Review & Interview: “Family Planning,” by Karan Mahajan

When you’re visibly pregnant and riding the NYC subway with a book titled “Family Planning” in hand, you’re bound to draw stares and curious gazes. Such was my experience earlier this month as I traveled on the downtown 1 with 25 year old Karan Mahajan’s laughter-inducing yet tender first novel in hand. In this Brooklyn-based, New Delhi-born author’s debut work (HarperPerennial, 2008) set in contemporary New Delhi, family life, politics, adolescent love, and prime time soap operas intertwine in entertaining and unexpectedly moving ways. mahajancover.jpg

At the heart of this story is the chaotic household of Rakesh Ahuja, a hard of hearing, America returned engineer who holds a prestigious position as New Delhi’s Minister of Urban Development. Apart from the bureaucratic and political challenges that face him at work (he’s in charge of a laborious flyover construction project and part of a political party that sponsors intolerable bills such as the Diversity of the Motherland Act which calls for the compulsory registration of all Muslims “for reasons of diversity and national security”), Rakesh is beset by his own personal dramas at home.

The father of 13 children (and one more en route), he must deal with the trauma of having had his teenage son Arjun walk in on him having sex with his wife in the baby nursery. Understandably, Arjun asks, “Papa, I don’t understand–why do you and Mama keep having babies?”

While he has to figure out a way to explain himself to his son (“Obviously, Mr. Ahuja couldn’t tell his son that he was only attracted to Mrs. Ahuja when she was pregnant” reads the first line of the novel), this is not the only secret Mr. Ahuja has been keeping from his son, master babysitter and eldest of 12 younger siblings and darling of his mother, Mrs. Ahuja, an unattractive woman whose days are spent changing diapers, managing her vast household, knitting, and recovering from the loss of her favorite TV character Mohan Bedi from Zee-TV soap opera, “The Vengeful Daughter-in-Law.” There’s also the bit of information about Rakesh’s first wife, Arjun’s mother, who suffered a tragic death and who continues to haunt his unhappy existence. Meanwhile there’s Arjun, an awkward teen so madly in love with Aarti, a Catholic school beauty who rides the morning bus with him that he’ll do anything to get her attention–even start a rock band with a bunch of classmates.

Yes, there’s a great deal happening in Mahajan’s novel; many competing heartbreaks and dramas. And yet, as a reader, I was pulled in just as much by Mahajan’s observant and sensitive eye as I was by his ability to create satirical scenarios that reflect some of the complexities and paradoxes of social and political life in today’s India.

Read the rest of this review and a Q&A with Mahajan, whose sense of humor is as refreshing in the interview format as it is in his prose, below the fold. None of the Ahuja family’s plans go quite right during the course of this tale. When Minister Ahuja writes his resignation letter to protest the “Diversity of the Motherland Act,” he expects to be supplicated to stay in his position. Quite the opposite. He discovers that his authority means little in a system wrought with personal power struggles. As for Arjun, his rock band has its own set of challenges, not the least of which is the fact that none of its members can really carry a tune. And, Mrs. Ahuja watches as her eldest son assumes the persona of a “stepson” and distances himself from the rest of the family.

If you’re in the midst of stocking your summer bookshelves (or perhaps are looking for something to read during the ongoing Indian elections?) and want a book that manages to be both humorous and insightful, “Family Planning” may well be for you. While offering us a charming comic tale of crossed wires and family drama, Mahajan simultaneously (and subtly) examines the theme of power — the power that is wielded in the outside world versus what is wielded at home; the power parents wield against children versus what children wield against parents; and the power politicians wield against citizens versus the power wielded by politicians against their very own.

Q&A with Karan Mahajan

Q. You describe the experience of discovering a school of Indian authors once you came to college in the US and describe your childhood reading as a “fairly standard colonial diet of Enid Blytons, P.G. Wodehouses, and Agatha Cristies.” What was it like to come upon novels by Indian voices when you did? How did that shape or inspire you as a writer?

I only began reading Indian writers after I went to the US for college, and my approach to them was very argumentative: I saw in mahajan.jpgtheir way of relating to western readers–whether through cultural exposition, exoticism, Indian-isms, or a complete denial of the issue of audience altogether–strains of my own (initial) discomfort about being a foreigner in the US. Which is why it was thrilling to read Rushdie, Narayan, and Naipaul in close succession. These writers had solved the problem of audience by being utterly singular, and pouring their self-consciousness into style and story, and the lessons I learned from them are invaluable. I read them now as I did then because they are brilliant writers, not because they have Indian surnames.

