Sunday, October 01, 2006
The rest -- the name, the tone, the shallow intellectualism -- all's the same. Please visit me there. Oh, yeah, the template's mucho bettero. And due to worpress's import facility, ALL my previous blogs (well almost) are there.
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Blogger is kinda painful, so experimenting with LJ for now.
Those who are still following this feed for they're lazy enough not to, you can track my latest posts at:
A Fine Imbalance
Thanks for being lazy :)
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
In a TV-Debate on a Marathi channel centered on the International Women's Day, the only Male panelist who was fighting the lost cause of the patriarchal system, was arguing for Stree-Shakti (Women's Empowerment) as opposed to Stree-Mukti (Women's Liberation). His point was that women's liberation is unnecessary and indeed a wrong approach. He hinted at Vinoba Bhave's ideas of Women's Shakti, and yet, when asked how would someone who is not free realize the power, he was speechless.
I said fighting for patriarchal system is a lost cause, not because patriarchy is dead. Anything but the opposite (however my secondary point is lurking right here, to be addressed later). What's changed in the urban intellectual context, is that the patriarchy has gone underground. It knows there is no point to debate -- after all they hold the card yet. In public discourse, fighting for patriarchy is as prudent as fighting for Holocaust denial in America! But that doesn't mean that you need to change your houses -- after all what has intellectual stands have got to do with day to day living?
Ah, back to the question, why do I think the world needs Women's day? Quite simply because tokenism has its own value! The same TV-channels that make you wanna puke for the matter of fact portrayal of the great Indian patriarchy, even if for the sake of tokenism open up the debates on the man-woman equation. And those same couch potatoes who swallow the former get to hear the voices from the other side -- a much vilified, much sidelined, and much mis-represented class of women -- to the extent that it has become an oxymoron: the independent women.
Why I say patriarchy still holds all the cards, is that it leaves independent men to be pretty much alone. So it's okay if a man doesn't want to meet his inlaws for it bores him, being asocial, being whimsical, being arrogant. The patriarchy isn't really threatened by that species -- it's immune to it. But the same deviations in a women, and the hell lets loose, even in urban educated families who pride upon their modernity -- of clothes, of drinks and all the likes. It's always the independent minded woman who is blamed for breaking the house -- as if her husband is just a stooge. He even earns the sympathy of the system for the way the woman has cast a spell on him. It's always the independent thinking woman who is held responsible for the failures of her kid. It always the independent thinking woman who is held responsible for the rising divorces. The patriarchy goes on, never stopping for a moment to introspect.
And now, we have gone to the next stage -- already there is too much freedom, and all talk about feminism is irrelevant, a game invented by some lunatics who are misandros, if there is such a word! For our society has changed, is what I hear. Girls these days get the equal (and even more equal) treatment in the house. There are stories of husbands who cook and clean and share the burden told with oozing admiration for those men. They are the darlings of the patriarchy, for they prove their point -- of how fair the world is to women already! And yet, one routinely hears stories of weddings paid for by the bride, of working women getting up at 5 AM to prepare lunch/breakfast for the hubby, who doesn't believe making a cup of tea is really his cup of tea, of girls being paid less because they anyway don't need that money -- their husbands being paid well. There are countless stories in the same urban educated class, in our vicinities, we don't even have to go to the slums.
Yes we need the stories of the helping husbands too, but what about the stories of their wives who are taking the equal share? Are they suddenly out of fashion because they aren't empathisable material anymore? For it's these woman who are the silent crusaders of the band of feminism that's living what they preach -- they have fought with the patriarchy, taken the bad-mouthing like a man (to use an extremely un-appropriate phrase), asserted their rights, and above all shown a tenacity that would make anyone proud! Well almost anyone, for no one seems to be proud of them. If it takes a tokenism, an International Women's Day, for me to say it, so be it, but I'm proud of you girls. I am married to one such girl, and to whom I want to dedicate this blog! Saya, I'm proud of you!
And here is my one request to the womenfolk out there. The patriarchy is not about male domination -- it's about keeping the system rolling. For the MIL and SILs are as much a part of the patriarchy as are the FIL and BIL, albeit more so. So please take the International Women's Day seriously and if you care about Women's liberation or empowerment, start with your home. Make sure you are not part of the patriarchy. If all of you do that, the patriarchy will collapse like a piece of cards. Yes, some of us would help you out in that, but then how many of you can you really expect to help you? And the system wins because people given in a tad too easily. Don't!
