Let My Country Awake

“I am a little fairy

I am very hairy…”

Many years ago, around the age of eight, I was on a train from Manali to Delhi. My elders and the co passengers were all very tired of my constant chatter and no one was paying attention. Yet, I still had a lot say which might have had some meaning to me then. I picked up a little tissue paper from the corner table and scribbled a little poem with the few fancy words from my vocabulary. My feelings remained captured in my memories and I wrote my first poem.

The last few months, went by with some furious debates about Animal Rights, Indian culture and heritage, feminism and lot of other heavy topics. As the nation continues to remain polarized about their support or hatred towards Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu, I am still searching for some discussions arguing about what the tradition actually is and the manner in which it is performed. As forever, the loudness of jingoistic bias seems to eclipse truth and reality.

‘The Bull taming Sport’, ‘Gladiator like Bull Fighting’, are the amusing titles that we use to brand a tradition that is over five thousand years ancient and yet is preserved carefully and very deep rooted in the agrarian identity of the Indian Nationhood.

Jallikattu or Aer Thazhavuthal finds its existence way back to the times of the Indus Valley civilization and Sangam Poetry. It is a sport for the celebration of the power of the bull. The activity is primarily performed in order to identify the strongest of the bulls to keep to be kept in the temple as the deity bull that helps in the insemination of the village cows in order to procreate.

Nationhood, in terms of finding an identity and pride is much broader a term than mere nationalism. And the Indian nationhood spreads to ever part of the world. It is the idea of our culture, history and civilization binds the globe in a chord of shared storytelling. As British Historian, Arnold Toynbee describes, India is the whole world and our national affiliations cannot be so narrow. Yet, Tamils, who are a part of even the region as marked in the mainstream Indian map, are struggling today, not just to determine their heritage but also to assert their self identity. The protest at Marina beach in Chennai is more than just an agitation against the banning of Jallikattu. It is a desperate plea to the countrymen by the entire Southern population to make themselves heard…to make themselves known. After all, our nationhood is not just centered on the popular belt of Northern India. The country was built by everyone, including those in the South, particularly Tamils. Social Movements of Tamil Nadu had played no less a role in the liberation of India. If our History shall remember the values imparted by Dr Ambedkar, we shall be equally incomplete without the depth and courage of Periyar.

Our history books brutally ignore most parts of the freedom movement and the ideologies that collectively shaped our national fabric. The Central Board History Textbooks outline the Indian Freedom Struggle as a movement dominated by only the certain limited minds. Amidst such a heavy indoctrination of cultural dominance, one perhaps, needs to pause and retrospect the reality. We are so detached from the collective history of our own nation that some of us have reached the extent of believing that Tamils or the Southerners had no participation in the struggle. And I do not really blame them. Popular culture remembered and applauded the strength of Shahid Bhagath Singh and his letter to his family became a revolutionary example. Thus we knew him.

Around the 1960s, the Indian National Dairy Development Board began its ambitious project of the ‘White Revolution’ in India. In order to sustain a multiplied production of milk in the Indian market, the State began to import too many western breed bulls and encouraged their mix breeding with the indigenous cows. The imposition of mix breed cattle for the milk production of India, had suddenly become so intense that the Kerala Livestock Act of 1962, directly prohibit the maintenance of productive indigenous bulls by the farmers. Agriculture inspectors literally circumcised any local bull capable of reproduction. The Act remained, though it was in conflict with the Biodiversity Act of 2002 that aims to preserve indigenous breeds of India. Yet, indigenous breeds, continued to become lesser each day as western breeds replaced them. More than 2694 bulls were castrated only in the years 2012-13.

The Vechur cow, known as the world’s shortest cattle breed and most other indigenous breed began disappearing so fast that immediate action was needed. These local breeds, specifically needed  protection for the quality of their milk which is high in fat content, require much lesser feed and provide very high resistance to diseases. The richness of the A2 milk that the local cows produced began to be substituted by western A1 milk which was not just of inferior quality, but also inflicted many health challenges after consumption. From a self sufficient milk economy, India is now headed towards importing artificial insemination from the west. Even a hundred years back, native breeds counted to around 130. Only 37 survive today.

Eru Thazhuvuthal means ‘bull embracing’. The mention of the sport can be found in seals of the Indus Valley Civilization, making it one of the world’s oldest sports. At the time of Nayaka kings of Tamil Nadu, gold coins were wrapped in cloth and tied on the horns of the bulls and the tackler, who hung on the hump of the bull, took the prize. ‘Jalli’ means coins and ‘Kattu’ means tied. The rules of the game were strictly to not hurt the bull in any manner whatsoever and to hang on to its hump without provocation. The sport is particularly a festival of worship towards nature and animals. Not everything ancient is always primitive.

In the casteist Indian society, Jallikattu is a socialist exercise, where the entire village participates irrespective of caste differences. The cattle are bred by the women of the families who treat the bulls as their own children. Not only is it an inclusive societal effort, but also resonates historical eco feminism whose traces can be seen in Sangam Literature and Epics.

Rearing a bull is no cheap a liability. When a poor rural family raises an animal giving it better food that what they usually eat, obviously, they shall not tolerate any harm inflicted on it during the sport.

The bravery and passion attached to Jallikattu find its mention even British records. However, without the reward of Jallikattu and the prospect of bull rearing, farmers shall cease this legacy. Not all farmers can afford to raise bulls. Through Jallikattu, the strongest bulls are identified and preserved in temples to breed further. Not just the agrarian socio cultural chord shall be tampered by banning Jallikattu but also, none of these animals shall live on for our future generations. Soon, the native breeds shall be slaughtered moving towards further extinction.

