Monday, February 1, 2016

No, I Did Not Donate to Jeyamohan. From Taking Pot Shots to Appreciating Jeyamohan.

I'd like to categorically state that I've not donated a penny to Jeyamohan or anything allied with him. Also, I visit Princeton University as a neighbor and frequent it's fantastic book store but beyond that I don't know anybody in any American university, not even the janitorial staff and therefore the idea that I could get Jeyamohan any visiting fellowship is laughable at best. Not only do I not have disposable wealth in the crores even if I had it I don't think I'm generous enough to dole it out. Also let me reiterate that I do not have any membership in any religious organization whatsoever. It may be news to some rabid hate mongers that not every Christian is a sleeper cell proselytizing evangelist with undisclosed funds at his/her disposal.

The only gift I gave Jeyamohan during his two day stay with me was David Gordon White's "Patanjali's Yoga Sutra: A biography". I gave the book only after asking if he'd like to read it and if he'd take it.



I was made aware of a canard, that I had donated money to Jeyamohan and facilitated visiting professorship at a university, a while back thanks to a social media post that actually meant to debunk it. I'm aware that I'm just an itinerant blogger and I never take myself as seriously as to be subject of a malicious slandering campaign against the likes of Jeyamohan. Given that the slander was carried out surreptitiously in internet groups I was blissfully unaware of its extent and poisonous sting. If the slander had been in any open forum I'd have disabused the accusers of such calumny, not because my name is besmirched or anything, I don't suffer from any such grand notions of myself but for the sake of Jeyamohan who had kindly accepted a simple hospitality. 

A Boston blogger acquaintence had surprisingly included me in an email sent to readers of Jeyamohan to figure out who can host him during his stay in the tri-state area. On a lark I thought why not host him at my home. The motivation was simple, to show some spots around New Jersey that are not commonly frequented by visitors and during the period he was with me I wanted to give him a flavor of a country that I deeply love and for which I'm often misunderstood. I wrote to him that he would be treated courteously and honorably without unnecessary contentious squabbling. He replied warmly that contrary to the sharp persona that emerges from his online writings he enjoys frivolous humor. With that note of mutual regard our program was afoot. For two days he mostly spoke of Gandhi, Nehru and his experience in the Tamil film world. I've written extensively on those two days. 

Responding to a reader asking him, recently, what he actually thinks of me Jeyamohan used the opportunity to address the swirling rumor and frankly state that we both reached a state of warm regard despite me starting off on the wrong foot with him. As he stated candidly that though we share a regard for each we live in different worlds. Yes, there are areas where I admire his writings and then there are areas where I'd demur. 

Many have snidely referred to my changed equation in relating to Jeyamohan and wonder why? I'm to be blamed in large part for this. The first blog I read by Jeyamohan was about Ayn Rand. I wrote an intemperate and amateurish email to him in a huff about what I considered as mistakes. His response was equally harsh. I don't blame him. Though I still think he has not understood Ayn Rand in the correct perspective I've come to see a lot of Ayn Rand in himself. I'm a man of few friends, then and still, and I love to react instantaneously to what I read, especially if I can take a pot shot at it. Jeyamohan, with his propensity to opine on a lot of topics on a daily basis, provided ample fodder. My twitter feeds and Facebook posts used to unfailingly nitpick on many posts. Somewhere unbeknownst to me I had gained a notoriety for my barbs against Jeyamohan. Unfortunately while I gave free airing to the pot shots I seldom wrote on what I liked and agreed. As I read him regularly I understood and admired his writings on Gandhi and his many posts on literary criticisms. 

 When Tamizachi Thangapandiyan, a perpetually bedecked partisan speaker, slandered Gandhi and Tamil savant U.Ve.Swaminathan I wrote rebuttals with detailed factual evidences that debunked her slanders. Thamizachi had the luxury of addressing a few hundred at FeTNA. I wrote to Jeyamohan, providing a link to my blog of course, about the slanders. Thanks to him many more people than I could've reached and many more than those who heard Thamizachi read the blogs. Even then I did write that he need not publish my email at all and all that I wanted was someone of his stature to debunk her. Unfortunately that I could recognize and appreciate something about a common topic went unnoticed and even questioned by Tamizachi's admirers who are quite a few in FeTNA. 

