OF DEATH by Francis Bacon

August 31, 2015 at 4:26 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Of Death

MEN fear death, as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children, is increased with tales, so is the other.
Meaning … Mortals dread death as much as children fear to venture out in darkness. Such fear is in-born, but gets accentuated when we get to hear horrific accounts woven around death, and the perils of darkness.

 

Certainly, the contemplation of death, as the wages of sin, and passage to another world, is holy and religious; but the fear of it, as a tribute due unto nature, is weak.
Meaning … Thinking of death is a normal trait. Thinking about with equanimity is the characteristic of a profoundly wise mind. In the same vein, worrying about the consequences of committing a sinful act is the sign of a noble mind. A holy and religious person has these traits. On the contrary, fearing death as a possible retribution of Nature is not correct. Fearing death can not be a way of acknowledging the supremacy of Nature.

 

Yet in religious meditations, there is sometimes mixture of vanity, and of superstition. You shall read, in some of the friars’ books of mortification, that a man should think with himself, what the pain is, if he have but his finger’s end pressed, or tortured, and thereby imagine, what the pains of death are, when the whole body is corrupted, and dissolved; when many times death passeth, with less pain than the torture of a limb; for the most vital parts, are not the quickest of sense.
Meaning … Despite adequate awareness among humans about such a folly, prayers, or similar religious practices are often underlined by a sense of futility. A lot of superstition might be intertwined with sermons and prayers. Some religious gurus or preachers ask their followers to inflict a certain minor on themselves to realize how painful inflicting pain or death on others could be to the victims. By doing this, one in impelled to experience remorse for being the cause of others suffering. One can die suffering less pain than when one’s limbs are wounded grievously. A person’s vital parts such as heart, brain, lungs, kidney etc. do not experience as much excruciating pain as a badly hurt or mauled limb.

 

And by him that spake only as a philosopher, and natural man, it was well said, Pompa mortis magis terret, quam mors ipsa. Groans, and convulsions, and a discolored face, and friends weeping, and blacks, and obsequies, and the like, show death terrible.

Meaning …. The pragmatist Pompa, with his deep understanding of philosophy said, “The thought of approaching death scares humans more than the death itself.” What makes the advent of death more horrifying is the dying man’s wails and groans, and the breast-beating expression of frustrations of his near and dear ones who flock to his side. Such cacophony of sorrowful voices makes death appear much more frightening than it really is.

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Francis Bacon’s essays now available on nominal payment.
Paragraph by paragraph explanation of the following 11 essays of Francis Bacon are now available on nominal payment of Rs.150 (Rupees one hundred and fifty) only.
Titles of the essays
1. Of Studies
2. Of Friendship
3. Of Ambition
4. Of Travel
5. Of Wisdom for a Man’s Self
6. Of Death
7. Of Anger
8. Of Marriage and Single Life
9. Of Truth
10. Of Goodness and Goodness of Nature
11. Of Envy
How to make the payment …
Remit the amount to my (Asha Mishra) account number 10008171043 State Bank of India (Hosur Road Branch). IFSC Number … SBIN0010514. After remitting the amount, send a confirmation mail to broadbase.knowledge@gmail.com
You will receive the PDF file having all the 11 essays maximum within 24hrs.

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OF ANGER by Francis Bacon

August 27, 2015 at 3:22 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Of Anger

TO SEEK to extinguish anger utterly, is but a bravery of the Stoics.
Meaning … Anger is so innate to human nature that to banish it altogether is but an exercise in futility. Only the Stoics, who have absolute mastery over their minds, can ever try to subdue anger. Through patient pursuit of self-control, the Stoics attain a state of impassiveness. As a result, they keep anger along with its ruinous effects at bay. For common human beings, shaking off the savage instinct of anger is a Herculean task.

 

We have better oracles: Be angry, but sin not. Let not the sun go down upon your anger. Anger must be limited and confined, both in race and in time.
Meaning ….. But, we have recourse to some sane counsel. We may get angry occasionally, but must rein it in so that it does not drive us to dome some heinous, immoral or sinful act. Anger must not find a permanent abode in the mind. It can come, but leave our mind as early as possible. Anger’s fire must not be allowed to engulf our mind and burn down our self.

 

We will first speak how the natural inclination and habit to be angry, may be attempted and calmed. Secondly, how the particular motions of anger may be repressed, or at least refrained from doing mischief. Thirdly, how to raise anger, or appease anger in another.
Meaning … Bacon proceeds to examine the different dimensions of anger. Fortunately, there are a few ways to keep anger under control. Secondly, there are ways to keep anger under wraps so that it does not affect our outward demeanor, and besmirch our lives with its toxicity. Thirdly, there are ways to arouse anger in others and also, douse it through clever means.

 

For the first; there is no other way but to meditate, and ruminate well upon the effects of anger, how it troubles man’s life. And the best time to do this, is to look back upon anger, when the fit is thoroughly over.
Meaning …. Meditation offers one of the most effective ways to stop anger from overpowering our minds. Honest and deep introspection and retrospection also is efficacious in staving off anger. The way it robs us of peace, unsettles our daily lives, and distorts our sense of judgment should warn us of keeping anger at arm’s length. When we recover from a fit of anger, we must look back at our conduct and scrutinize it dispassionately. Such self-scrutiny helps us to realize the harm caused to us when we are under the spell of anger.