Q. Would you describe the literary scene in India today as different than what you were exposed to during your childhood? What are your observations about your generation of Indian writers?

Great question. There are just so many Indian writers in English now. It drives me crazy. I want to be special again.

But in all seriousness, Indian writing in English is much more of a homegrown phenomenon than it was in the past, and this means that we’re going to see fresh writing come out of the provinces in addition to the metropolises. Many of these writers will be writing for an Indian audience, and this will mean that they can be far more topical and contextual in their subject matter. But I can’t make any guesses about the quality or universality of these books.

Q. The novel is about the English-speaking middle class (of which you are a part), but from what I understand you have no connection to political life. What were the opportunities and challenges of writing a novel about a political figure, set in a subculture of which you were not a part?

The main challenge was being authentic about the milieu without being constrained by reality. I find among Indian writers and editors a complete mania for authenticity: they’d rather describe with painful exactitude a religious ritual or the passage of a Parliamentary bill rather than alter details to suit their story, and I wanted to know enough about politics to take liberties with it. So I took the usual steps: I researched, I interviewed, I eavesdropped, I Googled, and then I threw it all away and did exactly what I pleased. I write fiction, not documentary, and I want to keep the world safe for fabricators.

Q. American educated, Indian returned administrative official and politicians like Rakesh Ahuja are rare, are they not? Do you know any? :)

I wish I knew some! But a lot of politicians—Nehru, Manmohan Singh, even the aspiring Shashi Tharoor—have had stints abroad and there’s the recent trend of IIT graduates starting their own idealistic political parties, and so the idea of the America-returned political animal didn’t seem totally implausible. That was my point from the outset: to insert a man with the qualifications of a Rajiv-Gandhi-crony into present-day Parliament, and to see how he’d use his “outsider” status effectively, or, as in the case, of Mr. Ahuja, ineffectively, by descending into hubris and trying to impose an upper-middle-class idea of order on a crazed city.

Q. The book, you say, “began with the question: what in the world would prompt a middle-class couple in contemporary, urban India to have a large family?” Though you were aiming not to perpetrate stereotypes, isn’t the stereotype of the large Indian family and lack of family planning in India is one that exists in the West?

I’d disagree that it’s a stereotype, but even if it is one, I go to great lengths to paint the family as unique in its strangeness and dysfunction.

Q. Writing about sex and sexual dysfunction: Was that something you consciously set out to do? What do you anticipate the response will be to these themes in India when your book is published there? Were editors in India open or skeptical?

It’s difficult to say, but I do think people will have a hard time with the book, and many will dismiss it as unsavory. Uncles and aunties will talk about me behind my back, and say, “Look what happens when you people send your children to US.” Offers of arranged marriage will be withdrawn. My mother and father, ever supportive, will be mercilessly interrogated. Eventually I hope there will be book-burnings.

There are things about my book, looking back, that I would perhaps do differently–I started writing it when I was twenty–but the sexual content is not one of those things. I am drawn to writing about the private lives of individuals; I want to burst through their doors and into their bedrooms. And that desire is enhanced by the fact that there is almost no serious discourse about sex or sexual dysfunction or gender dynamics in middle-class Indian media, and that books, written by individuals, free from the snarl of commerce or committees, allow us to say things that TV or film simply cannot.

Whether anyone wants to hear these things is another matter.

177 thoughts on “Review & Interview: “Family Planning,” by Karan Mahajan

  1. How many of you people read Nandan’s books ” Imagining India: The Idea of a Renewed Nation” ?

  2. Again, MMAP, you’re missing the point–or seem stuck in the forest. Rama’s duties as a king trumped his duties as a husband. He had to put the kingdom before himself and his queen. Please, let’s try and avoid the Gloria Steinem Ramayana and focus on the intended messages.
    if you da boss in da hood you gotta make sure people know whats what. if popping a cap in your woman is what it takes, do your dizzuty, bro.

    And that’s precisely why his example is not a good one for today’s world.

    That’s MY point!

    Today’s Rama would have to take a stance for victimized women in his kingdom. He would have to show solidarity with women. He would have to encourage the low-minded degenerates of his kingdom to rise to his level, not stoop down to their’s.

