Sunday, May 24, 2009


Money !

It is August. In a small town on the South Coast of France, holiday season is in full swing, but it is raining so there is not too much business happening. Everyone is heavily in debt. Luckily, a rich Russian tourist arrives in the foyer of the small local hotel. He asks for a room and puts a Euro100 note on the reception counter, takes a key and
goes to inspect the room located up the stairs on the third floor.

The hotel owner takes the banknote in hurry and rushes to his meat supplier to whom he owes E100.

The butcher takes the money and races to his wholesale supplier to pay his debt.

The wholesaler rushes to the farmer to pay E100 for pigs he purchased some time ago.

The farmer triumphantly gives the E100 note to a local prostitute who gave him her services on credit.

The prostitute goes quickly to the hotel, as she owed the hotel for her hourly room use to entertain clients.

At that moment, the rich Russian is coming down to reception and informs the hotel owner that the proposed room is unsatisfactory and takes his E100 back and departs.

There was no profit or income. But everyone no longer has any debt and the small town people look optimistically towards their future.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Strength of Bharat - the Base of India’s Pyramid

The 2009 Lok Sabha elections have brought out many things in the light. Among many others it has also converted a hypothesis into law – If you have to survive you can’t be niche any longer – you’ve to be just very common.  The power is no longer at the top of the pyramid – but at its base.

When I started my career in semiconductors in mid nineties we used to strive to work in the most advanced and niche areas for creating chips which would go into some of the fanciest electronic gadgets. For obvious reasons US used to be the most desirable place to work because that was the centre of all research and development.

Since then most companies producing electronic products have invested heavily in technology to produce things which are no doubt fancy and hi-tech, but not always useful. But then people had money and could afford buying umpteen number of useless things. Even till recently people used to change mobile phones once in every few months. It’s not that they all really needed new phones so frequently. But they can’t be blamed. The electronics industry used to create such hype around the useless gizmos that the innocent consumers would think that their lives would be really useless if they didn’t have one of those useless things.

This vicious circle of demand and supply of things, that can’t be ever called value-for-money products and in most cases too useless, stayed for almost fifteen years when suddenly no one had any money to buy them anymore. People moved away from luxuries of replacing phones every few months to cost effective and value-for-money products.

For the first time people understood the futility of seeing a movie in the small screen of a phone. Not only such an act is unergonomic and poses serious threats to health but also the experience is a debacle compared to even watching the cheapest television. 

That’s when the entire electronic industry faced the biggest ever slow-down.

The story is same for most other industries. When the going was easy people never thought of investing in useful value for money things. Most of the products were always out of reach of the Aam Aadmi and were targeted only for the niche and rich people – the ones that constitute the pinnacle of the pyramid. When the going became tough since last year the only available consumer market was the base of the pyramid – which was deprived of useful things all these years. Then suddenly the focus shifted from niche to simple and common things. Intel is thinking of $100 notebooks with wireless broadband, sales of mobiles are restricted only to the low end categories, FMCG companies are coming up with even smaller sachets of their products primarily for rural markets – the whole industry is euphoric about the prospects of Bharat rather than India.

The age of niche products seems to have come to a temporary halt.

No longer I’m proud of working on the latest technologies to produce hi-tech gizmos for the sale in upmarket malls in Europe or US – because they are no longer in demand there. Rather I should work on simple things that can be sold in a Reliance Outlet in India’s hinterland.

The importance of Bharat is clearly seen in the outcome of recent elections. Even though faulty at many places, still the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme of the UPA government did manage to give the 700 million strong rural Bharat some amount of buying capacity. When the economy went into a whirlwind downfall throughout the world one of the very few markets with purchasing power was indeed India’s Bharat. Perhaps that’s the only reason why our GDP growth didn’t turn negative. The rural economy kept the wheels of India’s economy moving. When my purchasing power was shrinking with every month Bharat was buying 15 million mobile phones every month.

The impact of the recent slowdown was not felt in a significant way in Bharat. That’s surely one of the main reasons why the UPA didn’t feel the heat of anti incumbency. None of the poll predictions could assess the strength of Bharat - the base of India’s pyramid - in such a strong way. Not only is the Bharat driving the economy of our country, but also has proved to be a decisive element in India’s democracy.