 

Seneca saith well, That anger is like ruin, which breaks itself upon that it falls. The Scripture exhorteth us to possess our souls in patience. Whosoever is out of patience, is out of possession of his soul. Men must not turn bees;
… animasque in vulnere ponunt.
Meaning …. Lucius Annaeus Seneca was a Roman Stoic philosopher. He was a man of profound wisdom with multifarious talent. Seneca had warned commoners about the destructive potential of anger. Anger harms the target as much as the person who harbours it and vents it. Like the ruins of a building burying the remnants of the building, anger shrouds the goodness of the beholder, and blights his error of judgment. The scriptures calls upon us to preserve the purity of ourselves and let any worldly feelings sully it. A person, who expends his patience, loses his soul too. His moral moorings are uprooted. Men must be like the weak bees who aggressively sting whosever comes their way. Such eagerness to hit back at the slightest provocation brings highly unpleasant experiences later.

 

Anger is certainly a kind of baseness; as it appears well in the weakness of those subjects in whom it reigns; children, women, old folks, sick folks. Only men must beware, that they carry their anger rather with scorn, than with fear; so that they may seem rather to be above the injury, than below it; which is a thing easily done, if a man will give law to himself in it.
Meaning …. Anger finds the weaker humans good and easy hosts. A strong man loses his cool only after intense and continuous provocation, where as a child, woman, a sick person, or a frail old man gets irritated easily. A man must reckon his propensity to get angry as an evil tendency, and not a desirable trait. He should keep it under a tight leash, and not fall prey to it easily. Such capacity to keep one’s anger in check does not come easily. A great deal of discipline and self- control is essential to keep a lid on anger.

 

For the second point; the causes and motives of anger, are chiefly three. First, to be too sensible of hurt; for no man is angry, that feels not himself hurt; and therefore tender and delicate persons must needs be oft angry; they have so many things to trouble them, which more robust natures have little sense of.
Meaning … Bacon now proceeds to analyze why people fall victim to anger. People who are unduly sensitive can not tolerate minor irritants, criticisms, jokes etc. They express their displeasure by behaving angrily. On the contrary, men who are robust and self-confident take criticisms and irritants on their stride and seldom lose their cool. These people get angry, no doubt, but only after grave provocation. The weaklings can not laugh off criticism, and get annoyed frequently.

 

The next is, the apprehension and construction of the injury offered, to be, in the circumstances thereof, full of contempt: for contempt is that, which putteth an edge upon anger, as much or more than the hurt itself. And therefore, when men are ingenious in picking out circumstances of contempt, they do kindle their anger much.
Meaning …. When people get angry, they begin to hate the person who hurts them, either intentionally or inadvertently. They think the insult heaped on them was a calculated move. This is why contempt for the offender always follows their anger. Such a combination of hurt feelings and loathing makes the man irascible and resentful. Such consequence bode ill for his well-being.

 

Lastly, opinion of the touch of a man’s reputation, doth multiply and sharpen anger. Wherein the remedy is, that a man should have, as Consalvo was wont to say, telam honoris crassiorem. But in all refrainings of anger, it is the best remedy to win time; and to make a man’s self believe, that the opportunity of his revenge is not yet come, but that he foresees a time for it; and so to still himself in the meantime, and reserve it.
Meaning …. When a man is maligned by criticism he feels very aggrieved, because his standing in society is called into question. At times, he seethes in anger to avenge the undeserved humiliation caused to him by vilification by some wicked elements. Bacon has a word of advice here. He wants his readers, aggrieved by mud-slinging, not to act impulsively against the offender. Instead, he should wait out the period of torment, and wait for the opportune time to strike back at the foe. He must learn to contain the rage and maintain equanimity in his conduct. This will help him to decide upon the best way to deal with the offender.

 

To contain anger from mischief, though it take hold of a man, there be two things, whereof you must have special caution. The one, of extreme bitterness of words, especially if they be aculeate and proper; for cummunia maledicta are nothing so much; and again, that in anger a man reveal no secrets; for that, makes him not fit for society. The other, that you do not peremptorily break off, in any business, in a fit of anger; but howsoever you show bitterness, do not act anything, that is not revocable.
Meaning …. Bacon says that it is not easy to hold back anger and hide it inside one’s self. Anger leads to mischief, bringing very undesirable consequences at times. To avoid such a situation, one needs to exercise restraint on one’s emotions. The angry man must eschew tendencies to utter hurtful words at his tormentors. In the heat of the moment, he can say something very unbecoming to his stature in the society or divulge some secrets to his own detriment. The consequences can be quite unpleasant for him in the long run. In the event of disagreement or acrimony with a business partner, one must not walk away in a huff, severing all ties. Similarly, one must not say or do something which can not be retracted later.

 

For raising and appeasing anger in another; it is done chiefly by choosing of times, when men are frowardest and worst disposed, to incense them. Again, by gathering (as was touched before) all that you can find out, to aggravate the contempt. And the two remedies are by the contraries. The former to take good times, when first to relate to a man an angry business; for the first impression is much; and the other is, to sever, as much as may be, the construction of the injury from the point of contempt; imputing it to misunderstanding, fear, passion, or what you will.
Meaning …. In conclusion, Bacon offers some practical advice. If you intend to annoy someone, or mollify him, you must be careful to select the opportune time to do so. When a man is in an awkward situation or vulnerable due to whatever reasons, it would be wise to turn on him. One must learn to garner all facts to add venom to one’s assault on the offender. The contrary way is to counter the urge for contempt by assuming that the root cause was baseless fear, ignorance, and misunderstanding.
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UN Reform and American opposition

August 25, 2015 at 9:27 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Reform of the United Nations – long overdue

Written by Ansuman Tripathy, B.A (Hons), M.F..C, LL.B.

