binu karunakaran on the uid project

some of the questions he asks:
Will the government be the only authority which can use or request the UID? What information in those databases will be linked explicitly to other databases? Who has the authority to create this linkages and who all can access this information? Would the people who use the UID for various transactions be informed of the algorithms used to analyse their data. Will the data collected stored forever? Article 20, clause 3 of the Indian constitution states that " No person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself ." Will data records generated by the UID be used against the accused in a court of law? There is not much clarity on this as the confidentiality level of data elements (open to all, open only to security agencies/NGOs) are yet to be finalised.
none of those questions have been answered as yet. but the way the article proceeds, one sees a certain pattern:
But the security agencies will definitely have a say on this. They would be specifically interested in Data mining, a process that involves the use of mathematical analytical tools to detect patterns in large sets of data with the purpose of predicting certain kinds of behaviour, such as the propensity to engage in criminal activity or to purchase particular consumer goods. They would also be looking at data matching - the technique of comparing different databases so as to identify common features or trends in the data.
the rest of the article follows a similar line of analysis and criticism, almost (will probably return to this article in the future).

there are crores of families without a ration card in this country- the questions, karunakaran doesn't seem interested in are the questions anyone from those families would probably want to ask. like, will this unique number convince the state that i exist?


public good and all that rot

smokescreen asks here:
Surely their vision isn’t blinkered by the bpo sector?!
her question is about the national knowledge commission. a few days ago, the chairman of the commission was advocating the need for taking education to the masses through internet.

there are around 50 million to 81 million users in india, according to different estimates (anyone who logs into the net even once a month is a user), but only around 2.6 million internet connections, as of october last year. even if those connections had doubled since last year (quite impossible, because imrb says growth in internet users has been slow since 2001 in this 2008 report ), what makes the chairman, nkc, think the number of connections could grow twenty times in the next five years (to 100 million connections)? and why does he believe that any of those connections would be owned by members of the masses? would they still be masses if they were doing so well as to afford regular internet connections?

that's a wrong response to the chairman's wisdom. why? it means that you are accepting the chairman's idea of public good: different kinds of education for different classes of people. it means you differ with him only on the means to achieve that end.

would pitroda teach his kids or grandkids through the internet? would he want them not go to exclusive private schools where they probably teach french and horse riding and other neat things, among other things, but admit them into a government run school so that they could be taught through the internet, sometimes, because the teachers don't work most times? no. but he still thinks his project is for the public good. and a lot of people, including the ruling government, seem to trust him. why?

came across this interesting study by a group of american psychologists- here's the outline:
One of the most curious aspects of the 2004 presidential election was the strength and resilience of the belief among many Americans that Saddam Hussein was linked to the terrorist attacks of September 11. Scholars have suggested that this belief was the result of a campaign of false information and innuendo from the Bush administration. We call this the information environment explanation. Using a technique of “challenge interviews” on a sample of voters who reported believing in a link between Saddam and 9/11, we propose instead a social psychological explanation for the belief in this link. We identify a number of social psychological mechanisms voters use to maintain false beliefs in the face of disconfirming information, and we show that for a subset of voters the main reason to believe in the link was that it made sense of the administration’s decision to go to war against Iraq. We call this inferred justification: for these voters, the fact of the war led to a search for a justification for it, which led them to infer the existence of ties between Iraq and 9/11.
you need to justify nehru's decision to create iits when there were no proper schools in most indian villages, so you come up with a lot of spin now. so, whatever figures one digs up on the state of the internet in india now wouldn't make the slightest dent in the credibility of the chairman, nkc. and when the project fails to take education to the masses through the internet, five years from now, it still wouldn't make any dent in his credibility, because we need to believe he couldn't have been wrong. he was working for the public good.

it doesn't take too much effort, many times, to bring to light the private, sectarian interest in projects pushed through as essential for the public good. but some projects stay so deeply entrenched in the public mind as public good that it's very difficult to dislodge them. that's one major reason why i've always liked the 'real university' series of posts by abi: many of those posts build a strong argument against the elitist mindset of our planners and policy makers. in one of the first posts in the series, abi points out how the much glorified institutions like the iios (iit/iims etc) are inefficient:
Creation of these new institutions is premised on an over-reliance on Indian Institutes -- a phenomenon which is best abbreviated to IIO. As a strategy for positive change IIO is flawed, inefficient, and expensive. From the point of view of nation building, IIO represents an utter bankruptcy of imagination.