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
V-Days are linked so closely to gifts, and I'm a bad gift person. I mean I'm really bad. No, I'm really really bad. My theory of gifting is derived from Jesus Christ -- Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Problem is, when I think of the gifts that I'd like to receive from people, the list is short. Tiny almost. Well it can be written in two words - Books and Music. Not a very helpful rule, I'd say -- so what if it's golden? To be honest, there are more things that I'd like to receive as gifts from people -- like a state of the art laptop, a sedan class car, a Boss home theater, so on and so forth. But I don't add them to the list, just so that I'm not obliged to think of them as alternatives (still people are welcome to go ahead and gift them to me)! That brings us back to the gift problem.
Anyway, all that changed with the entry of Sayali. She is a gift person. I remember just before our first V-day, she handed me a polythene bag that I was to forward to some friend of hers in Pune. I hate forwarding stuff to people I don't know. But then, I was already feeling guilty that I couldn't spend V-Day with her (yeah, yeah, we all know it's commercial crap and all that, but try telling that as an excuse ;-)). So I mutely carried it back home, wondering which new friend this was that I had never heard about! On the V-Day, she tells me it's a gift for me. That was just the beginning though. It's after we got married that I realized that she just has amazing talent for gifts. So these days, I get a share of "oh! we were thinking of buying this for so long!", "oh, this is so cute", "oh! chooooooo chweeeeeeeeeeet", when we hand over gifts to people. I've completely outsourced the gifting department, disowning my gift-philosophy. Who needs theory when he can use the master's services for free? Well the last is not exactly true (for the master doesn't just tell what to gift, but also when -- half of which I'd have forgotten otherwise), but I'm not complaining.
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
Then you step out. There is a company meeting in a five star hotel, and company has arranged a bus for taking all of you there. You step on the bus, to the sounds of "Pardesi pardesi jana nahi", on a music system that's surely not made with the concept of fidelity on mind. The loud shrinking sounds, and the dust, and the heat and the pollution accompanies you to the destination. The driver and the cleaner speaking some dialect of Hindi, laughing that all too real laughter.
You're back into a epitome of the urban India -- the snobbish high places. Spotlessly clean, slow elevator music in the background, air fresheners the body sprays intermingling, the cool air wants you to pull a sweater on. An utterly impersonal world, where every attendant keeps calling you sir for no reason.
Another day, you're sitting in a tapari, with oily pakodas and hot ginger tea in almost dirty glasses. The weary indifference on the face of the chaiwallah breaks down when you tell him it was an excellent tea. He never expected to hear that from you. He's unabashedly happy as he returns you back the exact change. Another ghastly song is playing on the old radio, but somehow that doesn't bother you.
India changes every minute. What does it mean to love or hate India?
Monday, December 20, 2004
I'm a dropout and aim to stay that way. I admit this will be increasingly difficult, because cell phones are now passing a historic milestone. As with other triumphs of the mass market, they've reached a point when people forget what it was like before they existed. No one remembers life before cars, TVs, air conditioners, jets, credit cards, microwave ovens and ATM cards. So, too, now with cell phones. Anyone without one will soon be classified as a crank or member of the (deep) underclass.Back in India, I think we're already there. People look at you quizzically if you don't have a cell phone. And then there is a breed of zealous cell phone proselytizers who would chip in with, "See, if you had a cell phone today, this wouldn't have happened". Most of the times, they don't want to see, that I didn't particularly seem to have minded that this not happening! Myopia I tell you. Cellular Myopia. Grow up guys, there is a world beyond the range of any cell tower. As yet ... And I don't particularly mind that either.
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
People, I've learned over the years, have amazing memories. Especially people from your hometowns! More so, if your hometown is same as mine. I come from ***, a once quite little town of Maharashtra. Now, I'm no genius. You know it, and I know it. I have a suspicion even guys back there know it too. I mean, it's not like I struck an evolutionary lottery -- and the whole of my school would know me because of my brilliant curricular and extra-curricular record (or just great looks :D). Nothing of that sort. I was never a topper, and more never an extra-curricular kinda guy, unless you count reading books -- but you don't get popular by reading books! How I wish one could, tho.