Due to some inexplicable reason, the United States has dragged its feet over the issue of reforming the world body. Today, almost everyone, including the countries with veto power, agree that the world has changed greatly in the last half century, and the structure of the United Nations looks outmoded and un-representative of the new world order.

It can be recalled that during the last visit to India, President Obama had assured that his administration would back India’s candidature to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Going back on this promise, America opposed any large-scale reform of the world body. India’s case for a seat in the UNSC, thus, remains frozen for a long time to come. It is a setback for India.

The American Ambassador to India Richard Verma has tried to do some damage-control exercise by reiterating that the United States remains committed to its earlier support for substantive UN reform that could pave the way for India’s elevation to the world’s apex decision making body. It is difficult to read what Washington really has in mind with regard to such a pressing issue of UN reform.

Sadly, the U.S. found common cause with Russia and China in stalling negotiations on reform of the United Nations. Russia and China routinely oppose America-led initiatives on global matters, no matter how well-intentioned they might be. Peculiarly, on this vital issue, the adversaries spoke with one voice. This is as amusing as is disgusting.

What is more intriguing is the insistence of these three major powers that in the event of any future reform, none of the five veto power countries of today would lose their veto privilege. Such caveat restricts the scope of reform, defeating the intent to make the world body, created in the aftermath of the WW2, truly representative.

The Cold War years are gone. Some countries have emerged as truly powerful economic and political powers. But, the UNSC remains static. To cite a paradox, Germany and Japan, the two economic powerhouses of modern day world are out of the UNSC, where as France, a decaying economic and military power is a permanent member of the UNSC with veto power. In the same vein, we can see how a large continent like Africa has no member in the UNSC. Obviously, something is grossly amiss in the world body’s decision making platform.
India’s economy has registered impressive growth as has its military prowess. Excluding this country with a billion plus population with a trillion dollar economy from the UNSC is a distortion that needs to be set right.

Closing the doors of the UNSC to new claimants undermines the moral authority and universal appeal of the UN as a neutral arbiter of world conflicts.

At the root of some dismal inaction of the United Nations in a few regional crises lies this un-representative nature of the UNSC. The 1994 genocide in Rwanda continued with the full knowledge of the UN, especially when it had an African Secretary General (Kofi Anan). In recent times, the insurgency in Libya and the interminable fratricidal strife in Syria have gone on causing mass suffering of innocent civilians. The UN has and can do little to stop these conflicts.
Clearly, the UN’s conscience has been numbed by certain western powers that have chosen to remain aloof to safeguard their own national interests. Selfishness has ceded ground to service. This blight has to be fought.

 

India has a fair case to lay claim for a place in the high-table of the UNSC’s big five members. Its economy continues to make strides, now rivaling China’s. Its political stability is enviable. It is the second most populous country in the world today. India has generously contributed men for UN’s many peace-keeping missions. From Nehru’s times till today, India has proactively advocated the cause of world peace. Scuttling India’s elevation to the UNSC’s league of permanent members is, therefore, an exercise driven by arrogance and arbitrariness.

Unfortunately, the big powers are distinctly unhelpful and unresponsive. Undaunted by this setback, India must persevere in its efforts to reform the UN to make it truly representative. It is a challenge for India’s diplomatic community to work towards a global consensus to achieve the desired objective. There is a long way to go.

Ansuman Tripathy is a regular contributor to this blog. He can be reached at             atripathy331@gmail.com
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The Solitary Reaper — William Wordsworth

August 24, 2015 at 5:43 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The Solitary Reaper
By William Wordsworth

Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.

Meaning … The setting is some farming field in Scotland which is ripe for harvest. A lonely maiden is busy reaping the crop. She enjoys her work. Neither the hard work, nor the solitude of the surroundings make a dent on her carefree mind. She sings a melodious song that rings with a certain degree of pensiveness. The sweet sound of her song reverberates around the vast valley. The author, an avid lover of Nature, happens to pass by the fields. He is at once swayed by the melody, exuberance, and pathos of the maid’s voice. He is so enchanted with her song that he wants to just stand still. He does not want to distract her in any way that could result in her stopping to sing. Even, he advises any other passer-by to stop there, or walk unobtrusively so as to let the lass continue her singing with zest and passion.

 

No Nightingale did ever chaunt
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travellers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands:
A voice so thrilling ne’er was heard
In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.

Meaning … The author heaps praise on the singing damsel profusely. He feels her voice was better than the legendary singing bird Nightangle. He feels her voice would have soothed the frayed nerves of Arabian cross-country tired of their arduous trek. Drawing another comparison, the author says the Cuckoo’s Spring-time singing would fail to match the sweet mesmeric charm of the young woman’s voice. So profound was the spell of her sweet voice that the author feels the sound must be reaching the far-flung shores of the Hebrides – a group of remote islands lying off Scotland. Even the roar of the sea’s water can not dampen her voice.

 

Will no one tell me what she sings?—
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago:
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?

Meaning ….. The words of the maid’s song melt away in the air. The author is unable to decipher each of the words, but. The voice is unmistakably mournful. The author imagines that the girl is lost in some past sorrows lying deep in her heart. Scotland, in those days was ravaged by frequent wars and bloodshed. The girl is, perhaps, reminiscing about some unhappy memories of those savage battles that have scarred her mind. The author is clueless as to what makes the song so doleful. It could be that the singer is wary of some unhappy thing that could happen soon, or has occurred recently.

Whate’er the theme, the Maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o’er the sickle bending;—
I listened, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.