    Yo.

  3. Please, let’s try and avoid the Gloria Steinem Ramayana and focus on the INTENDED messages.

    gloria steinem might have empathy, but valmiki is a strict textual/constructionist kinda guy.

  4. I really want to read Kamila Shamsie’s “Burnt Shadows”. It seems like a great historical epic, going from Nagasaki 1945, to Delhi 1947, Pakistan 1983, and NY/Afghanistan 2002. I saw a clip of her talking about it on youtube, and she said that she was trying to show how sometimes personal relationships allow us to triumph over our historical baggage, and sometimes we can’t transcend that.

    Another book I want to read is Rakesh Satyal’s “Blue Boy” about this Indian-American boy growing up in the US who challenges what it means to be an Indian boy. He plays with dolls, takes the school talent show really seriously… the best part is he thinks he’s Krishna:)

  5. Yes, I am sure “bustin a cap” in his subjects for speaking out against his queen would’ve been a very liberal democratic way of handling the matter and made for a more stable kingdom. Perhaps a bra-burning session or two would have really sent the message and taught those arrogant chauvinists a lesson… MMAP, you get the messages that you are looking for. No one is saying that modern women who are victimized don’t deserve justice, but when you get hung up on minutiae you miss the core messages of duty and fidelity–something both partners here observed. And considering your recent, and rather dubious, exposition on how public urination is emblematic of indian culture (newsflash, it often happens in the back alleys of the west and is due to the lack of facilities), there are plenty of questions about your interpretations. I think we’ve beaten this horse enough. Let’s move on.

    Kabir, thanks for the recs.

  6. Please, let’s try and avoid the Gloria Steinem Ramayana and focus on the intended messages.

    Indians themselves have been critiquing the Ramayana long before Gloria Steinem was a zygote. A strong case can be made that there’s a certain amount of discomfort/ambivalence in the Valmiki Ramayana itself regarding Rama’s treatment of Sita, and that questioning tradition is carried on by, among others, the Sanskrit poet Bhavabhuti, the author of the Bengali Ramayana, and countless rural women today who sing songs of Sita’s plight. Heck, even arch-chauvinist Rama bhakta Tulsidas was so discomfited by the agni pariksha that he had a shadow Sita substituted for the lady herself. People who don’t think Rama is the bestest husband ever aren’t necessarily culturally inauthentic bra-burners.

  7. I have read the Ramayan..it has plenty of sex in it..not the TV washed down versions…Sex is not knew to Indians guys

  8. Amba, no one is denying the ambivalence that people may feel towards her fate as people have always drawn attention to wronged women, even your namesake from the Mahabharata. At the same time, you’re missing the point. The Ramayana is not about how to be “the bestest husband ever who massages your feet and cooks and cleans”. It is an epic poem that celebrates the avatar of Rama and lays out a template for how people should execute their duties to society. Rama is a faithful and dutiful husband. Sita is a faithful and dutiful wife. They both put society before themselves. That is the message. If you don’t think he’s “the bestest husband ever”–fine, your opinion and I really don’t care to convince you guys. All I’m saying is, you’re missing the point. Whether it’s Gloria Steinem or MMAP, it’s not always about you…

  9. The repeated dismissive Gloria Steinem references are more than a little sad. Between this comment thread and the one on Taz’s post on pick-up lines, it appears that Mutineers are dominated by misogynists. I hope that’s not true.

  10. Rebutting a ridiculous interpretation of the ramayana that is overly rooted in modern sociological gender theory and meant to somehow chastise Hindu society’s treatment of women does not make one a misogynist. If you are going to label people so cavalierly please at least understand the full meaning of the words you use; otherwise, you do a disservice to all the innocent women who are true victims of misogny.

  11. Satyajit Wry: Oh snap! You got me.

    Seriously, however, my comment stands. I take issue with using “Gloria Steinem” as a way to dismiss a person’s views. It’s a common tactic used by those who want to shut down women who talk about inequality, along with references about hysterical bra-burners. It’s a cheap tactic commonly used to make women sound crazy when they bring up sexism, or express a point of view about sexism, and that is misogyny. It is possible to disagree with a feminist analysis of the Ramayana while maintaining a civil discourse and not resorting to these old saws.

    The last part of your comment implies that there are “guilty” women who deserve to be treated like second class citizens–maybe not what you meant, but troubling.