It is heartbreaking to see most of the conversations and debates about Jallikattu around me. Most of us have least knowledge about the tradition and its value and importance. Yet, still we have casually labeled it ‘primordial’ and ‘cruel’. Yet, what I find most cruel is the manner in which we have detached ourselves from our own people. In our minds, South India has never grown beyond the ‘Madras’ Presidency. And to us, ‘Madrasis’ are no more than a bunch of regressive, cynical and grumpy people. We have visualized, nearly every Tamil, as a Dhoti Clad (Which we call Lungi), Dark Skinned (Which we find ugly) Brahmin with ashes all over the forehead and strictly vegetarian ‘Idli Dosa Diet’, always visiting only temples. The Stereotypes are no less for Southern women either. Our favorite South Indian food joints are inevitably vegetarian, serving the typical ‘Pakka food’ made of Ghee while distributing the Brahmin tradition. Very few travel shows have ever really highlighted on the traditions like Mutton Dindigul  Biriyani of Chennai or the Appam and mutton stew of Kerala. In fact, no one has really ever spoken about the traditional beef and other non-vegetarian dishes of Tamil Nadu and the South Indian States of Kerala and Karnataka.

We see, only what we choose to see.

For us, Tamil films are only about the mindless hyperactivity of Rajnikanth. Yet, somewhere in time, Rajnikanth had starred in the film ‘Aval Appadithan’ that had not just defied societal taboos, but also had gathered admiration from cinema lovers like Mrinal Sen. It is the same Tamil film industry that produced Parasakthi. Kamal Haasan in Anbe Sivam, Hey Ram, Uttama Villain, Moondram Pirai (Sadma in Hindi), never found our notice. Yet, we only found Rajnikanth in ‘Sivaji-the Boss’ and ‘Robot’. Tamil Cinema got labeled as jester performances. Illaiyaraja, Sivaji Ganeshan, Balachander , Karunanidhi are all the jesters that keep these Tamilians entertained.

Not just Tamil Nadu or South Indians. We do not know, most of our country. How many literature texts in School, ever read some poetry from Habba Khatoon of Kashmir? Did a single history module ever discuss the legacy and story of Kashmir? But our conscience was infused with the rant-‘Kashmir Hamara hai!” (Kashmir is ours). What is Kashmir? Just a piece of land to conquer? Of course, we have stereotyped Kashmir enough anyway. Just as we are least bothered about the truth of Chattisgarh. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, we are burning and yet, Delhi is calm.

Soon, the State Machinery in Chennai began arresting the poor Dalit fishermen when they could not break the Marina beach crowd. The city is being brutalized and the cops continue to burn down property and harm the protesters. We are still silent like we were, when Najeeb Ahmad disappeared or our children in Kashmir were butchered by pellets. We stayed silent during the Nandigram struggle too.  Manipur or any of the North East was anyway beyond our comprehension of the Indian identity. No one knows Madkam Hidme or her stories. Dika Kumari ,Rohit Vemula and a million others are monotonous stories which the corporate media ignores while reporting. The glamour supplements grow glossier

We never listened when our countrymen struggled against atrocities. We are common Indians spread across the globe. Not all Tamils, either realize the value of the movement and spontaneity in its solidarity. Just as some Bengalis felt that Nandigram needed the Tatas for development. We are yet to know ourselves.

Then how is India united in its diversity? Are we not simply concentrated amidst a popular Hindi noise? Let me not to impugne the richness of Hindi as a language. Most of us have not read Munshi Premchand beyond our Hindi textbooks or heard of Zauq either. Few even bother to remember Avatar  Singh Paash or his poetry. We are only too preoccupied in our own pre conceived notions to even open ourselves up to the expressions that surround us.

The Tamil dissent at Marina Beach was much more than just a protest. It was a desperate plea of the people to make them known and heard. The protest had turned into a movement when the entire struggle was so well informed. The participants set an example and led each other with utmost solidarity.

The self conduct of each protestor carried the message of their character. The crowd cleaned the beach themselves and not a single threat to women’s security occurred. The crowd was in millions, yet, not a single case of harassment occurred. Women slept on the beaches with men and they felt no fear. There was no political affiliation to the voices and everyone joined as one. Actors, lawyers, doctors, fishermen, people from all walks of life. They all had one message-the message of the pride of their civilization and defiance of stereotypes imposed by all of us. The movement had a steady evolution with every passing day. They stood as one.

Our history books may have erased Rani Velu Nachyar but her civilization has kept her in their heart. Even though popular culture forgot the letter of Vanchinathan, his spark remains alive in his people. How else, would the Youth be so committed in their spontaneous struggle to save their identity? Where else would they find the courage and the valor to look into the eyes of the state and refuse to relent to pressure and torture?

The traders Association raised the issue of Coke and Pepsi plants that continue to dry up the Tamirabarani River Beds which cause the drought and farmer suicides. Voices were collectively raised even by corporate employees against these terrible multinational atrocities and they were heard. Coke and Pepsi have been disallowed from March 1, 2017 in Tamil Nadu. No longer can powerful capitalists and multinationals take our living, our rights for granted. This movement is not just important for the Tamil liberation but also valuable for all those battling corporate tyranny everyday in their lives.

Legally, the Tamils have full right to preserve their tradition and culture. Banning Jallikattu for cruelty is like banning marriages in the fear of domestic violence! Jallikattu Act of 2000, itself regulates the sport. Besides, through Public International Law and the Convention for Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which India ratified in 2005, Jallikattu is a basic human Right. Jallikattu is an ancient science of breeding and must be protected. Article 253 of Indian constitution confers this power to make legislations in order to comply with International law and conventions.

