Friday, August 15, 2014

An Independence Day Speech

I cannot remember the last time I sat through and heard a Prime Ministers speech on Independence Day - much less remember. The last one I remember was PV Narasimha Rao saying, "Without you, without you, inspite of you, Kashmir is ours."

Yet, today, I was up in the morning, connected my television (which is rarely used), checked if it was all working to hear Narendra Modi speak. Post forming the government, he has not spoken - which was quite unlike the chatty persona he was during election time.

And, he did not disappoint. He spoke extempore (no teleprompter, no text, no nothing) to an audience of millions. He spoke of basic things - after all what are castles, but in the air, when there is no foundation. And unless we get the foundation right, there are no castles.

He spoke about rape, female foeticide, toilets, cleanliness and even admonished parents of boys (ask your boys what they are upto as much you ask your girls). Which other leader has told the population to get their country in order. It takes a rare courage to address basic issues like these at an occasion like this.

The speech was inspiring, exhorting the people to go out and do the right thing. He recalled many a freedom fighter long since forgotten by previous regimes which had viewed even our freedom fighters and gurus through a 'secular' lens. He thanked all previous governments and called out Lal Bahadur Shastri (again a name forgotten by his own party) and his Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan.

But, more than that...he laid out a few simple and effective ideas. A Sansad gram yojana  - a Parliament Village scheme - which he said will be outlined soon. The idea is simple. Every legislator creates an 'ideal' village by 2016 and two others by 2019 and from then on - one per year. This idea is disarmingly simple. The government provides metrics and each village gets rated on these parameters. He went on to say, if every legislator of the state houses also did it - it would amount to something substantial. And in my view, keeps poverty mongering NGOs out of the fray as well.

He asked legislators to ensure that every school in their constituency has a toilet- and a separate one for girls and boys. Implemented well, this can be like the mid-day meal scheme in schools - and will ensure that girls continue to be in school.

And he dismantled the Planning Commission - a grand relic from the days of our fascination for Soviet style communism - where a planning commission would plan for the country. The unveiling of this will happen soon, he said, but yes, this is clearly taking down the Nehruvian Socialism edifice brick by brick.

(And a simple question - arent we the ones dirtying our country? If every citizen keeps his locality clean, does not trash it, how will our country be dirty?)

Simple problems - which have remained unsolved for decades - simple ideas and inspiring. Metric driven, target driven. Have we had an inspiring leader like this in our lifetimes?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Non violence anybody?

As yet another outfit goes on rampage in Iraq - this time an outfit named ISIS carrying on the glorious goal of creating a Islamic caliphate, it is time to ask, Why isnt being non violent winning against these jihadists?

As the Yazidis are seeing, when the group that is killing them is killing them for their very existence (because they believe in a different god you see), non violence is not exactly helping them. If anything, fighting and fighters are. Candlelight vigils, peace marches and sit ins and demonstrations are not exactly furthering their cause.

Ask the other minority communities in the Middle east. The Parsis of Iran. The Pandits of Kashmir. The Hindus in Pakistan. And the Sikhs there. And others like the aborigines and American Indians and the Hindus on whom an entire mountain range is named as Hindukush (killer of Hindus). How come being non violent never got them anywhere except closer to death?

And therefore, should not Israel defend itself against Hamas whose stated goal to eliminate Jews or should it just allow itself to be attacked by rockets?

Yes, to those who think that world peace will be achieved by keeping quiet, it is time to revisit this quote - the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. (By somebody)

Saturday, August 02, 2014

The ecosystem, the matrix and human behaviour

In the book, the Devil wears Prada, there is a exchange between the two main protagonists that goes like this...

(Miranda and her assistants are deciding between two similar belts for an outfit. Andy sniggers because she thinks they look exactly the same.) Miranda Priestly: Something funny? Andy Sachs: No, no, nothing. Y'know, it's just that both those belts look exactly the same to me. Y'know, I'm still learning about all this stuff. Miranda Priestly: This... 'stuff'? Oh... ok. I see, you think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select out, oh I don't know, that lumpy blue sweater, for instance, because you're trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don't know is that that sweater is not just blue, it's not turquoise, it's not lapis, it's actually cerulean. You're also blindly unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves St Laurent, wasn't it, who showed cerulean military jackets? And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. Then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic "casual corner" where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and so it's sort of comical how you think that you've made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you're wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room. From a pile of "stuff."  [Link]

What Miranda says is that the act of choosing a so called non-conformist sweater - that Andy thinks defies the system - is a part of the system itself. The ecosystem. The matrix of fashion.

Now what is a fashion quote doing on a blog like this.

A few months ago, I wrote about the Macaulay rebels who conformed.

The ecosystem around us - starting with our education system - especially the hand me down English education that we inherited which was spiced by left and socialism oriented thoughts bolstered by Christian education institutions has left us trapped in this matrix. The vicious circle of educating the rich in English and weaning them off traditions has slowly created our local version of English who work on civilizing the natives - from attire to accent to behaviour. (There is stuff to be changed, but there is much to be appreciated as well.)

In this present matrix, it is very difficult for you to appreciate anything Hindu. Of course, the caste system is bad and discrimination is high and the priests are rapacious and our traditions are bad. Our festivals are bad (Bursting crackers for Diwali, wasting water for Holi and our homas and poojas are a waste of resources and visiting a temple is pointless) - isnt that what you learnt in this ecosystem?

First of all we learnt in an English medium school - which makes you think that your own mother tongue is not good enough to be studied (yes, I am also one of them who studied in an English medium school.). This by itself is not a problem - but it also means that most likely, you did not have the time and energy to study your language, your traditions. And if you did study your traditions, you were most likely seen as 'uncool' by your shades sporting uncle and aunts.

Like in that lumpy blue sweater example, if you chose to ignore everything around you - the tradition of the country, the culture, the history-mythology, the architecture - it is because the ecosystem around you - the matrix wants you to do exactly that. It wants you reject everything around you - and mark it off as regressive and go in for that blue sweater.

That means being a non-conformist is not easy. A true non-conformist has really rebel out of the matrix. Which means, if you visited the coolest joint in town or went to the coolest tourist spot makes you a conformist, not unique. Which means, if you are in touch with best brands - you are probably conforming more than differentiating yourself. Which means, if your thought processes are matching with the talking heads on TV and the people who write in print media - then again, you are conforming, not differentiating.

And that means, the true rebels are the sadhus who give up everything and rebel agains the material world.

That means, if you truly want to find someone different, it is unlikely that you will find them in an airconditioned boutitue/office/retreat/hotel - you will find them at a place that is truly offbeat and it wont be easy. And if you want to be different, that is even more difficult.

That means, we all live in the matrix. Knowing the matrix, recognizing that the ecosystem is THE matrix and you have to get out of the matrix to truly be different - is perhaps a first step.

But to truly rebel is difficult. Human behaviour is all directed to being cool, being accepted by the cool crowd. And to differentiate yourself as apart from the crowd is difficult - especially if your life depends on facebook likes.

[Evolving thought, but I think this thought process will get somewhere!]

Because on the other hand, the ecosystem while driving you away from something - is also driving you toward something. Slowly, surely...across generations...