In fact, when it comes to remembering faces, I'm probably worse to none. And when it comes to remembering names, I'm sure I'm worse to none. So, even an elementary knowledge of probability (independent events and all that) would tell you, that remembering faces AND names together is squarely difficult for me. People, on the other hand -- yes those same ones from my hometown -- have no problems with it at all!
Like when I was still doing my post-grad in Mumbai, I was boarding on a local from Dadar, when a guy jumped in. "you're from ***, right?", "yes", I nod, trying to recollect who this could be. "from *** school, right?". Another nod, and more frantic attempts at remembering something about the guy, "you were in X division, right?". Another helpless nod and "yes", but still no sign of any recollection. In fact, I had given up completely by then.
"We beat you in Kabaddi game in eight's standard".
I swear I'm not making this up. At that point, I went "wow". I mean, yes Kabaddi is probably the only game in which India wins consistently and all that, but with all due respect to the native games and all, Kabaddi is the last thing that generates passion when you're back in school -- cricket? sure; football? maybe yes; but Kabaddi? The only reason why I was playing Kabaddi was that that's the only team I could possibly make into (that too -- the class team!), owing to the same lack of glamor of the game. And probably the fact that, that was the only field game where you could beat people stronger than you. With my tiny frame, guys would think that I'd not have a good grip and come closer, making my job that much more easy. In field games like football, you could never take chances with bigger guys (I have learnt it the hard way!). Kabaddi is different. Once you get hold of someone's leg, there is generally help around.
But then I digress. Not that I mind doing it. Holden Caulfield for one would be with me. At times, digression is good, he would say. Like when I do it, for instance. But at times it's good to get back to the point too. The point, then was Kabaddi. Or rather insignificant a Kabaddi match between Division X and Division Y (I incidentally never asked him which division he was in), in rather insignificant a school, in rather insignificant a town... Still, after ten or so years, this guy remembers this match, the result of the match. And I cannot even recall where the hell had I seen him before (or if I had seen him before at all). Wow!
"Remember me"? That's a million dollar question if there was one. Like the other day when I was walking with my wife when someone called my name.
"How are you?", he's all excited that he ran into me (yes, some people do get excited after running into me, too. Especially, if it's been years!)
"I'm fine, how are you", there is no way I'm going to remember his name in time.
"Oh, I'm fine. I though you won't recognize me"
"Come on! How can I forget you!" (who the hell is he?)
There is no way I'm going to introduce my wife to him. What do I tell her -- this is someone from my school or college probably? One of my friends is good at such one sided introductions. I avoid them altogether.
How do people remember my face? Do I look like a cartoon? Maybe I do. But so do some of these people. And I don't remember them. I don't remember even having seen them!
The next time someone asks that question, I swear I'm going to say "No, who are you?"! I don't care what I do to their self-esteem. It's time they learnt that the more forgettable you are, the better. And if possible, could you please forget me too in return? At least I would be spared the embarrassment!
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Four years later, Mrs Gandhi's assassins Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh paid the penalty for their crime by being hanged to death in Tihar jail.There is one gross non-sequitur here. For he is comparing apples with oranges. Ordinary Hindu majority has to deal with the same system of justice and its inadequacies that ordinary sikhs or Muslims have to deal with, and Khushwant Singh is doing a great disservice to the cause of justice for ordinary citizens in this country by communalising this issue. Okay, the hurt explains part of it, but Khushwant Singh is much too bujurg to let it blind his perceptions.
Twenty years later, the killers of 10,000 Sikhs remain unpunished. The conclusion is clear: in secular India there is one law for the Hindu majority, another for Muslims, Christians and Sikhs who are in minority
I'm not denying Hindu rioting -- quite the opposite. Neither do I want to justify it. Let us be clear about that, because it's easy to pick up things out of context and shoot the messenger. But the point is, in India, victims of any riots do not get justice. It's as much true about the Muslims in Gujarat, as it is true about Brahmins in Maharashthra (post Gandhi assassination), ... And not only riots, Kashmiri pandits got a raw a deal in the independent India; so have dalits and tribals (mostly Hindu) in many parts of the country, and the denotified (as if that's not an insult enough) tribes (again Hindu) in the supposedly modern India... Ask a common man about justice in India and he will ask you back what the hell do you mean? Where does one buy it?
