The greatest book in the world, the Mahabharata, tells us we all have to live and die by our karmic cycle. Thus works the perfect reward-and-punishment, cause-and-effect, code of the universe. We live out in our present life what we wrote out in our last. But the great moral thriller also orders us to rage against karma and its despotic dictates. It teaches us to subvert it. To change it. It tells us we also write out our next lives as we live out our present. The Mahabharata is not a work of religious instruction. It is much greater. It is a work of art. It understands men will always fall in the shifting chasm between the tug of the moral and the lure of the immoral. It is in this shifting space of uncertitude that men become men. Not animals, not gods. It understands truth is relative. That it is defined by context and motive. It encourages the noblest of men - Yudhishtra, Arjuna, Lord Krishna himself - to lie, so that a greater truth may be served. It understands the world is powered by desire. And that desire is an unknowable thing. Desire conjures death, destruction, distress. But also creates love, beauty, art. It is our greatest undoing. And the only reason for all doing. And doing is life. Doing is karma. Thus it forgives even those who desire intemperately. It forgives Duryodhana. The man who desires without pause. The man who precipitates the war to end all wars. It grants him paradise and the admiration of the gods. In the desiring and the doing this most reviled of men fulfils the mandate of man. You must know the world before you are done with it. You must act on desire before you renounce it. There can be no merit in forgoing the not known. The greatest book in the world rescues volition from religion and gives it back to man. Religion is the disciplinarian fantasy of a schoolmaster. The Mahabharata is the joyous song of life of a maestro. In its tales within tales it takes religion for a spin and skins it inside out. Leaves it puzzling over its own poisoned follicles. It gives men the chance to be splendid. Doubt-ridden architects of some small part of their lives. Duryodhanas who can win even as they lose.
Tarun J. Tejpal
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There is no neatness in any life- great or small. It is only an illusion men foolishly pursue. All lived lives are a mess. The neatness in my life had begun to crumble some time before, but now it disintegrated completely as I vanished into a world of endlessly opening doors, teasing riddles and lives without boundaries. For the first time I began to understand how shallow neatness is. How cramping, how limiting. For the first time I understood neat lives are comatose lives. (the Alchemy of Desire 304)
Tarun J. Tejpal
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In the winter of 1987 India was full of iskeems that had gone awry. Agricultural iskeems, political iskeems, economic iskeems, educational iskeems, stop black money iskeems, attract white tourists iskeems, drinkable water iskeems, animal protection iskeems, women's welfare iskeems, nurture children iskeems, don't scan female foetus iskeems, privatization iskeems, medical iskeems, entertainment iskeems, old India iskeems and new India iskeems. We had mastered the art of nomenclature from the white man. Grand labels could disguise unforgivable things.
Tarun J. Tejpal
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There was too much opinion in this country, too many sob stories. Nobody wanted to put a lid on anything; everyone wanted to say it all, about everything. If you as much as said hello to someone on a train or a plane, you were in for the unexpurgated memoirs. Nehru in 1947 had declared us a nation finding utterance - but in fifty years the utterance had become a mad clamour, a crazed babble, an unending howl. We were a nation of Scheherzades, afraid we'd die if, for a moment, we shut up. For myself, I'd mastered a face of steel, and an inscrutable nod. It did not always shut everyone up, but it did to some extent dam the ghastly flow.
Tarun J. Tejpal
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His copy was full of lofty echoes: Greek Tragedy; Damocle's sword; manna from heaven; the myth of Sisyphus; the last of the Mohicans; hydra-headed and Circe-voiced; experiments with truth; discovery of India; biblical resonance; the lessons of Vedanta; the centre does not hold; the road not taken; the mimic men; for whom the bell tolls; a hundred visions and revisions; the power and the glory; the heart of the matter; the heart of darkness; the agony and the ecstasy; sands of time; riddle of the Sphinx; test of tantalus; murmurs of mortality; Falstaffian figure; Dickensian darkness;...
Tarun J. Tejpal
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Power is the engine of the world,and sex and money its oil and lubricants.God is at best the invocation before you start the engine-meaningless if you have no engine to start!God is a goli,a multi-flavoured pill,invented by those who have power,money and sex, to give to those who have none! Love is another great goli.Some days we too swallow these golis.They feel good,like a joint,a temporary high!But they are not the reality.The reality is power,money,sex! And yes,there's another goli-morality!
Tarun J. Tejpal
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