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28

What is up with India? I don't recognize the country we are turning into. Not any single thing, just many things. Seriously, in Mumbai - the economic freaking capital of the country and the roads are a biohazard. We have a record number of drunken driving arrests this year. Neighbours barely know each other these days. Teenagers are more 'western' than many bonafide firangis I know. Maids don't last more than a couple of months.

Am I the only one who remembers tiled roofs and not being able to figure out which kid out of the tribe running riot finally goes to sleep in which house? Who grew up with the same maid working at home who was almost a family member? When a generation of people worked in the same organization for their entire adult working lives? When people saved, as in actually saved money?

Obviously time will bring change, but many changes I see are quite inexplicable. For example, how does it matter at all if you call a group of buildings a colony or a complex? Apparently, colony has gone out of fashion. I called restaurants 'hotels' all my childhood and got fed just fine. If you drink country liquor at a fraction of the price, you're really a drunk. Apparently alcoholism discriminates between some narangi and Scotch. And no, the 'quality' reason doesn't wash, because if we can quality control so many things, what's one more? Anyway, as if you don't end up drinking country once in a while in the name of Scotch - remember this is India?

We got rid of the Brits and embraced the Yanks. I think being ruled is so engraved in our psyche that it simply doesn't come naturally to not have a ruler. What else could explain the fact that we see the garbage on our street and think its someone else's problem? Wake up. We are free. We rule our country, we own it. The street and the garbage on it is ours.

Increasingly, I see India, but particularly corporate class so thoroughly western, that many foreigners are more in touch with their Indianness than them. They remind me of how a rural woman I know described her nephew - he buys the fanciest clothes to show off, but his underwear always has holes in it. If I hear one more teenager with a confused American accent, I'm going to go the Raj Thackeray way and refuse to speak with them till they speak in a language I understand.

Out of the many things we could have adopted - welfare systems, community initiatives, development of systems that take human knowledge in different directions..... we have managed to grab the most visible - the ones that will make us appear more western. Never mind that western formal clothing is likely a health hazard in India's hot humidity. Mahatma Gandhi would violate the dress code of expensive dining rooms in the country he apparently fathered. I can understand the inconvenience of saris, but dhotis or lungis are actually the ultimate in soft comfort. There's the little problem that the trend hasn't picked up abroad yet.

I'm not against the west. I am against unthinking aping. It irritates me equally to see people do all kinds of illogical things in the name of religion.

The Hindutva guys beat their chests for the call of Hinduism/Nationalism to be heard, but it is imported nationalism. We hear some standards and condemn India for not following them. As if India knew that you would be discovering that the west thinks scratching your crotch is obscene today. We talk about the poor based on UN standards. We don't have our own. Our goal is 'compliance'. The Hindu marriage act will not allow you to marry twice (or more) - Christian style - apparently Dasharatha and Draupadi weren't Hindus. But God forbid people convert. Stay Hindu, we'll import Christian thought for you - Hinduism embraces all influences. "Muslims are the ultimate in evil. They are out to conquer the world. Something must be done about them. Kick them out, ban Islam, blah blah" Wait, you mean we can import the Islamic intolerance as well? That's great, then we can defend the helpless Gods. I often wonder why man must defend God, if God is such a smart and powerful guy. If he isn't, why are we running behind him for an eternity?

Next month, will be the season for Valentine's day protests. People will wax eloquent about its evils. However, no one will try to create a psychological meaning and warmth around Padwa. No one will bother to offer couples something special on that day. Perfectly Hindu, but we abandon it and spend our time criticizing those who do celebrate the relationships.

We could have adopted the concern for human rights from the western values, but what do we do when we see injustice? Mind our own business of course. Remember we are not the rulers? Its someone else's problem to fix. We see the government as our rulers. Joining politics is the social equivalent of becoming corrupt and 'them' not us. At the same time, we are superior to all this desi nonsense. We are so disconnected from our roots - good or bad - that paan stains on an unfinished wash basin are scandalous!!! More news than an international sporting event. Of course no one in India eats paan or spits. Who is this alien who did this? All kinds of newspapers tell their readers about this astonishing discovery. Again and again. Never mind the sportsmen - they are just common people unless of course there are stars. Paan stains in an international facility!!!!! This is the pits. What is this third world country hijacking our developed country?