The Tamil Nadu Governor has already passed an ordinance under Article 213(2) of the Indian Constitution allowing Jallikattu and the State Legislature has made it a Law. The President, under Article 254(2) of the constitution has also assented to the same. The constitutionality of the Act obviously remains valid even under a possible challenge as it was assented by the President and under Article 51 (c), Indian constitution must foster respect and abide by International Law and treaties. Such arbitrary bans violate our fundamental right to expression and the preservation of our culture and education.

Marina Beach has rekindled courage with compassion. We must awaken to the calling of our people and understand them, trust them and form that chain of human relations that entail our Indian nationhood. We cannot live our pretentious lives anymore when students much younger than us and common men and women are dying for our collective conscience. We must believe in ourselves and each other to understand the internationalism that Indian sense of nationhood propagates. Our identity cannot be captured and miniaturized. This is our fight to survive…this is our fight to love us as who were and a fight to embrace our indivuality.

I lost that tissue paper on which had written my first poem. I don’t even remember the next few lines of it. Yet, I still write my opinions, when the meaningless chaos depresses me. When I am not able to counter the unfounded arguments on television, I write my views. I write my stories that no one wishes to hear. My subject has changed, my content has developed, but my roots have not been altered. The tissue paper still holds a part of my reality and who I am, no matter where I go. I shall never give away the possession of that profound memory in which even today, I nurture my honesty. Our roots never leave us and without them, we have no identity. We are of our culture, our civilizations that sustain us. Our history is our childhood that can never be separated from us. I do not intend to be so unfortunate to give up the gift of childhood. I shall not let the glamour of nothingness change my honesty.

“Jodi beche dite bole, shikar badha maati,

Jeno ami bechte debo na” – (If you ask me to sell my roots seeped into the soil…Remember, I shall not let you sell me”)

 Beche Thankar Gaan, Rupam Islam (The song of survival)

Long Live Revolution -II

  • “If my subjects cannot speak, how would I know their desires? And how would I then, suppress those dreams?”- Evil Minister, Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, Satyajit Ray

I did not wake up to watch the Republic Day Parade of 2012 in which Mr. Ankit Garg was conferred the President’s Police medal for gallantry. I was least interested. I had not heard of Soni Sori. I was preparing to join a Law School in a few months.   I believed that the Indian society was dynamic and justice, though, sometimes delayed was never intentionally denied in India. I trusted the sanctity of Indian Courts. I had not heard of Surekha Bhotmange either.
Delicious War!” was the immediate reaction of Winston Churchill, after the declaration of the Second World War. He loved wars. At that time, specifically, when International politics was dominated by patriarchy, wars were the best expression of Chivalry. A colonial chauvinism had already waged one world war in their race to imperial domination. Churchill was soon going to be both, significant and a prodigy of War. Yet, he would also lose the election ahead of the war and the world would choose humanism over brute Nationalism.

The debate about nationalism, had perhaps, reached its peak during the very World war that brought nothing more than misery to commoners across the world. When Bengal suffered famine, England was reduced in Poverty. Both the countries had nearly extinguished all their resources in funding a war that had only scripted praise anthems for the winners.  Yet, national win could not wipe international tears. Colonial rivalry had proved to be of absolutely no good.

The previous week went by, in a number of heated discussions about how much rebel ‘nationalism’ permitted. And whether, at all, Kanhaiya, a Post Graduate student, was justified in questioning the execution of Afzal guru. A furiously excited Arnab Goswami exuded his frustrations as he questioned the very audacity of the students to protest against a nation that ‘subsidized their education’. I felt a strange nostalgia of the medieval taboo towards freedom. It seemed like watching Da Vinci once again, being threatened by the powerful for his rebel in Art. Yet, we were not in the dark ages. We were brought up under the fantasy of freedom and Democracy. And Democracy was born on a seeking ground of truth and individuality. Appeasement of the state’s interest did not always address the individual struggles. Without the recognition of minority opinions, it is perhaps, impossible to construct an inclusive democracy at all. Under the circumstances, the taxpayers certainly assisted in education of the country, not for conformity, but to create a pedestal of individuality. We did not educate our youth only to hear them sing confirmatory slogans and campaigning for political parties. Our intention was to facilitate thinking and encourage opinions.  In fact, is it not an obligation for every individual to voice their opinions and concerns in order to revive our thinking and attention towards the realities that go unseen?