There’s no doubt that BJP failed to tap the potential of Bharat. The issue of security or inflation or economic breakdown didn’t have much relevance to Bharat. It was only the India that was bothered with all those!!

It’s the writing in the wall – take care of Bharat.... India is Bharat.

Humble India Prefers Humble people

Since last week there has been several analysis of the disappointing performance of BJP in 2009 election. Most analyses do harp on a few common points like (1) the excessive use in BJP campaigns of the strong vs. weak PM issue which seemed to have reached the level of personal attacks on a person who is perceived as  Mr Good by ‘Aam Aadmi’ (2) lack of youth power which was exploited very rightfully by Congress through Rahul & Priyanka Gandhi (3) total failure in creating an all inclusive and the easily-understood  so called ‘secular’ image among all sections (4) total failure in retaining the educated middle class people who were instrumental in bringing BJP at the helm of power a decade back (5) total failure to utilize the media in its favour (6) the negativity of the entire episode of Varun Gandhi’s speech and the recent cultural policing by some right wing elements perceived to be affiliated to BJP and (7) the internal feud within BJP.

There should be several other reasons off course. But no one is speaking of one aspect which I feel played a major role in the declining vote share of BJP.

India and Indian culture has a lot of respect and regard for humility. Perhaps one of the most distinguishing and differentiating factors that has become an identification for Indians since ages is humility. Indians have been always seen as very modest people. Aggression was never a part of the character for most Indians.

History has more regards for a humble and benign Asoka than anyone else. The next personality who comes close to the reputation and stature of Asoka’s is perhaps Akbar, again a much more benign and humble personality than most other rulers in recent times. Gandhi’s more than a life image and popularity is also perhaps due to the fact that he was seen more as a benign seer than an aggressive politician. It’s not that Tagore was a seer in reality, but the image that remained in most of the Indians’ mind is that of a bearded sage that suits the persona of a Gurudev. People tend not to see at all the aggressive side of Tagore. 

With the exception of perhaps Guru Govind Singh, most of the personalities who have attained a more than life stature in India in all ages starting from Buddha till Gandhi have been – or at least perceived to be - devoid of any aggression. That’s not just a coincidence. I feel that’s a part of our culture and we’ve to respect that.

The very fact that the entire campaigning of BJP was based on the idea of a strong leader against a ‘weak’ Manmohan Singh didn’t go well with the Indians who always prefer soft and humble people. Pointing out blatantly over and over that Manmohan Singh is weak did make the Indians think about the point. At one side they have a soft spoken person who never showed aggression in any form and on the other side there’s someone strong and aggressive. I think the Indians did exactly what they have been doing for ever – prefer a soft person. It’s a common perception that soft people are also very humble. Aggression is always associated with adamance and lack of humility. That’s why they felt very comfortable with Manmohan Singh.

Not only did Advani and Modi’s image speak of aggression, but in general the BJP leaders are perceived to be less polite when they speak. This was very apparent in many of the debates in media. Might be they were always asked uncomfortable questions by a biased media, still their body language and the message couldn’t be seen as very humble or polite. Compared to that Rahul Gandhi’s master strokes of humility, or at least the publicised or orchestrated forms of humility, did gel very well with the culture of India. It’s interesting to see that even the youth of India prefers humility. It’s another story that the so called humility that has impressed the Indians can also be totally a fake.

BJP should take this lesson very seriously. It can be argued that in nineties the rise of BJP was also based on an aggressive Hindutva agenda. But that was more of a cultural nationalism rather than just aggression. Also at the centre was the benign Atal Behari Vajpayee.  This time neither is any nationalism nor a benign face. So it’s time to go back to the drawing board to chalk out the plans for creating a soft and humble image of BJP.

I think that’s how the corporate world also works. An aggressive person may rise to the top, but a popular manager is he who is soft and humble. It’s true that at times you do need a strong and decisive person with lot of aggression, but then it’s very unlikely that he or she would be popular.

Democracy might not guarantee the best – but then that’s the way it is. A party or a leader has to be popular and if that requires taking a particular stand, that’s what any they should do to get to power. 

