Friday, December 27, 2013

Hindu Pluralism

Over the last few weeks, on Facebook, in real life and over various communication platforms, many of my friends have been celebrating Christmas. Quite a few of them have put up trees with decorations, dressed up as Santa and attended many a Christmas party.

So what is the big deal? The deal is that almost none of them are Christians.

Again, what is the big deal, you may ask? It is a big deal, because this is not a politician or a government expressing a seasons greetings - it is real people, ordinary people celebrating a festival that is not theirs, with as much fervour as celebrating a festival that is theirs. Many of them have visited churches, attended mass.

There is no contradiction there - from a Hindu or even from an Indic religion perspective. From an Indic/Hindu perspective, any ritual is the way to a common god - or more correctly a common truth. Note that there is no heaven or hell.

It is worth a thought if you find a similar practice in non-Indic religions - true pluralism in action. In monotheism there is very little space for syncreticism - because they believe that only their path will lead one to salvation - otherwise you are destined for hell.

There are arguments that this is because they are exposed to it through school and through learning in Christian schools - these arguments are only partially valid.

The ease with which we adapt, meld and synthesize is worth a thought. But saying this will not win you any friends.

Note: I had titled the post as Syncreticism but realized that I meant Pluralism

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Delhi Games

So, the AAP has decided to form a government in Delhi with Congress support.

At one level, this is ironical - AAP did get a large chunk of the vote which was essentially an anti-Congress vote. And now they take support of the Congress to form a government that has come to power on an anti-corruption (and supposedly anti-Congress) platform.

Now that he does form the government he can take two paths.

One is to take action based on the Lokayukta and the Shunglu panel and implement the anti-corruption plan he came up on.
But this is unlikely to find him friends in Congress and they are likely to withdraw support, sooner or later. But this is a perhaps his biggest route to get anywhere.

Two, they may play it by letting him be, dilly dallying a bit, offering a few minor scapegoats, let him paint himself in glory, win a little, lose a little - but this also means that they also let him run away with a larger part of the anti-Congress votes (in part atleast) in many parts. And people are not fools to see through this hypocrisy - which is a lesser option than Plan One.

Three, he may take no action, citing politics and decide to go after Modi in Gujarat and MP - in which case he reinforces himself not as an alternative to Congress but as an alternative to BJP. And the BJP will play this card with all the force that it can get  and it already has...
And that will only confirm rumours that have been abuzz...
But then Congress being Congress may see him as the new anti-Modi man and may decide to go with him in a combination of Plan One and Two, hoping that he helps them in Plan 3. This is the most likely plan I see with the media helping paint AAP as the new anti-Modi platform.

But they also underestimate the man himself who in a short span of time has established himself as a complete opportunist who is a use and throw specialist.

All in all, these games in Delhi are way better than the Commonwealth Games. Get a ringside view!

Interesting times for AAP. The BJP should continue to focus on its good work and not get distracted by the shenanigans in Delhi - and the ranting of the left liberal media for whom Kejriwal is a refuge in these days of a clear anti-Congress wave in the country.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Rahul Gandhi everywhere

I read the spin that the Lokpal bill - is supposed to be Rahul Gandhis gift to India (give or take a few words).

"It is due to the single-minded determination of Rahul Gandhi... Because of earnest attempts from Rahul Gandhi's side, we could prevail over all the parties and Lokpal bill will be passed soon....It has become reality because Rahul Gandhi took the initiative. It was his determination that the bill should be passed," Chacko said replying to questions on the issue."

(Aside, the guys uses Rahul Gandhi thrice in a sentence - must be some sort of a world record for usage of non punctuations as punctuations.)

Sir, let me remind you, that this is an old story - and a new story actually as late as a couple of years or so ago - but which would not be needed if your esteemed government had not subverted institutions all the way from Congress Bureau of Investigation (did I get that right) to other institutions, which like Pakistani umpires never awarded an lbw to Javed Miandad, rarely finds a Congress misdemeanour. And believe me, under a government such a this, a Lokpal is useless - because like you put our own puppets as PM, it takes very little to put a puppet as a Lok Pal - may I suggest a certain Ms. Patil.

And then, you, Rahul Gandhi the great actually has the round steely things to say that corruption has bled the nation dry or some such bromide about fighting corrupt relatives (no, he did not say that). Sir, let me remind you that it is your party which has led our most corrupt government in our history. So, if were to fight corruption, you know what we should fight. But if you were to fight corruption, I dont know what you will fight? Change begins at home perhaps. Ask Rob.

And then, you are now, saying that you wants speedy clearance for projects. Now, as the campaign for 2014 is about to begin. Sir, you have had power without accountability for the last few years - why did you not speed up clearances then, instead of talking about it now?