We are living at a time, where our beliefs, our education and even our protests are being constantly governed by various authorities. Young minds are gradually being influenced in a way, that we hardly hear anything different. It is the same old populist rhymes that we are used to memorizing. Our generation has found no Beatles that could instill upon us, the courage to defy and imagine a world without God or boundaries. Neither could we create a Pink Floyd to question our crammed education system. We were brought up in the age of entertainment supplements where glamour eclipsed debate.
By the 1920s, the Rockfeller and Carniege Foundations had already begun creating the most powerful pressure groups of modern times- the Council for Foreign Relations (CFR). Soon, the Ford Foundation joined its funding too. The organization continues to work very closely with the CIA, United Nations, and IMF and needless to say, it is the strongest manipulating factor of global politics. All the World Bank Presidents except George Woods have been members of the CFR.   CFR decides our leaders, and also, CFI members like Bill Gates decide our education policies. The Indian members of the organization include, Mr.  Tarun Das, Mr.  N.R Narayana Murthy, Mr.  Jamshed N., Mr. JJ Irani (Unsurprisingly, he was also one of the key committee members of the New Companies Act, 2013 in India) and most other capitalists. From the Cold war, to the foundations of the Taliban, the CFR has closely maintained its presence and ensured that every move in History was in the favor of corporate profits.  And none of this is any conspiracy theory. They are as transparent facts as the existence of the biggest bottles of coke in my refrigerator. The India against Corruption Movement, too, was funded by Coca Cola and the Ford Foundation.  Where exactly, was our patriotism then?  Or was it a swell to our hypocrisy to watch an uninformed bunch of youth, supporting the movement with least awareness in the happenings of the country? Or did it make us happy about securing further corporate jobs? Is that the kind of return, we expect out of the ‘subsidized education system?’
Speaking of the education system, we should indeed be proud of Kanhaiya and his friends. Despite the best efforts of our system, they could, still contain their individuality and show the character to protest without the greed of any myopic gains.  Our text books have defined not just history in political terms, but sometimes altered our geographical realities too! Only a few years ago, NCERT text books for school children read that Madagascar was ‘an island in the Arabian Sea’ and that Lancashire had been ‘a fast growing Industrial town’.  The denial towards independent learning had not just paused at these bizarre mistakes. History was suitably altered to narrate a Hindutva tale of the Indian History. The texts were nothing more than a certain kind of RSS manifestos.  Being squeezed with cultural terrorism on one hand and the corporate tyranny on the other, Kanhaiya, chose to instead voice dissent and not give in to this desperate indoctrination. Kanhaiya did not apply for a Corporate Working Visa abroad. Instead, he tried to make a difference.
In Legal terms, Kanhaiya had only restored the honor of the Indian constitution that was born out of a struggle not only against an imperial dominance but the backwardness and discrimination within the country.  How does screaming ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ make me a traitor as long as I do not say ‘Attack India’? And even if I say so, I cannot, definitely be booked under sedition! As described by the Supreme Court in the case of Balwant Singh V State of Punjab, in India, even complete rants against India and slogans in favor of division of the country do not amount to sedition. Kanhaiya’s arrest itself was unnecessary and the Criminal procedure with various precedents outlines the fact that an interrogation is first necessary in case of any report as such which may be followed by an arrest only if absolutely essential. Alongside a right to Free speech, I also have a right to hear every opinion. If at all, an opinion is so frivolous or wrong, I would definitely choose to not accept it. Why is, India so afraid of criticism? Do we really have a lot to hide? Can a speech, a song or a caricature really create uproar in the nation? Is the unity, that India is boasting about so fragile, that a few people armed with a different set of ideas can break it? Free expression makes us insecured only when we are trying to desperately hide something. Is India afraid?

Kashmir and the Sister states, continue to be the most militarized area in the whole world. We have deployed more military in the zone than the United States did in Afghanistan.  We cannot deny the reality, that Afzal Guru continues to be a hero to these destroyed by misrule of the AFSPA and to them, it is a struggle for freedom. If India wishes to understand Kashmir, we need to work much more seriously towards Democracy.  If one does not feel to be an India, his expression can be muzzled, but the hate and denial cannot be ended. The more we oppress and overlook Kashmir, the worse it gets.  To maintain the sanctity of heaven, heaven should find democracy. We have had generations of children growing up in Kashmir with bullet sounds as their daily alarm. Families have been destroyed and Human Rights have been abused. Irom Sharmila continues to fast and protest against the oppression of AFSPA .AFSPA cannot be a reality in any democracy.  Tax payers’ money is also not meant for military occupation in Kashmir or the rape of Manorama Devi in Manipur! Neither is it paid to contribute to the ‘Hinduisation of Kashmir’.  A democracy cannot afford to create a zone where human beings are caged like animals and leave the country in illusion and terror created by Goswami like anchors. A weeping soldier cannot undo the arbitrary abuses of the military in the valley.
In the jungles of Central India, near the Indravati River, the area controlled by Maoists is called ‘Pakistan’ by the police. Women have been raped, and remain in lockups. The villages are empty and civilians are escaping the ‘operation green hunt’ by the elected government.  A lady called Soni Sori was arrested, upon the suspicion of being a ‘Maoist terrorist’ as Mr. Goswami would call her. In lockup, stones were pushed into her genitals. Soni Sori struggled in a Calcutta Hospital when those in the red corridor were starving to death as Corporations with our governments continued to snatch their living, identity and culture. Indian’s GDP spiraled, yet in terms of development, the country stand second worst after Pakistan in Asia. Soni Sori was a ‘Maoist Terrorist. ‘The Unlawful Activities prevention Act’ could certainly imprison her without question.  But that day, with Soni Sori, Democracy was arrested too!

The French Student Union movement and the all the 1968 movements in the Capitalist countries were also against the national policy of war against Vietnam. They stood for humanity. If only, there was a little less nationalism across England and in 1943, there would have been no famine in Bengal. Free speech and a little less national fervor can, at times, restore humanity. A Japanese teardrop is no different from a German sorrow. Neither is Pakistani rejoice, that was once a part of us only to be divided for political momentum, any different from our happiness.  The death of millions of soldiers was no pride…they were scapegoats brainwashed with nationalism for political gains. There can be no pride in killings. I mourn Afzal Guru…I mourn the deaths of Kashmir and I mourn the soldiers of World war. But were these deaths really needed?

Surekha Bhotmage’s FIR against local tyrants was rejected by the Police. She was gang raped in front of her family for being from the Mahr community. Yet…She fought and struggled to live on. Just as Malala fights the Talibans, Surekha fought against caste oppression. So did Rosa parks, Sidney Poitier, Harper Lee and everyone who chose to rebel against norms. Annihilation of Caste by DR Ambedkar was censored in fear of ‘anti nationalism’.