Saturday, May 16, 2009

It’s not the end of the day

The verdict of 2009 LS elections is out. All of us, who consider ourselves Friends of BJP, are really disappointed, as are all BJP and NDA leaders.  Though we all were hoping against all hopes that NDA might come to power, but I believe there was always an uncertainty about the final outcome. I’m sure that most of us were disappointed but not shocked or surprised with the outcome. Yes, the numbers of NDA could have been better, but there was lot of odds against BJP or NDA to come to power. Keeping aside the disappointed I think there’s something that we all should feel great about – that’s the air of change and awareness among the voters that have swept this election at many places; and it’s this awareness that’s a very positive sign for all of us.

I’m a Bengali by birth and officially a Bangalorean. Ever since my childhood I, along with million others born in Bengal since the seventies, knew that there’s only one party and that’s the Left. In both assembly and LS elections the results were very predictable – Left used to win a sweeping majority in both places. The Congress and later the Trinamool Congres (and perhaps BJP to a very small extent very recently) have been mere minorities in opposition for almost 35 years. I’ve always hoped to see a day, sometime during my life time, when the scenario would change. But then I knew it very well that perhaps me becoming a billionaire is more feasible thing than Left becoming a minority party in Bengal. Especially the last LS elections made it more clear that the Left is becoming stronger and stronger day by day. Everyone started to accept the reality that they have born and will die seeing the same Left ruling them forever.

This year’s LS has been a stupendous surprise when Left has got just half the seats as that of the Trinamool-Congress combine. That’s a change that couldn’t happen for almost 35 years. That’s a change that was induced by the growing awareness among the common people. It’s a trend that we all should be proud of. At last the day has come when common man has grown up to understand what is what and call spade a spade. He is no longer a blind person. He can see what’s happening around him. He can understand what’s better for him. He can choose what’s better for him. He is for a CHANGE.

This very awareness among the voters is something that can change the political scenario of India going ahead. It’s true that BJP has failed to get majority, but as long they stand for development and prosperity there’s a hope sometime in future.

I’m sure BJP will now introspect about what went wrong this time. But at the same time they should be more convinced that the day is not far when they can come to power with a sweeping majority. All they have to do is create more and more success stories at the state levels and use that to create more awareness among the common people across India about what’s good for them and the country.  Thus election has perhaps shown that it’s the beginning of a Prabuddha Bharat or Awakened India that Swami Vivekananda had conceived of some hundred years back.  From now onwards India will vote only for development and betterment.

Shekhar Gupta of Indian Express has pointed out one more striking thing about this election which is really very interesting for BJP. This is the first election that BJP has fought without Atal Behari Vajpayee.

There’s no doubt that the personality and the image of Vajpayeeji is something that attracts all section of people irrespective of their political or social affiliations. Perhaps after the Gandhis in Indian politics, Vajpajeeji has the mesmerizing and greater than life personality that endears masses of illiterate or lowly literate millions of people of India. The presence of Vajpayee in the BJP had the impact perhaps similar to that of Nehru or Indira Gandhi in the early days of the rule of the Gandhis in India. The first election that Congress fought without the Gandhis after the death of Rajiv Gandhi was a debacle. But compared to that the performance of BJP as a party in this election, first time without Vajpayee, can’t be treated as a debacle. That reinstils the conviction that BJP is not a party dependent on a single person.

Though the impact of the any particular person can’t be ignored, but still the very fact that BJP has passed the litmus test of fighting an election without their most acceptable and popular face is indeed a good thing.

Winnability directly from the association of any particular family or person is always a risky thing in democracy. Even dictatorship fails if it depends too much on a single person.  What will happen to Cuba after Castro is indeed a matter of concern. Nazi Germany collapsed just in moments without Hitler.

Apart from BJP and the Left parties, no other party in India is based on any particular ideology. Most parties derive their existence from singular personalities. Congress is also no exception to that.  So by construction BJP always has an edge over any other party in a democratic setup.

It’s time to introspect and find out what went wrong. It’s not just a mere word of consolation that “failures are pillars of success”. Lot of lessons are learnt in each failure. I’m sure BJP will rectify the past mistakes and come up stronger in the next election. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Where is the secularism? Part II

Long time back Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, the poet of Vande Mataram, had told, "Tumi Adhom Hoile, Ami Uttam Hoibo Na Keno", which translates into English as, "If you're inferior, why shouldn't I be superior". Prakash Karat might hate this statement, because that speaks against communism and perhaps sows the seeds of inequality. 

