The Age of Innocence

The Age of Innocence
Me with my Mother

Friday, November 21, 2014

John Kennedy (Death Anniversary Today), Jackie Kennedy Played Role in Indian Novel

It surprises me now, to think about it: how huge a role John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy (more the former than the latter, who visited India) played in India in the 1960s. Most Indians had very few role models, and very little access to international media. Our own media was very undeveloped, our only stars were Gandhi and Nehru.

Thus, John F. Kennedy, whose death drew banner headlines in Indian newspapers, completely pushing out other news from Page 1, also plays a part in my novel The Revised Kama Sutra, and so, surprisingly, does Jackie--who plays a bigger part (a fiction within the novel).

I'm still absolutely stunned by Oliver Stone's JFK, and believe that the killing of JFK was an inside job ... meaning, possibly, the Mafia under secret directions from someone powerful inside the government. A pity we may never know the real truth.

Of course, to describe my novel as an "Indian" novel is only around 90% correct. A bit more than two significant chapters are set in America, and I think of the book as universal; but John F. Kennedy and Jackie appear in the Indian sections. 

Barack Obama: America's New Abraham Lincoln?

President Obama's decisive action of immigration reform is the modern equivalent of the Emancipation Proclamation for more than four million "undocumented" immigrants who were living in fear (and briefly, many decades back, I was, too ... there was this rumor going round, when I was a student, during the Iranian hostage crisis, that immigration agents were rounding up anyone who looked Iranian; or that, if you earned a single dollar outside the university, you would be arrested and shipped home). To have done this and thus overruled and outsmarted a vicious, pathetic, corporate-tool Congress (mostly the Republican side), was a stroke of genius ... and far wiser than what he did with the Affordable Care Act, which would have been another shining legacy of his had he not let the corrupt politicians craft it rather than do it himself.

Perhaps to label him a second Lincoln on the basis of this one action alone is stretching it ... but perhaps not if you happened to be an undocumented immigrant living in fear of that knock on the door, prison, deportation, and separation from your family. History will tell.

I, personally, would have liked him to have included more of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in his effective amnesty. After all, what's in a date? How does five years of being here qualify you, ipso facto, more than 4 years and 11 months of being here, or even one year of living here, if you had to go through hell to come here. If you're here, you're here, and you deserve a chance: a merit-based chance, at least. Still, "emancipating" 4-5 million people is no small achievement.  Obama's speech announcing it was one of his greatest, showing some of the inspiration and beauty of soul that we discerned in him during the first primaries, but that seemed to have vanished as he floundered about, trying to please the right and the middle.

I have a book out, on Obama, and the so-called "post-racial society." It isn't "complete," it is far from perfect, but it reflects my feelings at various moments of the Obama Presidency ... and perhaps the feelings of many millions of immigrants, besides those who, like Obama, remember that we were all strangers once, that we all came from somewhere else.

You can find my book, "Our Democratic Imperial President ... At Last" (warning: title might change) on Google Play here

You can also find the book on Smashwords and maybe, shortly, on Amazon.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My father's work with the War Crimes Investigation Committee

My late father, born into a poor family, walked to school through tiger-infested jungles, and did his High School at St. Aloysius College High School, Mangalore; he said he was, a couple of times, kicked out of class for being late with his school fees. So this high-school educated man, with little exposure to literature, found himself back in India after 3 1/2 years of horrific captivity in New Britain (part of Papua New Guinea), during which time his mother had no news of him, and thought he might be dead. Almost as an act of therapeutic release, he wrote down his story on the letter-pad stationery of his brothers' footwear shop. He wrote it in pencil, in 1946, and the manuscript lay unattended for 50 years until I read it and decided it must be published. It was presented to him on December 27, 1997, less than two years before his death.

I give below an excerpt from his account of his work after he had been liberated from the Japanese POW camp:

Excerpt from Eaten by the Japanese: The Memoir of an Unknown Indian Prisoner of War, by John Baptist Crasta:


On 1 October 1945, I was taken on the staff of the War Crimes Investigation Committee. Capt. McLillian and Capt. Foster of Auxiliary (India) Force, Capt. Munro, 1st Hyderabad Infantry, and I, comprised the staff. We were asked to investigate charges against the Japanese under the War Crimes Act, hold courts of Enquiries, collect evidence, et cetera and submit the proceedings to 11th Division HQ. This work kept me busy the whole day.

