28 March 2008

September 11th

The chickens have come home to roost.
What goes around comes around.
As you sow, so you reap.

These were the lines that went around in my head on the evening of 11th September 2001, as I listened to the news on my radio in Delhi. A black preacher in Chicago called Jeremiah Wright apparently agreed with me. Five days later he delivered a sermon in which he said, "America's chickens are coming home to roost." Why is this of any consequence? Because one of the members of Rev Wright's church is a man called Barack Obama. Yeah, you get the picture...

Americans are – incredibly – still not ready to accept that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were a direct consequence of their country's actions. It all began in 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. A Muslim country attacked by a non-Muslim country – this was jihad (holy war). Muslims all over the world responded to the call. Moroccans, Egyptians, Saudis, Pakistanis – all came to Afghanistan to fight the infidel invader. The US was quick to seize the opportunity. The CIA funded, armed and trained these mujahideen (holy warriors). Your enemy's enemy is your friend. Besides, religion was a natural ally in the fight against Communism. They were using Christianity in Eastern Europe (Pope John Paul II was Polish). Why not use Islam in Central Asia?

In 1989 the Soviet Union finally accepted defeat and left Afghanistan. The mujahideen were jubilant. They had humbled a superpower. What were they to do now? With all their money, arms and training? Well, they could humble the other superpower too. One of them, a rich Saudi named Osama bin Laden, decided to do exactly this. With another mujahid, Dr Ayman al Zawahiri from Egypt, he formed a group called Al Qaeda ("The Base") and declared war on America. If you feed a serpent, it's only a matter of time before the serpent bites you. On 11th September 2001, the serpent bit the hand that had fed it. The tragedy was that 3000 innocent Americans paid with their lives for their government's short-sighted foreign policy.

25 March 2008

Friends, Indians, Countrymen!

Don't you want India to be free from poverty? Don't you want India to be a developed country? Don't you want India to become a superpower? Don't you want India to overtake China and America? Don't you want the 21st century to be the Indian century?

Every Indian will answer "Yes!" to these questions. Then the next question is: What are YOU doing to make this dream come true? Typical answers to this question are:
A. Nothing
B. I don't have the time
C. I obey the law and pay my taxes
D. I am too busy with my job and my family
E. It's the job of politicians and bureaucrats

Obeying the law and paying one's taxes are the minimum duties of a citizen. In an ideal world, this would be enough. But we don't live in an ideal world. Our country has so many basic problems that we have to do more. And it's not enough to say that this is the job of politicians and bureaucrats. JFK said, "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country." Today we should say, "Don't talk about what others should be doing for the country. Tell me what you are doing for your country." The hard truth is we have to do something so that our country becomes a better place. It won't happen on its own.

My fellow Indians, I am not sure if you know how lucky we all are. To be born in India in the 20th century. To be Indians in the 21st century. This is the best time and the best place to be in. The greatest adventure in the history of mankind is taking place in front of our eyes. A great and ancient civilisation is emerging as a modern nation – strong and prosperous. One sixth of the human race is taking its rightful place under the sun. India is the light of the world. After centuries of darkness, she is ready to blaze forth again.

In this great adventure, every one of us faces a choice. We can either stand on the sidewalk and watch, as spectators, reading about it in newspapers and watching it on TV. Or we can be participants, we can get involved. We can be the ones who make it happen. Every one of us believes that he/she loves the country. Well, 'love' is not just a noun; it is a verb. Love is not just what you feel; it is what you do. Every one of us has to ask the question, "What am I doing for my country?" Even if you don't care about society at large, do it for yourself and your family – what kind of a country do you want your children to live in? Our destiny is in our hands. Our future is what we make it. We all have to do our bit.

20 March 2008

Pune Restaurants

One of my friends quit his job and started a website called Tasty Khana on Pune restaurants. It's a one-stop shop for eating out. With it you can:
· Search for restaurants
· Order food online
· Book tables online
· Review restaurants
· Check out offers and
· Get discounts

Currently the site covers only Pune. Eventually it will cover other cities too.