There are two ways of bringing equality among these two sides - superior and inferior. One, you improve the 'inferior' and two, you drag down the 'superior'. The first option is hard, but the second one is very easy. It's very sad that many people take extra effort to resort to the second option to downgrade many aspects of India – secularism being one - just to give a feeling that we're also as bad as the rest. 

Well, this has reference to the concept of secularism in our country as propagated by most political parties and the media too. It has become a fashion for a group of people, who think that they are the only secular people in this country and the rest are just a bunch of irrational, insensitive, illiterate, parochial and communal thugs, to dig up isolated acts of intolerance and disharmony and highlight them every time the country sees an act of terrorism perpetrated by a minority community thinking that highlighting some bad things about India or a majority community might make the perpetrators of terror feel happy because that would equate them to the also-equally-bad-Indians.

A classic example is the article written by Arundhati Ray in the aftermath of last year’s Bombay Terror Attacks on 11/26. She has a lot of sympathizers. She and her crusaders want to always bring up Narendra Modi, Indian Army's violation of human rights in Kashmir, VHP, BJP, Veer Savarkar and what not - as if all these can justify a young Muslim to get angry and frustrated to the extent that he finally takes arms and become a terrorist. This not only demeans the stature of Muslims in India, but also brings disgrace to the secular credentials of India. 

No community can be branded good or bad on the basis of a few people involved in acts of violence and terrorism. This holds good for all communities, majority or minority. Any act of terrorism is equally condemnable and can’t be justifiable by any other act of deprivation or intolerance. The isolated cases of violation of human rights of the Indian Army (if at all these allegations are true) in Kashmir or any isolated case of Hindu fundamentalism (media always searches for this) can’t be justified reasons for Muslim terrorism. 

The so called secular parties have to stop calling Muslims minority and start treating them as any other Indian. Factually also, very few Muslims in India are of Arab or foreign origin. They have been Indians all along for thousands of years and suddenly calling them minority is very unfortunate. If most of the terrorists happen to belong to any particular community, let’s not brand that entire community as terrorist, but at the same time let’s also not try to be sympathetic to them just to appease the community they belong to. A terrorist doesn’t belong to any community and nothing can justify an act of terrorism.

Let’s call spade a spade. Let’s take a pledge to bring to book the actual perpetrators of not only the Gujarat carnage, but also that of the Anti Sikh carnage in Delhi. But at the same time let’s also not be oblivious to the statistically biggest ever genocide with tacit support of an elected government (Muslim League) in Indian subcontinent on the "Direct Action Day" in Calcutta on 16th Aug, 1946 which killed more than 4000 people belonging to the minority community, that’s the Hindus in the undivided Bengal province, in just seventy two hours. If we want to forget the past and move on, that’s also a good thing. But then we should forget everything and not selectively things that suit exclusive purposes.

Seculairsm ceases to exist when either there’s an appeasement or intolerance of any community.  Secularism ceases to exist whenever any community is denied a social justice. Secularism ceases to exist whenever you treat a particular community especially with a motive. Secularism ceases to exist whenever you hurt the sentiment of any community knowing that they will never protest. Secularism ceases to exist whenever you take any particular community for granted. Secularism ceases to exist whenever you call an Indian by names like Muslim, Hindu, Dalit, OBC, SC, ST, Bengali, Tamil, Oriya or Marathi. Secularism has a very simple meaning – to feel from within that we all are just Indians and India is just a “vast sea of humanity”.

Today is the 149th birth day of Rabindranath Tagore, the person who lived and wrote and died only for a truly secular (not the other misconstrued type of secular) and unified India. Let’s pay our homage to him on this day to raise above all fragmentation and exclusivity and strive to attain his idea of a secular India, of which he said - "Here I stand with arms outstretched to hail man divine in his own image and sing to his glory in notes glad and free. No one knows whence and at whose call come pouring endless inundation of men rushing madly along to lose themselves in this vast sea of humanity that is India. Aryans and Non-Aryans, Dravidians and Chinese Scythians, Huns, Pathns and Mogols all are mixed, merged and lost in one body" - that's the body an Indian!!