Meaning … The maiden’s soulful song, no matter its not-so-clear content, leaves the author spell-bound. It is a musical feast to his ears that remains etched in his mind. As he continues to climb the mountain, he keeps his ears tuned to the song, enjoying its every bit. It is unique how the maiden, engrossed in her mundane work in the field, sings such soul-stirring melody. For all times to come, the author will remember this unforgettable experience in so ordinary a place – thanks to the village farm girl.

[Questions and answers will be posted soon.]

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Of Marriage and Single Life by Francis Bacon

August 20, 2015 at 9:40 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Of Marriage and Single Life

HE that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or mischief.
Meaning … A married man has a wife and children, to whose upkeep, welfare and security he remains deeply committed. This is true for all societies, in all ages and in all lands. Such entanglement restricts his freedom to endeavor for something that his heart yearns for. It can something very noble and sublime or something wicked and devious.

 

Certainly the best works, and of greatest merit for the public, have proceeded from the unmarried or childless men; which both in affection and means have married and endowed the public.

Meaning …. When a person is yet to be betrothed, he is un-fettered and free of cares and worries. History shows that most mind-boggling achievements in the fields of art, literature, science etc. have come from men and women when they were single.

 

Yet it were great reason that those that have children should have greatest care of future times; unto which they know they must transmit their dearest pledges.

Meaning … However, it is also a fact that men with children tend to think of future with great seriousness and commitment. This drives them to give their best to enterprises or efforts that can bring fruit in the years to come.

 

Some there are, who though they lead a single life, yet their thoughts do end with themselves, and account future times impertinences.

Meaning … But, there are some men, who during their bachelorhood, while away their time and energy in wasteful ways or in indolence. They seldom show any remorse or regret for such frittering away of opportunity. No feeling of shame comes to their mind for such inaction.

 

Nay, there are some other that account wife and children but as bills of charges. Nay more, there are some foolish rich covetous men, that take a pride in having no children, because they may be thought so much the richer.

Meaning …. There are some married men who feel their wives and children are nothing but unwanted burden. There are some half-witted rich people, who willingly do not want to procreate and have offspring. They fear that by having children, they create claimants to their property. Such thinking is ludicrous and bizarre.

 

For perhaps they have heard some talk, Such an one is a great rich man, and another except to it, Yea, but he hath a great charge of children; as if it were an abatement to his riches.

Meaning …. Such greedy rich people are influenced by
loose gossip. They hear people talking about the fabulous wealth of some men, but at the same time qualifying their awe by saying that the man has a large family to look after as burden. Such ill-conceived opinion sways some greedy people not have any progeny at all.

 

But the most ordinary cause of a single life is liberty, especially in certain self-pleasing and humorous minds, which are so sensible of every restraint, as they will go near to think their girdles and garters to be bonds and shackles.

Meaning ….. There are people who choose to remain single because they feel, though absurdly, that unmarried life assures them of lifelong freedom from cares and worries and obligations. These persons are self-centered and naïve. They feel marriage leads to bondage, no matter the bliss and fulfillment it brings.

 

Unmarried men are best friends, best masters, best servants; but not always best subjects; for they are light to run away; and almost all fugitives are of that condition.

Meaning … Unmarried men make good employees, good friends, and good people to work under, because they give their full time and attention to their jobs. But, these people are unsteady and volatile. With no roots (family) to hold them, they can desert you at any time.

 

A single life doth well with churchmen; for charity will hardly water the ground where it must first fill a pool. It is indifferent for judges and magistrates; for if they be facile and corrupt, you shall have a servant five times worse than a wife.

Meaning …. Wealthy bachelors are much sought after by churches, because they can donate generously with no family liability to worry about. A married man thinks twice before parting with their wealth as they need to provide for the sustenance of their family members. Judges and magistrates hold great responsibility for the society. They should be honest, dutiful, and capable of fine reasoning. A free-wheeling bachelor with no restraint and no family as anchor, is more likely to be flippant and indiscrete in his thinking and action. If such as person is appointed as a judge or magistrate, he will prove to be a big liability for the society and to himself. The responsibility of a wife’s upkeep and security is much less than the burden of being erratic as in case of a bachelor.

 

For soldiers, I find the generals commonly in their hortatives put men in mind of their wives and children; and I think the despising of marriage amongst the Turks maketh the vulgar soldier more base.

Meaning …. In armies, the generals remind the soldiers of their commitment to their wives and children while extolling the virtues of chivalry, patriotism and duty in the battlefield. It has been seen among the Turks that unmarried soldiers tend to be very uncouth and vile in their conduct while dealing with a vanquished enemy.

 

Certainly wife and children are a kind of discipline of humanity; and single men, though they may be many times more charitable, because their means are less exhaust, yet, on the other side, they are more cruel and hardhearted (good to make severe inquisitors), because their tenderness is not so oft called upon.

Meaning … Wife and children curb animal tendencies in men by creating a salutary and loving atmosphere at home. Single men may be relatively more wealthy, and, thus, capable of making larger donations to charity. However, they are deprived of the soft touch of feminine companionship. As a result, they tend to be more brutal, vengeful and cruel in their conduct. They do not get to engage in introspection to examine their deeds from a moral standpoint.

 

Grave natures, led by custom, and therefore constant, are commonly loving husbands, as was said of Ulysses, vetulam suam prætulit immortalitati [he preferred his old wife to immortality]. Chaste women are often proud and froward, as presuming upon the merit of their chastity.

