Tag Archives: India

Fleeting Nationalism

I wrote this post last independence day, I guess it makes even more sense to me  after a year.

Nationalism “ loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially : a sense of  national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups” describes Webster.

We,  do not fit this description.

Indian flag

Photo by Gaurav Giri - http://bit.ly/cpznex

We, Indians, are very emotional by nature. It is very easy to whip up our emotions. A well written patriotic song, a Bollywood movie where  India comes out glorious despite all  odds,  is guaranteed to bring out tears of pride and joy. These emotions can easily be witnessed on our Independence day, everybody is exalting with Nationalistic pride, which is beautiful and frankly, normal. As they say,  ” you can’t be an Indian and not be proud of the fact”. But, I am afraid to say that these feelings are short lived. They come and go with these movies and our National days.

It was 1942, the year of Quit India Movement. My grand father attended a rally lead by Subhash Chandra Bose. He said, in his speech: “Independence of India is written on the walls now, I can see it from here. But, during this struggle, we have learned to learn this indiscipline.We have learned to disobey our government”. These words are true to this day, we have been free for 63 years now and have not been able to discipline ourselves. I am not saying that we all are traitors but, we do not understand the true meaning of patriotism. We often forget to keep our nation above us. Knowingly or unknowingly we often do not think or speak of our country in the manner appropriate. It breaks my heart every time,  I hear people say“I am on IST “ when they are late. As frivolous as it may sound, it does underline the fact, that we perceive our indiscipline as an inherit part of our being Indian.

I have often heard Indians talking disapprovingly of India in front of people from other countries. It’s okay to discuss your concerns in a constructive manner but I am not a fan of washing my dirty linen in public, movies like Slumdog Millionaire are there to do that job for us. The point being, do not draw a negative portrait of your country  on the minds of people who are solely trusting your opinion of your own country to form theirs. We can learn a little from this story I heard from my father when I was little, I asked him, why is Japan  so much more developed than we are? He narrated this incident that a foreigner wrote in his memoir about Japan:

He was traveling on a train in Japan, he was hungry, got down at a couple of stations and found nothing to eat. He murmured out of frustration” and they say Japan is a developed nation!” . A fellow Japanese traveler heard him, he got down the train, ran out of station and came back with a basket of fruits. He said to the foreigner “Please except this as a gift and please do not tell any one that you didn’t find anything to eat in our stations”.  The incident speaks for it self.

We need to learn from other prosperous nations, watch their ways and mend ours accordingly. We need to learn Civic sense, a little bit more tolerance and constructive ways to express our disagreements. Gandhiji taught the whole world an entirely new philosophy, a brand new way of life. Unfortunately,  we only picked a few things we should have refrained from. Yes, I am talking about strikes. Every now and then I read about organizations on strike resulting in millions of dollars of loss to the government.  Even doctors do not refrain from this practice, needless to say the repercussions . I once read about a strike in an Australian shoe factory, the workers were not happy with the management. They decided to go on strike by making just  the right shoe till the strike continued. Once their demands were met, they finished the pairs. These little things go a long way to make a nation strong.

We are lucky to be born in this beautiful country, where, love is the essence of life. We are lucky to be citizens of world’s largest democracy. We  need to appreciate this fact more and  incorporate a little discipline in our everyday lives. This is our time, we  can build the India of tomorrow by just going an extra mile. It is not that great a price to pay for the rewards we will reap.

Let every day be Independence Day!