  12. The Gloria Steinem comment didn’t seem to be dismissive of the views on the grounds of bra-burning and whatnot so much as on the grounds that you need to analyze things through cultural frameworks that are actually relevant to what you’re talking about.

    Generally the trouble with analyzing a work from one specific perspective (in this case, a “feminist” one) while ignoring others is that you lose the context that would actually help you make sense of things holistically. Instead you end up talking in increasingly self-referential terms that end being opaque to outside scrutiny or critical self-examination.

    The last part of your comment implies that there are “guilty” women who deserve to be treated like second class citizens–maybe not what you meant, but troubling.

    See? This is what I’m talking about. Nobody would read that into his statement unless they were looking for a reason to be offended. He said distracting yourself with trivialities makes you lose sight of real and substantive problems plaguing women. Analyzing subtext is cool and all but not when it’s at the expense of actually understanding the text itself!

  13. No, Yoga Fire, my friend, you misunderstand me. I am not taking issue with the discussion or how to interpret the Ramayana and what the Sita-Rama relationship really is. I was ONLY saying that throwing in of “Gloria Steinem” references to the discussion lowers the quality of it. That’s it. You are free to disagree with my assesment. And I am not looking for ways to be offended–I called out a troubling implication. It’s not the same thing.

  14. Actually, PKS, misogyny is the hatred of women–so please understand that word and its use fully. Also, please reread my sentence. I essentially said that misogyny is something that does exist and that there are women who are legitimate victims of men who indeed are misogynists. How you interpreted that to somehow mean that there are women who deserve that status, I don’t know. However, you’re only convincing the rest of us that you’re actively looking for ways to misinterpret things and manufacture outrage, which, ironically, makes the Gloria Steinem bra-burning references even more apt. I would urge you to not try and impose ridiculous gender theory constructs on us, which is exactly what we were chiding the other commenters for doing with the Ramayana. Accordingly, the quality of this thread was lowered a long time ago when public urination was equated with Indian culture by the same commenters. For people who take pride in fighting stereotypes, that is quite an odd thing to do, and more than anything else, lowered the quality of this thread. Anyhow, if you would like to actually discuss the topic here–which is what some of us have been trying to do for the last few posts–you know where to find us. Otherwise, I think this discussion has run its course. Adieu

  15. Who the f- is ‘us’? I only see a few posters deliberately misconstruing her argument, because I understood it perfectly well. It seems that SM used to be much more liberal some years ago, but now has been overtaken by hindutvadis from the States. Huh.

    It would also seem, also, that YOU don’t understand what feminism means, if you think that bra-burning (which never happened) is all that it is about.

  16. Rebutting a ridiculous interpretation of the ramayana that is overly rooted in modern sociological gender theory and meant to somehow chastise Hindu society’s treatment of women

    i think the only reasonable interpretation of the ramayana is that a ram temple must be built in ayodhya, everything else is a conspiracy of western intellectuals and pseudoseculars.

  17. hmm, right, we’re misconstruing arguments when PKS wrote this:

    The last part of your comment implies that there are “guilty” women who deserve to be treated like second class citizens–maybe not what you meant, but troubling

    in response to my writing this:

    If you are going to label people so cavalierly please at least understand the full meaning of the words you use; otherwise, you do a disservice to all the innocent women who are true victims of misogny.

    how anyone can even remotely interpret my statement which condemned misogyny to justify misogyny, is beyond me, but smacks of chicanery…And the rest of “us” understand what feminism means and have always supported equal rights. “But OMG, that’s nuance. People who critique irrelevant feminist theory being applied to a religious text, yet continue to support equal rights. Brain can’t comprehend. Much easier to mischaracterize their statements and call them misogynists…”

    So sepia is only for people who think Sonia Gandhi is India’s Barack Obama so the rest of us need zip it… How very “liberal” of you to limit the spectrum of discussion…the irony is that many of us who are center right when it comes to Indian politics are actually center left when it comes to American politics. Of course, I know nuance is often lost on some of you, so please feel free actively misinterpret that distinction so you can manufacture outrage…

  18. Rebutting a ridiculous interpretation of the ramayana that is overly rooted in modern sociological gender theory and meant to somehow chastise Hindu society’s treatment of women i think the only reasonable interpretation of the ramayana is that a ram temple must be built in ayodhya, everything else is a conspiracy of western intellectuals and pseudoseculars.