So if you live in Pune, please
1. Visit the site
2. Register as a user
3. USE the bloody website! ;-)
4. Recommend it to all your friends
5. Ask them to recommend it to all their friends
6. Send your feedback to info AT tastykhana DOT com

And if you don't live in Pune, please recommend the site to all your friends who do live in this God-forsaken city ;-)

14 March 2008

Why Militant Hinduism? - 3

Arun Shourie on militant Hinduism:

Nor is what others do from outside the only determinant. From within India, three factors in particular will make the acquiring of that Islamic body all the more certain:
• The more biased 'secularist' discourse is;
• The more political parties use non-Hindus – Muslims, for instance – as vote banks and the more that non-Hindu group comes to act as one – 'strategic voting' and all;
• The more the state of India bends to these exclusivist, aggressive traditions.

And yet perverted discourse, even the stratagems of political parties, are but preparation: they prepare the ground for capitulation by the state to groups that are aggressive. And in this the real lunacy is about to be launched, and, with that, the real reaction.

Hence, all who are apprehensive of a Hindu reaction should:
Get to know the non-Indic traditions;
Shed denial – from denial of what the basic texts of the non-Indic traditions say to denial of the demographic aggression in the Northeast;
• Most important of all, work to ensure a completely fair and an absolutely firm state; and an even-handed discourse.

For their part, the Hindus cannot recline back, confident that the reaction will take care of the current pressures. They too have much to do. In particular, they must:
Awaken to the fact that the danger does not come just from violence and money; it comes as much from the purposive use of the electoral system;
• And so, they must organise themselves for this challenge as much as for others;
• For this, they must vault over internal divisions, in particular the curse of caste;
• Be alert not just to assault by others, but also to perversions from within: the commercialisation of the tradition; its becoming a commerce with deities – 'Please get me this contract, and I will...'; its becoming ostentatious religiosity; persons setting themselves up as the guardians of the tradition, and then using the perch for self-aggrandisement...
Get to know the tradition; and live it.


12 March 2008

Why Militant Hinduism? - 2

Arun Shourie on militant Hinduism:

Each of these stemmed much. But over the last 200 years the feeling has also swelled that, invaluable as these responses have been, they have not been enough. They did not prevent the country from being taken over. They did not shield the people from the cruelty of alien rulers. They did not prevent the conversion of millions. They did not prevent the tradition from being calumnised and being thrown on the defensive. They did not in the end save the country from being partitioned – from being partitioned in the name of religion...

There is a real vice here. The three great religions that originated in Palestine and Saudi Arabia – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – have been exclusivist – each has insisted that it alone is true – and aggressive. The Indic religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism – have been inclusive, they have been indulgent of the claims of others. But how may the latter sort survive when it is confronted by one that aims at power, acquires it, and then uses it to enlarge its dominion? How is the Indic sort to survive when the other uses the sword as well as other resources – organised missionaries, money, the state – to proselytise and to convert? Nor is this question facing just the Hindus in India today. It is facing the adherents of Indic traditions wherever they are: look at the Hindus in Indonesia and Malaysia; look at the Buddhists in Tibet, now in Thailand too. It is because of this vice, and the realisation born from what had already come to pass that Swami Vivekananda, for instance, while asking the Hindus to retain their Hindu soul, exhorted them to acquire an 'Islamic body'.

We can be certain that his counsel will prevail, our secularists notwithstanding.

Instigating factors:
• The more aggressively the other religions proselytise – look at the fervour with which today the Tablighi Jamaat goes about conversion; look at the organised way in which the missionaries 'harvest' our souls;
• The more they use money to increase the harvest – whether it is Saudi money or that of Rome and the American churches;
• The more any of them uses violence to enlarge its sway;
• The more any of them allies itself with and uses the state – whether that of Saudi Arabia or Pakistan – for aggrandisement.