Increasingly, we are disowning our past as though we are ashamed of it. It is sad, because we can only move forward, and we do need something to build on, unless we plan to be hollow. You can't cut off the roots and expect a tree to flourish. You can't build a pyramid on the foundation for the Taj Mahal. It wouldn't be a real pyramid.

We see younger people (and often older ones too) blindly criticizing anything that moves contrary to their imagination of the ideal west. Maoists are terrorists. Sure. And I don't believe they are Gandhians either. However, how many of us make an effort to understand what it is that they are asking for? What is it that the Gujjars stopping trains want? When we say 'north east' who are we talking about? If they don't fit the template they are unimportant. What they are, what they want doesn't matter. We have decided that they are horrible people and that they should simply shape up to improve their future. I'm not saying this is right or wrong. I'm saying that we make these judgments without even bothering to understand anything that deviates from the shining.

I don't feel so sure that we are only gaining from this. Our social units are crumbling. From sprawling ancestral homes to joint families to nuclear families to lesser kids to single parents..... A vast majority of friends we are in touch with are recent entrants into our lives. Then we wander apart. Holidays are less and less about meeting family and increasingly about vacation tours. In short, we are travelling so far away from our roots that there is a massive disconnect - we have lost the ability to get along with people, to build relationships that endure. This is sad, because there is a psychological security a deep peaceful safety with stronger enduring relationships.

Where once we had kids growing up as tribes and it was difficult to know exactly which child belonged to which parent at first sight, we now 'do something' with them so that they 'learn to socialize'. We take them to different places to be able to spend time with them. Where once it was a certainty that a child would toddle behind its mother all day, we now have working mothers spending their entire salaries to be able to work. Sometimes more than their salaries. No one stops to think that if the money for travel, time saving conveniences, clothing suitable for work, help to manage home, day care for kids, etc were saved, staying home could actually be cheaper for a mother. Not to mention a happy kid. But by god, we will either be liberated females or die trying - as though there is something enviable about living life without a minute to spare. Again, I'm not against working women. In fact, I think its great. I am only against doing things on auto-pilot or as an expression of our 'developedness' rather than from a purpose that holds meaning for us.

Education! Our education system is a monstrous monolith. You want to double the National resources for education? CUT the time taken by half. Not by cramming everything into half the time, but by getting rid of everything that is not necessary. Hand everyone calculators and save years and years of torture learning to calculate three digit divisions and square roots and what nots. Put a kid into school at 10 years, throw them out at 15. As long as they are able to read and write, trust me, no one would know the difference. The UN is also happy with calling this literacy as long as they are able to read and write. In a world that is getting increasingly efficient, it is an insult to children that we are not only not able to optimize the use of their time, but we keep adding to it. Apparently now, kids should be able to read and write BEFORE joining school - and you have preschools. This is outrageous and we are able to get away with it only because kids are too innocent and powerless to confront this horrible atrocity. Yet we persist with that British Raj hangover. We change the history to reflect Indian history, call the British the villains of the story, put in Indian geography and civics, and done.

No one in decades seems to have said "Wait a minute. Is all this necessary at all?" Unfortunately, there is no need for British Era clerks anymore. Its a waste of time. Would have been better to have something that informs them on work environments - different kinds of departments like HR, accounts, etc and what they do, rights, organization development, team work.... they will end up needing this far more than some obscure latin name for some kind of something found in somewhere. But the goras didn't do it, so we it will not occur to us. If it does, it is not appropriate anyway, since the goras said that basic education was a must and their basic education has other things in it. Rabindranath Tagore's Shantiniketan would run afoul of our new "Right To Education" act, in all its regimented glory, because while it does a lot of good (and it DOES), it does it in a way that makes it impossible to legitimately carry on with education in other ways. For passionate educators, this law is like .... being on a diet in a candy shop. Dang Brits. Is it any surprise that for a country of tremendous intellectual capacity, we come up with very few truly original and revolutionary discoveries? There is a reason - to discover, we must go beyond the known. Definitely not what the Brits had in mind for us.

We have made prostitution illegal in the land of the Kamasutra and reduced traditional temple women to prostitutes.

There are also some joyous things emerging. Our youth is far more confident and sure of themselves, if a little unoriginal. There are many more opportunities and possibilities for nearly every aspect of our lives. Seriously, you can now combine pilgrimages with adventure, pick from 15 varieties of drain cleaner, hop jobs at the drop of a hat.... heck, even going to a film usually means a multiplex with an array of films to choose from. Life has just.... opened up. This is great.