    Oh beta, are we back from summer camp already? and such mature topics to discuss. where did you learn how to justify the barbarism of Mahmud Ghazni and Babur by mischaracterizing the age of Kanauj? “Koenraad Elst writes creationism” because he is a respected academic who wrote a point-by-point rebuttal of your little Richard Eaton article? Oh, bechara, can’t understand nuance? Oh that’s ok. Now run a long and drink your complan…

  19. where did you learn how to justify the barbarism of Mahmud Ghazni and Babur by mischaracterizing the age of Kanauj?

    the summer camp next to the one where you learnt to justify the barbarism of advani and modi respectively in the age of ayodhya and the age of gujarat.

  20. Oh bechara, why so irritable? diaper rash? that’s ok. You’re still our little Complan boy. Yes you are. We know you can’t tell the difference between an actual pogrom (Congress Anti-Sikh massacres–4000 sikhs) and riots (gujarat- 800 muslims and 300 hindus). But that’s ok, keep justifying Mahmud of Ghazni and run back to your Italian madam. She’ll take care of that rash, which is something she can actually do because of her training as a babysitter. “Yeah, italian babysitter with barely a high school education is the ideal person to rule India.Vote Congress! Jai Hind!”…

  21. You’re still our little Complan boy.

    I am not making easy jokes today, so I will hold off on asking you to go sip on your urine soda.

    keep justifying Mahmud of Ghazni and run back to your Italian madam

    Oh, Snap! Now I am ashamed. Of your lack of ability to read, especially since I specifically made my views on the congress clear earlier. But you, on the other hand, still haven’t given me the education you promised me in return…

  22. Oh, little complan boy, back so soon. Actually, Koenrad Elst is a well-respected academic. But that’s ok, beta, we don’t expect the italian babysitter to complete all your lessons on time…

  23. e’ll take care of that rash, which is something she can actually do because of her training as a babysitter

    wow, i’ve read bad stuff about advani and modi before, but didn’t realize they were so pathetic that their supporters have to erect sonia as a strawman to make them seem worthwhile.

  24. i think the only reasonable interpretation of the ramayana is that a ram temple must be built in ayodhya, everything else is a conspiracy of western intellectuals and pseudoseculars.

    So I see you’ve finally decided to stick to one handle across threads. Good form. You’re learning.

    Now if only we could learn how not to derail each and every conversation because you have an axe to grind against the BJP. Then you could really graduate to big-kid panties.

  25. Oh beta. so cranky today. We didn’t take our nap, huh? That’s ok, we’ll mix you some warm milk and complan and you can rest up for school tomorrow. But in the mean time, continue to keep supporting Sonia Gandhi’s rule in India, and then backtracking to avoid publicly demonstrating how ridiculous your support for an uneducated Italian Babysitter (current congress president and de facto ruler of India) is…

  26. Satyajit Wry

    So sepia is only for people who think Sonia Gandhi is India’s Barack Obama so the rest of us need zip it… How very “liberal” of you to limit the spectrum of discussion…the irony is that many of us who are center right when it comes to Indian politics are actually center left when it comes to American politics. Of course, I know nuance is often lost on some of you, so please feel free actively misinterpret that distinction so you can manufacture outrage..

    WTF mate when did I ever mention Sonia Gandhi. I do not and have never cared for Indian politics. As to Barack Obama I don’t overly care for him either (at least not the way the liberal comentors on this site do) cos I’m not American. I don’t agree w/ PKS that you were saying that women deserved to be treated the way they were by misogynists. I just don’t agree either that Ram and Sita are an example for a modern marriage. I don’t think anyone is disputing the context of their marriage thousands of years ago. I just disagree that Sita is the embodiment of the ‘ideal’ wife.No I haven’t read 1000 interpretations of the epics but is it too much to expect that an Indian woman wants to live her life the way she wants to not according to some mythological ideal set by society. And wtf why are you so condescending. If anything a lot of right wing Hindu nationalists are ‘manufacturing outrage’ as you say over almost anything. I know for a fact that liberal folks in India are tired of you lot sitting in the USA, donating money to so-called ‘charities’ who only stir shit in the the homeland. I know this because my folks at home are very liberal and are super against such people. It’s like the IRA and the Irish Americans all over again.