And now I am being told that Rahul Gandhi is that great man in the Congress who is taking it in a new direction. The consummate insider who is now posing as the outsider. Give me a break, sir. My head is splitting with these jokes.

We all know that this is your spin machine in action as the campaign to 2014 begins. Sir, where were you all these 43 years of your life? Especially the last 10 years when your party was (is) ruling? Perhaps your spin machine can explain us how you fought the CWG Scam, the 2G scam, the Coal Gate scam among other things. And of course, the Westgate story. Long list, will stop here.

In the movie Forrest Gump, the protagonist is showed as a person who was there at key historical moments. Through some clever editing, Forrest Gump was interspersed in the scenes.

Today, we see a Forrest Gump in action. That is Rahul Gandhi. With a slight difference. Rahul Gandhi is interspersed in events not in the past, but in the present. And we are given to believe that it is this Rahul Gandhi by his charisma who is making these things happen.

Sorry, even we know that Forrest Gump is a movie with good special effects, but even a movie with good special effects needs a great story. Special effects make not a Dhoom3 nor a UPA3. Please inform director Patel sahab.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Artisans and Cities

India has a rich artisanal heritage. We are, perhaps, in terms of range and diversity, the worlds richest nation, when it comes to this heritage. Yet, we seem to be hell bent on squandering it. I had this discussion with a friend who has done considerable research in this sector and I hope to be able to link to his writings soon enough - and while he was talking to me about his perspective -I realized that atleast in one area, this is completely ignored.

And that is in schools and in cities.

No school worth its salt teaches any Indian handicraft - whether it is Dyeing, Bamboo crafts, Wooden toys, Wooden painting. Think of Bangalore. Around Bangalore there is rich heritage of silk weaving, wooden toys and perhaps even sculptures just to name three that come to my untrained mind. But no school exists in Bangalore that will teach people here. Neither do regular schools promote any such thing as part of their curriculum or extra curricular activities.

Sure, there is no demand will be the answer, but where is the marketing? Where are the places which create that demand?

And I do know that Tanjore paintings nowadays are created by people in cities - there are trainers who help one create their own Tanjore painting - this is one art that is fairly easily available - but the same cannot be said of the many other arts.

On the one hand there are artisans who cannot expect to get a livelihood out of creating artists (goes one school of thought) - but are we creating avenues for them for this tradition to continue? And on the other hand, there are people with secured lifestyles who are willing to explore an artisanal tradition. Do you see the opportunity? (Yes, at one level one can snigger, but at another level the artist has incentive to continue in his trade and make a livelihood out of it, why not?)

This is an opportunity waiting to be tapped. How, is what I am thinking...

Monday, December 09, 2013

Lessons from AAP for BJP

It is interesting that AAP, a political outfit created in the space of one year has captured the imagination of Delhi. This is an outfit with no prior governing experience and comes without the backing of any political family.

Of course, AAP is not the only one, there are others, but many of them formed as breakaway factions of other political parties or came from political families.

But it brings me to think - how come the BJP never could establish itself in other parts of India. Especially the South of India. If the AAP could do it, why not BJP? Perhaps the BJP did not want to? Perhaps, just perhaps, they thought that the way forward was the Congress way with a party winning a few seats and a grand alliance? What if, by doing so, as recent events have shown, they were playing into Congress hands? What if, there was a chance to do something different? To emerge as Indias only pan-national party. With a truly centre right secular (not as per the Congress definition) agenda. Why not establish a foothold in the East/North East? So, unless willpower is an issue, there is no reason this cannot be done, as AAP - a party of rank novices has shown.

Here is how the BJP could do it. The recent elections have shown that the BJP headed by Narendra Modi is at the forefront of receiving the benefit of an anti-Congress vote. (So much so that BSP which had vote share in Delhi last elections, is nowhere to be seen). From what I have read, urban and semi urban centres across Rajasthan, MP and Chattisgarh are all rooting for BJP - partly due to good governance and partly due to Narendra Modis appeal and of course, the resentment against Congress and its disappearing leaders.

The BJP can capitalize on it, by getting into select urban centers with known faces. For example, if they could convince someone like Sourav Ganguly to stand in Kolkata and use that appeal to create a few more candidates in seats around. Or with somebody likewise in Andhra and a similar satellite approach. Or in the North East. Perhaps, ignore the cities and go for more semi-urban centers. This is a great way to get the cadres energized and create the infrastructure required to run the party. I am sure this is one way - perhaps there are other ways as well, but the point is, that the BJP can do it. If the AAP can, surely the BJP can.

The mission to 272+  is not a smooth road. But it can be done. Needs some creativity and some organizing powers to think beyond the obvious seats!

Question is, will it pick up the gauntlet?