I did not wake up to watch the Republic Day Parade of 2012 in which Mr. Ankit Garg was conferred the President’s Police medal for gallantry. However today, I am interested. Ankit Garg was the superintendant who had tortured Soni Sori. She was released from her Hospital in Calcutta. She did not die. She is protesting again. She is an anti national. So am I. We do not believe in honoring imaginary boundaries, rhetoric dusts or a piece of fancy cloth. We honor Human beings.  In Kanhaiya and Umar, we find hope and we wish protect that hope. It is a hope we are proud of. Chhattisgarh is protesting again. So am I. Our youth is reigniting the flames of rebel. Umar, Kanhaiya and every other thinker, I am with you. Capitalism sponsored elitist anchors can only silence your mikes…not your courage…not your integrity. You are cherished by our dream of humanism. Long Live Revolution!

 

 

diego Riviera

Man at the Cross Roads,  Diego Riviera .

Mr Modi! Think Again!

When I was a kid, my grandpa, told me a joke.

There was, once a potato storehouse that had caught fire. When, everyone was trying to put the fire off, there was one man who was dancing in happiness. When, he was asked for the reason behind his joy, he exclaimed,

“I will soon get French fries for free!”

So, as predicted, Modi finally became the Prime Minister of India with a sweeping majority in the 2014 general elections.  I, too, for once, decided to give the new a leader a chance, after all.

Soon, my uncle came home in ecstasy, post the budget, rejoicing a cut of almost three thousand in his income tax.Yet, he conveniently ignored the striking rise in his pharmacy bills. Modi earned a follower from my family even!

But did he help India see some good days yet? Has he been any good?

I see not. When I tried to watch my Prime Minister, in the United Nations, I stopped midway. My expectations, from Modi were much higher. Of all his demerits, he was definitely a good orator. The very choice of his language of the speech defied me of my representation to the world.

I do not speak Hindi; neither does majority of the Indians! In fact, Modi too does not speak Hindi as a mother tongue. Why would he not speak in his own language? Like most Indians, Modi too did not do justice to the Great Indian story!

“Ei desher I chele Ami…Firingir O Bangla desh…” (I’m a boy of this country only; Bengal belongs to the foreigner too)- Jaatishwar

Of all the acclaimed compositions of the film Jaatishwar, this particular lyric touched me the most. It instantly brought back the very spirit of the Indian society to me.

Indeed, this is the same country, where a Portuguese merchant became an acclaimed local singer, loved and married a Bengali woman and assimilated completely into the Bengali society. It is that same country which protected Jews and the only nation to not commit atrocities against them.  India even has Greek settlers who have been a part of us like the Scythians, Parthians, Shakas, Kushanas and every other race of the world.

This diversity of India is not just another random story of The Indian togetherness. Instead, it hides within itself a very strong message of an extremely prosperous and stable market that has varied tastes and an amazing collection of prospective consumers.

India is also one of the fastest growing markets of the world. Therefore, ‘sell in India’, is no less a priority.’

What Modi lacks, is the vision of a statesman. Where is his message to the prospective young entrepreneurs of the country? If he really wants to build the nation, he should get out of his easy publicity stunts and inspire and inculcate fresher ideas. He should create a passage where a child from a working class family can aspire to become an entrepreneur. A leader is expected to instil dreams into us. Why are we still dwelling in the boring thoughts of employment and the sustainability of a mediocre middle class existence somehow!

On an honest note, I personally do not really care about a love Jihad or a Ram Mandir at all. All that matters to me is a substantial betterment of my living and an overall growth and development of my country. A better society would make the markets stable which would fetch investors for my business and I would make more money!

It’s simple, if I become rich, the country makes money too!

The clean India movement seemed to be nothing more than a populist farce to me! If waking up early one morning, and holding fancy brooms in the hand really solved India’s problems, then there would, perhaps be a revolution each weekend!

In India, there are officially, around 1.3 million manual scavengers, out of which, the majority are women. Inspite of being illegal, the Indian Railways is one of the biggest employers of manual scavengers. The Indian railways have repeatedly ignored the numerous laws that were passed against such a primitive custom. Definitely, no one has ever bothered to begin a ‘swatch railways project’. That would, certainly raise a lot of eyebrows and provoke  a debate.

Why has Modi not offended anyone yet? A real leader offends and changes the rules unapologetically. A true visionary can never win a popularity contest.

My frustration with India has always been its preconceived opinions. Even before a child is born, his identity is fixed! Why can’t we begin like a fresh piece of paper without any scribble of tradition, opinion and prejudice in it? When will the Indian youth really come up with their own refreshing ideas? When will the real Jihad against the domination of the obsolete ideas, views and principles of our previous generations happen? When shall we start afresh? When will an Indian youth discover the ‘me’ that has long been buried in the pressures of ‘we’?

The major idea behind the setting up of the IITs in India was to encourage excellence in education. These graduates were supposed to be nurtured as the future leaders of the world, not their employees!

When Modi goes for a bilateral trip, he carries along the entire nation with him. America did not grant a visa to Modi, the visa was granted to the Prime Minister of India.  Therefore, if he fasts for navratri, he should probably fast during Ramzan as well!

Besides, fasting during a diplomatic meeting was definitely a very regressive approach of Modi.  Eating creates a comfortable ambience for discussions and ties. It is a part of International relations and hospitality. It was clear that Obama was much more comfortable in the presence of Dr Singh than Modi.

Why does Modi have to represent India as such an orthodox nation?