Meaning …. Men with self-respect, who are steady and ethical, make good husbands. They do not waver or stray. They remain loyal to their wives in their dotage. In the same way, woman value chastity, and guard it as a precious treasure. They are conscious of the fact that have preserved their purity by spurning temptations of immoral sex.

 

It is one of the best bonds both of chastity and obedience in the wife, if she think her husband wise; which she will never do if she find him jealous.

Meaning … A chaste woman is not only proud of herself, but of her loyal husband. The bond between the two is enduring, and based on mutual respect. If a man is jealous, he will undermine his standing before his wife, and lose her adoration.

 

Wives are young men’s mistresses; companions for middle age; and old men’s nurses. So as a man may have a quarrel to marry when he will. But yet he was reputed one of the wise men, that made answer to the question, when a man should marry,—A young man not yet, an elder man not at all.

Meaning.. For a recently married young man, a wife becomes the source of all sensual pleasure. He gets the attention and love that a mistress lavishes on her paramour. As he reaches her middle age, the wife becomes companion sharing his moments of joy and sorrow, successes and failures, and triumphs and tragedies. In the old age, when limbs weaken and vision fails, a man gets a helping hand from his wife to move on. So, the opportune time to tie the nuptial knot may present a cruel dilemma for young man as his body craves for courtship. Wise men have given some sane advice in this regard. They have suggested that a young man must not rush into a marriage when he is immature to shoulder the responsibilities of family. He should patiently wait for appropriate time. In the same vein, an old man must not take a wife just because there are maidens available to be his wife. Marrying in old age leads to many undesirable consequences.

It is often seen that bad husbands have very good wives; whether it be that it raiseth the price of their husband’s kindness when it comes; or that the wives take a pride in their patience.

Meaning .. At times, we get to see patient, noble and kind wives ending up with tyrannical, cruel and insensitive husbands. These wives feel greatly elated when their cruel husbands show even a small gesture of love and kindness. Such noble women feel proud about their capacity to endear hardship in their effort to preserve their marriages.

 

But this never fails, if the bad husbands were of their own choosing, against their friends’ consent; for then they will be sure to make good their own folly.

Meaning …. Despite having such noble women as their wives, if some husbands do not mend their ways, it will be judged that it is their monumental failure.

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ICSE English — My Lost Dollar

August 18, 2015 at 2:48 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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My Lost Dollar
by Stephen Leacock

Introduction .. This short story bristles with subtle humour. Writing with an intention to amuse the reader, the story mixes comical expressions, moralizing, and self pity to weave a story around a friend’s failure to repay a loan of just one dollar. The author who has lent the dollar is too decent to ask for refund, but finds it hard to write it off from his mind. Resigned to his loss of the one dollar loan, the author relapses to introspection. The result – a hilarious ending to the saga of the ‘Lost Dollar’.
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Gist of the story .. The author’s close friend is going on a sojourn to Bermuda. Just before his departure, he wants some small change to pay off the taxi. He asks the author to lend him a dollar. The latter gives it readily. Todd departs for Bermuda.

Todd writes a letter to the author from Bermuda, but there is no dollar bill inside the envelope.

Twelve months go by. Todd has returned from Bermuda, but has not bothered to return the one dollar to the author. The lender is too decent to offend his friend by demanding his dollar back. He tries many ways to remind Todd about the dollar he owed, but due to some inexplicable reasons, the memory of the unpaid dollar refuses to enter Todd’s mind.

The author lists out the ways he attempted to remind his friend. First he went to the railway station to receive Todd when he returned from Bermuda. Todd was as cheerful as ever, but not the least embarrassed. The author’s agony mounts.

On another occasion, during an evening chat, the author broaches the subject of the American dollar by asking if it is circulation in Bermuda too. Todd replies, but the suggestion fails to kindle his memory about the ‘unpaid dollar’.

The author meets Todd almost every day in the Club, but Todd never mentions about his debt. Todd even says that he no longer remembers much about his Bermuda trip. The author is exasperated. He feels resigned to the loss of his dollar.

In desperation, he writes off the dollar. He adds Todd’s name to his list of people who have similarly defaulted in repaying their one-dollar loans. The author remains as friendly with Todd as before.

On another day, the author met Todd over dinner. Todd mentioned disapprovingly how Poland had defaulted in its debts. To the author’s distress, Todd did not appear to think of his own un-paid debt.

With his wounded feelings, the author begins a period of introspection. He feels, if forgetting loans is so human, he himself could have taken such loans and not repaid it. This realization unsettles him.

The feeling of moral guilt haunts the author. He wants his creditors to come forward and claim their refunds.
So disturbed the author is about this malaise of loan defaults that he wants to start a “Back to Honesty’ campaign. He is convinced that honesty should be the bedrock of all nations aspiring to greatness.

While concluding, the author wants his ‘forgetful’ friend Todd not to know of the torment the non-payment has caused to him. Comically, he wants the readers not to bring the copies of this story to the University Club Montreal frequented by Major Todd.

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Question 1 .. Why was the author reluctant to ask Todd to return the amount?

Answer .. The author felt that asking his dear friend Todd for the return of the ‘one dollar’ loan could look mean and greedy. Todd could get offended by such a request. So, the author stepped back from making such a request.

Question 2  .. Why do you think Todd didn’t pay back the one dollar he owed the author?

Answer .. It would be reasonable to assume that Todd had forgotten about the loan. He was a major in the army, and was not short of funds. The second assumption is that he felt was too small to be refunded.

Question 3 .. What sort of person the author was?