Again, I'm not calling any of this good or bad, just noting that these discrepancies exist between our cup and lip. I am wondering if we want to do this drift in a more thought out manner or we just do it on the assumption that the west must be right.

Make no mistake, I love India. Its a gorgeous country to be in and its a joy to be born here, so that I didn't have to migrate. I'm only wondering if this is our India, or their India that I'm living in.

Update on 20-3-2011: Today is Holi. There are no latest Hindi hits for Holi. We are still singing Rang barse. Someone in a forum had suggested a couple of days ago that we don't celebrate Holi this year, or if we do, we use only dry colors, because much of India doesn't have water. Of all the things to give up for the country, he found this? One day where water is used in larger quantities than usual? That fixes the water issue? Most city dwellers rarely celebrate Holi anymore. They hibernate in their homes for that half day when being out involves the risk that someone will put color on them. Funny part is, people walking with white clothes on the street aren't getting any color on them. There simply aren't the numbers of people playing Holi anymore for any spillover of the action to happen.

What remains to be seen is how this history will be written. The 'masses' are getting their dose of scandal and assuming that 'someone' will fix things now that they are blown wide open. But is this true? The country waging wars to impose democracy on assorted regions with assorted psyches about authority is standing boldly as a dictatorship and there is not a single squeak from any other world authority, including the UN, who seem content with asking for some explanations on comparatively trivial matters. Queries that are apparently utterly ignored by the US government.

If there is one thing worse than a veiled dictatorship, it is a veiled dictatorship that no longer needs to keep up a pretense and things in America seem to be getting uglier by the day. Some things off the top of my head, which seem extremely dangerous for world safety and peace:

  • Hillary Clinton conveyed her regrets to the UN. Please notice the use of words. We can regret anything without being accountable for it. There was no apology. In fact, there has  been no apology for anything (ever?). Why is this on top rather than the more horrific things? Because its an alarm about how easily it was swallowed without any questioning.
  • Sweden, which has an extraction arrangement with the US has suddenly developed from a country with sorry figures for the proscecution of rape to one that issues international red alerts and arrest warrants for the questioning of a suspect who can't even be called a suspect, since there are no charges. Suspected of what? Yet Julian Assange spent 9 days in prison for being a flight risk - this in spite of the fact that he hadn't hidden from the police in either country and had left Sweden legally and was open to communication on the matter. He was denied bail at first, and then when he was granted bail, it was delayed by another two days because of some mysterious process where it got contested. Sweden lawyers say they didn't contest it, but the UK guys did. Apparently the UK has an interest in keeping him out of commission, which was quite evident in the nature of his imprisonment. For someone imprisoned only to prevent flight, why deny him company, exercise, communication... his lawyer had to struggle to meet him. Why? Why was he prevented from seeing the TIME magazine (His face was on the cover, but apparently the entire magazine was destroyed, not just the cover)? The Swedish lawyer protested that Julian coming to Sweden will only complicate America's access to him, as they will now require the agreement of two countries. Are we fools? He can't be held in the UK for long, since they have nothing on him, while it is Sweden that does. And who in the world thinks that Julian needs to be brought to the US for US to have access to him? This is the country that has used the UK fields for renditions against the express stated directions of the Queen herself. This is also the country that is already fixing for other countries to hold its prisoners. All it needs is for Julian to be off the streets, which is not possible without a really monstrous farce in the UK (where he also has a lot of support), while a really big farce has been possible to rig up in Sweden. As simple as that.
  • A multitude of companies have cut off services to Wikileaks in an economic stranglehold, while its virtual existence has been threatened in other ways ranging from removing its domain name to censoring the reading of the documents it released. We have already experienced two days on this site where the account was suspended for hosting  a mirror. All these companies Mastercard, Visa, Paypal, EveryDNS, Amazon, Bank of America.... and our very own Mochahost have done this without any legal directive, based solely on their own choice to interpret their Terms of Service to fit their action.
  • Censorship of Wikileaks in the US is rampant ranging from implied threats to career choices with the government to outright blocking of over 25 media sites including newspapers.
  • Politicians and public figures have called for Wikileaks to be declared a terrorist organization, for Assange to be pursued like Osama bin Laden, for his assassination, etc. Utterly illegal. Crass. And no one has managed to get any of this retracted. Not the citizens, not other politicians. To me, it sounds remarkably similar to terrorist videos - this guy has wronged unacceptably - kill him. Yep. Its a so called democracy's leaders delivering such evil speech.
  • Bradley Manning, who is suspected to be the source of the leaks, but not charged of anything has been imprisoned in solitary confinement under conditions described as torture WITHOUT CHARGE.
  • A splinter group of Wikileaks claims to promote its values by not making leaks public, but offering them selectively to (state-controlled) media. Yeah right. Who got sold? Check out the contact page when the site launches.