Let’s our mantra be – No Appeasement and No Intolerance. The only thing we don’t tolerate is any threat to the very concept of India!!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Over to Uttarakhand: Peaks

Uttarakhand has some of the highest and most beautiful peaks of the Himalayas in India and we're really lucky to catch perhaps some of the best views of these peaks. Before writing this blog I searched the Internet for the pictures of the peaks that we've seen and captured in our camera. I was delighted and also surprised to find out we got better views than most of the ones published. 

From whatever I learnt I can recognize the following peaks: Chaukhamba cluster of four peaks (highest one 7138m), Neelkanth (6597m), Gauri (Ghori, Ghoda) Parbat (6708), Hathi Parbat (6727), Dunagiri (7066), Nanda Devi (7817), Trishul (7120), Nanda Kot (6861) and Panchchula (5904).

Gauri (left) & Hathi Parbat (right): Seen from Gorson's Meadows, Auli

On the way from Karnaprayag to Joshimath along NH58, close to Pipalkoti the Gauri and the Hathi Parbat are visible to the left. From Gorson's Meadows, the view of both the peaks is much clearer. From what I could understand from our local guide at Auli, Gauri Parbat is also called Ghodha or Ghodi Parbat, perhaps to associate with the close by Hathi Parbat. As can be seen in this snap the two peaks really look like twin peaks. The Valley of Flowers is at the base of the Gauri Parbat.

Dunagiri: Seen from Gorson's Meadows, Auli

Dunagiri, one of the most photogenic peaks of the Himalayas was close to us for three days during which we stayed at the Clifftop Resort in Auli. Though not visible that clearly from the resort, it appears in its full splendour and magnificence within a stone's throw (less than 25km) from Gorson's Meadow, an easy 3km trek from the resort. The view that we've captured here is better than all the snaps of Dunagiri that I could see in the Internet. The green surroundings of the gentle slopes of the Gorson's Meadows and the spotless blue sky provide a mesmerizing ambience for the milk white almost-symmetrical Dunagiri peak which looks like a perfect triangle near the pinnacle. I've learnt that the peak provides a wonderful view along the trek through Kunwara Pass

Nanda Devi: Seen from Auli

Like many people I also didn't know that Nanda Devi, at 7817m, is the highest peak of India, if we discount Kanchenjunga (8598m), which is partially in Nepal. It's the most wonderful peak I've ever seen. It has a beautiful sculpted shape with steep slopes, which make Nanda Devi one of the toughest to climb. The shape is so unique that it can't me missed even from a distance. We first saw the peak from Binsar, but not very clearly. The shape is so unique that even my 6 1/2 year old kid identified the small portion of the snow capped peak, hidden behind many layers of mountains, from Binsar. It took us another 2 days before we could get a proper view of Nanda Devi on our way from Garjiya, in Corbett, to Ranikhet. Different sides of Nanda Devi are visible from Auli and Ranikhet. The two views are very much like the mirror image of each other. The view of Nanda Devi from Auli, at an aerial distance of less than 25km, is so serene that it's really trivial to understand why it occupies such a divine status in mythology and ancient literatures. Till 18th century it was the highest peak known to mankind. The Nanda Devi National Park around Nanda Devi along with the Valley of Flowers are inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

As seen from Auli (From left: Chaukhamba, , Neelkanth, Gauri Parbat, Hathi Parbat, Dunagiri & Nanda Devi)

This is a wonderful snap taken from our resort at Auli. 6 high peaks are visible in a line. To the leftmost are the Chaukhamba cluster of four peaks, located to the west of Badrinath. Neelkanth is the peak overlooking Badrinath. To its left are the twin peaks of Gauri and Hathi Parbat. Further east are Dunagiri and Nanda Devi.

As seen from Auli (Chaukhamba cluster of peaks & Neelkanth)

The Neelkanth peak is a pyramidal mountain, at the base of which is Badrinath. As we were some 45km from Badrinath, we never came quite close to Neelkanth. So the view is not as clear as that of Nanda Devi or Dunagiri.