  27. WTF mate when did I ever mention Sonia Gandhi. I do not and have never cared for Indian politics. As to Barack Obama I don’t overly care for him either (at least not the way the liberal comentors on this site do) cos I’m not American. I don’t agree w/ PKS that you were saying that women deserved to be treated the way they were by misogynists. I just don’t agree either that Ram and Sita are an example for a modern marriage. I don’t think anyone is disputing the context of their marriage thousands of years ago. I just disagree that Sita is the embodiment of the ‘ideal’ wife.No I haven’t read 1000 interpretations of the epics but is it too much to expect that an Indian woman wants to live her life the way she wants to not according to some mythological ideal set by society. And wtf why are you so condescending. If anything a lot of right wing Hindu nationalists are ‘manufacturing outrage’ as you say over almost anything. I know for a fact that liberal folks in India are tired of you lot sitting in the USA, donating money to so-called ‘charities’ who only stir shit in the the homeland. I know this because my folks at home are very liberal and are super against such people. It’s like the IRA and the Irish Americans all over again.

    And until, garv showed up, I hadn’t brought up Hindutva, right? So there’s not need for you to bandy that about yourself…I am glad you conceded that PKS was wrong in her characterization of my comments. As for Rama and Sita, fine, I have no problem with your opinion. You are entitled to your views, which I respect, and I am entitled to mine. I think Rama and Sita are exemplars for even modern marriage because they were both dutiful and faithful to each other, but if you want to use that to characterize me and other people as “rabid hindutvavadis”, you’re only showing how you still can’t digest nuance. I am not condescending to respectful commenters. Kabir and I had a great discussion even though we are on opposite ends of the spectrum. You, however, jumped in headlong into this discussion and initially attempted to bolster PKS’s disrespectful mischaracterization of me and other people. And also, I haven’t donated any money to any of those groups, so please stop creating more canards. Do I equate people donating to Congress as the equivalent of those who donate to islamist or fundamentalist christian charities? They stir “even more “s*** back in the homeland”, so do you want to be compared to them? No, so stop comparing other people to the IRA. You are only vindicating the very people you are condemning.

  28. continue to keep supporting Sonia Gandhi’s rule in India

    I’d LOVE to see the comment where I did that. Keep erecting the lowest possible strawman you can.

  29. uneducated Italian Babysitter

    but she is indian, fyi, just so your canards don’t stand uncorrected.

  30. And until, garv showed up, I hadn’t brought up Hindutva, right?

    I didn’t either. I just wanted to clarify which parts of the ramayana are and aren’t up for discussion.

  31. Actually, Koenrad Elst is a well-respected academic.

    and romila thapar is a pseudosec. whatever floats your boat, man…

  32. I think Rama and Sita are exemplars for even modern marriage because they were both dutiful and faithful to each other,

    dutiful = set her on fire, even conceding that low-purushes (i hope you appreciate what I did here, wry-ji) demanded it. got it.

  33. I am not making easy jokes today, so I will hold off on asking you to go sip on your urine soda.

    don’t worry, beta, that’s why I held off on the “fairever whitening cream so I can look like madam, too” and “Memsahib bootlicking ” jokes…glad to see we both observe some standards

    Oh, Snap! Now I am ashamed. Of your lack of ability to read, especially since I specifically made my views on the congress clear earlier. But you, on the other hand, still haven’t given me the education you promised me in return…

    Beta, you’re still in LKG, should you really be telling other people they can’t read?

    Right cause in India, there’s a choice between BJP and Congress. So if you spend all my time on hatchet jobs on the BJP, who are you really supporting… It’s ok, beta, we know how much you love Madam even if you can’t publicly admit it…Now run along. I’m sure Quattrochi uncle has some cadbury chocolates for you…

  34. It’s ok, beta, we know how much you love Madam even if you can’t publicly admit it…

    i specifically said what i think of congress. but, hey feel free to support murderers and hindu ghazni-imitators, because you have a problem with babysitters… in your world, that is.

  35. (in response to your other non-issue focused flames)

    Oh beta, too cranky… I think it’s nap time. You are getting too excited with all your little comments. We know you can’t make arguments about fact…much easier to make blanket assertions about respected authors like Elst and issues like the Babri Masjid while ignoring uncomfortable specifics…We know you just want to support your religious fundamentalists and historical negationists…Now sleep, some of us want to have a grown up academic discussion about Indian literature and stick to the Sepia Post’s issue and not derail it as you have. So ja, beta…I would sing a lullaby about Rama and Sita, but I know that makes your anti-hindu blood boil…maybe a lullaby about your Italian Madam?