The flaws in IIO stem from its smug assumption that, somehow, small institutions training a few thousand students in niche areas are enough to feed the country's immense appetite for skilled manpower. This smugness also makes it callously indifferent to the hunger for knowledge and skills among our millions of students who languish in our universities and colleges.

From an operational viewpoint, IIO has historically been an inefficient strategy. In any academic institution, certain facilities are common: library, lecture halls, laboratories, sports facilities, amphitheatres, and computing and internet infrastructure. The bigger the institution -- the larger the student and faculty population that uses this common infrastructure -- the lower the effective cost per user. With its emphasis on small institutions, IIO has bred inefficiency. A similar argument applies to the student-to-teacher ratio. Currently, IITs operate at about seven students per teacher (going by the 2003 figures from the Rama Rao Committee report). As M.A. Pai points out, this ratio is three times as high in "most US public universities." Clearly, a poor country like ours has every right to expect -- in fact, demand -- that our institutions perform at the highest levels of efficiency. Engineers and managers from our IITs and IIMs would demand no less in the products and services they design, develop or manage!

More important than its inefficiency and narrow vision is the enormous cost of IIO. Just ask yourself this question: if our government is so proud of its IIO strategy, why doesn't it convert all our universities and colleges into Indian Institutes of This and That?

yes, why doesn't the government convert all our universities into Indian Institutes of This and That?

...Let us do some quick math.

The three new IITs, for example, are estimated to cost Rs. 1400 crores per year for the next five years! When fully operational, they will have a student strength of about 14,000 (8000 bachelors, 2000 masters and 4000 doctoral students -- all of which are generous estimates), giving us a price of Rs. 50 lakhs per student. Amortizing this sum over a 20-year period gives us Rs. 2.5 lakhs per student per year. That is just fixed costs alone! Add to it about Rs. 1.5 lakhs per student as annual running expenses, taking the total to over Rs. 4 lakhs per student per year!

To put this number in perspective, if our government were to lavish even a quarter of this amount on every student, it would end up spending Rs. 100,000 crores -- roughly 3 percent of GDP. Put another way, this is eight times India's current expenditure on higher education (0.37 percent of GDP)! Is it any wonder, then, that "IITs for all" is not the favourite slogan for our higher education planners?

there's another question one needs to ask: what kind of minds could've conceived the idea that a miniscule section of the population deserved such irrational largesse? minds steeped in the ideology of caste, in my view. but the answers you might get from the ruling classes would always be couched in modern, democratic rhetoric.


new trishankus

shahrukh khan's detention has been a great jolt for india's brahminized classes, as i said in this post. this is all quite ironic considering how hard the shahrukh-karan johar duo have been, since the mid-nineties, trying to bring normalcy to indian cinema, seeking acceptance from the west. check the photographs. look at how the extras, who looked so poor, dark, indian in the first photograph blossomed into such svelte, light skinned, normal people in the second. until a decade or so ago, it wasn't indian or foreign models who played the roles of extras (or junior artistes) in hindi movies. now normalcy has become such a rage that lighter skinned actors have moved from the song sequences to even lead roles in many movies. and shahrukh himself has become the icon of normalcy.

normal is fair, normal is successful, normal is healthy. normal is also the west. i had watched a part of a movie (kismat konnection) recently in which a young architect sacrifices everything he has to build a community center as part of a new mall. it's a disturbing film- no, not because it offers some new, profound insights into indian society. it's disturbing because it plucks indian society, or parts of it, out of india and plants it in the west. the community that the architect intends to save in the film consists of indians and others who are mostly light skinned people. let me try to restate all that in one sentence: the filmmaker rejects one community and saves another community. which means what? the filmmaker doesn't like community? or he likes community?

like cutting india out of shree 420 and raju ban gaya gentleman. the film conveys the message than an indian community is impossible. if shree 420 held out the possibility of such a community, raju ban gaya gentleman outlined the difficulties in building that community, kismat konnection drops the idea altogether.

khalid mohammed says, in his review titled raju ban gaya canadian:
Right off, it has to be admitted that director Aziz Mirza’s Kismat Konnection avoids vulgarity and viciousness. It’s about little people who are as chaste as the morning’s toothpaste. They want decent jobs, protect senior citizens in their community centre, dream about featuring on the cover of Time magazine (Newsweek won’t be pleased). And above all, they are absolute Business Shark-a-haris. No mean-`n’-meaty tactics for them.
he could be talking about the brahminized classes who make, distribute and watch hindi films. or how they'd like to think of themselves. no vulgarity or viciousness. chaste and shakahari. work hard in decent jobs, and save enough to protect senior citizens (if they've not been shakahari enough and saved something). smart enough to aim for global recognition.

