You are an Ocean

I’m not just falling in love with you. I’m falling into you. You’re an ocean, and I’m falling in, drowning in the depths of who you are. Like you said, it’s scary in a way, but it’s also the most amazing thing I’ve ever experienced. You are the most amazing thing I’ve ever experienced.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

“Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.”

This quote by Francis Bacon always evokes the memory when I first read the pages filled with “immoral” literature that was dazzling enough that I thought they must be chewed and digested thoroughly to engage my brain with the cynicism and societal disregard.

The saying “men are more moral than they think and far more immoral than they can imagine” seemingly comes to be true in the only novel of Oscar Wilde- The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), a classic instance of aestheticism and Gothic horror fiction of classic English literature.

The Plot of “The Picture of Dorian Gray”

The tale of “art for art’s sake” begins with three characters- Lord Henry Wotton, Basil Hallward and Dorian Gray. Dorian Gray, an epitome of youthful male beauty, is taken by Lord Henry to the talented and conventionally minded painter, Basil Hallward. Dorian changes the way Basil sees the art. He makes a picture of Dorian Gray that deeply fascinates him. Young Dorian is then influenced by Lord Henry’s delightful yet poisonous theories that he has only “a few years in which to live really, perfectly, and fully” due to the ephemerality of his beauty.

Falling under the spell of Lord Henry, Dorian wishes to remain as young and attractive as his picture and desires if his portrait could age and scar instead. Little does he know that his wish would come true but at the cost of his moral erosion. Knowing his actions have no consequences, he starts living corrupted wildlife seeking pleasure, breaking heart after heart- including that of her beloved Sybil Vane. Dorian, with her pleasure seeking nature, oppresses her that she ends up killing herself along with their unborn child.  Dorian continues committing immoral acts, and with each such act, his picture becomes more horrific and loathsome. When Basil Hallward, the artist behind the Picture, discovers the horrific side of Dorian, Gray kills him. On the other hand, Sybil’s brother James Vane vengefully stalks Gray as he is the reason for his sister’s suicide.

Tired and terrified by his life spiralling out of his hands, he wishes to give up all his sins and become as innocent, as moral as he was. As he starts moving towards morality, he expects that the picture would return to its original form. But, contrarily to his shocking disbelief, it gets even more grotesque. Is there any way out for Gray of his nightmare?

What are the themes of “The Picture of Dorian Gray?”

The novel reveals several themes. The core theme is ‘aestheticism’ or the purpose of Art. There are two works of art dominating the novel- Basil’s painting and the secret yellow book that Henry gives to Dorian. The former acts as a mirror, reflecting Dorian the physical dissipation of his own body, while the latter acts as a seductive immoral influencer leading the man farther along the path towards immorality.

The second theme is ‘idolatry of youth and beauty’. Beauty reigns throughout the novel. Hallward gets enchanted with Gray while painting him, while Gray, in turn, entertains the narcissistic desire to get his picture to grow old and uglier instead. To distance himself from the horror of his actions, Dorian devotes himself to the study of beautiful and attractive things- Jewels, music, tapestries etc.

The third theme is the ‘superficiality of society’ which puts beauty above everything else. Being handsome, rather than moral and good and heart matters the most to Dorian, Henry and the society they live in.

The fourth and the last theme which is present throughout the novel is the ‘consequences of the negative influence’. The wicked and persuasive words of Lord Henry, the painting, and the mysterious yellow book create an unavoidable influence on Dorian and Hallward. Hallward’s blind idolatry of Dorian becomes the cause of his murder, while Dorian’s devotion to Lord Henry and the yellow book brings his moral erosion.

Oscar Wilde wrote the novel in the late 1800s which may seem far removed from today, but it leaves one struck by the similarities that are present even today. For example, the obsession with self-image, social aspirations, desires to remain youthful and beautiful irrespective of age, and the exploitation of vulnerable through negative influences and ways.

It is one of the literature’s greatest studies of superficiality, narcissism, callousness, hedonism and self-centred pleasure. This exquisite novel left me speechless when I finished reading it. Even while writing this review, I am at a loss of words to express how I felt about this book with my paltry ability.

I highly suggest this towering piece of literature to all the readers. Amazingly written and filled with intriguing philosophy, this would be a memorable and moving journey to read it page after page.

Wilde says “we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”, let us all look at the stars the universe of philosophical literature has presented in the form of “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”

Je vous en souhaiteunebonne lecture!

Do We Need to Go Back to Where We Started from?

by Saumya Mishra

“India historically touts itself as a secular state, one where all religions are recognized and can peacefully co-exist. Well, at least in theory, it is. Unfortunately, the reality is much different.”

These are the words of Pew Research Center’s Analysis (December, 2011) which ranked India as fourth worst country in world for religious intolerance out of 198 countries. In the analysis, only three countries, namely- Syria, Nigeria and Iraq, which are infamous for religious hostilities, were listed before India.