  36. And until, garv showed up, I hadn’t brought up Hindutva, right? So there’s not need for you to bandy that about yourself…I am glad you conceded that PKS was wrong in her characterization of my comments. As for Rama and Sita, fine, I have no problem with your opinion. You are entitled to your views, which I respect, and I am entitled to mine. I think Rama and Sita are exemplars for even modern marriage because they were both dutiful and faithful to each other, but if you want to use that to characterize me and other people as “rabid hindutvavadis”, you’re only showing how you still can’t digest nuance. I am not condescending to respectful commenters. Kabir and I had a great discussion even though we are on opposite ends of the spectrum. You, however, jumped in headlong into this discussion and initially attempted to bolster PKS’s disrespectful mischaracterization of me and other people. And also, I haven’t donated any money to any of those groups, so please stop creating more canards. Do I equate people donating to Congress as the equivalent of those who donate to islamist or fundamentalist christian charities? They stir “even more “s*** back in the homeland”, so do you want to be compared to them? No, so stop comparing other people to the IRA. You are only vindicating the very people you are condemning. Dude you were the one who brought up Babri Masjid and Mohamed Ghazni so please. I’m not comparing you to Sri Ram Sena, but that doesn’t mean I don’t find your centre-right politics less distasteful. Also, I’m not talking specifically abt you, but there are other commenters (like rob) who do espouse such views and gladly donate to such groups. Just the fact that you have immediately jumped on an anti-Islam/ Sonia Gandhi bandwagon speaks volumes. I don’t donate to Congress, like I said I don’t care for Indian politics, I’m just another liberal. So this whole ‘islamist/fundamentalist christian charities’ thing is going nowhere.

    I’ve also not ‘jumped’ into the discussion only now btw, I’ve made a post much earlier in the thread if you will see.

  37. Edifying as this asinine back and forth is, I made the point I wanted to make about the principled stand about how the Ramayana should be understood in #116. Feel free to continue with your juvenile remarks about my smooth baby butt or otherwise, lies about my statements – which you can’t even point to, and as you did in Conrad’s case accuse people of being a Congress acolyte because that is the only response you know, but as an idiot on this and other threads likes to say, Adieu. But unlike that idiot, I’ll actually stick to that promise.

  38. how anyone can even remotely interpret my statement which condemned misogyny to justify misogyny, is beyond me, but smacks of chicanery.

    OK, simmer down. I’m over this, and otherwise done explaining, but I was just talking about the language used on this thread and its implications, intended or unintended, not you as a person. I’m sure you are good enough, smart enough, and gosh darnit, people like you. (This is an SNL reference. It is meant to be humorous.)

  39. For garv beta,

    Main gaon, tum so jao. Main gaon, tum so jao. Sukh sapnon, Italian Madam se, oh. Main gaon, tum so jao…

  40. Dude you were the one who brought up Babri Masjid and Mohamed Ghazni so please. I’m not comparing you to Sri Ram Sena, but that doesn’t mean I don’t find your centre-right politics less distasteful. Also, I’m not talking specifically abt you, but there are other commenters (like rob) who do espouse such views and gladly donate to such groups. Just the fact that you have immediately jumped on an anti-Islam/ Sonia Gandhi bandwagon speaks volumes. I don’t donate to Congress, like I said I don’t care for Indian politics, I’m just another liberal. So this whole ‘islamist/fundamentalist christian charities’ thing is going nowhere.

    I’ve also not ‘jumped’ into the discussion only now btw, I’ve made a post much earlier in the thread if you will see.

    Dude, I didn’t bring up Babri, other commenters did elsewhere, and garv injected that debated into this thread–I merely responded to his non issue focused flames. So not sure where you are going with this. And I’m not comparing you to the Weather Underground, that doesn’t mean I don’t find your looney left politics less distasteful. I have not said anything against Islam, only those who tacitly support its fundamentalists (Congress Party) or those who deny the crimes of barbarians who committed/commit murder in its name (deniers: Romila Thapar/Arundhati Roy). I have respect for all religions. That you cannot make that distinction, really only speaks volumes about you. I think at this stage, you’re just reducing the thread here to tit-for-tat. There’s nothing really left to argue, so let’s just try and talk about the Post’s issue here.