Jeyamohan, unfortunately, harbors many suspicions about western authors, especially those who write on India. When he wrote about Will Durant I corresponded with him to present Durant truthfully. During that exchange after a mess up about Nanjil Nadan's visit he published a disclaimer about me. However, following that, thanks to an eager reader of his he had been told of my many tweets. He asked "if you dislike so much why bother reading me". I told him that on the contrary I do enjoy reading him and that the pot shots were an unfortunate habit of mine. With that I reduced them largely and tried to tone it down too. In this backdrop the visit happened and we maintain a friendly mutual regard despite our obvious disagreements. Just last year, prior to the visit, I had written a very lengthy rebuttal to his charge that the anti-Gandhi sentiments in India were being fanned by Marxists and minorities. Having been chastened and having come to have a true regard for his willingness to be engaged in a debate as long as the opponent was respectful and had something worthwhile to say my rebuttal was a polar opposite to the Ayn Rand email. He disagreed with the rebuttal but responded warmly.

Human beings, of all political and ideological persuasions, believe, in varying degrees, conspiracy theories of some inimical forces operating against their interests and what they hold dear. Once the fund raising issue was laid out in the open quite a number of Jeyamohan's detractors gleefully said "the chickens have come home to roost". Jeyamohan engaged in a very public spat with S.V. Rajadurai on being funded by foreign organizations. While his detractors have a point Jeyamohan is not without defense either. Even American educational institutions are now raising alarm about Chinese funding of research and funding by corporations of studies in areas like climate change have always been fertile sources of conspiracy theories. Jeyamohan's opponents have their own pet conspiracy theories and are throwing stones from glass houses. 

During his tour of USA & Canada Jeyamohan stayed in a number of houses and I guess I was the only one who was Christian. It should be borne in mind that ever since he wrote 'Vellaiyaanai' in 2013 Jeyamohan has had a near total break up with the Hindutva brigade. The Hindutva hate monger Aravindan Neelakandan (in Jeyamohan's words "இந்துத்துவ வெறுப்பை கக்கும் அரவிந்தன் நீலகண்டன்  ") went hammer and tongs at the book and cast aspersions on the book being, albeit, unintentionally perhaps, a propaganda material in the hands of evangelists and fundamentalists against Hinduism. In this backdrop Jeyamohan is now accused of furthering Dalit activism, an activism that is often tied to Christian evangelism, aided by Christian funding. Oy vey. In the midst of all this a set of very friendly emails back and forth between me and Jemo added fuel when in reply to one of the emails Jeyamohan laced into a Hindu organization where he had delivered a speech for hosting an undesirable character. Rumor mills went into overdrive that Jeyamohan is now having his strings pulled by Christian funds. 

Jeyamohan has always had very tenuous relationship with the Hindutva brigade and it is common knowledge that things soured between him and some in that camp. The silence from that camp to Jeyamohan's recent lectures on Gita was quite noticeable. Amidst all of this heady mix came the bombshell from Jeyamohan that he had turned down the Padma Shri award. He wrote that he turned down the award because his opponents would besmirch not just his reputation but what he considers his magnum opus, 'Venmurasu', a 10 year epic narration of Mahabharatha. He said his opponents, of whom he is never in shortage, would say that his Hindutva colors are now exposed and that his supposed magnum opus was only a lobbying effort to garner the award. 

India's most famous actor was awarded the second highest civilian award, Padma Vibhushan but it appeared that Jeyamohan's turning down of Padma Sri was the one that set the blogsopshere and internet commentariat literally afire in the Tamil circles. Friends and well wishers of Jeyamohan, including me, felt that he should've accepted the award. His enemies of course went to town with unrestrained conspiracy theories, doubted his motive, ridiculed his explanation and found this to be another occasion to dump crap on him.

Jeyamohan himself has written about his past associations with RSS. While he is not, in his words, a devout Hindu he is an ardent upholder of the Advaita school of philosophy and an unapologetic nationalist. Both of those are looked at derisively in Tamil Nadu thanks to nearly half century of ideological domination of the intellectual milieu by Dravidian ideology, which, in reality, is an insult to the word 'ideology' since it has nothing that merits the label 'idea' or 'intellectual'. The intellectual climate of Tamil Nadu is a sewer of half baked ideas of rationalism and loads of patent stupidity, all originating with a rabble rousing chief priest E.V. Ramasamy Naicker. Mr Naicker is occasionally referred to as 'Periyar'.

