Sunday, October 21, 2018

History: Coup against Napoleon in 1812

The Plot

The plan was both audacious and ingenious. The man behind this plot was General Claude-Francois Malet. This is not a name much known, but he was a key conspirator. He was a general of the French army but had his own ambitions. He had parted from Napoleon because of his ambition. As per reports Malet was born in 1754 and was 58 years old at the time of the coup.
Malet had strong differences with Napoleon and was biding his time to strike back. Napoleon knew his tendencies and had imprisoned him. It was when he was in the Bastille that he hatched this plan for a military coup against Napoleon. He was aided in his plan by a master forger who was also in prison along with him. Both men came to know each other and Abbe Lafon the man who was the master forger suggested that a set of fictitious papers and orders be prepared and use them to stage a military coup. They hoped the plan would succeed and with Napoleon enmeshed in Russia, he would have no choice but to abdicate.

Execution outside Paris

Failure and execution
The coup like the attempt against Hitler collapsed like a pack of cards. Malet and co-conspirators were tried by a court-martial. Napoleon was incensed when he heard of this news and when the proceedings of the Court-martial were forwarded to him, he approved the death sentences at the stroke of a pen. He could not countenance anyone defying his authority, The news of the death sentence was conveyed to the conspirators and all of them (15 in number) were herded together and taken outside the city of Paris and shot dead. The execution was carried out with clinical efficacy and Napoleon was informed that all the conspirator’s had been executed. He must have heaved a sigh of relief. Napoleon however continued ruling for another 3 years before he was deposed. Mallet is now only a footnote in French history, but in case he has succeeded, it would have been a different story.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Lusting for the Hindu Woman

Interreligious marriage

Lust is a word that means intense or unrestrained sexual craving. Sometimes the word does look vulgar or course but it defines a mindset that is dictated by desire and temptation. All over India and Pakistan, the one fact that stands out is the number of Hindu girls with Muslim men as husbands. In Pakistan, it takes a bizarre form with about 20-25 Hindu girls being kidnapped every month in Sind province and forcibly converted and married to Muslim men. In India, there is no coercion but any numbers of Hindu girls marry Muslims. Even the film stars are into it and the most famous present-day heroine Karina Kapoor has married a Muslim star who has 2 grown-up children.
I began to wonder why this is so after all just a few decades the Muslims and Hindus did not have much of intermarriages. Before independence and the advent of the Raj, the Muslims were the rulers and they could have their pick of Hindu girls. Even the warrior Timur selected 200 of the most beautiful Hindu girls for his harem. But it all ended with the Raj and independence.
So frankly I am intrigued to see so many Hindu girls marrying Muslim men. The contrast is stark as in all cases the Hindu girls convert to Islam. This is mandatory and is something that happens, but I suppose there is very little coercion involved, except in Pakistan where the situation is entirely different. I wonder what could be the psychology behind these marriages.
The Big Divide
Obviously, there is some background to it. One thing that strikes me is a loss of power by the Muslims the Hindu girls became unattainable. So the Muslim men with a not a little encouragement from the Mullahs began to assiduously woo Hindu girls. The idea was to win them over and marry them and beget children. It’s like a victory in battle, after all in ancient wars the women were the prize.
These are harsh thoughts, but I suppose there is some truth in it. Thus the Muslim man will go out of his way to court a Hindu girl. What about the Hindu girl? There is a new found freedom given by independent India and the Hindu girl is exercising it to the hilt. One manifestation is these marriages. In contrast, the reverse of Muslim girls marrying Hindu boys is just a trickle. Rigidity in Islam is intense?
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Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Tale of Draupadi

The tale of Draupadi in the Mahabharata is an intriguing one. One has to decide whether Draupadi was a liberated woman or one who just acquiesced with what was presented to her. Draupadi was a princess of infinite beauty and her fame as a lovely princess had spread far and wide.
The poet Vyas who composed the verses of the Mahabharata does not dwell on the mind of Draupadi and as such we have to glean about her thoughts and mind by interpreting the verses composed by Vyas.
As was the custom the father of Draupadi advertised far and wide for her swayamvara. It was a custom where all the suitors vied with one another for the princess and the man who won claimed her as his wife. There were games of skill and archery competitions which went on for many days.
Vyas tells us that Draupadi was won by the Pandava prince Arjuna. He was the third brother of 5 brothers who were sons of the Princess Kunte. He was a great archer and he bested all other suitors and claimed the hand of Draupadi. After that, he took her in his chariot to their palace when it dawned on Arjuna that a knotty problem had arisen. It is known that the mother of Arjuna had got her sons to promise that they would all share anything won or captured together. Thus, when Arjuna took Draupadi home to meet Kunte, the promise of the Pandavas to their mother surfaced. Kunte insisted that all brothers marry Draupadi. Vyasa does not relate what were Draupadi’s thoughts on this bigamous marriage, but she agreed or perhaps she had no choice.
The next part of the tale is most interesting as it emerges that Draupadi was a strong woman in her own way. She decreed that she would marry all the brothers, but she would live with each brother for one year. During this period no other brother would touch her or come near her palace.
She also ensured that she lived in an opulent palace all alone and none of the other wives of the Pandavas could enter inside her palace. The period of one year was chosen as that is the period to have a child as Draupadi was impregnated by all the 5 Pandava brothers and had 5 sons from them.
The tale of Draupadi is not an exception, but there are other tales. Kunte herself had 6 husbands and gave birth to 6 sons while the princess Jatila married 7 sages. Princess Matis also married 10 Pracheta brothers. All these were polyandrous marriages.
The Mahabharata is an exciting tale and the story of Draupadi gives much food for thought. One fact emerges that despite marrying 5 brothers, Draupadi was in her own way a liberated woman who made her own rules. She is in my view an example for modern women. She made the rules and these could not be broken.