Dear Raj Thackeray

Dear Raj Thackeray,

I am sure you have watched the recent assembly elections with great interest. Assembly elections in Maharashtra are a few months away. Last time itself, Shiv Sena and MNS combined with BJP had more vote share than the Congress-NCP combine and yet see who is ruling.

And Maharashtra under this combine is heading at breakneck speed to join BiMaRU - to replace the Madhya Pradesh which is being steadfastly driven out of that combine by Shivraj Singh Chouhan (who incidentally got rewarded by a third term for great governance).

As you might already have perceived, there is a distinct anti-Congress wave in the country. In Delhi the votes went to BJP and AAP. In MP and Rajasthan and Chattisgarh, it went to BJP. Whether that benefits you in Maharashtra only time will tell.

As of now, your party is only serving to the benefit of the Congress. More than that, the voter who reposes her faith in your faith is also getting shortchanged. Let me explain.

Congress never unites, they divide. Either they divide at the policy level or they divide the opposition or the opposition divides itself. Look around at each state. Willy nilly this has happened.

They propped up GPP in Gujarat which disappeared faster than winter in Mumbai. For various reasons KJP was created in Karnataka which hurt the BJP, but hopefully the BJP will rectify its mistakes here. PRP was formed in Andhra only to merge with the Congress post election. MDMK did that in TN. In Delhi AAP was also seen to benefit them, but they realized too late that it came back to bite them and bite them badly.

We still don't know what will happen in Delhi, but as a Maharashtrian (my mother tongue is Tamil, but I am a Maharashtrian as per your definition), it is my solemn duty to remind you that if the opposition divides itself, Maharashtra - the state you and I and all the citizens love will be condemned for another few years of misrule. And your party will yet have to spend another 5 years not being able to do anything for the state you love.

This is your chance. You can either benefit from the anti-Congress wave or help the Congress buck the trend and give Maharashtra five years of misrule. That may yet not happen. There is a man, Narendra Modi, who has managed to capture the imagination of many in the country and that might be a great chance for you to align forces with him and give Maharashtra the good years of ruling that it needs.

The choice is yours, but the fact is that many ordinary Maharashtrians resonate with your point and look upto you. But if the vote that they give you, with the hope that you will make a real change to the issues you raise, goes wasted in not actually resolving the issue, but benefit the exact opposite side what is the point?

If your party and Shiv Sena and BJP join forces, there is no force in Maharashtra that can stop them.

Jai Maharashtra!

Thank you!

Monday, December 02, 2013

The Macaulay rebels who conformed

Case 1: Imagine that you were, like many others, a rebel in your teens. You rebelled against Hindu traditions, festivals and other things that we take as culture. For example, touching the feet of an elder was primitive. Or prostrating before old grandparents. Or wearing a bindi. Or going to a religious function because you did not believe in it. Or thinking that going to a temple was a bore. You thought that bhajans was a waste of time. Prayers, Homas and the like were also infra dig. You get the drift.

And thus you were a rebel. But only if your parents and your household believed otherwise.

It is entirely possible that you were not a rebel while doing this, but actually considered cool because your parents also did not believe in any of the above.

If you were trapped in a house that followed Hindu traditions and culture and followed it or believed in it, you were in a tough place. Because all around you, your modern relatives were busy denigrating your Hinduness or making fun of all the things you did. The people who spoke good English and successful did not believe in any of the things that your parents and you did. So, you had two options, rebel or conform. Rebelling made you cool everywhere except in some social circles while conforming did the reverse mostly in mutually exclusive circles.

(I know this is a stereotype and I myself know of many variants to this - many progressives did believe in rituals and many so called regressives did not, but stay with me)

Therefore, if you rebelled, you were not rebelling, but conforming because the Macaulay system is intended to make you do exactly this. So, if you rebelled, you conformed to the Macaulay system, but if you conformed, you were a rebel of the Macaulay system. Interesting no?

(Yes, if your belief system at this point makes you believe that all Hindu rituals are primitive and meaningless ask yourself if you believe so for every other belief system and are willing to condemn every other ritual as meaningless, unequivocally. If yes, great. If not and if you are being a apologist by resorting to stuff like, I will not comment etc. Macaulay succeeded in creating exactly what he wanted.
Of course you should read about other rituals and condemn all religions unequivocally, that is a great place to be, but if you wont and choose to equivocate, well, Macaulay is still laughing at his creation. Ask yourself why.)

Now I am not saying for a moment that go and do everything that your religion demands you do. Actually, your religion demands nothing.

But pause for a moment and think if you have read about ancient Indian history, classics, saints, literature, epics, poems - as opposed to the International ones. And ask why do we tilt toward one and not the other. It is just all the years of Macaulays indoctrination.