Answer .. The author was a man of principle. He was sensitive, courteous, and had a sense of self-respect. Despite his nagging indignation at Todd’s failure to return the dollar, the author didn’t allow the loss to affect their friendship. While pointing finger at  others, he was ready to look within to search for his own follies. This is why he thought that he might have failed to return small loans taken from others.

Question 4 .. What sort of feeling you get after reading the story?

Answer … The story makes excellent reading, when one looks for something comical, non-serious and light. It is pure, undiluted fun to see the torment suffered by the author when his friend didn’t return the money.

Question 5 .. Write the story in 150 words.

Answer .. Write yourself.

 

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I & B minstry’s over reaction to TV coverage of Yakub’s hanging

August 12, 2015 at 6:13 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Democratic discourse must never be throttled

In an intemperate reaction smacking of arrogance, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting of the Government of India has slapped show- cause notices on three television channels, NDTV 24X7, ABP News and Aaj Tak. It is clear the coverage of Yakub Menon’s hanging has irked the government forcing it to take such an unusually drastic step.
The three channels gave extensive coverage to the hanging of the accused both before and after the incident. The government feels that in the course of their coverage, these channels maligned the judiciary and painted the President as vengeful and partisan.

Discerning viewers of the coverage of these three channels, however, find little to be convinced that the TV channels ever transgressed the limits of responsible journalism. Defaming the Apex Court or its judges is not the same as critically examining their action with regard to the way Yakub Menon’s mercy petition was handled. Dissent is the flavor of democracy: intolerance is its bane. A compliant media cocoons the government, where as a vigilant media has salutary effect to democratic institutions that have an inherent tendency to decline.

In the present case, the three TV channels did or said nothing that can amount to ‘contempt of court’. In the same way, they said little that can be construed to cast aspersions on the President. The media only said that the way the mercy petition was cast aside was hurried and insensitive.

There have been voices galore expressing indignation and disapproval of the way Yakub was sent to the gallows. Many, including eminent jurists, ex-prosecution officials and civil rights activists have expressed the view that Yakub’s capital punishment was too harsh. The TV channels only echoed what many conscience-keepers of the nations said so freely.
Criticism of the President’s actions and of court judgments are accepted as healthy and normal in most democracies. Stifling such criticism will run counter to the right to freedom of expression guaranteed under Article 19 1(a) of the Constitution.

The government has clearly gone overboard in assuming that the TV media incited violence and promoted anti-national feelings. Such charges are wild and an egregious expression of intolerance. For the I&B Ministry is wielding the stick to smother free airing of contrary opinions. Such action is repugnant to the spirit of Indian democracy.

The I and B ministry has invoked section of the programme code of the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994. This Rule has many vague and ill-defined provisions. The ministry has been ill-advised to take recourse to this Rule. Broadcast laws were put in place to prevent obnoxious content that could inflame communal passions and prevent openly anti-national airing of content. One will have to stretch one’s imagination greatly to agree that the TV channels are guilty of these charges.

In India, newspapers and news magazines are not hauled up for writing similar content. The Indian laws are more stringent for TV broadcasting. This distinction itself is questionable. The government has another weapon to browbeat the TV channels. Citing infringement of laws, it can cancel their broadcasting licenses and force them to go off air.
Granting freedom to the print media to air certain views and deny the same freedom to the TV media runs afoul of law. With so many infirmities, the I and B ministry will be well-advised to retrace its steps and withdraw the notice to the TV channels.
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ICSE English Literature — Small Pain in My Chest

August 6, 2015 at 7:09 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Small Pain in my Chest
By Michael Mack

Introduction .. Death follows a soldier at every step of the way in the battlefield. Yet, a valiant soldier lumbers on, braving the enemy bullets and the injuries to his body. Death often comes slowly inflicting excruciating pain on the wounded solitary soldier. As the Sun sets in his life, he finds no one to bring him succor or solace. Finally, he breathes his last.
But, the gutsy soldier dies for a cause – the call to defend his country. Some unflinching steadfast soldiers, the refusal of their limbs to continue fighting brings lament and remorse. In the present case, what hurt the dying soldier more is the fear his mother and wife could assume that he capitulated before the enemy before shedding the last drop of blood.
It is a hugely inspirational song that sings the praise of a fatally wounded soldier bemoaning not his death, but his inability to carry on fighting. He dies defying death. For generation to come, his story of valour and dedication will imbibe the never-say-die spirit in countless soldiers.
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Explanation …

Stanza 1 … “The soldier boy was ……… by morning’s light”.
The battle ground was the scene of intense fighting the day before. Dead bodies of fallen soldiers lay strewn all over the place. Drained of all his energy, a solitary soldier had slumped on the ground under a tree. The morning Sun had begun to shine.He had been grievously wounded. He saw another soldier nearby, and motioned him to come nearer.

Stanza 2.. “I wonder if you would help …… pain in my chest.”
Barely managing to smile, the soldier told the other person that he was very thirsty, and begged him to give him some water. He stated how grueling the fighting had been the night before. The non-stop fight had sapped his energy and had left a “small pain in his chest.” It was an understatement. The soldier had been grievously wounded in his chest, but he chose to play it down.

Stanza 3 … “As I looked at him …………….. pain in my chest”.
The second soldier (the author as narrator) looked at his comrade and discovered that his shirt was blood-stained and his uniform was soiled. All this pointed to the fact that the soldier had endured a savage fight. Quite stoically, the wounded soldier made light of his own injury, and declared that he has so luckily survived with a ‘small pain in the chest’, where as all his fellow soldiers had fallen dead. It was a remarkable show of defiance and grit. He put up a brave face concealing the excruciating pain.