an indian community is impossible, so let's take it outside india. let's create our own geography, free of viciousness and vulgarity. a community that's chaste and upholds shakahari ideals. that works hard and preserves its traditions.

look at these other reviews of the film: [the telegraph], [times of india], [dna] and [rediff]. notice how most of the reviews don't notice the change in location? yes, the brahminized media too has internalised these normal, extra-geographic ideas of india. as liberalization etc has let loose more people from the brahminized classes upon an unsuspecting world, and as we hear more of the globalized indian, have they given up the idea of an indian nation?

let's go back to the movie- in the last scene the young architect, in a community meeting, tries to convince businessmen financing the proposed mall of the need for a community center. the meeting held in a large hall evokes very strange feelings- most of the community members doing the talking are indians, while a large section of the audience, the other members of the community, mostly white or black, are all silent. exactly like india before mandal and the rise of the bsp.

the brahminized classes don't like an audience that talks back. the pen, the mike, and now the camera are things that they hate sharing or giving up. like the hindi the architect and other interlocutors in the scene i described use, their language too isn't for sharing with any audience- if it can't be sanskrit, it has to be highly sanskritized forms of hindi and other indian laguages, or english.

the scene is a throwback to the nehruvian liberal discourse running through shree 420 with a major twist, of course. the audience in that movie too doesn't talk much. they listen and dance- the main character does most of the talking, singing and preaching. the mostly listening audience could be a part of the community the nehruvian liberal envisaged. now, he doesn't like the cacophony they create in parliament.

this distaste is also reflected in the cinema of the brahminized classes- they seem to dislike the unchaste others so much that they don't even wish to see them as a market. so they have mostly moved their product to cleaner, more meritorious spaces in the multiplexes. the more chaste among them wish to protect themselves even further: they want to move their homes, sometimes, into their own trishankus within unchaste india.

what the indian filmmaker tries to see in the west is a reflection of how he sees himself. the wealth, success, merit of the west- that's what he likes and that's what he thinks he shares with the west. and as long as the west doesn't talk back, community with those normal people is a fine idea.


myths around english

some myths need to be busted:

myth no.1: english is going to get you the best jobs in the future.

the truth is, there isn't going to be any growth in the best jobs available in the country in the future. not for another twenty years, at least. consult any astrologer or goldman sachs on what would happen beyond twenty years. the best jobs in the country are in the organized sector: jobs that offer both good pay and benefits and security. those jobs have actually decreased in number in the last twenty years and will continue to do so.

of the future, there is only one kind of growth that can be predicted with any degree of certainty: growth in the number of the self-employed (who already number 55% of the workforce in the country).

'kanTi chooputO champEstaa'

which translates, literally, to something like: 'i'll kill you with my eyesight'. that's a line from a popular movie of the faction genre, a class of movies unique to telugu cinema (which should actually be called krishna-godavari delta cinema, because the great majority of the filmmakers etc are from that sub-region of kosta or coastal andhra).

the faction genre is dedicated to revelling in the gory, exaggerated, fictionalized accounts of the heroic lives of the eminently dislikeable paalegallu (cousins, in more ways than one, of poligars in tamil nadu and palegars in karnataka), or factionists as they're called, of rayalaseema. the song i'd linked to in this post takes a more realistic look at the misdeeds of the factionists.

what made me think of those movies now? random surfing yesterday led me to this post (the comments, actually). no, i was not interested in all the 'this-regional-cinema-is-better-than-that' line of discussion. what i was interested in was what was glossed over (and is glossed over elsewhere, in more serious fora too) : why are the films made in telugu classified as telugu cinema at all? or why are films made in tamil called tamil cinema or films made in malayalam called malayalam cinema or films made in bengali called bengali cinema etc?

the faction genre isn't actually unique to the erroneously classified telugu cinema- the line i quoted was from the remake of an original tamil movie (one of those movies which glorify the lives of rural gounder-thevar-naicker-etc tyrants). telugu cinema is essentially the handiwork of kammas, reddies and brahmins with significant contributions from rajus, kapus (some sub-castes) and velamas. mostly brahminized intermediate castes. all of them together make up not more than 20% of the state's population. what we call telugu cinema is a product of their kanTichoopu, or vision or nazariya. and there's definitely nothing pan-telugu about it. i've talked about whose nazariya is reflected in hindi cinema in this post- who speaks through so-called tamil, bengali, malayalam etc cinema?