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Hazardous Hazare

The recent Hazare spectacle made me realize how powerful hunger can be. It also made me realize that, in today’s world of global connectivity and exuberance of means enabling people to voice their opinions, it is so easy to  whip up public’s emotions. The movement for support of Hazare is an example of this, people got overtly excited about the flawed idea that passing a bill that profoundly errs in understanding the ways in which corruption can be fought and irradiated in this country, is a cause worth fighting for. But, my biggest problem is with the means Anna Hazare adopted to coerce the government into agreeing to his demands. This trend is very detrimental to a democratic society and should be condemned by the citizens much less eulogized

Anna Hazare  who is  being compared to present day Gandhi, emulated Gandhi by going on hunger strike in order to be part of a committee that were to draft the Lokpal Bill. Gandhiji was the greatest soul that ever walked this earth, who taught us a philosophy, never seen before. The only thing people in India seem to have gathered from him is the culture of strikes and bandhs, shameful. When people compare Anna Hazare to Gandhi, it makes my skin crawl. Gandhi went on hunger strike to fight the alien, colonial rule and set his country free, not to be a part of a committee.

We live in a democratic country, we elect our government by our free will and it is government’s job to draft a bill and civil society has no business being part of such committees. Anna Hazare wanted equal representation of people and government in the drafting committee. Are you kidding? Isn’t government an extension of people’s will? It is one thing to ask for representation of public in such matter but blackmailing the government takes it to a whole new level.

It is a shame that an assortment of self-proclaimed social activists and public- seeking wannabees were able to coerce the government into agreeing to their demands.  Have these do gooders completely missed the existence of Iom Sharmila, who has been on a hunger strike for last 11 years? I didn’t see such a stir in past 11 years. Government never repealed the AFSPA because a woman has been fasting for last 11 years?  Can we blame the imminent state elections and series of scams for the current output of this particular hunger strike?

Menace of corruption can not be solved by the introduction of Lok Pal bill and hunger strikes are not the way to push a political agenda, in a constitutional democracy like ours. Corruption can be dealt with proper economic reforms and engaging people in electoral process. People who supported the Bill and Anna Hazare  were  profoundly misguided. The movement seemed to have struck a chord with people in light of current slew of scams. Hunger strikes are extremely dangerous and detrimental to a political democracy. I do not support hunger strikes, the Jan Lokpal bill, nor do I support  corruption.

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Blaze of Glory

 

World Champions 2011 !!!

World Champions 2011 !!! -- AFP

I, like every other Indian  born in 80’s, grew up without any recollection of the year 1983, when India clinched their first ever  Cricket World Cup . All I grew up was with the legends of that fateful day. My father’s narrations of the tournament, I never failed to notice the glint in his eyes while  proudly saying” we were the under dogs and we beat the mighty West Indies!”. These little tales of  pride and love for the game, which comes next if not above religion in India, would make me wonder if I will ever see a day like that in my own life, and if I did will it mean the same to me as it did to my father 28 years back.Well, we have our own piece of history today! We have our own tales to pass on to the next generation and there is no describing the  emotions that are rampant on the mind of every Indian today.

In the year 2011, things were a little different in the world of cricket, team India was no longer the underdog, they were deemed the ‘favorites’. Isn’t that great, you say. Not really. They were labeled the favorites based on their formidable batting line up and their recent victories. Being the favorites put immense pressure on the team, which is notorious for succumbing under it. The favorites had their own problems to deal with, the challenges ahead of them included overcoming the knack for anxiety at testing times, improving the mediocre fielding, which was a feat in itself considering the aging players. They were at immense disadvantage due to their  ailing bowling skills. When the matches started, we saw India’s legendary batting collapse for meager scores. I am a Debby Downer, u say? Well, I am just trying to say how amazing this tournament has been, how team India thrived despite all these odds. You almost shot the messenger, didn’t you?

This world cup’s journey has been culmination of many stories. All of them ending with triumph, the 28 year old wait came to an end, we forgave our team for all the tears and anger over loses over the past several years. The God of cricket got  “proudest moment of his life”. A whole new chapter in the Indian cricket just started.

All this happened due to grit, perseverance, fearlessness and love these men showed to the game. No one deserves to win this cup more than these 11 men. They have earned this title in so many ways. They have united the whole nation, brought joy to many hearts across the globe, they have truly earned this respect and love. And it will always stay in our hearts and the memories of this day will never ever fade in our lives. This truly was a gentleman’s game.