If Khushwant Singh has problems with the justice system that we have in place, I'm with him. But excuse me, sir, if you want to paint the issue with a blatently communal brush. For instance, a large part of victims of the terrorism in Punjab were sikhs too. Have they got justice in the sikh land? India has lots of follies, we don't need to invent more. How about building some bridges for god's sake?
Sunday, October 24, 2004
And what if you don't find too much in common with many people in your country? I ask because for many years, I have felt a "cultural mismatch" between me and the country I live in. I could not identify with many things that form our "culture"But isn't it true about any culture? What use is a culture without misfits? If everybody fits in, we have a giant monolith -- something that even the self-declared guardians of culture wouldn't have bargained for.
To a large extent, I share Madhu's sense of being a misfit myself, and I'm sure many do. However, Madhu goes ahead and asks :
How, then, can I strongly identify with this country? Is there any "Indian" left in me?That got me thinking. For all my disconnect with the mass culture of India, it never occurred to me to ask this question of myself. That's not same as being able to answer the question at all. What identity do misfits have anyway -- with respect to a culture? I think the answer lies in the way one looks at the very idea of culture.
What, then, is a culture? Is it just a sum of static beliefs and practices that a community (country is just a geo-political community) shares? If culture were just that, then ironically, there would be no culture! For every belief, every ritual that we identify with culture today was a break-away phenomenon yesterday. In Lila, Robert Pirsig talks about static and dynamic patterns of values. What Madhu seems to be concentrating on, as culture, is the static patterns of values -- something which is pretty integral to a culture, as that is how it sustains itself. But more vital, are the dynamic patterns of values, that at the point of their arrival would always be contrary to the static patterns, and yet in a generations or two would be subsumed into the collection of static patterns -- something we identify with as culture.
Besides, with culture as diverse as Indian (or for that matter European) culture, the mainstream or mass culture is just one (even if significant by definition) stream. The custodians of the mainstream culture might want to (and indeed do) insist that that is the Indian culture, but it doesn't at all change the reality of the complex interplay of streams. So, Atheism is one such stream that has both a long history and a strong presence in the Indian culture. Likewise, many great saints of this land have been individualistic in a certain sense. Many reformists have either rejected or reinvented rituals. And so on.
Of course, I'm avoiding the question -- who then is an Indian? Well, my answer, however circular it might sound, is anyone who identifies with Indian culture. Mainstream or fringe don't really matter. For those are very temporal tags. And there are just innumerable choices to pick from for identifying with -- the pop-culture of Bollywood or the Ekta Kapoors, or the eternal spirituality or the plethora of rituals, or the thousand ideas of India. Besides, it's not even mandatory to be exclusively Indian.
Thursday, October 21, 2004
Why did he choose to defend the colonial case, is anybody's guess -- probably he was hurt that his cherished western civilization is under attack from the rest of the wretched third-world -- which in the absence of any real bargaining power is maligning the west. For someone who was raised (I presume) on the romances of Western civilization, it's understandable that his blood boils by the accusations that all those post-colonial and subaltern scholars are hurling at the greatest example of the western civilization. We, from the wretched thirld world, must understand this behaviour of those lucky ones who never had an umelical chord connecting them with these wretched (even though much improved now, post the colonial rules -- the longer, the better) regions of earth. So, my third-
For instance, he says:
The assault against colonialism and its legacy has many dimensions, but at its core it is a theory of oppression that relies on three premises: First, colonialism and imperialism are distinctively Western evils that were inflicted on the non-Western world. Second, as a consequence of colonialism, the West became rich and the colonies became impoverished; in short, the West succeeded at the expense of the colonies. Third, the descendants of colonialism are worse off than they would be had colonialism never occurred.Of course, you and me won't use the world assault for the post-colonial reactions! But that's being emotional. From a perspective of global citizen, it's an assualt, mind you. Also, no one is seriously arguing that colonialism is essentially a western concept, but that's okay again. If you apply a little bit of deconstructionism (a western, and global, technique), you'd see that the fact that DD picks up as an important premise shows that in his worldview, West has to be at the center of the things. It's very very natural, I tell you. So if no one is seriously saying that colonialism is a distinctly western evil, you gotta assume that that's what they are doing. After all, how could anyone think that west is not at the center of something? So we'll let that pass.