i bet they all kill everyone else with their kanTichoopu.


random thoughts: item numbers

how much can the efforts of private individuals and organizations help improve access to education and healthcare in a country of india's size? or in any country of any size? read an interesting article on a related subject, today, by a member of the faculty of one of the best private medical institutions in the country.

prof. k.s.jacob of the christian medical college, vellore, writes:
Caste plays out in India just as race plays out in the U.S. and the social class in Britain. Birth seems to determine health, education, employment, social and economic outcomes. Systemic injustice requires much more than a change of heart; it requires changes in social structures. Social injustice is killing people and mandates the ethical imperative of improving the social determinants of health.
he also refers to evidence on how caste affects health outcomes, in particular:
Data from the National Family Health Survey-III (2005-06) clearly highlight the caste differentials in relation to health status. The survey documents low levels of contraceptive use among the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes compared to forward castes. Reduced access to maternal and child health care is evident with reduced levels of antenatal care, institutional deliveries and complete vaccination coverage among the lower castes. Stunting, wasting, underweight and anaemia in children and anaemia in adults are higher among the lower castes. Similarly, neonatal, postnatal, infant, child and under-five statistics clearly show a higher mortality among the SCs and the STs. Problems in accessing health care were higher among the lower castes. The National Family Health Survey-II (1998-99) documented a similar picture of lower accessibility and poorer health statistics among the lower castes.
and his approach to improving health outcomes?
The structural determinants of daily life contribute to the social determinants of health and fuel the inequities in health between caste groups. Viewing health in general as an individual or medical issue, reducing population health to a biomedical perspective and suggesting individual medical interventions reflect a poor understanding of issues. Social interventions should form the core of all health and prevention programmes as individual medical interventions have little impact on population indices, which require population interventions.
prof. jacob's overall message is quite simple, really: an aiims, or an apollo, in every state capital in the country wouldn't improve health statistics.

just as an iit in every state in the country wouldn't solve the problem of illiteracy. nothing but social intervention would solve the problem of inadequate access in healthcare and school education. in my view, private efforts can do very little and in the long run could even harm everyone's interests by taking the issue off public consciousness and policy makers' priorities.

social intervention means everyone should get a basic, assured level of attention. neither aiims nor iits/iims are social interventions: they're the policy equivalent of item numbers in indian films. they enhance the marketabilty of exclusionist projects of keeping the great majority of the underprivileged illiterate and vulnerable while seducing a few with the promises of individual advancement.

why isn't any dalit bahujan thinker demanding the dismantling of these exclusionist institutions? or opposing this sustained system of stratification in the delivery of public goods like education and health?

why is everyone focussed on issues like english, when it is quite evident that the ruling classes have no plans to deliver the same kind of education to everyone, whether in english or in any other language, now or in the foreseeable future, unless their exclusionist mindset is challenged?


remove this caste system?

a news report says:
Community organisation goes on sit-in on gotra issue.

Jhajjar (Haryana), July 30 (PTI) A community organisation today began an indefinite sit-in outside a village here on the issue of a marriage which allegedly violated the social norm of ''bhaichaara'' (brotherhood). Members of the Kadyan Barha Khaap Panchayat started their sit-in outside Dharana village here on the issue of marriage of a youth Ravinder, belonging to a Gehlout family, with a girl of the Kadyan gotra (clan).

The khaap announced that the sit-in would carry on till the family did not leave the village bowing to its diktat of either dissolving the marriage or leaving the village. The panchayat has also summoned a ''Sarva Khaap Panchayat'' (a group of all gotra panchayats in Haryana) in Beri town here on August 9 for discussing the matter.

strange kind of bhaichaara. and notice how the police, the indian state, don't seem to notice how openly some people practise caste- panchayats are held publicly and the police don't even look the other way, usually. who's going to provide the bandobast? and notice how the state protects those who break caste, sometimes:

Bhopal, Aug 12 (PTI)At a time when inter-caste marriages are being encouraged by the governments in various states, a functionary of Aaron Panchayat in Madhya Pradesh's Guna district has been terminated from her service for "marrying outside her caste", but was reinstated later.