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Drowning in shame

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Photo by Reuters

I grew up waking up to the echoes of tennis ball, hitting the hard court, Geoffrey Boycott’s chuckle and perpetual cricket test matches being  religiously played on my parents living room television set(much to my mother’s chagrin). I am the nerd who  ceremoniously waits for 4 years for Olympics to happen and burst into tears of joy when Abhinav Bindra scores a 10.8 in his final shot. Sports have been an inherent part of my being and commencement of Common Wealth Games (CWG) on Indian soil was naturally  a matter of pride and much joy. Little did I know that instead of being excited about the games (which by the way are less than 2 weeks away) I will be venting out my anger about the colossal mess they are now.

I banished the initial uproar about the procrastination and controversies surrounding the games to the corner of my brain designated for things I don’t want to think/talk about. Hoping that everything will eventually fall in place. I kept piling up the shameless debacles over time and now, my brains buffer is full, rather overflowing. I can’t help it. I must rant!

It all started with the corruption charges, which was no surprise to me. I accepted it as a reality. I did hope that they will at least  have the decency to deliver what had been promised or at least most of it. Not even an iota, I wouldn’t feel comfortable visiting the games myself after a series of roofs and bridges collapsed on people’s head. The  CWG federation president Fennel gave the conditions of the games village a swift “D”,  followed  by various participating countries. Many top athletes have already pulled out of the games. Mother nature has not been cooperative either, there are concerns about Dengue outbreak due to recent rains. To add fire to the fuel, two tourists managed to get shot in Delhi giving rise to a  new rhetoric about safety concerns and possible terrorist attacks. Is there a thing that didn’t go wrong?

So, what do people in charge of the event have to say? According to them every thing is fine and all these issues are blown way out of proportion. In words of Delhi’s Chief minister Sheila Dixit “These rooms are clean to both you and us. However it may not appear so to some others. They want certain standards in hygiene and cleanliness which may differ from our perception“. This is more than a farce and have permanently tainted India’s  image and capabilities for hosting any event of the sorts.

6 billion dollars later, it is still indecisive if we will be able to continue with the games. Australia has offered to step in and host the games . I can’t decide what is more shameful, letting them host it or try to pull it off ourselves with problems that refuse to recede? I am disheartened less as a sport enthusiast but more as an Indian. At this point, I do not even hope for a miracle. The little hope  I had collapsed with the last bridge. I am drowning in shame and the only thing that lets me come up to surface is the  incense  I am filled  with.

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Love Thy Neighbour

One fifth of Pakistan has been affected by the devastating floods, worst calamity in 80 years. Its leaders are constantly SOS-ing the international community for aid. India offered 5 million USD, they refused. US intervened, they reluctantly accepted. Looks like a bad soap opera’s plot to me. Except, real people are dying here, real children are going hungry and without shelter. This can be confusing to any bystander, how can a country afford to do this in such a dire situation? Well, this is just not any country we are talking about, its  India and Pakistan. Ours is a different story….

India  and Pakistan went their separate ways in 1947. At least in theory. Pakistan started its journey as an Islamic nation (headed by a man who himself was  an agnostic). India chose to remain a secular nation. This is a classic example of political ambition taking precedence over reality. Both Jinnah and Nehru were agitating and preparing to exercise the power for years and this was their chance. The problem was, there could  only be one leader. They found a convenient scapegoat in religion. This was the advent of what would be the  tremulous history of the two nations.

The nations separated, people remained the same. Partition was the ugliest picture of pain, misery and  death possible. The atrocities committed during that time can easily dwarf Rwanda. 2 million people were killed in the communal riots and many more lost their homes. Memories of ghost trains have been haunting generations of Indians and Pakistanis. This is where we come from, this is how we started..