On the other hand, we have public figures standing up solidly for Wikileaks and Assange. People offering their homes, reputations and money to see him out on bail. Anonymous citizens of the world beginning with rage and illegal DDoS attacks called Payback, but maturing into more and more thoughtful and determined responses. Politicians, journalists, national heroes speaking out in condemnation of America's disproportionate and illegal response. Street protests.

Yet, things are pretty much where they stand. America is suppressing information to its citizens and employees, and projecting Wikileaks as a rogue/terrorist/virtual guerilla type organization. People are objecting. Small battles are happening on many fronts. Bradley is still in prison, but Assange is out for now, at least.

It is time to be a part of history to whatever extent we are able. To have a stake and exercise it in shaping our world and the legacy we leave our children. To participate in whatever way you can. Some suggestions (in increasing order of difficulty):

  • Be informed. If you do nothing else, you owe yourself this - a firm basis for your stand and understanding.
  • Share good articles or information you think the world should pay attention to on your Facebook profiles, Twitter, Buzz, whatever.
  • Speak out. In real life discussions. Online. Write articles, opinions on Facebook... if you don't currently write, but would like to write something, but don't have a place, feel free to submit it here.
  • Join the Anonymous operation Paperstorm. Print out cables and hand them out, stick them on walls...
  • Influence your society and government to insist on transparency, lawful behaviour and human rights.

Seeing as how no country in the world (or the UN) has really confronted the US on anything about the injustice we see unfolding, no matter where you live, current events are going to cascade on your freedoms - by virtue of becoming acceptable - its only a matter of time.

30

He is right. The Muslim groups do more damage, but the Hindu groups are more dangerous because India has a Hindu majority. If we look at world news, Indian Muslims are actually a wonderful lot. An improving economy and greater possibilities opening up for Muslims have ensured that most Muslims in India see themselves as Indians first. Never mind what the people say. Look at Muslim friends you have. Shopkeepers, colleagues. Do you seriously think they spend time planning how to harm you? Yet, the Hindutva thoughts on Islam or Christianity color people's outlook to the extent where they can go "Oh, you are a Christian? I didn't know!" if they like someone before realizing his religion. As though knowing Christians automatically means that your being Hindu is under threat, or knowing Muslims means that at the first sign of a riot they will come looking for you to kill you, all of a sudden.

Look at all this rhetoric and compare it with people you actually know and interact with. Its simply not true. The Hindutva guys have an utter blackout on the subject of Hindu on Hindu violence, while Muslim on Hindu violence is the big evil, Christian missionaries are absolute personifications of Satan or something.

Yet Hindu extremists continue to promote Muslims as a vicious lot - changes in our society have not registered, and the projected image of Muslims remains as that from brutal killings of the partition, and other riots. This is dangerous to India even if there were not a single Muslim in it, because once a population is sensitized into finding 'enemies', the process takes on a life of its own, and the range of enemies and hostility takes on a life of its own after a certain critical mass, after which, it destroys the society itself.

Why go far, look at Pakistan. Extremism began as a means of getting resources for an anti-India agenda, then anti-Soviets... it was never intended as anti-National - in fact its origins were highly patriotic. As India hardened its security and Afghanistan was clear of the Russians, what happened? A whole new set of enemies were born. Now we have Shias, Sufis, Ahmediyas, being attacked - even the government itself, as Taliban starts seeing wrong in what they do.

It didn't begin with bombings. It began with believing that a certain country, then a certain kind of people, etc were evil and must be resisted. The rest was simply natural progress.

Already we see among many Indians a denial that what happened in Gujrat was horrible. We see all kinds of excuses ranging from "who started it" to "Hindus got killed too". Everything except the fact that an overwhelming number of Muslims were mercilessly slaughtered.

Never mind the Muslims. Heck, they are a minority anyway. What is happening to Hindus in the process? We are turning into a lot of people who think its okay to butcher people if they are bad enough. Islamic terrorism can never destroy us as thoroughly as the rot we nurture ourselves, just like India didn't need to do much to bring Pakistan to this horrible state it is in now.

