Tag Archive for 'Manu Joseph'

The Illicit Happiness of Other People

In Open magazine, extracts from Manu Joseph’s new novel:

In these circumstances, as he listens to the beatings in the next classroom, Thoma Chacko feels a liquid gloom in his groin. He considers how hard it is to be a bright person. He imagines the sheer length of human life, the many years ahead of him. He is twelve, he has a long way to go. Will Thoma make it? Unni had always tried to reassure him, he even said maths was about to get a lot easier. He said the home minister, who is responsible for happy homes, would soon pass a law changing the value of pi from 3.14159 to just 3, making it easier for all Indian children to calculate the area of a circle. That was what Unni said. But then it was probably a lie, like the many other things he used to say.

Every day, Thoma tries to improve his mind, but he does not possess the Power of Concentration, he is a Wool-gatherer. He stares at the open textbook for hours and is distracted by the pain of the parallelogram, which is slanted for ever. His nails scratch the page to straighten its tired limbs. It affects him, the great arrogance of the Equilateral Triangle, the failed aspiration of the octagon to be a circle, the eternal suffocation of the denominator that has to bear the weight of the unjust numerator, the loneliness of Pluto. And the smallness of Mercury, always a mere dot next to a yellow sun. In this world, there is no respect for Mercury.

Every day, Thoma tries to memorise Interesting Facts but his head is porous. There are only two impressive facts he knows. For some reason they have stuck in his head—the full form of KGB, which is Komitet Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti, and Pele’s real name, which is Edson Arantes do Nascimento. Every day, Thoma hopes a miracle will occur and Mythili Balasubramanium will ask him, “Thoma, what does KGB stand for? And I wonder if Pele is his real name.” But miracles do not happen in Thoma’s life, even though he is Christian. More:

The Illicit Happiness of Other People

Extracts from Manu Joseph’s new novel, The Illicit Happiness of Other People (HarperCollins). In Open:

In these circumstances, as he listens to the beatings in the next classroom, Thoma Chacko feels a liquid gloom in his groin. He considers how hard it is to be a bright person. He imagines the sheer length of human life, the many years ahead of him. He is twelve, he has a long way to go. Will Thoma make it? Unni had always tried to reassure him, he even said maths was about to get a lot easier. He said the home minister, who is responsible for happy homes, would soon pass a law changing the value of pi from 3.14159 to just 3, making it easier for all Indian children to calculate the area of a circle. That was what Unni said. But then it was probably a lie, like the many other things he used to say.

Every day, Thoma tries to improve his mind, but he does not possess the Power of Concentration, he is a Wool-gatherer. He stares at the open textbook for hours and is distracted by the pain of the parallelogram, which is slanted for ever. His nails scratch the page to straighten its tired limbs. It affects him, the great arrogance of the Equilateral Triangle, the failed aspiration of the octagon to be a circle, the eternal suffocation of the denominator that has to bear the weight of the unjust numerator, the loneliness of Pluto. And the smallness of Mercury, always a mere dot next to a yellow sun. In this world, there is no respect for Mercury.

Every day, Thoma tries to memorise Interesting Facts but his head is porous. There are only two impressive facts he knows. For some reason they have stuck in his head—the full form of KGB, which is Komitet Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti, and Pele’s real name, which is Edson Arantes do Nascimento. Every day, Thoma hopes a miracle will occur and Mythili Balasubramanium will ask him, “Thoma, what does KGB stand for? And I wonder if Pele is his real name.” But miracles do not happen in Thoma’s life, even though he is Christian. More:

Sorry, Kashmir is happy

Manu Joseph in Open

There was a moment when Prashant Bhushan was irreversibly diminished, and he became the Ringo Starr of Team Anna’s famous four. It happened in the middle of a television interview, when thugs broke into his chamber and beat him up for demanding a referendum in Kashmir to solve the dispute. At the time, a section of Kashmir’s intellectuals were still waiting to hear from Anna Hazare. They were naïve enough to believe everything that television anchors said and to invite him to take up the Valley’s cause with the evil Indian government. After all, Hazare had demanded a referendum for the anti-corruption bill. He was surely the referendum-type? But Hazare soon made his position clear. Even as Bhushan’s body was still aching, Hazare publicly condemned his stand on Kashmir. According to Hazare, and possibly some other former truck drivers of the Indian Army, Kashmir was not a disputed part of India. more

Rethinking the Mother of All Exams

Manu Joseph at NYT:

New Delhi — For more than half a century, one aptitude test has determined the self-esteem, future and even the spouses of generations of Indian adolescents, chiefly boys. The Joint Entrance Exam of the Indian Institutes of Technology is a brooding cultural force that is visible across the nation, on signboards and newspaper advertisements, as “I.I.T.-J.E.E.,” the first abbreviation many Indian children learn. It is an ominous inevitability for millions of boys, a fate decided in their cradles, a certainty like death. Last year nearly half a million candidates took the test — one of the toughest exams in the world — to compete for about 5,000 seats in the best of the I.I.T.’s and nearly as many seats in the less sought-after institutes. Coaching for the J.E.E. is an industry valued at billions of rupees. There is so much demand that some coaching classes have their own entrance exams. But the J.E.E. is now on its way out.