About one hundred and sixty proceedings were submitted, the most notable among them being a case of cannibalism. I give a precis.  .....
.....
The prisoners in New Guinea had fared a worse fate. Out of a total of three thousand men, only two hundred had survived. Most of them died of starvation, fatigue, and disease. Some had been eaten by the Japanese. In New Britain, out of a total of eleven thousand men, five thousand three hundred were alive, including nearly one thousand hospital cases.
END OF EXCERPT

My comment: A very high casualty rate indeed--2800 dead out of 3000. My father was lucky to be in the group that had a 50% mortality rate, and to be one of the lucky 50%. Had it not been otherwise, you would not be reading this blog today. Also, it was solely my decision to publish the book, with my funds, and an extraordinary amount of time--that included missteps, cheating by printers and other middlemen, badly produced books, until, learning from my mistakes, I came out with 1,500 copies of a classy, professionally produced paperback (most of which were destined to rot in various storage locations, partly because of India's difficult distribution system) in late 1999. Until, thanks to Createspace, I produced a new paperback in 2013.

For your convenience, here are a few links to the book:


PAPERBACK:
Eaten by the Japanese (latest edition): https://www.createspace.com/4014767

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Fighting for Christ the Lord ... The New Preface to The Killing of an Author

New Preface (October 2014) [Book is also now a paperback on Createspace.]
 
Recently, thanks to a chance meeting with a childhood friend, I understood why I had really written The Killing of an Author.

As a boy of 11--at an age when American boys are usually playing with their Lego collections, and Indian children of my social class, then, were playing rubber-ball cricket or throwing stones at cashew and mango trees--I enlisted in the Army of Christ. And, as an enlisted serviceman, I ultimately ended up doing a lot of fighting ... though not for Christ.

To begin at the beginning: In a country that has 43 Hindus for every Christian, I was born, in Bangalore, to Roman Catholic parents.  Moving to my parents’ home town, Mangalore (which sometimes refers to itself as “the Rome of the East”), at age 6, I grew up a devout Catholic, brainwashed into believing that martyrdom was the only guaranteed path to sainthood and immortality.
Attaining sainthood, I realized, was very hard work: like studying for the most difficult exam you could ever imagine, but studying, not just for a few years, but for all your miserable, self-flagellating life, and being better at it than most others. 

However, there was one shortcut to sainthood (a shortcut that appealed to my lazy self): martyrdom. The deal was this: All you had to do was offer your neck, at the right time, for Christ the Lord (or Mary, his mother; no, Joseph was not good enough). And no matter how sinful your life had been until that moment, if you recognized the error of your ways just minutes before your beheading or deep-frying (or whichever inventive and kinky method your persecutors used), and so long as you had mentally repented your past sins, and so long as you were clearly sacrificing your life for the True Faith, you were guaranteed martyrdom—which, in effect, also ensured sainthood.

However, just to be sure, and just to strengthen my spiritual resume (which would be examined by the Pope, as well as by Saint Peter, before I was granted sainthood), I joined the Sodality of Our Lady, a Catholic youth organization whose anthem was this martial song:

An army of youth
Flying the standards of truth
We’re fighting for Christ the Lord!
Heads lifted high
Catholic Action our cry
And the Cross Our Only Sword!

....Mary’s Son
Till the World is Won
We Have Pledged You Our Loyal Word .... etc. etc.

The Cross Our Only Sword! Winning the world for Christ!  So, at the age of 11 or 12, I had been brainwashed into becoming a sword-wielding crusader, for I had now been told that it was not enough to follow Christ; one had to fight for Him. 

And, though, as a mere first year high school student, I outperformed college seniors to win first prize in the Sodality’s Religious Quiz (it helped that I had been coached by Father Matthew Lewis, the Rector, who came from a non-upperclass family, like me, and probably had some sympathy for a fellow prole), there followed, four years later, a stunning reversal.

It was a combination of things: that Catholic theology couldn’t explain erections or pubic hair, and that I read a book by Bertrand Russell, that helped me overcome my Catholic brainwashing at the age of 16—at first, hesitantly, and with finality and confidence by the age of 19. At that time, I did not realize that history would repeat itself—that I would end up wasting (?) twenty years of my life as a crusader for different Cause: a crusader for justice and truth.

Google Play: http://bit.ly/1oX5jsN
Amazon Kindle UK: http://amzn.to/iUbcHw
Createspace paperbacks: http://bit.ly/1o9LVZq