"நட்டக் கல்லும் பேசுமோ நாதன் உள்ளிருக்கையிலே" என்றும் "சுத்த அறிவே சிவமென்று கூறுஞ் சுருதிகள் கேளீரோ" என்றும் கேட்ட ஞான மரபின் நீட்சியாகத் தன்னைக் காண்பவரும் ஆல் அமர்ந்த ஆசிரியனின் விழுதாகத் தன்னை பாவிப்பவரும் ஈரோட்டுக்காரரின் அரை வேக்காட்டு நாத்திகத்தை நமுட்டு சிரிப்போடு நிர்தாட்சண்யமாக தோலுரித்ததில் என்ன ஆச்சர்யம்.

A popular folk lore in Tamil Nadu is that the advent of Mr. Naicker ushered in civilization to a bonded people who lacked freedom and education and were held in thrall to superstitions given birth by the cosmic conspiracy of Brahmins. Amongst the mythical tales that abound about Mr. Naicker is one that lends a special halo to him, the so called Vaikom Struggle. Mr. Naicker's devotees fondly believe that he spearheaded the struggle and demolished centuries old customs of Hinduism in the city of Vaikom. Jeyamohan, in a much discussed blog, exploded that myth and laid the facts bare. Joseph Lelyveld, also using the same resources, arrived at the same conclusion in his book on Gandhi. This act of Jeyamohan coupled with his fervent espousal of India's philosophical traditions, which Mr. Naicker lacked the intellectual training to understand, and upholding of nationalism earned him the undying spiteful ire of Mr. Naicker's addle headed worshippers.

For those who incessantly question why I like to read Jeyamohan despite disagreements and criticisms my answer is simple, if I applied the yardstick used to measure Jeyamohan with most of critiques they completely disappear into intellectual oblivion. Suguna Diwakar and Rajan Kurai Krishnan, two people of very different intellectual pedigrees, both come out looking ingloriously pedestrian if I applied the same critical standards. Diwakar became famous for trying to rebut Jeyamohan on the Vaikom issue. Diwakar's blog shows he has little intellectual heft to understand sources and to evaluate a complex picture. Joseph Lelyveld has devoted a chapter to the Vaikom struggle and the one name that is conspicuously absent in that narration is that of Mr.Naicker's. Another blog of Suguna Diwakar on how EVR conducted himself in the aftermath of the tragic massacre at Keezhvenmani shows, unintentionally, how muddled and contradictory EVR's thinking was on any topic. EVR, from Diwakar's blog, can be safely concluded to not have even elementary understanding of the workings of democracy and was a habitual dictatorial person evincing clearly fascist tendencies. 

In a state where India's hoary intellectual tradition and rich philosophical heritage were besmirched by charlatans and entire generations have grown up devoid of an intellectual framework to understand them Jeyamohan appears as the devil they thought they had slain. Jeyamohan's writings on Indian philosophy and principal texts can easily be placed along side the likes of David Gordon White. I used to hold Radhakrishnan's exposition of Indian philosophy dearly until I listened to the rich tapestry of Jeyamohan's lecture on Adi Shankara. 

The Hindutva brigade does arrogate to itself some of Jeyamohan's writings since it chimes with their notion of a glorious Hindu past. The author should not be held responsible for what misuses his views are subjected to. Allan Bloom and Gordon Wood have watched in dismay as the American right wing appropriated their books to further the right wing agenda. 

That said there are times when Jeyamohan does hold views that are patently Hindutva. I'd cite his two blogs ('நான் இந்துவா?' and 'எனது இந்தியா') as examples of those. But there's a crucial difference between Jeyamohan and the likes of Aravindan Neelakandan. With Jeyamohan one could have a dialogue and there is even the possibility that he may moderate an idea. Now, unlike Jeyamohan, both Rajan Kurai and Neelakandan will show extreme doctrinal inflexibility built on nothing but rabid hatred. Increasingly Jeyamohan takes pains to distinguish his discussions on Hindu philosophies from the puritanical and jingoistic versions that the Hindutva crowd loves to peddle. Anyone who listens to his recent lectures will recognize, as I pointed out in my recent blogs, that there are parts that'll anger not just the politically motivated but the uninformed orthodox devotee. It's not that he has had any epiphany on staking out the middle ground. He's been advocating at least a quasi-academic approach towards the holy texts of Hinduism and he held it as a matter of pride that Hinduism has the unique intellectual elasticity to accommodate new interpretations. As an ADvaitist it matters little to him if Krishna was a god-head. In fact Jeyamohan, along with other anthropologists and historians, has argued that the Krishna cult is an evolution. His ire, though, is with those Marxists and secularists who unquestioningly accommodate for Christ and Muhammad being philosophers but react with apoplectic horror at the notion of Krishna being a philosopher-prince. For advancing such views he is tarred with the Hindutva brush. Many who tar Jeyamohan as nothing beyond a peddler of Hindutva ideology have read neither him nor anything of note in theological debates.

