?

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