27 February 2008

Website on Savarkar

A website on Savarkar was released yesterday. It has been built by swayamsevaks from Pune. I had attended one of the initial meetings for this project, but didn't really contribute anything. The effort was led by members of the IT milan at Aundh (which I used to attend last year). This is the same team that made the website on Golwalkar Guruji, to mark his birth centenary in 2006.

V D Savarkar is one of the fathers of Hindu nationalism. It was he who coined the word 'Hindutva'.

22 February 2008


"Energy is more important than talent. My equation is like this. Both talent and energy means you are an emperor. No talent and only energy means you are still a prince. Only talent and no energy means you are a pauper." – Michael Crichton

What is energy? In physics, energy is the capacity to do work. But in real life, energy is more than just the capacity for work. It is the capacity for learning. It is the capacity for life. Put simply, energy is capacity.

Crichton is right. Energy is everything. Whether you succeed or fail in life, and to what extent, will be decided by how much energy you have. Ability, intelligence, ambition, luck, money – all these help. But energy is the critical variable.

So is this good news or bad news? For those with high energy levels, it is good news. For others (like me), it is bad news. Then again, is a person's energy level fixed? Or is it possible to increase it?

Doctors say exercising regularly is the best way to increase one's energy. I never understood this. Isn't exercise an energy consuming activity? Then how the hell does it increase your energy? Maybe the same doctors can give an explanation.

But even exercise can increase your energy only to some extent. Then what? If your energy level is low, you just have to accept that you may not be able to do everything you want to do in life. It's a difficult pill to swallow.

Or you can console yourself by saying that quality is more important than quantity. It's not how much you eat, but how well you chew, taste and digest it that matters. We may do less, but whatever little we do, we can do well.

Another way of coping with less energy is to focus. Focus on what you really want, and let other things go to hell. You'll then miss out on a lot that life has to offer. But you have only one life; you might as well make something of it.

Sometimes this focus can be extreme. Like if you want just one thing, and you go after it with everything you have, to the exclusion of everything else. This will horrify people for whom 'balance' and 'all-round development' are important.

But what the hell. As I said, you have only one life. Do something with it.

15 February 2008

On Hindu Nationalism

Question: What is your idea of India? What does India mean to you?
Answer: India is...
A. our 5000-year-old civilisation
B. my motherland
C. my holy land
D. a nation state born in 1947
E. a republic born in 1950
F. the territory defined by the borders of the Union of India

A secularist will tick D, E and F. But a Hindu nationalist will tick A, B and C. D-E-F is a very narrow and shallow view of India. A-B-C is a much broader and deeper conception of our nation. This is the crux of the difference between Nehruvian secularism and Hindu nationalism. There are many and varied disagreements between the two camps, but almost all of them flow from this basic difference in how one sees India. A couple of examples will make this point clearer.

Secularists accuse the RSS of being disloyal to the country since, in our shakhas, we salute the bhagwa dwaja (saffron flag) – instead of the tricolour – and sing the prayer "Namaste sada vatsale matrubhoome" – instead of "Jana gana mana". This is nonsense. The national flag and national anthem do command our devotion and loyalty. There is no swayamsevak who does not respect these national symbols. Then why do we not use these symbols in our shakhas? Because they represent D-E, whereas the bhagwa dwaja and the RSS prarthana represent A-B-C. It is our way of reminding ourselves everyday that India is not just a nation state; she is a 5000-year-old civilisation, our motherland and our holy land. The former is a small subset of the latter.

Answer F is a big problem. Golwalkar Guruji called it 'territorial nationalism'. When the BJP raised the issue of Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin, the Congress Party replied that L K Advani and Jyoti Basu are also foreigners – as they were born in Karachi and Dhaka, respectively! This is what happens if one thinks of India merely as a nation state that was formed in 1947. Historically, the land of India was naturally defined – the land bound by the seas, the Himalayas and the Indus. In any case, India is more than just a piece of land. India is our civilisation – a nation defined by its culture and its way of life. Defined, in other words, by its Hindutva.

PS: Sometimes the term 'cultural nationalism' is used. The term has a certain interpretative value, but I think 'Hindu nationalism' is more to the point :-)

13 February 2008

The Varna System (contd)

We can conclude our discussion of the Varna system by making a couple of observations. Then it will be clear why the Varna system was:
A. Perfect for its time
B. Not suitable for our time.

The two key features of the Varna system were:
1. The classification of society into four classes
2. The hereditary nature of this structure.

Traditional Indian society was an agricultural society. In an agricultural society, all occupations could be grouped under the four broad heads of priest/scholar, warrior/ruler, merchant and worker. This was the perfect form of social organisation for that period; Plato had recommended a similar system in his Republic. But today we live in an industrial (or post-industrial) society – which is far more complex. Today we can no longer classify all occupations under four headings. Hence the grouping of Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra is irrelevant today.

Secondly, society needs to preserve and transmit knowledge in order to survive. In particular, knowledge related to work. How was this to be done in an agricultural society? In a society without the Internet, computers, TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and above all – printed books? The only institution for preserving and transmitting knowledge was the family. That is why sons mostly followed their fathers' occupations. Today this is no longer the case. We live in the age of the mass media. We no longer rely only on the family to preserve and transmit knowledge. Hence hereditary occupational classes are no longer needed.

Why am I talking so much about a system that is not relevant for today's society? Because it is important to give the past its due. These days it is very fashionable to bash the Varna system, in the name of being 'modern' and 'progressive'. There are too many people out there criticising the Varna system who don’t bother to understand exactly what it was and why it came about. I repeat: today's caste system is not the same as the original Varna system. The former is a disease; the latter a testimony to the genius of our ancestors.