10 March 2008

Why Militant Hinduism? - 1

Arun Shourie on militant Hinduism:

"Your Hindutva is no different from Islamic fundamentalism" – a fashionable statement these days, one that immediately establishes the person's secular credentials. It is, of course, false, as we shall see in a moment. But there is a grain of potential truth in it – something that does not put Hinduism at par with Islam, but one that should, instead, serve as a warning to all who keep pushing Hindus around. That grain is the fact that every tradition has in it, every set of scriptures has in it enough to justify extreme, even violent reaction. From the very same Gita from which Gandhiji derived non-violence and satyagraha, Lokmanya Tilak constructed the case for ferocious response, not excluding violence. From the very same Gita from which Gandhiji derived his 'true law', shatham pratyapi satyam, 'Truth even to the wicked', the Lokmanya derived his famous maxim, shatham prati shaathyam, 'Wickedness to the wicked'.

The mistake is to assume that the sterner stance is something that has been fomented by this individual or that – in the case of Hindutva, by, say, Veer Savarkar – or by one organisation, say the RSS or the VHP. That is just a comforting mistake – the inference is that once that individual is calumnised, once that organisation is neutralised, 'the problem' will be over. Large numbers do not gravitate to this interpretation rather than that merely because an individual or an organisation has advanced it – after all, the interpretations that are available on the shelf far outnumber even the scriptures. They gravitate to the harsher rendering because events convince them that it alone will save them.

It is this tectonic shift in the Hindu mind, a shift that has been going on for 200 years, which is being underestimated. The thousand years of domination and savage oppression by rulers of other religions; domination and oppression which were exercised in the name of and for the glory of and for establishing the sway of those religions, evinced a variety of responses from the Hindus. Armed resistance for centuries... When at last such resistance became totally impossible, the revival of bhakti by the great poets... When public performance even of bhakti became perilous, sullen withdrawal, preserving the tradition by oneself, almost in secrecy: I remember being told in South Goa how families sustained their devotion by painting images of our gods and goddesses inside the tin trunks in which sheets and clothing were kept. The example of individuals: recall how the utter simplicity and manifest aura of Ramakrishna Paramhamsa negated the efforts of the missionaries, how his devotion to the image of the Goddess at Dakshineshwar restored respectability to the idolatry that the missionaries and others were traducing... The magnetism of Sri Aurobindo and Ramana Maharshi... Gandhiji's incontestable greatness and the fact that it was so evidently rooted in his devotion to our religion...

03 March 2008

"South India"

If there's one thing that gets my goat, it is the terms "South India" and "South Indians". Many people think there is one place/region called "South India" and one set of people called "South Indians". WRONG! There are four states: Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu – each with its own language and culture. There is no such thing as "South India". Similarly there are Kannadigas, Telugus, Malayalis and Tamilians. There is no such thing as a "South Indian".

It is true that there are some commonalities among the people who live south of the Vindhyas, which distinguish them from the rest of the country. For example, the four languages, though distinct from one another, belong to the Dravidian family – as against the rest of the country, which speaks the Aryan languages. Some food habits are also common – the famous idlis and dosas come to mind here. But these broad commonalities do not justify putting the four states and their people into one box and calling it/them "South India"/"South Indians". People in the rest of the country are blissfully unaware of the vast diversity and differences among these four states.

When I was in Delhi, a guy from MP asked me, "You South Indians worship Ayyappa Swamy, right?" Somehow he had heard about the temple of Ayyappa in "South India", and assumed that all "South Indians" worship this deity! Statements beginning with "You South Indians...", "Tum South ke log...", "In South India...", "South mein...", etc are very common – and very irritating. This malady will not end till we actively try to put a stop to it. Therefore I appeal to all my fellow Kandus and also Gults, Mallus and Tams to correct people whenever they make this mistake. Don't worry about offending others. Don't worry about creating a scene. Don't worry about what other will think of you. Just do it. It is important to speak the truth and dispel people's ignorance.