Looking at the rank of India in the list, it becomes sine qua non to leave the romanticized idealism and analyze India’s position critically on real ground. The current situation of India can be summarized in three points:-

  • Presence of multi-ethnic composition in India. The best example to explain it would be linguistic reorganization of Indian federal states in 1950 and 1960.
  • Even though India has faced many radical violent events in past, they never escalated to a full scale civil war.
  • The development and popularization of ideology of “Hindutva” since 1980s, which transformed India’s history into an execrable debate.

Here the first two points indicate religious tolerance and harmony, whereas the third and last point is suggestive of communal hatred, which possesses in itself the capacity of falsifying the other two points in future. Hence, I will be focusing on the third point in my article.

Mary Kaldor, in her book ‘Old and New Wars’ argues that  “political goals of the new wars are claims to power based on identity. Labels (especially religion and ethnicity) are used as a basis for political claims based on fragments and inward looking communities.”  In the context of India, Hindu “nationalist” groups and parties have developed their own definition of Hinduism as if it was a recent born idea. The strategy of homogenization of Hinduism through tactics like ancient God Rama desired all the Hindus to be unified impart  message that India had always been a Hindu nation and should continue to work towards achieving the same position. These very nationalist groups create litmus tests to define a “good Indian” and “good Hindu”. Being anti-Hinduism is synonymous to being anti-National in this narrow skewed ideology. Communal riots of Gujarat (1969), anti-Sikh riots (1984) and ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus etc. are some examples showing consequences arising from such radical ideologies.

But when analyzed on real ground, India’s culture, values and history had been far more inclusive and incorporating in character. India has been a torchbearer of South Asia, which is a hallmark of the co-existence of multi-ethnic, religious and linguistic groups. As Ashoka divulges “There should not be honor of one’s own (religious) sect and condemnation of others without any grounds.” Hence, it becomes obligatory to investigate some of the major parts of Indian history which reveal the long lived tradition of peaceful co-existence of diversity.

Under the unfathomable layers of Indian diversity, the core reveals itself in the form of Indus Valley Civilization- a thriving urban civilization which flourished more than 5,000 years ago in the north-western Indo-Pakistan, it was contemporary of Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations but was twice in area each of their sizes. People of Indus Valley Civilization did not​ build massive monuments like their contemporary civilizations; they did not bury riches with their dead in golden tombs. There were no mummies, no rulers, and most importantly no violent wars and bloody battles in their territory. When other civilizations were focusing on devoting huge amount of time and resources to the rich, the powerful, the supernatural and the dead, Indus Valley took a practical approach of supporting the common, secular, living, earthly beings. It would be injustice to claim that they did not believe in afterlife and were living without any social divisions. But despite these, they believed that resources are valuable only when in circulation among the living than on demonstration or entombed underground.  Certainly, Indus Valley Civilization was a peaceful and harmonious civilization.  Finding of very few weapons, no evidence of army, no signs of violence on excavated bones and no indication of battles on building remains; all these evidences point to a priority for harmony and success in its achievement. Apart from this, it is also known that there was intensive devotion to craftsmanship and trade instead of religion. Each time goods were traded and neighbored crossed the boundaries to barter, Indus valley culture was spread. Evidently, this civilization was far more inclusive and secular than modern times.

After this period, the most important event was arrival of Aryans in India, due to whom the oldest religion of the world- Hinduism came into existence. It is believed that Aryans, originally lived in the eastern region of Alps Mountains (presently Eurasia). Their cultural intermixing with Indus valley inhabitants gave birth to Hinduism. It is clear that neither Hinduism, nor Hindus are by origin Indian.

Now it is important to understand the peculiar character of Hinduism. It is perhaps the only religion in the world which does not claim to be supreme. It does not have one founder or core doctrine that can be referenced. There is no single scripture, nor is any absolute end. Hindu philosophy considers all the religions inherently same which are mere means to reach to the same God. It not only allows people to adopt any religion they please but also encourages by not setting forth any “punishment” if they change their faith. Its harmonious inclusivity can be understood by the simple fact that it has both acceptability and respect for not only theists but atheists as well (Carvakas and Lingayatas for example).

The process of the arrival and development of other faiths has always been simultaneous which never intended growth at the expense of other faiths. These faiths not only made India more diverse, but also reformed and enriched the existing religions. The brahmanical insistence on the sacredness of the cow and non-violence was not in Hinduism, it instead was derived from Buddhist teachings. Origin of Buddhism even when other strong religions were existing, and its presence in not only South and South-east Asia but also in Middle-east and Afghanistan (up to seventh century A.D) explains that the world appreciates non-violence. Bamiyan Buddha of Afghanistan (now destroyed), Angkorwat Temple of Cambodia, theatre art based on Ramayana’s stories in Indonesia, and the parietal art discovered in Tun-huang caves in China are its evidences.