Even in the occasions when Jeyamohan's views hew close to Hindutva one needs to bear in mind many of those occasions are due to lack of better scholarship in India. Good friend P.A. Krishnan, for example, writes columns on Tipu Sultan, what is science, difference between science and technology, Nehru, Kamban and more. Most of those topics need to be written by academicians but the real tragedy is there are very, very few academicians in Tamil Nadu who can even match the quality of Krishnan's writing. It is this intellectual climate that Jeyamohan, Nanjil Nadan and Krishnan operate in. Unlike his Dravidian counterparts like A.Marx or Rajan Kurai Jeyamohan would at least engage with a critic who lays out in a logical manner why some conclusion raised by him could be questionable. Rajan Kurai famously challenged P.A. Krishnan to a debate on Mr. Naicker only to chicken out by feigning some righteous indignation.


Dravidian ideologues have a tunneled view of history and reject anything that does not conform to their worldview or propagandist agenda. Their attitude towards V.V.S. Iyer, Bharathi and Rajaji compared to Jeyamohan's narrative of their complex personalities and contributions to society, their weaknesses notwithstanding, shows a sharp contrast. While Dravidian ideologues lampoon V.V.S. Iyer and Rajaji for supposedly upholding casteist agenda Jeyamohan not only questions the premises of such conclusions, based on evidence or the lack of it, he also sets in context their contributions that the ideologues would uncharitably dismiss. V.V.S. Iyer made yeoman contributions to Tamil prose. Rajan Kurai expresses anger at Jeyamohan for questioning Bharathi's poetic genius. Rajan Kurai is unaware, perhaps, of literary critics like Mark Van Doren who've derided even Shakespeare or of Shaw who plainly wrote that Shakespeare is incompetent in portraying human strengths.


Beyond his literary contributions across many genres Jeyamohan's other greatest contribution is his literary criticism. So many chafe and gnash their teeth at the sharp edged criticisms that Jeyamohan unveils of Tamil literature, past and contemporary. No contemporary writer has spent more hours on the keyboard educating a society on what is criticism, what are the rules for a critic, why unsympathetic criticism is needed, how to differentiate art from popular art, why popular art is even needed and should private lives matter in a critique. While Jeyamohan is not the first critic or even one to write on those topics but he's certainly the first to write on all those topics, answer to reader's letters; answer to those questioning the answers and to do all that over years. To my knowledge no contemporary writer consistently critiques the writings of many, including those who heap scorn on him. Irrespective of his personal view of anyone Jeyamohan has been scrupulously intellectually honest when he critiques their works. There's too much brouhaha about Jeyamohan referring to Kamala Das's appearance in an obituary for her and to Manushya Puthiran's physical handicap in a review of his poetry. Jeyamohan has repeatedly pointed out that he was only being an honest critic and that too he was only pointing out to those factors since the authors themselves referred to it. Its dishonest not to give Jeyamohan the intellectual space for those viewpoints but then this Tamil Nadu where sudden defenders of women sprout from every corner if it can be used to throw dirt on Jeyamohan. Even in my days of taking potshots I've always supported Jeyamohan's literary liberties in the above occasions. Nobody in America would throw out Saul Bellow's contributions just because he asked "who is the Tolstoy of Zulus?". Poor Jeyamohan lives in India and not in America.


Jeyamohan not only tears down he also more often offers constructive criticism to wannabe writers on how to be better writers. Just a day back he patiently pointed out to a very young writer why his short story is clichéd and how he could turn it into a good narrative. Whether it is honoring forgotten or little noticed writers or youngsters Jeyamohan is in a league by himself. The 'Vishnupuram' award instituted by Jeyamohan has become an annual literary event solely due to his efforts and of course his readers circle. To all those who wail and rant about Jeyamohan's criticisms the question is simple, "who amongst has done more to identify talent? Who amongst you has done more to praise and explain talent?" None. Long before Sahitya Akademi discovered A.Madhavan Jeyamohan honored him, not just with an award but more importantly by writing a booklet explaining Madhavan's contribution to literature. This is the work that universities should be doing.