By suggesting that the West became dominant because it is oppressive, they provide an explanation for Western global dominance without encouraging white racial arrogance. They relieve the third world of blame for its wretchedness.Well, as a representatives of those wrethed third-worlds, sir, I accept that the blame is totally ours. We let others rule us, we fought among ourselves, and generally never realized that you gotta learn from your history. Hell, most of us don't realized even today that they gotta learn from their history! So on that point, I'm with you, sir.
I was raised to believe in such things (the three premises, I presume -- e.d), and among most third-world intellectuals they are articles of faith. The only problem is that they are not true.And here, the smart ones can go home. For the dummies, there are explanations coming.
Colonialism has gotten a bad name in recent decadesLOL! I'm deeply sorry sir. Colonialism shouldn't have got a bad name. My wretched brothers don't understand.
Anticolonialism was one of the dominant political currents of the 20th century, as dozens of European colonies in Asia and Africa became free. Today we are still living with the aftermath of colonialism. Apologists for terrorism, including Osama bin Laden, argue that terrorist acts are an understandable attempt on the part of subjugated non-Western peoples to lash out against their longtime Western oppressors. Activists at last year's World Conference on Racism, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, have called on the West to pay reparations for slavery and colonialism to minorities and natives of the third world.Again sir, I genuinely regret the misunderstanding of my fellow third-
These justifications of violence, and calls for monetary compensation, rely on a large body of scholarship that has been produced in the Western academy.Sir, again, me thinks, you're doing that same guilt-by-association thingy. I advise you to act more civilized/westernized sir. You're showing your origins by behaving like that!
The West did not become rich and powerful through colonial oppression. Moreover, the West could not have reached its current stage of wealth and influence by stealing from other cultures, for the simple reason that there wasn't very much to take.Right! Like, India's 20% share of the world trade -- that must be based on selling the philosophy of maya. I mean, what else was there in India pre-british? Again, friends you should not be overly critical of Mr. DD. He was never taught the history of the wretched third-world and the colonies. Hell, most of us were never taught it either, living in the same wretched thirld-world.
"Oh yes there was," the retort often comes. "The Europeans stole the raw material to build their civilization. They took rubber from Malaya, cocoa from West Africa, and tea from India." But as the economic historian P.T. Bauer points out, before British rule, there were no rubber trees in Malaya, no cocoa trees in West Africa, no tea in India.Like, I said, pure maya. After all, (more later) people who never knew how to distinguish between science and cow, cannot possibly have much wealth! That talk about strong textile industry, and all must be a pure bull! (What else do you expect from cow-worshippers?)
The reason the West became so affluent and dominant in the modern era is that it invented three institutions: science, democracy, and capitalism. All those institutions are based on universal impulses and aspirations, but those aspirations were given a unique expression in Western civilization.Like the trade-protectionism, like high-taxes on manufactured goods from colonies, like trasfer of wealth (the land-tax), like breakdown of traditional schooling system, like out-licenecing the native enterpreuners.... You see, in it's initial stages, democray and capitalism for a few has to come at the expense of foreign rule and import barriers for outsiders. It's a tricky thing, democracy. You want buffers, you know! What if it fails? The west was responsible for the experiment! And you need civilized people for democracy. So naturally, the thirld-world had to be excluded. Capitalism also is sooo fragile, that it needs import protection. I mean, you don't just let outsiders, and inferior, wretched ones at that, to do free trade inside your country! Not to mention the very civilized divide and rule tactics. Very very civilized look away for a while while famines are happening (because of your policies). You see, there is a science of ruling! And who else could have invented that?
Now we can understand better why the West was able, between the 16th and 19th centuries, to subdue the rest of the world and bend it to its will. Indian elephants and Zulu spears were no match for British rifles and cannonballs.Righto! Now we know! Dummies, even you can go home now. Only metally challenged should stay.