It is clear that Hinduism never aimed nor desired to be the absolute only religion of India. Defining majority of Hinduism in India as its supremacy is unjust.

Apart from it, claiming 1200 years of Mughal Empire in India as “foreign rule” and viewing 200 years of British rule as unproblematic shows a radical skewed perspective of appraising diversity. While the founder of Muslim dynasty came from abroad, each Mughal ruler after him married Hindu women and immersed themselves in the fortunes of this land. Each Mughal emperor after Babar had less and less connection and allegiance to a foreign country. The second generation of Mughals was Indian as any other Hindu.

Development of Indian culture was always a two-way process. Indians acquired the craft of minting gold coins from Greeks and Romans. They learnt the art of growing silk from China, that of growing betel leaves from Indonesia, and several other products from the neighboring countries, whereas India was contributed in art, religion, script and language. It was an enriching and encouraging process of cultural expansion.

Hinduism, with its secular nature and openness, its respect for variety, its acceptance for other faiths, is one religion which has always been able to assert itself without threatening others. But this is not the Hindutva that destroyed the Babri Masjid, nor that spewed in communal hate. It is, instead, the Hinduism of Swami Vivekananda who asserts that Hinduism stands for “both tolerance and universal acceptance.”

It is clear that the history of India is not the history of one religion, nor the history of one religion fighting with other religions for assertion. It is, rather, the history of intermixing and peaceful co-existence of different religions, cultures and ethnicities.

History is the background and the creator of the present. If we start feeling compelled to discover the authentic truths and facts from history, it becomes evident that the present is being built over fallacious truths and distorted history.  Today, in the era of post truth, it is seemingly essential to bring back the harmonious peaceful civilization from the North-western Indo-Pak and spread it throughout the expansion of India to achieve peaceful co-existence of diversity.  Karl Marx once said, “history repeats itself”, a golden future can be expected to be in power if India repeats its history this way.



Leaving her free for imagination…..

She loved herself in words, in sentences, in art and in thoughts more than in photos and mirror.

She loved how words and art could envelope her in mystery, leaving her free for imgination and interpretation. 
Sometimes between lines and in the white spaces left after drawing, she saw her unspoken feelings floating, desiring to move out of the spaces limiting her in pages.

How beautiful it is to be a piece of art or literature, to be timeless, to be someone who evokes otherworldly imgination making you different and immortal in this finite world…..  

—–Saumya Mishra

आजकल हवा चलती है, बहती नहीं..

आजकल हवा चलती है, बहती नहीं,

इसीलिए शायद नीम का पेड़ पत्तियाँ गिराता है न चाहते हुए भी…

छोटी थी जब मैं तो पेड़ से झरती थीं पत्तियाँ खुद अपनी खुशी से,

हरी-पीली और थोड़ी सूखी पत्तियों के ढेर पर कूदने का संगीत दिखाता था उनकी खुशी…

आज भी ढेर लगा है बाहर, मुर्झायी भूरी-काली पत्तियों का,

बोरे में भरकर ले जा रहा है सफाईवाला, फुरसत ही नहीं है बच्चों को कूदने की।

When you start to know someone, all their physical characteristics start to disappear. You begin to dwell into their energy, recognize the scent of their skin. You see only the essence of the person, not the shell. That’s why you can’t fall in love with beauty. You can lust after it, be infatuated by it, want to own it. You can love it with your eyes and your body but not your heart.

And that’s why, when you really connect with a person’s inner self, any physical imperfections disappear, become irrelevant.

In the eyes of animals

Whenever I look into the eyes of animals, I always find a sweet innocent creature existing there. A creature who questions humanity and asks “why are we animals more loving and faithful than you?

Mind and heart, I think, can’t work together or is it that your mind shrinks your heart?

“Proud are we being animals and feel pity for you who though having mind and heart, lack one when using other. And happy we are using everything we have got and giving everything we can.”

“You feel you are superior and way ahead, and this we feel, makes us superior. We may not create structures as you do, but we do create composition of love, care, faith and innocence in our and your hearts. One can’t be rich with empty rigid hearts….”

When you create your own life…..

You know what the best thing in life is?

It is when you create your own life, you create a life existing simultaneously with this real world. A life where you can laugh, go wherever you want to, meet people you always desired and own a home which satisfy you the most. Then you befriend some amazing people and talk to them about everything your heart knows. They console you and you listen to them. You cry, laugh, smile and jump altogether to express how happy you are. You suddenly start loving the life you are living. 

But when are you going to get such life?

Now itself if you want to. Just take a paper and let your imagination wander in universe. Let your thoughts create a different world. Let yourself feel the emotions you never felt before. Now let your ink flow freely and smoothly to give your thoughts a physical material form. 

That’s how you create your own world, that’s how you live thousand, lakhs of lives in this one life. 

Writing is not just a hobby, it is your vehicle to move to other planets, to discover the places which are still unknown to humanity……