Considerable anger is directed at Jeyamohan for characterizing E.V. Ramasamy as one who brought a crowbar when a surgical scalpel was needed. In one of the finest pieces he wrote Jeyamohan sets EVR against a landscape, traces the precursors of EVR, their ideological differences, why EVR's crowbar attitude succeeded, what was the social cost of that success, what were the historical possibilities that might've unfolded if others had succeeded, the myth making of EVR and the airbrushing out of history of other seminal thinkers and activists. In a state that has been blanketed half century of propaganda and myth making about the messianic nature of EVR Jeyamohan's criticisms were explosive to say the least. By the time he articulated the views Jeyamohan had cemented himself as a literary person of note. Also, the internet provided a freedom and a platform for Jeyamohan that the Dravidian ideologue dominated academic and power structure would've never provided. In this regard Jeyamohan eagerly took the torch from Jeyakanthan and he took it to a distance that no one thought was possible. No wonder the Rajan Kurai's of Tamil Nadu are baying for Jeyamohan's blood like a pack of hungry wolves.


The extent to which the very mention of Gandhi has become fraught with danger in Tamil Nadu is evident from a blog of Roza Vasanth. Roza, not his real name, in a blog about Medha Patkar makes a brief comparison of Gandhi's and EVR's attitudes towards non-violence. After summing that Gandhi was uncompromising on non-violence Roza adds a disclaimer that Gandhi's attitudes towards Ambedkar and the Poona Pact shenanigans are a different matter and need to be discussed separately. EVR, Roza conceded, supported non-violence only if it could secure success. What is the need to add a disclaimer for Gandhi that too about an unrelated issue to what was being discussed? Roza, like Rajan Kurai, is a Brahmin and any unqualified praise of Gandhi, that too placing him on par with EVR on an issue, will invite stinging rebuke from EVR's blind worshippers to whom Gandhi is the incarnate of Hinduism, which, in turn, is anathema in totality. If Roza had not added that disclaimer his 'image' as reformist minded upper caste would be trashed within nano-seconds. It is in such a vituperative climate that Jeyamohan has practically rehabilitated Gandhi. Rajan Kurai in his diatribe against Jeyamohan pays obeisance to the deity of EVR and hurls defamatory abuses at Jeyamohan that he insults Ambedkar and Dalits. That, to a man who has written very sensitively article after article on Ambedkar and is now vilified by Hindutva crowd for Dalit activism. Poor Jeyamohan; damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.


Turning down the Padma Shri and explaining his reasons, cited earlier, for doing so unleashed a barrage of finger wagging by the self-righteously indignant. A whole phalanx of his enemies, the likes of Kutti Revathy and Rajan Kurai, charged forward with screeds. The most surprising support for Jeyamohan came from the unlikeliest of persons, Yuva Krishna, editor of a salacious Tamil weekly. 


Last year when Jeyamohan accepted the Canada based 'Iyal award' there was a round of titters from those who eagerly reminded the world that Jeyamohan had once castigated the award as being dead for having dished out the prizes to those he considered mediocre. His naysayers demanded to know how come he's accepting that award now. Whether stung by Jeyamohan's criticism or on their own the organization that awarded the 'Iyal' prize earned back their reputation by choosing S.Ramakrishnan and Nanjil Nadan as recipients and finally came to Jeyamohan. I see no contradiction here. Jeyamohan castigated an award committee when they, in his opinion, lowered the standards and when they awarded prizes to appropriate people he was glad to oblige them when they chose him.

Rudran a psychologist said that the public rejection is posturing and having decided to reject Jeyamohan should've done so quietly. Since Sartre lived in France his rejection of the Nobel prize was met with more dignity and Sartre gladly penned a statement laying out his reasons for his rejection of the Nobel. Sartre, too, felt that the prize will cast a shadow on his political and literary positions (see references for the statement published in nybooks.com).

Perundevi, a graduate from George Washington University and professor of Religious studies, cheekily remarked that one feels suffocated while trying to say something sympathetic about Jeyamohan's plight. It could very well be green envy since Jeyamohan's book on Hindu philosophy is of a standard she is still aspiring to compete despite an American education. I'm yet to hear of a book by Perundevi in the mould of Karen Armstrong or Jack Miles or Elaine Pagels. If she voids her hatred and focuses on her work maybe she'll achieve it. Good luck Perundevi.