Colonialism and imperialism are not the cause of the West's success; they are the result of that success.I'm staying sir, I'm quite stupid. But can I just ask one question, I mean such a civilized bunch this, those who invented institutions like Democracy and all (never heard of before anywhere in the world!), why couldn't they ummmm control their urges? You know, not of that kind...
Colonial possessions added to the prestige, and to a much lesser degree the wealth, of Europe.Right. If you say so, sir!
The descendants of colonialism are better off than they would be if colonialism had never happened: I would like to illustrate this point through a personal example. While I was a young boy, growing up in India, I noticed that my grandfather, who had lived under British colonialism, was instinctively and habitually antiwhite... I realized that I did not share his antiwhite animus. That puzzled me: Why did he and I feel so differently? ... Only years later, after a great deal of reflection and a fair amount of study, did the answer finally hit me. The reason for our difference of perception was that colonialism had been pretty bad for him, but pretty good for me. Another way to put it was that colonialism had injured those who lived under it, but paradoxically it proved beneficial to their descendants.But why was it bad for him? After all, wasn't India wretched even before Brits came? I mean, why wasn't he greatful to the Brits for all those railways and buildings and all? I see, sir, your grandfather didn't have your balanced perspective. Possibly because he never got good western (I know it's redundancy, but my fellow-countrymen wouldn't know, you know) education sir? And why are you suddenly saying it injured people who lived under it? Didn't they get the benefits too? Those ungreatful swines? I mean, here they were living in absolute pathetic state, there comes the white man and gives them trains, and what not, and education (unheard of before that, I'm sure). And still they crib! It must be in their blood...
Much as it chagrins me to admit it -- and much as it will outrage many third-world intellectuals for me to say it -- my life would have been much worse had the British never ruled India.Ignore them sir. As it is, third-world intellectuals is an oxymoron. You're talking about non-existing people. The third-world idiots like me accept your insigt. Of course, your life is better off. One stupid stupid question -- is that why you're defending colonialism?
I am a writer, and I write in English. My ability to do this, and to reach a broad market, is entirely thanks to the British.You mean, the British taught you to write, wow! They've done a great job!
My understanding of technology, which allows me, like so many Indians, to function successfully in the modern world, was largely the product of a Western education that came to India as a result of the British. So also my beliefs in freedom of expression, in self-government, in equality of rights under the law, and in the universal principle of human dignity -- they are all the products of Western civilization.Again, a stupid stupid question sir. How much money do you get for this?
I am not suggesting that it was the intention of the colonialists to give all those wonderful gifts to the Indians.Not too much, I see.
Then they realized that they needed courts of law to adjudicate disputes that went beyond local systems of dispensing justice. And so the British legal system was introduced, with all its procedural novelties, like "innocent until proven guilty." The British also had to educate the Indians, in order to communicate with them and to train them to be civil servants in the empire. Thus Indian children were exposed to Shakespeare, Dickens, Hobbes, and Locke. In that way the Indians began to encounter words and ideas that were unmentioned in their ancestral culture: "liberty," "sovereignty," "rights," and so on.One more stupid stupid question sir -- why did civil servents need to know Shakespeare?
But my broader point is that the champions of Indian independence acquired the principles, the language, and even the strategies of liberation from the civilization of their oppressors.Like Ahimsa? Sir? I always had a doubt! I mean, why else would a freedom fighter say don't kill the opressors?
It is doubtful that non-Western countries would have acquired those good things by themselves. It was the British who, applying a universal notion of human rights, in the early 19th century abolished the ancient Indian institution of suttee -- the custom of tossing widows on their husbands' funeral pyres. There is no reason to believe that the Indians, who had practiced suttee for centuries, would have reached such a conclusion on their own.Of course not sir! Only civilized people like the Brits could on their own outlaw practices like witch-burning. And who else could have branded those wretched tribes as criminal tribes? I mean, you need absolute faith in oneself to brand tribes of people as criminal.
None of this is to say that colonialism by itself was a good thing, only that bad institutions sometimes produce good results. Colonialism, I freely acknowledge, was a harsh regime for those who lived under it. My grandfather would have a hard time giving even one cheer for colonialism. As for me, I cannot manage three, but I am quite willing to grant two. So here they are: two cheers for colonialism!I wish you had read Ramayana, a third-