Stanza 4 … “Must be fatigue, ………… small pain in my chest”.
The young soldier was fast losing his vitality, but his mind was not ready to give up. He narrated how his 2–strong contingent had managed to climb atop a rock in the previous night. As they began to descend, the enemy rained bullets on them killing almost all of them instantly. It had been a very bloody encounter. Then the soldier looked within. He felt cold although the Sun shone brightly. His limbs had become numb and insipid. A creeping feeling of doom had overtaken his mind. He felt he was nearing his dotage. But, his spirit was as hardly scarred. He wanted to believe that it was the fatigue of the hard-fought battle that made him feel low then. Smiling wryly, he reiterated that his injury was minor.

Stanza 5 .. “I looked around to go ………. small pain in my chest.”
The young soldier shared some more details of the encounter. He stated how, in the aftermath of the encounter, he had looked around to get some help for his comrades. But it was all in vain. All that he saw was deep bomb crater and the corpses of his fellow soldiers. Undaunted by the catastrophe, he continued to fire at the enemy until the ‘small pain in his chest’ made him to sit down on the ground.

Stanza 6 … “I am grateful ………………………. pain in the chest”.
The second soldier (the author as narrator) handed over the water to the young soldier. The latter drank it, and smiled happily and very gratefully. His face reflected the deep joy within. Then he bemoaned the fact that a strong and stout soldier like him could be down on his knees amidst the fury of the battleground. He lamented the fact that a ‘small pain in the chest’ had done him in. It was show of Herculean courage to describe a fatal bullet wound as a ‘small pain in the chest.’

Stanza 7 … “What would my wife ………………. pain in my chest”.
Then the young soldier began to introspect how his near and dear ones would judge his reluctance to fight. His wife could assume that her large-framed husband was an indeed timid soul within. His mother, who reared him to manhood, would be ashamed to see her son capitulating to the enemy just because of a ‘small pain in the chest.” The young soldier obviously knew the regard and reverence with which his family and society looked at him. He was ashamed that their trust had been belied.

Stanza 8 … “Can it be getting dark so soon …………….. small pain in the chest”.
The young soldier saw darkness descending all around. He looked at the Sun and couldn’t figure out how dusk could fall so soon. Oblivious of the impending death, the young unflinching soldier had hoped to resume fighting after a brief rest. But, it was a vain day dream. He departed within moments.

Stanza 9 .. “I don’t recall …………………….. small one in his chest.”
For the second soldier (the author as narrator), it was a deeply moving experience to see a young soldier signing off from life with all guns blazing. He had defied death, lived the life of a real hero, and left a trail of inspiration and glory. Overwhelmed with emotions, the narrator put his arms around him, and pressed him to his bosom. The real wound in the heart of the deceased soldier had carved far bigger wound in the narrator’s heart. Sadness laced with pride, anguish mixed with admiration, and empathy lined with reverence gripped his ‘wounded’ heart.
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Questions .. a. How did the young soldier get wounded?

The young soldier was part of a 200-strong contingent that was climbing a rock in course of a battle somewhere in Asia. During the descent, they ran into unexpected and heavy bombardment by the enemy. The fight continued overnight. Suddenly, a huge explosion happened that caused all of his fellow soldiers to die instantly. He survived, but with a grievous wound in his chest.

b. What did he do soon after the explosion?

Like a well-trained disciplined soldier, he tried to come to the aid of his fellow soldiers, but could do little as all of them had died. There was a huge bomb crater. Undaunted by the savage attack, he continued to fire at the enemy until he became too weak to continue. He sat down under a tree.

c. Why was he so full of remorse?

He felt sad as he could not continue to fight. He thought about his wife and mother back home, and felt that they would take a dim view of his virtual ‘capitulation’. The soldier in him told him to press on, but he was too drained to do it. This made him remorseful.

d. What qualities of the soldier make him stand apart?

The soldier was stoic, courageous and very committed to his duty. He was defiant in the face of death and wanted to press on despite the excruciating pain he suffered due to the big wound in his chest. He ignored the suffering calling it ‘a small pain in my chest’. Such determination to fight even when death knocked on his door made him a truly astounding soldier.

e. How did the author-narrator feel when the soldier died?

The author-narrator was shattered to see the young wounded soldier dieing before him. His heart was filled with grief, admiration and love for the young fighter who died defying death. He fell in the battlefield like a true hero. He departed from this world with all guns blazing.

Symbolism in the poem …

1. The title ‘Small Pain in the Chest’ is a brilliant example of symbolism. The author has sung the praise of the young valiant soldier who, despite his fatal wound in the chest, defies death, and rues his inability to continue fighting. The author has succeeded in underlining his message quite effectively by describing the lament of the dying soldier not in groans and curses, but in words conveying stoicism, pride, and defiance.

2. “Can it be getting dark so soon?” He winced up at the sun.
“It’s growing dim and I thought that the day had just begun.
These lines are another example of the author resorting to ‘symbolism’. The wounded soldier stands on the throes of death. This why everything looks darker to him, although the Sun still shines bright. Yet, valour is still palpable in the soldier’s who would breathe his last soon. The lines juxtapose the gloom of the soldier’s life with his never-say-die spirit.
3. ‘And, as I held him to me, I could feel our wounds were pressed
The large one in my heart against the small one in his chest.’
Again, this is an exquisite example of ‘symbolism’. The second soldier was not physically wounded at all. But, the just-dead warrior’s last regretful words have flummoxed him. He is as moved as he is sad by the dead soldier’s words.