Indeed, Obama too was brought up amidst street urchins, yet he climbed his way to the top with education. But, a chaiwala did not become a Harvard Law graduate to become our Prime Minister. That is the difference. Modi is an imposed social mobility upon India.

India has to break free from this slave mentality. It’s time that we break our barriers and ask for more. Let’s research a little more and cram our minds a little less. Let’s try to create something instead of being those same mediocre high salaried men of the most regular daily jobs!

It’s alright to make mistakes, but it is criminal not try. What is the point being afraid of death when we wake up each day doing the same ordinary things? How different would we act lying dead in the graveyard?

Like the mad man, in my grandpa’s joke, Modi is cheering the backwardness of the country. Tradition does not eclipse truth. Tradition is not static. We must move ahead of the times. The youth has to be relied upon. The nation must believe in their decisions. They need the honor and dignity of adult human beings. Let’s have some faith in their maturity. Let’s believe in them. For once, give them a chance, to move ahead, to decide their path. Let’s bring in some freshness into the world. Let us, break the walls of narrow minded thinking and dream big.

Have faith in the young, they shall not disappoint you! Give them a chance to dream for this country. If a dream is big enough, no tiny fragment can ever ruin it!

If India cannot foresee the endless prospects of the future, we can never make it big. And, if it’s not big, it is of no significance!

“What should I do with which I do not become immortal?”

My mother often quoted the famous argument by Vedic Scholar Maitreyi whenever I failed my tests. She forbade me from dwelling in the shallow mediocrities of life. She said that it was alright to commit mistakes; however, one must never sin. I did not understand her as a child. Then, all that mattered to me was that she was not angry with me and I could go down to play.

“I pity him!” was my immediate reaction after watching the ‘Rahul Gandhi interview’. Well, for once, it was not because of my clichéd support for any particular person or political group. Rather, Rahul reminded me of my traumatic nursery interview sessions, where I always sat helpless trying to figure a way out of the ordeal. Failure was inevitable.

Strangely, the next thing that I watched was the first Obama-Mit Romney presidential debate.  It too was a tense situation of American politics and the two arguing men were no less rivals than Rahul-Modi. Yet, it began with a little exchange of wit and moved on to a rather substantial discussion.  Yes, there was a moderator, but certainly, he was no match to the ferocious Arnab Goswami.

The discussion appeared to be an exchange of ideas between two adult gentlemen. Unlike the hour long Rahul-Arnab farce, which seemed more like an interrogation scene. But frankly, is it not time that the Indians grew up?

On one hand, we have a Rahul Gandhi, who is an intimidated weak student. And, on the other hand, is a Modi who, is a similar unprepared boy but manages to amuse us enough with his rhetorics. Basically, he is just a smart student who manipulates well.   However, amidst all these dramatics, we are forgetting a very important fact- this is not a high school test anymore!

Indians, continue to cherish their joint family roots. We still romanticize the fact that ‘elders’ dominate our major life decisions.  Perhaps, that is exactly what is reflected even in our modern political scene. It lacks the strength of individuality and progressive thought.

Rahul Gandhi constantly spoke about ‘the fundamental point’, but never really came to it.  Instead, we were once again regressed to the same old drab conjecture and comparison of the 1984 and the 2002 riots! I don’t blame Arnab for his meaningless questions. They were all that we had to ask Rahul. Still, inspite of all the sadistic pleasures that we got out of watching him, I don’t think it benefitted anyone at all.

The differences between Rahul-Modi are known to all. However, they are of little significance. The ‘real issue’, instead, is the way forward for India.  As common citizen, I’m more concerned about the taxation policies, foreign policies and governance methods that these politicians envisage. If they cannot put forth and defend their ideas now, how can they even implement them later? So, where are these ‘real’ discussions of ‘fundamental’ governance plans?

How does India perceive itself in the changing situation in Afghanistan? How are we going to react to the changing paradigm of Asian international politics? Should India focus more on South East Asia or does its future lie with the relations with the U.S? How are we going to handle Sri Lanka, Pakistan and China?  Should we focus only on GDP growth or Human development is a greater concern?

India, historically, has remained as the cradle of a flourishing democracy. Public debates were once, a part of our lifestyle.  However, today, we lost our heritage to a monotonous mediocrity. Our politicians, like us, lack a sporting spirit and all they want to do is blame each other!  We have stopped giving ourselves the freedom to fail. And thus, it becomes all the more difficult to conceive and try out newer plans.

It is the same fallacy that forbids a child from writing a creative answer because he is afraid of failing the test. And if he fails, mother may not be too happy! But, we are free of the parental domination now. Why can’t we just clearly speak about what we want to do? Let Rahul Gandhi discuss his own resolutions. Why must he defend his father? Let Modi speak of his way forward, why must he recite an RSS anthem?

Election is just the beginning. The real substance comes out of what lies ahead of it. Else, it stands as another catastrophe as Kejrival.  Spewing criticisms and throwing aspersions is as easy as waving the ‘Jhadu’. However, taking the responsibility and facing the system is just as difficult as tolerating it!

The Rahul-Modi saga may quite replace the Saas-Bahu gossips for a while. But, it will give us nothing more than frustration. It will not make our country immortal. Yes, Rahul Gandhi may be a mistake.  But, not being able to create a vision for the nation to move forward will be a sin!

As a child, I did not understand my mother. I know what she meant now. To her, education was more necessary than mere gradation. She taught me to learn from my mistakes. She taught me to grow.