Chief Executive Officer Hemlata Mandloi, a tribal, was sacked on January 14 this year after she married Avadhesh Sharma belonging to upper caste, official sources said today.

elsewhere, the speaker of the lok sabha exhorts her countrymen: remove this caste system.


nehruvian or liberal?

shyam benegal objects to certain satnamis objecting to a line in the play 'charandas chor':

In the process of dismantling caste equations, some of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Dalit communities give themselves identities that no longer associate them with their traditional professions. The new identity requires a reworking of community histories and mythology. Any reference to the old identity can only seem offensive. As part of the mainstream, they are likely to lose their special identity.

It is largely for this reason that it becomes important for them to adopt dominant forms of expression so that others may hear or understand their points of view. Even more important for them is to establish their view as the last word. Any expression that they perceive as an attack on their identity is responded to with considerable vehemence.

Governments have a tendency to accede to such demands when the community they constitute is a significant votebank — as is probably the case in Chhattisgarh.

i am increasingly convinced that the expression indian liberal or nehruvian liberal is a contradiction in terms.


clash of meritocracies

google shahrukh khan and you get over 3 million search results. tom cruise and brad pitt will get you 29 million and 25 million search results respectively. is shahrukh khan only 1/9th or 1/8th as popular as those hollywood stars? he needs to climb higher to get the americans' attention- unlike what some actors and others from the mumbai film industry seem to think:
But when it comes to Shah Rukh, it doesn't take more than 20 seconds to figure out who he is. Any search engine on the Internet will give more information on him than Hollywood stars Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt and despite that if it took them two hours to figure out..
shahrukh himself found the detention a 'little embarassing' (in his own words). it meant 'disrespect'. how could anyone so rich, successful and famous be treated as any another khan?

the reaction- how could the americans be so dumb as to detain a celebrity, downplays the fact that khan was detained because he was a khan, muslim, indian, south asian, asian, brown....different. this contradiction seems to escape the media and khan's friends in the industry and khan himself. didn't he say that it was his name which aroused suspicion, initially?

celebrity is also merit. the brahminized classes, once in a while, reward those not born to merit with celebrity if they find them meritorious enough. or if they accept or do not challenge the brahminized worldview much. people like dr.abdul kalam or m.s. subbulakshmi or shahrukh khan. it's a strategy that works beautifully- the world sees a hindu nation lionizing a muslim president and thinks: the hindu is so broadminded. and the hindu can go on pushing his narrow agenda of merit.

what is merit? one simple answer: merit is the hindu's modern shorthand for purity.

the media found much irony in the fact that khan was making a film, my name is khan, which tells the story of a man who is detained by the american police because they find his behaviour suspicious. and why is his behaviour suspicious? because he suffers from a developmental disorder called asperger's syndrome. this website dedicated to the film says:
Asperger’s Syndrome is a neurobiological disorder on the autistic spectrum. People with Asperger’s are often very intelligent but have deficiencies in social skills (for example, they may not pick up nonverbal cues, or establish eye contact), tend to take every comment literally, and are highly sensitive to sounds, smells or colors. Relationships, especially romantic ones, can be extremely challenging.
so, in the movie too khan isn't arrested, chiefly, because he's khan, muslim, indian, south asian, asian, brown... he's arrested because he suffers from a neurobiological disorder.

doesn't that sound similar to this argument: students who can't make it to the so-called best institutions in india suffer from poverty, not caste.

truth is so much simpler than the fictions the brahminized classes feed themselves- karan johar (while conceiving his movie) doesn't think the idea that a khan could be arrested for, simply, being a khan is believable (though reality had told him otherwise even during shooting of the movie when one of the muslim actors in the movie had to be sent back home). so he feeds himself a fiction that that could happen only if someone was not normal, and in the twisted sense that he understands the disorder, that someone who suffers from asperger's syndrome is not a normal human being..... the reaction of khan's pals in the industry (when faced with the reality of khan's detention) is the outcome of a variant of the same fiction they've fed themselves- that successful, famous people are normal. how could normal people be detained?

who's normal? those who are born to merit. or those who display to the satisfaction of those who are born to merit that they possess merit (like shahrukh khan etc). but that doesn't seem to be the way the americans understand merit or normalcy. merit for them these days is something that the khans, muslims, indians, south asians, asian, brown people do not possess. and normal people are those who have the right to measure every one else's merit. which can only mean people born in america or western europe.

this is a great jolt for india's brahminized classes who desperately wish to be measured as normal by the west.

while the americans seem to publicly acknowledge that they don't see any merit in khan-ness, india's elite would never do that.
the brahminized classes of india would publicly admit only poverty, as they measure it (i.e., in purely rupee terms), and certain physical impediments to leading, in their view, a normal life as the only markers of difference. people who suffer from those disadvantages have a legitimate claim to our sympathy. others are whiners. look at shah rukh khan himself- hasn't he become so rich and successful? so when they make films, their distrust of khan-ness, of otherness, would always be camouflaged in asperger's syndrome.