The memories of this gruesome start got etched in the hearts of people of both the countries and manifested itself as this deep rooted animosity, which constantly gets fueled by the perpetual conflict over Kashmir.  India and Pakistan have fought 3 wars since independence and can easily be called  the epicenter of  the next international war. Both the nations being nuclear powers. There have been many failed attempts of reconciliation, but this is  a stalemate. No one wants to go one step farther than the other. Is there a solution that can work for both the countries?

3 wars have taught us that military is not the solution. Talks and goodwill are great in theory but haven’t been proved  fruitful so far, nevertheless , there should be constant dialogue between the two countries and more importantly between the people. The only solution that seems practical enough is to increase the trade and commerce between the two nations. Let both benefit from each other. We can take the example of France and Germany after world war II, how they intertwined there economies  so that the  war became impossible. It is not as easy as it looks for us  in theory but this can be a start. If we look objectively at our situation and try to find ways to improve it, it is possible we can prevent history from repeating itself.

Our geographical location bounds us to stay together, there is no escape. The only thing we can escape from is our history. As they say, “those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.

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India’s Only Problem

One pleasant winter evening, the kind where one doesn’t need to cover oneself from head to toe and there are no worries of slipping on the ice and breaking ones  bones among other things. I was strolling with a group of people I recently met and knew little about. Amongst various topics, ranging from weather to latest movies came up one that bothers me  and to an extent makes me nervous… Our population. The guy casually said”We are no longer worried about this, in fact we are happy that it is growing the way it is “. I was taken aback for a moment…wondering how can one think like that, but then I am practicing to learn  to deal with less informed people who happen to think that  they are well versed on the subject they are talking about, with grace and poise. It is not working very well for me ….I didn’t say anything then but the  incident did make me think about the divided consensus on this topic and when will this issue be acknowledged and dealt with all seriousness it deserves.

We are a country of 1.25 billion people. Is it a demographic disaster or a demographic dividend as argued by many? One in every 6 person in the world is an Indian. These intimidating figures if not checked will grow even worse in the coming decades. We will surpass China in the next 2 decades with a total of 2.4 Billion people. That being said , is it  necessarily a bad thing? Half our population is comprised of youth, people under 25 years of age, which is great for now as it is helping us improve our economy with a rising share of  people in working class population. But how will this picture look, let’s say after 2 decades? Not the best, I would say. With already shrinking resources, this the last thing that could happen to us.

It is high time our politicians  get their act together and formulate some norm to address this situation. I know, it is a touchy subject for them especially after what happened when Mrs. Gandhi tried to impose forced population control and ended up loosing the following elections. Not to mention, they themselves have up to 9 children in their households. So, we clearly know that any coercive methods simply won’t work for us. If we employ 2 child policy for all the states, it is most likely to be misused and will be least effective. Also, we know countries like China have seriously skewed sex ratios after employing one child rule along with  serious human rights violations. Reasons why people feel the need to have more than 2 children in our country always baffles me. Has it something to do with education? Sadly no, the research shows that there is no correlation between education and the number of children a person has . Some of the highly educated people I know have more than 2 children. The need to have a male child plays a major part here. In states like UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh where, the population growth is amongst the highest, majority of the women don’t want another child after having 2 children. But it happens anyway. Blame it on lack of awareness about contraception or access to a medical facility. No wonder, maternity fatality rate in India is amongst the highest in the world.

So, is there a pragmatic approach that can solve this imminent threat we are facing? Should there be some incentives involved? Countries like  Russia, France and Germany give incentives to their citizens in order to increase population, it hasn’t worked for them so far. Incorporating  sex education in our school syllabuses will certainly help. More importantly women should play a major role in the decision making  process which will only  come by education. We probably need more reservations in schools and colleges for women than in parliament. Another important aspect is making a uniform policy where there is an actual separation between religion and state. De-stigmatization of  sex is necessary. It won’t hurt to increase the age of marriage for women to be 21 years of age and to enforce this.

I think all our problems stem from this single problem. We need to acknowledge this and try to stabilize our population in such a way that we have better quality of life, more resources  and above all no body  gets hurt in the process.

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