It is not the only engineering entrance exam in India. Lower down the rungs, there are other colleges, which require other exams to qualify. Competition is fierce all the way. Disturbed by the number of entrance exams, the Human Resource Development Ministry has decided to devise a common exam that would govern the admission process of several engineering institutes, including the famed I.I.T.’s. The nature of the new aptitude test, which is expected to debut in 2014, would be different from the J.E.E. The selection procedure, too, would be very different from what the I.I.T.’s use today. So, the type of person who enters the I.I.T.’s in the future may be very different. Opinion is divided on whether the new I.I.T. graduate will be better or worse than current alumni. More:

A selective rage over corruption

We rail against the bribe taker not the bribe giver says Manu Joseph in New York Times

The best thing about Indian politicians is that they make you feel you are a better person. Not surprisingly, Indians often derive their moral confidence not through the discomfort of examining their own actions, but from regarding themselves as decent folks looted by corrupt, villainous politicians.

This is at the heart of a self-righteous middle-class uprising against political corruption, a television news drama that reached its inevitable climax in Delhi on Tuesday when the rural social reformer Anna Hazare was about to set out for his death fast — the second one he has attempted this year to press his demand for a powerful anti-corruption agency.

He was arrested by the police, ostensibly in the interest of law and order.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in his Independence Day address to the nation on Monday, took digs at Mr. Hazare and his tactic of using hunger strikes to twist the arm of an elected government. Mr. Singh said that he did not have “a magic wand” to end corruption in India. more

Searching for something good to say about India

Manu Joseph in The International Herald Tribune:

Nobody loves India like the Indian who does not live here anymore. When they were in India, they just had to emerge from their house, go onto the road, and the whole nation would assemble itself into an unambiguous pyramid of social hierarchy with them somewhere at the top. Respect came with the lottery of birth.

But in the First World, it is not so easy. This, and the natural love for home, make the expatriate so patriotic that he or she finds it hard to tolerate the often embarrassing portrayal of the nation, especially in the news media outside the country.

Among the nonresident Indians, and also the Indians who live here, there is a common view that what the Western news media want to tell their readers about India is stories that involve cows, poverty, honor killings and other exotic, depressing or weird things. But is it possible to tell a happy Indian story, an honest, complete story, that would fill Indians with pride?

Some Indian newspapers have consciously tried to make Indians feel good about themselves. So there are frequent stories about India as an emerging superpower, and India as a cultural force whose curry and music apparently have mesmerized the world, and about how alpha-male Indian companies are taking over foreign corporations.

There are commercial rewards for carrying such good news. About three years ago, the shrewd promoter of an Indian publication, a deep philosopher of sorts, explained this when he walked into an editorial meeting and smiled with sympathy at the journalists. More:

A cricketer as ‘balm of the nation’

Manu Joseph, author of the novel “Serious Men” and editor of Open magazine, in The New York Times:

Sachin Tendulkar is a short, stout man with a gentle paunch that is the right of any 37-year-old Indian male. He does not look like a millionaire sportsman, but he is that and much more. He is a genius cricketer, one of the greatest batsmen ever to have played the game.

For several years now, fans and journalists in the country have been calling him God (he has denied that he is).

He is probably the most famous living person in India, where the predominant sport is cricket. His epic career has stretched over more than 20 years, and his reign continues in the World Cup that is under way in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Such a man tells the story of his nation in a profound way that economic indicators and the laments of activists cannot.

Peter Roebuck, the former English county cricketer and popular cricket writer, says that Mr. Tendulkar “reveals the state of the nation, its evolution.”

In 1989, when Mr. Tendulkar started playing international cricket as a 16-year-old prodigy with an abundant mop of hair, India was on the brink of a severe economic crisis. In a few months, the country would exhaust its foreign currency reserves and have no money to pay for imports. It would have to endure the humiliation of selling its gold to save the day. More:

 

Manu Joseph’s controversial tale of caste wins literary prize

In The Hindu:

Manu Joseph has bagged The Hindu Best Fiction Award 2010 for his debut novel Serious Men.

Writer and historian Nayantara Sahgal presented the award, which carries a cash prize of Rs.5 lakh and a plaque, to Mr. Joseph, who is the Deputy Editor of the Open magazine.

The award was instituted by The Hindu Literary Review as a prelude to celebrating its 20th year in 2011.

The winner was chosen from the 11 works shortlisted from 75 entries of Indian fiction writing in English.

Shashi Deshpande, novelist and juror for the award, said the jury decision was unanimous.

Serious Men was an “original and surprising novel” that ventured into the unusual area of science and institutional research, Ms. Deshpande said.

Also here

Manu Joseph talks about how he created his debut novel: in Business World