..is not having to listen to 'ai mere watan ke logon' or 'amma tujhe salaam'.


dharma, artha, kama

and here's more evidence on why the indian nation is hindu:
I come from a family of film directors and writers and producers, and I was certain that I’d grown up watching movies with titles like the ones I’d used. So I phoned Ashish Rajadhakshya, editor of The Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema, and asked him to put some queries to his database. He came back with some interesting numbers. It seems that to date, 31 feature films called "Dharma" have been made in India; if you allow for variations on the word (like "Dharma Yudh"), that number goes up to 84. Similarly, thirty movies called "Shakti" have been produced; it’s 54 if you allow variations. For "Shanti," the numbers are ten and eighteen. For "Kama," three and three. For "Artha," one and six.3 I suppose some overworked clerk at the Ministry of Permissible Language forgot to send out the right memo to the film industry.
i am sure there are more movies with 'khoon', 'pyar', 'chor' etc in their titles than those with 'dharma', shakti', 'kama' etc. but this other vikram chandra (the first, if you had missed my previous post, works in ndtv) also imagines india mostly in the hindu mould. it's not that indian cinema is less hindu, but its production requires more interaction with non-hindu elements than the production of an indian writer in english. he/she mostly had mostly gone to private schools where non-hindus were mostly absent, had lived in neighbourhoods where non-hindus were mostly tradesmen, hawkers, domestic help (or local cabbies, chaffeurs, road-labourers, maids, cooks, bakers, struggling actresses, security guards etc) - and anything resembling close interaction with them was usually frowned upon by elders in the family. he/she had mostly enjoyed a social life almost entirely peopled by hindus. and then had gone to university, where non-hindus were either totally absent or were made to make themselves invisible. and if he/she had gone abroad, to a foreign university, india would remain more emphatically hindu than if he/she had continued to live in india.

macaulay said:
The languages of western Europe civilised Russia. I cannot doubt that they will do for the Hindoo what they have done for the Tartar.
i don't know how any russian would react to that boast- but the hindoo continues to remain a hindoo, 174 years after macaulay delivered that prediction, and still retains an abiding interest in dharma, artha and kama.

[ why this series of posts on english? i don't know, but the subject seems important to me. the question of why a modern, democratic state classifies some engineers among all the engineers and technocrats it produces as better engineers and technocrats (alumni of iiti/ims), for instance- i haven't found any answers to those kind of questions either. both questions seem related, as psb too points out here].


do the chinese have to plan how to break up india?

the indian media says he's a chinese strategist working with an influential think-tank. and he seems to have stirred up the indian media into ill-concealed indignation- why?
Written in Chinese, the article, "If China takes a little action, the so-called Great Indian Federation can be broken up," is published in the new edition of the website of the China International Institute for Strategic Studies (CIISS), an influential think tank that advises Beijing on global and strategic issues.

According to D S Rajan, director of the Chennai Centre for China Studies, Chennai, Zhan Lue, the author of the article, argues that the "so-called" Indian nation cannot be considered as one having existed in history as it relies primarily on Hindu religion for unity.

The article says that India could only be termed a "Hindu religious state" that is based on caste exploitation and which is coming in the way of modernisation.
please ignore for the moment the 'little action' the strategist allegedly suggested to the chinese government and focus on his analysis of the indian nation: The article says that India could only be termed a "Hindu religious state" that is based on caste exploitation and which is coming in the way of modernisation.

now, what's wrong with that? the story is from the ndtv website, and only a couple of days ago the english news channel of the group had aired a debate in which the anchorperson, most of the wise guests and the audience in the studio were shouting down or hurling thinly veiled insults, when not indulging in sniggers, at the arguments of a courageous pair of guests who were seriously trying to expand the discussion on mayawati's statues.

was the channel sincerely interested in discussing whether mayawati's statues were for the public good? no, it was just another opportunity for hindu india to tell the marginalized who decides what's public good in india. was the chinese strategist wrong?