  41. how anyone can even remotely interpret my statement which condemned misogyny to justify misogyny, is beyond me, but smacks of chicanery. OK, simmer down. I’m over this, and otherwise done explaining, but I was just talking about the language used on this thread and its implications, intended or unintended, not you as a person. I’m sure you are good enough, smart enough, and gosh darnit, people like you. (This is an SNL reference. It is meant to be humorous.)

    Yes, thank you Stuart Smalley. I’m sure you people like you too. Just in case they don’t, don’t worry, I still think you’re a “SUPERSTAR” (Also an SNL reference. Also meant to be humourous)

  42. I don’t know why there is so much agonising over the agni pariksha when the uttar kanda was in all likelihood a later addition to the Ramayana (as late as the 7th or the 8th century- link, link 2), perhaps surreptitiously inserted by a local raja to justify his ill treatment of his missus. I guess it must feel cool, secular and truly iconoclastic to grab any handle to bash Rama, that wicked icon of evil Hindutva and Sri Ram sene.

  43. No Lupus Solitarius, it must feel truly liberating to froth at the mouth at people’s audacious crticism of Ram and his Ramayana. What makes you think you have the right to tell other Hindus how to interpret their scriptures? Who are you anyway? The Shankaracharya?

    Sepia Mutiny is a secular blog. As a right-winger, you should be prepared for dissent when you come here.

    My Hinduism is different from yours, so stop ramming your BJP-inspired, brand of Hinduism down my throat. And hey, how do you like my handle, eh?

  44. Sepia Mutiny is a secular blog. As a right-winger, you should be prepared for dissent when you come here.

    I dream of a day when positions are judged on their support by facts and logic rather than how closely they hew to predefined standards of “liberalism,” “modernity,” and “secularism.”

    (Those words are in quotes because they have been so thoroughly mangled by abusive political discourse that they have lost their original meanings.)

  45. it must feel truly liberating to froth at the mouth at people’s audacious crticism of Ram and his Ramayana.

    You seem to be doing most of the frothing, Sitey

    What makes you think you have the right to tell other Hindus how to interpret their scriptures? Who are you anyway

    I am just a man with a computer, an internet connection and a basic knowledge of the Ramayana. Who are you, the secular Taliban?

    Sepia Mutiny is a secular blog. As a right-winger, you should be prepared for dissent when you come here.

    I mentioned some facts that probably didn’t suit your pre-formed opinions. In a state of cognitive dissonance, you began to chant your zombie mantra of secularism and started accusing me of intolerance. You need to accept and understand dissent. Free speech- the holy cow of liberalism. You don’t need a ‘Right winger’ to tell you that.

    And hey, how do you like my handle, eh?

    Quite lame to be honest. How old are you? 12?

  46. Yes Lupus, and Yoga Fire, I agree with whaever you say. How could I not, I am only 12 after all.

    So I shall bow to your superior wisdom — I am in a state of cognitive dissonance after all.I am a liberal who leans towards libertarianism, I am on a pro-liberal blog, I am defending positions that support my ideology, but I am sure I have cognitive dissosance, since I wouldn’t want to disagree with you.
    I mistakenly assumed that SM is secular. I didn’t read this correctly: “personal, non-issue- focused flames; intolerant or anti-secular comments; and long, obscure rants may be deleted.”. Well, neither did you, but that’s different, now.

    And Yoga Fire, its Agni Pareeksha by the way, not Agni Prakasha. I thought, you with your deep knowledge of Sanskrit Hindu epics, would have known the difference between the two words.

    Something tells me that you were not born and raised in India — no Indian Hindu would have made such a basic mistake, unless their knowledge of Sanskrit/Hindi was non-existent.

    Have you ever talked to rural women in India about what their understanding of the Ram-Sita episode is? What is the popular understanding of gender roles in India, based on the Ramayana?

  47. As a right-winger, you should be prepared
    I am a liberal who leans towards libertarianism
    I am on a pro-liberal blog
    I am defending positions that support my ideology

    Sitey, all these labels are just Maya. You must realise this and stop defining straitjacketing yourself and others in the shackles of these rigid, inflexible concepts. Open your mind. Be your own light.