07 February 2008

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh - 2

Hedgewar studied India's long history and concluded that outsiders could attack and defeat us because of our following drawbacks:
1. Disunity
2. Weakness
3. Lack of organisation
4. Indiscipline
5. Lack of patriotism
6. Lack of character
So the only real and lasting solution to all the nation's problems was to remove these ills. Once these ills were removed, the rest would take care of itself. A nation can only be as good and as strong as its people. If the people are good and strong, the nation will be likewise.

But how to do it? How to build moral character and national consciousness? How to instill discipline and strength in people? How to organise and unite society? Hedgewar thought long and hard and hit upon the idea of the shakha ('branch'). Every day, people would get together for one hour and participate in various activities like exercising, playing games, singing patriotic songs, having discussions, etc. Over time, this would instill the required qualities in the people. In 1925, on the auspicious day of Vijaya Dashami, he invited some like-minded people to his house and shared his thoughts with them. His guests agreed to join him in his mission. Thus was born the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

"That's it? That's what this is all about? You guys get together for an hour every day and do some stuff? Is that all there is to it?" The reaction is perfectly understandable. Anybody will be incredulous. At first sight the shakha does seem to be a trivial activity. But how is character formed? Character is nothing but repeated habits, and habit is nothing but repeated actions. Also, character is formed mainly by influence – of parents, teachers and friends. So if a person is exposed to good thoughts, good words, good actions and good people for even one hour a day, it has a significant impact. The technique is most effective with children, as their character can be moulded easily.

But all this is just theory. The real test is in the real world. And in the real world, the shakha technique has passed with flying colours. In the 82 years since its birth, the RSS has grown from strength to strength. Its shakhas have produced a multitude of workers who have served society in various fields. Most of them you have never heard of, because a true swayamsevak believes in working, not in talking. Even if you do hear of them, you will not know they are swayamsevaks, because of the media's bias against us (example). Two products of the shakha system you have heard of are L K Advani and A B Vajpayee.

A journalist once asked an RSS leader, "Tell me about the social service done by the RSS." The pracharak replied, "The RSS does not do any social service." The journalist was taken aback. The pracharak continued, "The RSS does not do any social service. Swayamsevaks do social service. And the RSS's job is to produce those swayamsevaks."

04 February 2008

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh - 1

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is a unique organisation. It has a unique goal and a unique way of working to achieve that goal. Both in its ends and its means, it is unique. This is not a boast, but a plain fact. I am not saying this just because I am a swayamsevak. Once you understand the RSS fully and correctly, you will agree with what I have said.

The RSS is not a political party. Nor is it an NGO engaged in 'social service' (in the usual sense of the term). These are the two kinds of social organisations we are familiar with. The fact that the RSS does not belong to either of these two categories makes it very difficult for people to understand the organisation. Indeed, some swayamsevaks themselves are not clear about exactly what the RSS is.

Perhaps the best way to truly understand the RSS is to begin at the beginning. We must trace the footsteps of the man who founded the organisation: Keshav Baliram Hedgewar ('Doctorji').

Hedgewar was born in Nagpur in 1889. Even as a child he showed a fierce spirit of patriotism. His hatred of the British rule often got him into trouble at school. After finishing his elementary education he went to Calcutta to study medicine.

The partitioning of Bengal in 1905 had made Calcutta a hotbed of nationalist activity. Patriotic young men wanted to overthrow British rule by an armed struggle, and formed many revolutionary groups. One such group was Anusheelan Samiti. Hedgewar joined it and got involved in its activities, like making guns and bombs. But eventually the Samiti suffered the fate of all such groups: informers betrayed their comrades to the police. And one day, an accident occurred at the Samiti's secret bomb factory killing one of its members. Hedgewar was disillusioned by these developments. He finished his MBBS and returned to Nagpur.

In Nagpur, Hedgewar came under the influence of his idol Bal Gangadhar Tilak. With Tilak's encouragement, he joined the Indian National Congress and became an active member. He even organised the special session of the Congress held in Nagpur in 1920. But Hedgewar was not happy. The Congress-led freedom struggle, he felt, was negative in character. It was defined only by its opposition to British rule. It had no positive content. More importantly, the freedom struggle was not addressing the root problem: How could a small country like Britain conquer and rule a nation as vast, as ancient and as proud as India? And the British were hardly the first foreigners to rule us. They were just the latest in a long series of invaders and conquerors: from Greeks and Huns to Turks and Mughals. When the British were kicked out, what was the guarantee that we would not fall prey to some other foreign power?

01 February 2008

Peace of Mind

Everyone wants to find peace. Is it possible to find peace? The problem with peace is it comes and goes. Peace is fleeting. It never lasts.

The search for lasting peace is futile. Because life is war. It is a series of battles. The end of one battle is merely the beginning of another. In fact, you are lucky if you can fight your battles one after the other. Most of the times you are fighting several battles at the same time.

Some people try to find peace by staying away from the battlefield. This is silly. If you don't go to the war, the war will come to you. There is no escape from struggle. There is no refuge from fear.

If there is a path to peace, it runs through the battlefield. The only possible way to find peace is to plunge yourself in the war. If you are lucky, at the end of it all, you will find what you are looking for. Otherwise, too bad.

In any case, you will certainly find peace when you die. The most peaceful man is the dead man.

Moments of peace are so rare. Cherish them. But don't spend too much time thinking about them. The next battle is waiting...