a friend asks: why do you watch those debates? he's right, of course. i've watched too many of them for too long, on television and outside. but those are the only events that provide any space for people (even if as targets than guests) you'll never find on any other programme. check ndtv profit or ndtv imagine, for instance. imagine non-existent special component plans being discussed on them. or a soap on karamchedu or khairlanji.

vikram chandra's authenticity

My region is a hugely cosmopolitan place. Every single person who lives in my region is a cosmopolitan. I am of course a cosmopolitan; I travel away from my region every few months to make a living. My neighbors do also. There are the Gujarati diamond merchants who spend three weeks out of every four travelling from Africa to Belgium to Holland; flight attendants who fly to Beijing; businessmen who sell textiles in Australia; mechanics and welders and engineers who keep Saudi Arabia running; merchant navy sailors who carry cargo to Brazil; nurses who give care and nurture in Sharjah; and gangsters who shuttle between Bombay and Indonesia and Dubai as part of their everyday trade. But there are many other cosmopolitans in my regions. I mean the men who have left their homes in Muzzafarnagar and Patna to drive cabs in Bombay; the chauffeurs who send money home to Trivandrum; the road-laborers from Madhya Pradesh; the maids from the Konkan coast; the cooks from Sylhet in Bangladesh; the Tamil bakers; the struggling actresses from Ludhiana; the security guards from Bihar; the painters from Nashik who stand on roped lengths of bamboo three hundred feet in the air to color Bombay’s lofty skylines. They are all cosmopolitan. A woman born and bred in Dharavi, in the heart of the city, is a cosmopolitan because she lives and works in this city of many nationalities and languages, this city that has become a vatan or homeland for people who have travelled very far from their vatans.
very amusing. the americans in iraq, afghanistan, kuwait, panama, pakistan, central america must also think their regions are cosmopolitan, because the local cabbies, chaffeurs, road-labourers, maids, cooks, bakers, struggling actresses, security guards, painters- all fall over each other trying to sell their services to them, the americans, in whatever english they can muster. for dollars. what does that tell you? that the iraqis, afghans etc are cosmopolitan while the americans aren't.

vikram chandra, trying hard to say he's the real thing while arguing that authenticity doesn't matter. a poor advocate for whatever he's trying to advocate.


a love letter to saddam

dear saddam,
i love you
i love you.

the river tigris
the kurdistan hills
the baghdad streets
the iraqi grains of sand,
i love
your love for them.

my dear saddam,
i love you.
i love
your smile.
i love
your tears.
i love
your courage.
you're sweet as dates!
i love you.
i love you.

my dear saddam,
you're the fragrance of flowers
in the hanging gardens
the sandstorm of courage
that rages during al-hijra-
the battle for freedom
in the garden of eden
you're its symbol!
you're its music!
the one who won after defeat!
i love you
whether you're alive, or dead
i love you
i love
your love
for the iraqi grains of sand.

tried to translate 'saddAmku prEmalEkha' written by sivasagar in 2003.


what's atrociously, horribly wrong with you?

MUMBAI: A minimum of 35% is essential to be promoted to a higher class under almost every Indian school board or university. But you don't need
that much to make it On Saturday, when the Indian Institutes of Technology released report cards of students who joined these engineering schools
this year, it transpired that the entry bar for the reserved category students had dropped to a mere 18% (89/480).

The IITs were forced to make various concessions to fill SC/ST seats this year. Entry levels were lowered to half of what the last general category student who got through to the IITs scored. So, as the last general category student admitted to the IITs bagged an overall score of 178 (out of 480), the cut-off for an SC/ST student was brought down to 89 (half of 178). Till last year, the cut-off for SC/ST students used to be 60% of the score of the last general category student.
a report in the economic times on the results of iit-jee this year. and abi, in this excellent post, tells you what's wrong with the report:

Even if she wants to highlight the fact that 18 percent is what the SC/ST students needed to get into the IITs, she chooses the wrong number -- 35 percent that one needs in Board Exams -- for comparison. The relevant number should have been the subject-wise averages in this year's JEE itself: 7%, 4% and 7% (in math, physics and chemistry, respectively).

In fact, one of the striking features of JEE is the very low averages -- percentages in single digits. Remember, this is an exam that students self-select into. Remember also that this is an exam for which they prepare hard and pay good money for coaching.