Kutti Revathi joins the crowd to have her share of pummeling. She sarcastically recommends that Jeyamohan should accept the award because he serves of the cause of nationalism and Hindutva. Only in India would one cheerfully ridicule a writer for loving the country he was born in and for cherishing its ancient intellectual tradition. Maybe I'm insulting Jeyamohan by even recounting barbs by the likes of Ms. Revathi. 

While Rajan Kurai accuses Jeyamohan of being anti-Dalit Kalavai Venkat, Rajan's counterpart on the Hindutva side, equally blind with rage and hatred, accuses Jeyamohan of indulging in activities centered around "Dalit activism and  Christian posturing". Maybe in a completely unintended manner Jeyamohan may've truly moved to the center since he's being attacked from opposite ends of the spectrum or maybe he has become, what we call, an equal opportunity offender.

I've always held that DK and RSS are two sides of the same coin. EVR and Golwalkar are counterparts. Kalavai Venkat and Veeramani are indistinguishable when it comes to dishing out hatred, half baked truths and in perverting knowledge to serve partisan ends. Both Venkat and Veeramani practice what I call the 'grammar of hatred'. Their techniques are very identical the only difference is that both target different sections to satisfy and vilify.Kalavai Venkat is livid that Jeyamohan once said that if as Hindu he has to choose between Jesus and Hinduism he'd choose Jesus. True to his colors Kalavai refuses to understand that Jeyamohan was making that statement as a Gandhian and as one who takes pride in the Catholicism of Hinduism. He meant it as protest statement to underscore that being open to admire and worship other faiths is what he takes pride in being a Hindu. There cannot be a better accolade than that to Hinduism.

Ideologies of both Hindutva and Dravidian party demand unquestioning and absolute loyalty with no room for any grey area let alone outright dissent. They are both inherently fascist. In a recent book review by a Hindutva author Jeyamohan asked readers to engage with Hindutva intellectually and give it credence as an idea before dumping it wholesale. He then concluded the review by pointing out that the author refuses to consider non-Hindu faiths as anything but alien irrespective of their centuries old presence in India and their contributions to Indian culture. Incidentally, William Dalrymple points out that Patanjali's Yoga Sutras got a new lease of life under the Mughal rule. 

I agree that one should engage with Hindutva intellectually. I've said in an earlier blog debunking Neelakandan's canards about Nehru that we should not give such canards a pass saying "oh well what do you expect". Whether it is Nazism or fascism or Hindutva or EVR one should address the propaganda head on with impeccable scholarship but what one can never do is place them on a respectable footing as an idea. 

I'd not mind if Jeyamohan did not call me a scholar but what I do find disappointing is calling Neelakandan a scholar. Kalavai Venkat is a dear friend of P.A. Krishnan and Krishnan keeps referring to him as scholar. I've disagreed with PAK on that score saying Kalavai is no scholar because he often presents as evidence factoids intentionally decontextualized only so that they'll serve his vitriolic propaganda. Unfortunately Jeyamohan is learning at great personal cost that engaging Hindutva brigade and expecting gentlemanly discourse is naive. 

Kalavai Venkat, a resident of America, suggests that Jeyamohan 'traded' Padma Shri for some possible award by a western body in the future. This is laughably ridiculous if it were not insulting to both Jeyamohan and the probity of Western institutions. If Jeyamohan had indeed accepted the award this same guy would twist the other way and say Jeyamohan accepted the award as a ticket for some cushy well funded project. When slanderous intention and a take-no-prisoners rage combine rationalism and logic stand no chance of survival. No level is too low to stoop in order to malign.

I took Jeyamohan's explanatory note at face value. 'Venmurasu' is not my cup of tea today, maybe someday I might read it and like it even but I'll never question how Jeyamohan thinks of writing it as a herculean effort and how it is an all consuming passion for him. Whatever one may think of it one has to tip his/her hat to the fact that Jeyamohan is churning out Venmurasu like a Karma Yogi. He has many dreams for the project. From Kazantzakis to Jose Saramagos to Philip Pullman one could easily write Biblical themed fiction and not be looked down upon as an evangelist or enemy of the church but Jeyamohan has encountered a sea of whisper campaign about his epic effort being driven by a larger agenda. When Jeyamohan avers that he rejected the prize lest his epic effort have a shadow cast upon it I truly trust him because I know how much the epic means to him. 

