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Talk of mixed perspectives.

A few posts I made recently have set me thinking about how many of us supposedly neither right nor left political inclinations actually have swallowed a lot of left and right.

The recent turning upside down of terrorism as an Islamic speciality by Hindutva enthusiasts provided many such opportunities to notice how we simply accept certain fiction as gospel truth - even atheists 😀

Some shining moments were when people who have no issues with saying 'ban Islam' or 'ban all religion' suddenly went into tangents when Hinduism was criticized. Apparently, the halo is all permeating. Hindu is good, its true religion, it is assimilation of cultures and what not. Best thing since a million years before sliced bread. As though criticizing all religion doesn't include Hinduism - but that isn't a problem, because the brainwashing doesn't have those triggers.

In the meanwhile, Muslims are busy defending Islam from within and without. Apparently the Taliban and company are all sinners and kafirs and are destroying the religion - no problems stating that. However, if you compare it with anything non-Muslim, the tape about how Muslims are oppressed or provoked to violence because of powerful enemies etc starts playing. Wait a minute, isn't this the very logic used by terrorist recruitment propaganda?

Christians have their own issues. Apparently, Christians are the final authority on the west. What they object to is truly objectionable. They have the honorable task of reaching out to the world in their need, of bringing the word of God to the ignorants (thank you very much). They think it is persecution when people have issues with paid conversions or aid to flood victims in Pakistan being supplemented with Bibles.

I would have loved to claim that atheists are beyond all that, but they can be just as stubborn. Listen to their certainty that religion is the root of all evil. What is the basis of that? Its not like they have data from a world without religion, or that atheists have somehow proven to be violence free.

Human rights activists have their own blind spots. I have yet to find one who can stay on topic and answer satisfactorily questions like "what interrogation is appropriate and effective" or "what are the rights of armed forces or civilians" or why aren't terrorist victims considered to have had their rights abused - its not exactly like they were respected, you know?

The mystifying thing is that all sense seems to desert us when we hit topics for which we have ready answers. We rarely wonder how come these tidy answers resolve all our questions when ordinarily we are confused about many things under the sun. If a question touches them, we switch to the ready answers - even if those answers don't really answer anything. At that time, we may claim to be left, right or center, we are always "not quite".

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Governments the world over are obsessed with regulating the sexuality of their citizens. Without getting into the histories and cultures of other countries, in this article, I limit myself to the country and people I know somewhat - Indian Hindus.

Just read in some newspaper that a call girl racket was busted. Okay, great. Now, what exactly was the horror of that racket? Prostitution. Oh my God!!!! What is this country coming to? We never used to have prostitutes before!

The question to ask is why was it a racket and why couldn't it be a legitimate business?

Why is it that laws are getting passed allowing gay marriages? Why can't existing laws banning it, if any be removed or it be publicly made clear that there are no such laws, if there aren't?

You understand of course, that in modern India, Bharat couldn't rule India in Ram's absense because he wouldn't be a legal heir and there is no mention of him being adopted? Ever thought of King Bharat as a bastard? Seems wrong, doesn't it? So what if his mother wasn't her husband's first wife? I don't know. Its apparently the Hindu Marriage Act - more Hindu than the Hindu epics.

Similarly, Pandavas and their non-wife Draupadi..... non-wife? Yeah well.... she can't marry all five of them, she has to choose.

For all the Hindutva guys yell about encroaching Christianity or Islam, they only seem concerned with the population sizes, not the influence changing our culture itself. That's okay. In fact, with our oldfound western morality (well, this sneaked in long ago), most of the Hindutva guys will consider all it a matter of pride and good character to be monogamous.

So, someone tell me, what are the words for monogamy, adultery, etc in Indian languages? The closest we come is somewhat like 'loyal' or 'extra-marital relation'. One is generic and can be applied to anything from a dog to God and the other is a description with no judgment in its meaning. We haven't even been making an issue of them long enough for them to have their own words, yet we think this is how our "real society" is.

We have lost many things to this kind of thought:

  • Institutions like devdasis etc, who have often been integral to the survival of many of our ancient art forms had no equivalent in the western culture and got generalized to prostitution with all its connotations of sin and worthy of punishment, etc etc. Exploitation increased, and we shut these people down 'for their own good'. Yet, today, if a group of people is exploited, the general idea is to protect them, create laws, awareness, etc etc.
  • Prostitutes themselves used to serve an important function in society. Sex. Men want sex. (women want it too, but that's a whole other article). They can get it from wives, if they are married. They can get it from girlfriends if they have one. They can coerce some female into having sex with them (which is rape - reported or not). The urge is fundamental. Prostitutes were a way of getting that need fulfilled legitimately, without being ashamed of having a bodily function. Today, most men are so focused on sex, that finding a life partner is more about the highlight of being able to have sex than a sharing of lives. We can never get rid of prostitution, but we punished them for our desires that we had "discovered" were sin. We made them illegal. If they didn't exist, men wouldn't be immoral, you see!
  • Followers of the Yellamma cult who essentially renounce their lives to willing service of society - no holds barred. This can be helping you out in the fields or sex - whatever. Whatever the people need. In a way it is a profound thought. Soul deep service. Just because it happens that men want a sexual service more often than anything else (surprise!), they got called prostitutes. Frustrated men often abused these people, and they are now illegal 'for their own good'.
  • Eunuchs. Okay, we used to have eunuchs in regular society. In fact, some traditional roles were meant for eunuchs - like guarding harems for instance. They were considered auspicious. Suddenly forms started worrying about Mr/Mrs and they vanished only to reappear at street signals. Then, we started hating them for being leeches on our precious money as though anyone forces you to pay them. Oh wait, they did. They needed money to survive. They did force and threaten to expose themselves. Now they are criminals. Or they come and do vulgar dances at festive occasions and gullible orthodox people pay them. They should take jobs and become productive citizens of society. So, how many eunuchs did you hire in your professional career?
  • One man marries one woman. This used to not necessarily be the case. Men used to have many wives, and until very recent decades, women in the Lahaul Spiti region used to marry all the brothers in a family (except one who became a monk) in order to keep population low and maximize family resources and prevent division of limited cultivable land. Banned. That is immoral somehow. As a side effect, a man can marry a woman, go to a city for work, marry another, and whenever he gets fed up of her, walk away. Their marriage is not legal, since he was already married before.
  • The gay thingy. How is it anyone's business what people do with each other as long as they do you no harm? About the gay "thingy", I think the Hindu Marriage Act doesn't actually state that marriage must happen between a man and woman. Any lawyer with an opinion?
  • Oh how I wish if we had to import sexual attitudes because ours weren't up to gora standards, we had imported them from a country like France, where your sexuality is a celebrated part of you and not something to be uniformed away. Take for example that easy kiss in greeting, which could be totally meaningless, or it could send a delightful tingle through you, because you recognize that you are in the company of an attractive person. Compare that with the "platonic friends" and monogamous dating we see in India, where dating already seems to equate an engagement in social terms.

Making sex under 18 illegal when the body starts desiring it at puberty is not going to make it go away.

In fact, I think for healthy marriages, people should have at least a few affairs before. You don't buy a shoe without trying it out, but its ok with a person. And no, I'm not objectifying people. I am saying that people simply have no clue what to expect, and we have an understanding of sex that is extremely guilt ridden, unhealthy and judgmental.

The whole illegitimacy around sex is what makes people take a lot of marriage decisions they wouldn't if not for the sheer shame of sex otherwise. Or they have a sexual relationship, and its natural conclusion is assumed to be marriage. This is a social blindness upheld by governments.

I have no clue why governments are so obsessed with regulating sexual lives of people. Seriously, I mean, now that men and men can have sex and women and women can have sex, the next time a question of polyandry comes up, we need to get on the streets AGAIN? I mean, seriously, can't we just get rid of the damn "alloweds" already?

It is bizarre that a couple on the street in the middle of the night can be harrassed by cops, even if they are not doing anything that may be considered indecent (been there, done that) just for being of different genders and out at night, when more serious stuff like domestic abuse has no initiative beyond a few ads and drunk drivers are fined and allowed back on the streets indefinitely.

Really, are prostitutes providing sexual services to those who want them a bigger menace?

Frankly, prostitutes probably save hundreds of women from rape by men desperate to 'have some' who have no social opportunities. Is it not better that a man who would pay for sex even if it is illegal gets it, than him trying to get women into his bed? The prostitute is willing, if for a different than recommended reason. Or does the government truly expect its citizens to stay away from sexual experiences unless they can get married?

Making prostitution legal would help investigate human trafficking, create protections for them, establish standards of emotional, physical, financial and medical safety.

Strange that the Hindutva guys don't have an issue with this Christian morality import that delegitimizes a whole section of our society.

The illegal status of prostitution also has indirect negative connotations for dating and pre-marital relationships among conservative people. If a woman has sex with a man not her husband, she gets a social stigma. If it is an 'enlightened' or 'modern' society, the man also gets the stigma - possibly a worse one - of using a woman for sex. Apparently, if you have sex with a woman, you MUST like her enough to get married, or you are an a$hole. No changing your mind. Heck divorces are more acceptable socially than unmarried sex. 😀

Quite stupid. All this nonsense comes from seeing unmarried sex as evil. Casual sex as worse, and casual sex for money as unspeakably worse. Apparently, casual sex to keep the husband happy so that he doesn't hit her is fine - since its not money exchanging hands.

Jaago India, get a life!

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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.

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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.

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.