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Naga insurgency — Are the curtains coming down?

August 5, 2015 at 6:46 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Will the festering wound in Nagaland heal, finally

Prime minister Modi has managed stitch up a peace agreement with the largest Naga insurgent group — the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah). This is indeed a very startling success. Since the days of India’s independence, the Nagas have fought for an independent homeland of their own, independent of the Indian union. Pandit Nehru, the first Prime minister of free India grappled with this problem with all his political skill, but could not make the Nagas forgo their demand. Nagas are a martial tribe. Their first prominent leader Angami Zapu Phizo (1903- 1990) was a militant who was determined to secede from India by using military means. He lived the later part of his life in London. Granting him asylum had created some bad blood between Britain and India.

Much water has flown under the bridge since then. The Naga fighters have splintered into many factions who fight the Indian armed forces as frequently as they fight with each other.

The two main Naga demands that India finds hard to accept are
a. A sovereign homeland for the Nagas independent of India
b. A larger Naga country that will have areas carved out of the neighboring states like Assam, Manipur and Arunanchal Pradesh

The first demand is clearly unacceptable, where as the surrender of territories by the neighboring states for the new Naga country meets very stiff resistance from the three States.

Apart from these two demands, clearly unacceptable for India, dealing with the smaller factions and bringing them to the table has proved to be a daunting task for the Indian negotiators.

The present peace agreement is with the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah). Earlier, two other groups — the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) –had signed peace agreements with Delhi. Curiously, these two factions have chosen not to be a part of this peace agreement with NSCN (Isac-Muivah).

The Khaplang faction of the NSCN is a very dangerous outfit. It opposes any deal with India sans full sovereignty and an enlarged Nagaland with territories from other states. This group is dominant in the eastern part of Nagaland. The ambush against Indian armed forces in June, 2015 was a handiwork of this group. They operated from areas under Myanmar. This group, now feeling the heat of Indian army, might turn out to be a spoiler of the newly-signed deal.

The details of the just-signed deal have been kept under wraps. This secrecy has triggered speculation and mistrust among the smaller insurgent factions that have opted out of the peace negotiation process. They clearly can seed disaffection among the Nagas jeopardizing the prospects of a permant solution to the vexed problem.

Ideally, a solution that gives the Nagas greater autonomy under the Indian constitution appears to be the preferred solution. Ceding of territory by neighboring states appears to be distant dream as of now. In the coming days, the NSCN (IM) representatives and the government negotiators will have to work very hard to give clear shape to the terms of the agreement. So, one has to keep the fingers crossed till the deal becomes public and gets broad support from the Naga people.
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GST Roll-out — Modi government’s final push

August 4, 2015 at 7:36 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Roll-out of the much-awaited General Sales Tax, a possibility now

The regime of levy of sales tax on goods and services varied considerably leading to a lot of confusion, litigation, and frustration among the business community. The system of General Sales Tax was therefore conceived so that goods and services could move across state borders without hassles and hindrance.

However, the petty-mindedness and parochial mindset of leaders in a few states made passing of such a well-intentioned legislation a lengthy and tortuous affair. The bone of contention was the compensation the states would get from the center after GST is implemented. After GST comes in to force, all the money collected from business transactions would go to the central government’s coffer, leaving the States high and dry, who will lose their power to levy and collect taxes. To address this legitimate concern of the states, the centre offered to compensate them through direct cash transfers.

 Despite long-drawn negotiation, some states could not reconcile themselves to the idea of GST and the subject remained mired in controversy. Some states, however, agreed readily, but with a few others not on board, the effectiveness of the GST reform was greatly diminished.

The BJP government under Modi appears to have given this matter a decisive push forward. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has taken a few steps so that the GST regime is implemented fully by April, 2016.

The first concern was about the quantum of compensation. Some States feared that their compensation from the central government could be less than what they are presently getting through direct collection of sales tax under their own authority.

Earlier, the Central government under UPA 2 had proposed to compensate the States at the rate of 100 per cent for first three years. Later, it was to be reduced to 75 per cent in the fourth year, and 50 per cent in the fifth year. Some states did not quite agree to such drawing down of central compensation. In June 2015, the States made a pitch for full compensation for all five years. The then central government did not accede to it stating that such a move could delay adoption of GST by a few more years.

Another stumbling block was the demand by a few industrialized states like Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Maharastra etc. for one additional point of tax on the supply of goods. These states contended that they had nourished the industries through heavy investment in infrastructure, and should be compensated through the benefit of this additional levy of one percent tax.

Some less industrialized states with manufacturing base opposed the idea of this additional one percent levy. Their argument was that the spirit of uniform tax regime for the whole country through adoption of GST would be defeated if a few states levy additional tax of any nature. Even Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian had objected to the idea of imposition of additional tax by a few states.

In a meeting held on July 29, the Cabinet cleared an amendment by which the States will be entitled for full compensation for five years. This relaxation will take the wind out of the sails of the states who had doggedly resisted GST so far.

Regarding the 1 per cent additional tax, the Cabinet decided to exempt stock transfers within group companies from the additional tax on inter-State supplies. Thus, a unit of Tata Motors can dispatch goods to its sister concern in Gujarat without paying the additional one percent levy. But the cabinet did not waive the one percent levy altogether. So, some resistance from a few States could linger to delay the GST roll out.

However, seen in totality, the government’s move to hasten GST implementation by April, 2016 is laudable. This reform is one of the boldest one that will have far-reaching ramifications for the economy.
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