On New Year eve I was returning from my favorite bookstore mulling about Nehru since I had written about him last December and a thought struck me. Nehru, like Gandhi, despite legions of followers, so many colleagues and friends was in essence a loner. Then strangely I thought "in a way Jeyamohan too is a loner". As much as it may be hard to believe for many I was filled with a sense of "I wish Jeyamohan was better appreciated in ways that befit him, not in the empty sense that he mostly gets". I was at that time disappointed by what I felt was lack of 'appropriate intellectual' appreciation for his Gita and Shankara lectures. On Dec 31st Jeyamohan published a sad blog with a friend wishing him "well you've been called every name in the books maybe this year, having run out of names to call you, you'll be spared". Jeyamohan's reply was tinged with sadness and foreboding. I wrote him an email wishing him well and wanting to see him in his familiar role as happy warrior. 

I'd strongly recommend all these stone throwers to relax and read Paul Johnson's "Intellectuals". Johnson eviscerates intellectual giants like Rousseau, Shelley, Marx, Ibsen, Tolstoy, Brecht and Russell for a wide range of frailties and perversions. Johnson ends the book questioning the right of intellectuals to pontificate to society given their horrible track record. I disagree. Intellectuals are not role models, nor are they saints (saints don't produce art anyway), they are all too human but they leave the world enriched with their lives and art. Ibsen, Johnson says, hankered after awards and medals in an ugly way. At least Jeyamohan has shown he's cut from a different cloth.

I hope in the years to come more awards come his way and he does not turn down any. A Jnanpith is long overdue. Oh, I still do have some of his blogs to rebut and refute. Maybe I'll soon write how Nehru did not destroy Indian intellectual tradition in his education policy. "நேருவின் கல்விக் கொள்கை: மறுதலிக்கப் பட்டதா இந்திய ஞான மரபு", இல்லை தோள்சீலைப் பற்றி எழுதலாம். பார்ப்போம். 

References:


  1. Jeyamohan on turning down Padma Shri http://www.jeyamohan.in/83792#.VrAOUDbijoo
  2. One more on turning down the award http://www.jeyamohan.in/83865#.VrAOSjbijoo
  3. Kalavai Venkat on Jeyamohan and the award https://www.facebook.com/KalavaiVenkat/posts/1674088642871505
  4. Rajan Kurai Krishnan on Jeyamohan and the award https://www.facebook.com/notes/rajan-kurai-krishnan/மீண்டும்-ஜெயமோகனின்-வாக்குமூலம்-விருது-வாங்காமை-விளக்கம்/1129204400425389
  5. Rajan Kurai alleging Jemo insulted Ambedkar (amongst other things) "அபான வாயுவை வெளியிடுபவன் மிகையாக தன் மூக்கை பொத்திக்கொண்டு சுற்று முற்றும் பார்த்து தான் அதற்கு பொறுப்பல்ல என்று நடிப்பது போல, தமிழ் இலக்கிய வரலாற்றில் எந்த எழுத்தாளரும் நினைத்துக்கூட பார்க்காத அளவு பிழையான அரசியல் கருத்துக்களை தொடர்ந்து பரப்புவதும், ஜெயகாந்தன் உட்பட தேசிய மனோபாவக்காரர்கள் உருவகித்த இலட்சியவாத தேசத்திற்கு பதிலாக "நவீன" தேசமே தனது இலட்சியமென சொல்லி வல்லரசு சார்ந்த நடவடிக்கைகளுக்கு வக்காலத்து வாங்குவதும், இந்துத்துவ பாசிசத்தை கண்டிக்காமல் பூச்சாண்டி அரசியல் செய்து அதற்கு துணை நிற்பதும், தனிப்பட்ட முறையில் இடதுசாரி, திராவிட இயக்க சிந்தனையாளர்களை அவதூறு செய்வதும், பெண் எழுத்தாளர்களை உருவம் சார்ந்து கொச்சைப்படுத்துவதும் ஆகிய பல்வேறு அருவருக்கத்தக்க செயல்முறைகளுக்கு சொந்தக்காரரான ஜெயமோகன் தமிழ்ச் சூழல் ஏதோ விஷமாக இருக்கிறது என்கிறாராம் - உடனே சில சொரணைகெட்ட இலக்கிய தீவிரங்கள் அவருக்கு ஜால்ரா அடிக்கின்றன. தமிழ் சூழலின் வெட்கக்கேடே ஜெயமோகன் என்பவர்தான். எந்த இலக்கியவாதியும் அவர் அளவுக்கு வலதுசாரி, அரசுமையவாத அரசியலை அதன் அனைத்து தளங்களிலும் பேசியதில்லை. பார்ப்பன ஜாதீய அரசியலை முடக்கி மக்களாட்சி அரசியலை மலரச்செய்த பாபாசாகேப் அம்பேத்கரையும், பெரியாரையும் கொச்சைப்படுத்தியதில்லை. இத்தனையும் செய்து விட்டு தமிழகத்தில் இலக்கிய சூழலை அரசியல் கெடுக்கிறது என்று மாய்மாலம் செய்தால் அதையும் நம்புவதற்கு நாலுபேர் இருக்கத்தான் செய்கிறார்கள். அதுதான் சூழல்!" -- Posted on FB Jan 26th
  6.  Kutti Revathi on Jeyamohan and the award ""அந்த பத்மஶ்ரீ விருதை நீங்கள் வாங்கியே ஆகவேண்டும். பெண் எழுத்தாளர்களை இகழ்ந்து பேசுதல், இந்துத்துவச் சிந்தனைகளை இந்தியாவின் அடிப்படைச் சிந்தனையாக வலியுறுத்துதல் என்று இந்த இந்தியத் திருநாட்டின் குடிமகனாய்த் தங்களை நிறுவிக்கொள்ள நீங்கள் தான் அதிகமாய் உழைத்திருக்கிறீர்கள். அந்த விருதிற்கு முற்றிலும் தகுதியானவர் நீங்கள் தான். தயவுசெய்து மறுக்காதீர்கள்!"-- Posted on FB on Jan25th.
  7. Perundevi -- "ஒன்றரையணா வெகுசனப் பத்திரிகையில் விருது கொடுத்தாலே பீற்றிக்கொள்ளும் நம் சூழலில் பத்மஸ்ரீ விருதை மறுத்திருப்பது பெரிய விஷயம்தானே என்றால் ஆ(...மாம்) என்று சொல்ல வாய் திறக்க (முடியாமல்) ஆ...வின் சுழியில் நம் கழுத்தை இறுக்கிவிட்டார் இனிய ஜெயம் " -- Posted on Jan 24th.
  8. My blog on Jeyamohan's NJ visit http://contrarianworld.blogspot.com/2015/07/48-hours-with-jeyamohan.html
  9. My blog on Jeyamohan's discourses on Gita and Shankara http://contrarianworld.blogspot.com/2016/01/jeyamohans-discourses-on-gita-and.html
  10. What's unique about Jeyamohan's discourses on Gita http://contrarianworld.blogspot.com/2016/01/whats-unique-about-jeyamohans.html
  11. Jeyamohan on EVR http://www.jeyamohan.in/368#.VrARejbijoo
  12. Suguna Diwakar on EVR and Keezhvenmani http://sugunadiwakar.blogspot.in/2007/10/blog-post_09.html
  13. Roza Vasanth on Gandhi and EVR http://rozavasanth.blogspot.com/2006/06/blog-post_04.html
  14. Aravindan Neelakandan and Jeyamohan email exchange on Vellaiyaanai http://www.jeyamohan.in/83056#.VrAXLTbijoo

4 comments:

AJAX said...

Honesty and common sense are a rarity in Tamil writing world.
Common sense is a gift. Let's not expect it from fools :)

Dinesh C said...

Very well said. Reading about Gandhi, I stumbled into Jeyamohan last year. From him to your blog as well.

I only wish I could read as much as you have. But something to look up to.

S Baskaran said...

Incisive articulation. Keep it up.
I enjoy your writing notwithstanding disagreements in certain aspects

Anonymous said...

Who are you boss? I don't know tamil and hence no understanding of tamil political issues but you seem to be the most neutral person I ever read, not supporting any particular religion but accepting what is good in it as good, be it Hinduism, Christianity or Islam. Take a bow sir. I am a Telugu Brahmin(I know telugu so can call myself as one, ofcourse didn't attain "Brahman Gyanam", so cannot tag myself as one)and read many of the commentaries on Hindu philosophy. I do have some disagreements with your ideas but I accept I have not chartered deep enough to debate. Anyway pleasure reading you sir.