Given these facts, the single-digit averages are atrociously, horribly, low.

there must be figures somewhere on how many general category and reserved category students appeared for the iit-jee- the total number of candidates, it appears, to be around 4 lakhs. and the average score of those 4 lakh students was much below the average score of the sc/st students who scored above the cut-off of 18%. and this despite history and all its burdens falling heavily on only one side.

i feel compelled to ask, and i find two words that abi used very useful, all those bigoted journalists of the media: what's atrociously, horribly wrong with you?



duniaa men baadshaah hai so hai voh bhii aadmi
aur muflis-o-gada hai so hai voh bhii aadmii
zardaar, be-nawa hai so hai voh bhii aadmii
nemat jo khaa rahaa hai so hai voh bhii aadmii
masjid bhii aadmii ne banaai hai yaaN miyaaN
bante haiN aadmii hii Imam aur khutba-khwaaN
paDhte haiN aadmii hii Quraan aur namaaz yaaN
aur aadmii hi unkii churaate haiN juutiyaaN
jo unko taaDtaa hai, so hai voh bhii aadmi
yaaN aadmii pe jaan ko vaare hai aadmii
aur aadmii hii teG se maare hai aadmii
pagDii bhii aadmii kii utaare hai aadmii
chillaa ke aadmii ko pukaare hai aadmii
aur sunke dauDta hai, so hai voh bhii aadmii....

excerpt from Nazir Akbarabadi's long nazm Aadminama that i found in adnan's tribute to habib tanvir a few weeks ago. copied it, and forgot to post it- but i don't think that makes it less fresh.

adnan's blog is also an aadminama of sorts. many roads on the internet lead to the west- there are very, very few that take you back to your town, your neighbourhood, your gali, your home. adnan's a journalist of a rare kind, i think. to him, aadmi is still news.


lack of an audience for poetry? part 2

i'd said in this post:
when i was younger, i'd often walk long distances on not-so-walkable city streets to a library or an auditorium where a kavi sammelanam was being held or a book of poetry was being released. at these sammelans, as at those mushairas telecast on etv, one might get to hear only a line or two of impressive verse. most of the poetry could be on well-trodden themes, not very smartly expressed, cliche-ridden. which means you go there expecting nothing more those one or two good lines. and nursing the hope that there'd be more than one or two.
it's my view that it's culture, or community, that drags you there, in the first place. and language, or words, that hold you.

if there is an audience for telugu or urdu poetry, why isn't there an audience for english poetry? the problem isn't the lack of an audience for Indian poetry or the lack of an audience for poetry in India: some mushairas fill stadiums, and some 15th century telugu poets can draw one lakh people on a day. what does indian english poetry lack or miss? is it community (or culture) or words or both? for the moment, i'd like to move onto other related issues. smoke screen says in one of her very perceptive comments here:
...I think that for poetry to strike a chord, it has to be in a language which has a social life.
english in india doesn't have a social life? i know smokescreen uses the phrase in a cultural sense, of life outside work, but we also know that knowledge of english does seem to affect the material well-being of individuals in indian society. or, at least, it does seem to put those who know the language in the best jobs, for instance. marx says: 'life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life'. he means material life, of course. material life influences culture. but the increased usage of english in work, or production, doesn't seem to have produced a culture that matches this expansion. like an audience for indian english poetry, for instance. if marx is right, why hasn't this happened?

some dalit bahujan intellectuals like kancha ilaiah and chandrabhan prasad suggest that the lower castes should drop, or reject, regional or vernacular languages (i don't like both labels) and embrace english, totally. because those languages carry the the caste virus, or culture. while english is the language of progress, egalitarianism and reason. the assumption being that english doesn't carry the seed of racism, genocide, colonialism, class and exploitation.

the primary reason for both those intellectuals promoting english in this time in indian history is that english is the language of the community of the successful middle class white collar worker, those with the best jobs, in this country right now. these intellectuals are exhorting the young among the lower castes to join this community of the successful. chandrabhan prasad has clearly spelled out that most of those who now belong to this community are from the upper castes of india. emulate their example.

it's a theory with a wide appeal, and its logic seems impeccable on the surface. but i ask myself: are those in the best jobs there because, primarily, they speak english or are they there because of other reasons? both of the dalit bahujan thinkers seem to contradict both dr.ambedkar and marx, in my view. if adoption of a certain language could change the material conditions of the lower castes, then caste doesn't really have any role to play in who gets the best jobs, or in determining their material conditions. and if material conditions determine your culture, or language, and not vice versa, then what's the point of adopting a new language (which doesn't even seem to have a strong culture)?
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