Freedom cannot be given to anyone. It is realization that comes from within. Why must the Indians only become CEOs of Microsoft? Why can’t we create a Microsoft?!  Why are we so afraid of risks? How long are we going to crib about everything and exclaim “Nothing can happen to this country!!?” Then, later, we shall sit in our cramped office spaces and pull our colleagues down! Are we forever going to live in our miserable hopelessness?

India cannot afford to die so soon. We cannot accept defeat so easily. India is not so feeble that it shall only whine about its problems. Instead we have to face them and overcome every crisis! Let’s break the shackles of the childish fears. Let’s broaden our mind, perspective and reclaim the heritage that we had once gifted the whole world.

 

 

“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;

Where knowledge is free;

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow  domestic walls;

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the  dreary desert of sand of dead habit;

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake”

Rabindra Nath Tagore

Grow Up! India!

The Hero Hunt!!

I never sang the national anthem of my country when the state compelled me to stand up for it. Unlike my peers, I did not feel that rush of a patriotic wave within my veins and neither did I turn all misty eyed! I’m not proud of modern India.

Last week, I was flooded with text messages about how ‘good’ the Friday was. The reason, for a change was not a religious fervor. Instead, this time, it was social hysteria.

The first and the most celebrated moment of joy was the ‘order to kill’ the four convicted of the infamous Delhi Gang rape. A very close second spot was bagged by the latest Indian icon Modi and finally a rather insignificant Sreeshant also grabbed a few headlines.

None of these three bits of news was inter related. Yet, to me, they resonated the story of modern India today.

The death of the rapists was an obvious outcome and certainly, I would not deny the rule of law. They were a bunch of social beasts that had to be eliminated. However, I could still not comprehend or affirm to this overwhelming sadism of the society. I could still not celebrate the death of four lives! And I still believe that it was an entirely defective social upbringing that drove these men to such an extent. Society, which now pretends to triumph over the evils within these men, is actually the one to have created them. We now remain as a hopeless bunch of confused race that does not know how to redeem itself.

Perhaps, this is where the iconic presence of Modi comes in. Rather, the entire mass of India is now trying to hide behind the Modi disguise. We are all trying to hold Modi as our hero as we wander blindfolded into a clueless future.

Modi is that manifestation of India’s desperate need for a Godfather. India is in search of a so called magician who can rescue the race and provide it with a dimension. But still, a leader too, has to be created by the society.

The education system of a society forms the backbone of its intentions. The learning that is imparted into our children obviously holds the key to our future. It is dismal to even look at our haphazard education system today. It somehow continues to exist upon the bleak the chain of mechanical rote learning!

The text books dictate certain ideologies and forcefully feed them into our children. Nobody ever asks the children to opiniate. And hence continues the breeding of generations of programmed Indians. Our children are never allowed to form their own understanding of the world. Instead, they are caged into the narrow circuits of pre decided ‘good’ and ‘bad’!

A leader does not land overnight from the moon. A leader is created amongst us just like criminals are. It is shocking that our children are never given any formal training in speech and elocution. They are rarely pushed to the stage and made to speak their minds. The basic quality of a leader is that he addresses the mass and forms a very distinct opinion. Unlike Modi, a leader is not expected to be a demagogue. A leader follows no doctrine. He creates them.

Even Modi like most Indians lacks that refinement to think beyond the obvious. He is still juggling with the trash ideas of Hindutva and Ram Mandir. His populist image has again taken over the deep rooted issues of this country. He is so pre occupied in his popular politics, that he cannot ever apprehend the real needs of the country.

And that is where a Sreeshant appears. He represents, not just Modi, but every Indian around us. We want instant magic, and our solutions are immediate. We do not think before we act. No Indian ever dares to think beyond the next minute. We are completely taken over by the glamour of commercialism and we have practically lost ourselves.

Modi reminds me of my cooking experiments. I would sprinkle almost every spice in the kitchen on my meat and it would always look so delicious.

Modi is the amalgamation of all the spices India wants to see. He has shown us blood and he promises fireworks and mindless action. He characterizes that rapist in every Indian that loves to dominate over the weak. India loves sadism.

He would not educate the Indians to be proud of their nation. He would just torture them harder and define Indianhood for them!

I was after all, never given an opportunity to know my heritage of deep intellectual legacy. None of my textbooks ever brought alive debates that were once an integral part of my Indian society. I was never taught or made to realize the value and meaning of my national anthem. I was only made to memorize it! No textbook, ever told me about the free thought of Tagore that transcends all boundaries. It is ironic that the nation that initiated the world to philosophy and creativity  has now completely forgotten to think.

History was the most half hearted and neglected topic at school. Revolution was just another term that we by hearted. Classroom debates were unheard of. The only need was to ‘complete the syllabus’ and to finish the ‘notes’. I only learnt about the policies, never discussed them. There was never any element of romanticism about history and the endless stories that it narrates.

Humanities was seen as a substandard topic and there wasn’t any infrastructure for science beyond a point. And it all led me to the Indian fascination for mediocrity. My education system had space for everything except excellence. My country does not value excellence.

During the national Anthem, I felt angry. They applied all the fancy spices upon us and tried to make India look so delicious. However, like my meat, even this dish of nationalism remained uncooked and tasted awful!

 

The ray of Hope…

“At least today, stop listening to your Abida Parvin and destroy the DVD of Veer Zaara!”  Declared my friends as they heard the live telecast of Sarabjit’s sister’s emotional outcry. And once again, the intrinsic diplomats within every Indian were aroused. We all began to deliver our verdicts as to how a rogue nation like Pakistan must be annihilated.  The BJP erupted with their pseudo patriotism and the Congress desperately tried to balance all sides. And I began my cacophony yet again!