And this is totally from a focus on India as a Hindu state. Even if Muslims didn't exist, this would still be true. If a dog bites you on the street, it is insane to think its okay to bite dogs you see. Similarly, it is insane to nurture hatred in our hearts because of what someone else does. We only destroy ourselves.

Rahul Gandhi is absolutely right. It is a sad thing for India that the BJP doesn't stop to reflect and starts throwing tantrums everytime Hindu or Muslim is mentioned.

BJP leader Prakash Javadekar said Gandhi's comment shows that he wants to identify terror with religion and is ignorant about Indian civilisation.

"Terror is terror, it must not be translated into vote bank politics. Terror should be investigated and guilty must be punished," he added.

If terror must be investigated and guilty proscecuted, why is there such a pandemonium each time Hindutva is so much as mentioned? When was the last time Prakash Javadekar protested against references to Islamic terrorism?

With the Congress corruption and the BJP's insanity, India is thoroughly screwed in terms of possibilities for solid leadership. How I wish that we had a political party that had the governance skills of the BJP and the inclusive perspective of the Congress.

I am utterly disgusted (as usual) with the obsession with rhetoric among Indian newspapers and politicians. NONE of the Indian newspapers quote any actual cables saying anything - only claims that "wikileaks says". This is journalism?

The news with the real concerns has less focus than gossip about politicians. Of course, with out "Made in US" understanding of ourselves and the world, it is more important to know what Rahul Gandhi told US diplomats about Hindu terrorism or what the US diplomats thought of Sonia Gandhi's leadership. Congress moves on to calling wikileaks a conspiracy, while BJP is out for Rahul Gandhi's blood saying that he speaks for Pakistan.

In the meanwhile, how many people have paid attention to the detailed perspective we got on Kashmir? Reports of Red Cross concerns with numbers of prisoners suffering from different kinds of torture are met with zero accountability. The media doesn't attempt to even question the government on this matter, nor do we hear any political statement other than denial.

The only newspaper to remotely have some ethics of journalism left seems to be the Hindu. This is the time for an ordinary citizen to ask why is he not provided the information from the cables in the words of the diplomats themselves? Why all this indirect reporting, why all the rhetoric without knowing what it is about?

If the government has asked for this kind of censorship, on whose authority? If the news agencies are doing it themselves, why are they calling themselves newspapers or news channels? Might as well call them propaganda and publicity and increase their readership because supporters will buy them based on political affiliations, and opposers will buy to keep an eye, no?

Is this journalism? FAIL!

10

Image via Wikipedia

B. Raman has written an outstanding summary of an apparently outstanding debate hosted by Barkha Dutt on the subject of Saffron terrorism.

What I liked was his way of stating the perspectives of both sides in a factual manner, and pointing out some facts about Indian Muslims that often get overlooked as India becomes global and starts adopting a global opinion of Muslims.

I have always thought of the Hindutva fanatics as an extreme danger to society. It isn't really all that different from the Taliban formula - we have been wronged, our religion is in danger, we will be extinct if we don't do something about it. I guess when it comes to any radicalization, there aren't very many choices for original thinking. Fact is, to get people to strike out, they need to feel cornered. That kind of writes the script regardless of religion.

I have written on many forums that we only need to look at the current condition of Pakistan to see the very real damage religious radicalization does. Intolerance isn't logical. Its an attitude. Once established, it colors everything. The other religion, minority sub-sects of the religion, country, ideologies, perceived injustices..... everything becomes threatening and everything needs to be attacked. It simply is not worth it to get into all this. What is the use of creating a victory for our religion if it means that the people will be touchy, discontented and volatile? If the very moral fabric of the society gets hardened and learns to ignore the plight of others?

What is the use of being so superior, if we end up standing all alone?

It should be a lesson to anyone considering religious fundamentalism to see the plight of Pakistan and the reluctance to provide aid in the world. As thousands languish, the righteous kill more, because they have an agenda that will not spare anyone for the 'real truth'.

It may anger Hindu radicals to be compared with the Taliban, but if you think carefully, isn't tit-for-tat all about aping wrong actions to punish another?

Another thing from that article I found important was when he says,

The psychological aspect relates to prompt and effective action to identify and address causes for anger in any community.

I hadn't thought of attentiveness and prompt addressing of grievances as an anti-terrorism initiative. Yet, it so clearly is.

A lot of food for thought today.