Around a week back, the Indian judiciary celebrated forty years of the landmark judgment of Kesavanada Bhararti v State of Kerala. The case, in many ways, had redefined the legal perspective of our nation.  The verdict was a celebration of an evolving Indian democracy. The 700 pages long verdict had not just defined the parliament’s power to amend our constitution. It contained the synthesis of the constitutions of 71 different countries which the attorney general had relentlessly created!

The case had brought about a new doctrine in Indian Jurisprudence- The basic structure theory.  It implied that the parliament could amend the constitution up to any extent until it altered the basic structure of our constitution.

If a country represents a person, its foreign policy his ethics, then, the judiciary is his conscience. India had followed the precedence of a state none other than Pakistan. The country, not only had a Christian Chief justice (under whom the theory was framed), but also a Hindu Chief justice on a later date. Pakistan had a pure conscience.

Today, we stand at a very significant stage for both the nations. Pakistan is largely turning into a failed state.  coups, military hassles and terrorism are overpowering the nation that had once started off on the same foot as India. India, on the other hand, is facing a stage of transition. We too, are increasingly turning into a bunch of hysteric mass and social frustration is on the rise. Most pertinent of all, both the countries are approaching elections.

Almost every Indian child is brought up with hatred towards Pakistan.  We are made to believe that the country had emerged straight from the dungeons of evil. Perhaps, it is a similar situation even across the border.  An uncanny mistrust breeds amidst the strained relation of these two nations. However, there is still a lot of similarity that hides behind this contempt.

Unlike any other nation, India can be the nation, closest towards understanding Pakistan. No, this is no humanitarian appeal to the Indian government towards playing the peace maker. One must realize that peace making, in international politics is not always done through sweet speeches. Rather, effective diplomacy and  careful  strategies hold the key. India must keep aside its populist politics and take the burden of the truth.

Pakistan, as it approaches its first completion of a democratically elected government is now desperate to sustain democracy. The nation is devastated with terrorism and an overwhelming power of the military. The country struggles to survive amidst its own problems of Baluchistan, Taliban and corruption. In a situation as such, India may play a very significant role in forging an alliance with the nation. Economic ties are imperative to not just support better business and bigger markets, but also to build political trust. As the elections take place in Pakistan, India must remain vocal and in complete synergy with the need for democracy in Pakistan. If democracy develops, the military power shall decline and hence the security of both the nations shall strengthen.

The 2014, withdrawal of U.S from Afghanistan shall also be an important point in the history of our relations. Pakistan, in an increasing fear towards Indian influence in the Afghan has often aided the Talibs. India must ensure a hard talk and a clear stand on this particular issue. The political parties of Pakistan, too, have to realize that, if the Taliban continues to be in power, terror threats also increase for Pakistan. Under such happenings, it would be largely difficult to sustain the Pakistani democracy. On the other hand, if Afghan develops its own governance and becomes self sustained, all the countries would benefit politically and economically.

I love Shahrukh khan! So do the Pakistanis. Often does, Shahrukh, represent my country just as much as Abida Parvin represents Pakistan.  Both these countries must collaborate and work towards such socio-cultural ties that can bring the people closer. Yes, Abida Parvin is a Pakistani singer. But she sings Ghalib who is intricately tied in the Indian culture. One must realize that we have shared the same culture for thousands of years until we were partitioned. This very cultural heritage must be utilized to sustain a strong bond amidst the two nations.

However, even as we discuss these strategies, the Prime minister of India is muzzled by his coalition parties and the opposition. With every step that the center tries to initiate, there is uproar in the parliament. The state leaders threaten to withdraw support, the opposition stalls parliament and the entire nation erupts in rage. The Indian mob wants to see blood. Later, the media attacks the leader for his silence.

The government often reminds me of my school days. I was always snubbed by my teachers for being very talkative. And, whenever, I was quiet in class, they called me dull!

The problem with us is that we want instant and quick remedies. They killed Sarabjit, we’ll kill them!! They breed terrorism, we shout Hindutva! India wants magic! We are opiniated. Yet, it takes us just a few hours to declare a common prisoner a ‘martyr’. Sarabjit’s martyrdom reminds me of the kid who called a random stranger his best friend to make his other friends jealous. India desperately needs a Hero to prove Pakistan an anti Hero.

Salman Khurshid is not just any other foreign affairs minister for India. He is also India’s message for secularism to those who try to see us as a Hindu majoritarian pseudo democracy! Diplomacy is not a magic potion that can fix all issues straight right after consumption. Diplomacy is a journey through the passage of time. One has to hold his patience in order to watch foreign relations flourish. India must practically exert itself as the leader of the developing democracies. The immediate need  is also to rise above the mediocrity of Indian politics. The entire system must stand up as one in order to make a statement at the global level.

The basic structure of both the nations’ ideals calls for integrity. The soul of the Indian foreign policy stands for peace and development. Repeated peace negotiations between the two countries have been hampered by the military interference in Pakistan. India must ensure and support the rise of a stronger, democratic and more consolidate form of government.

Even recently, the Pakistani court did not hesitate to disqualify its own Prime Minister. Repeatedly, the Pakistani judiciary has taken a number of upright decisions regarding elections and various other issues. India must take this opportunity to renew its relations with one of its most important neighbours.

India should look forward to the bright scopes at the International level. It is high time that we leave behind the cynicism and monotony that we are sinking into. We must stand up to shape our future and write our own destiny.

The Indian Soft Power
“It’s not the country with the larger army but the country with the better story that will prevail – we have to be able to tell the better story.”

Shashi Tharoor on ‘Soft Power’ as a Foreign Policy