Trishul & Nanda Devi: As seen on the Ramnagar-Ranikhet road

The above snap was our first glimpse of the snow capped Himalayas. We're travelling from Garjiya in Corbett to Ranikhet. We'd already been to Binsar, which is quite famous for its fascinating views of the Himalayas, a few days back. But unfortunately we couldn't get any vew of the snow capped peaks from Binsar. The only snow we saw was of a fragment of Nanda Devi, discovered by my kid. We're eagerly awaiting to get our first glimpse of the mighty Himalayas. After about 2 hours of drive from Garjiya, immediately around a curve on the road, we suddenly got the view of a long range of Himalayas with some of highest peaks of the world - our first glimpse of the snow capped high Himalayas. The route between Garjiya and Ranikhet is quite adventurous. It's not a national highway, and not maintained properly. The narrow road, without any barricade along the open steep valley, winders treacherously along a barren mountain crest. One side of the road always overlooks very dangerously a deep valley. As our Indigo was meandering slowly on the bumpy road we're just too concerned about our own safety and were praying that our driver finally manges to cover the entire stretch without any mishhap. It was exactly during such a not-so-entertaining drive we suddenly got this view. We're mesmerized beyond any description. In a moment we forgot all the tensions of the risky drive and got totally immersed in the beauty of the range. To the lesftmost was the trident shaped Trishul, to its right was the southern part of the Nanda Devi - the peak that never went out of our sight for the next four days. To the east of Nanda Devi were Nanda Kot, Panchchula and many other peaks which I can't identify. We happened to get an uninterrupted view of a range of the Himalayas, stretching for a few hundred kms, at  a distance of some 150-200km from us. This in undoubtedly one of the best views of our entire trip. The summits of the fully snow capped high peaks extend above the clouds at many places, thus making the lower parts invisible. The dazzling snow covered landscape glows like a huge piece of glass floating in the sky.  Even the much closer views of the same range from Auli was not that much enchanting and mesmerizing as that of the first glimpse.

Nanda Devi & Trishul: As seen from Auli

This snap is of the northern side of Nanda Devi and Trishul - an exact mirror image of the previous snap from near Ranikhet. The trident shape of the Trishul is much more clear in this snap as Trishul is within 50km of aerial distance from Auli.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Dilemma of Voters: Candidates versus Party

In each election there’s this classic dilemma among many voters about whom to vote for – the party or the candidate. Even if someone supports a particular party, still he/she might not feel motivated to vote for the candidate who is contesting in his/her constituency for the party of his/her choice.

 The classic example is perhaps a constituency in Bombay where the contest is between a Boston-educated graduate and a SSC-pass-out.  The former has been a professional and the latter’s profession was driving the vehicle of a local right-wing leader.  The former may lead to the perpetuation of dynastic politics, but the latter’s politics has involved an active discrimination and sporadic violence against recent migrants into the city of Bombay.  More conspicuously, the latter has been charged in small criminal acts while the former has been clean and has completed an active term.  In this case the former is from Congress and the later Shiva Sena/BJP alliance. I’m sure even if someone prefers BJP than Congress, but still in this particular case he might be confused with regards to whom to vote for.

Another example is from Bangalore Central, my constituency. The Congress candidate is an ex Commissioner of Bangalore and an IPS officer of impeccable credibility and track record – Sangliana, who had won the last Lok Sabha elections on a BJP ticket and eventually fell out with BJP recently on Nuclear Deal and moved to Congress. The BJP candidate against Sangliana is someone who had lost the last election he had fought in 1996. People of Bangalore have seen what’s the potential of Sangliana and knows very well how much he can do. Contrary to that we know almost nothing about the BJP candidate. I’m sure many such cases would be there across India.

So what should the voter do?

My suggestion would be unless the candidate is a criminal with suspicious track record you should go by the party because that’s what will make the difference rather than one exceptionally good person from a wrong party. After seeing Dr. Manmohan Singh we know very well what can be the fate of a good person in a wrong party.

Also we should understand that when there’s a strong candidate from any party, the opponent party won’t want to take risk and place another strong man. The fight between two strong men is always uncertain and no party would like its strong man to lose. So in most cases you don’t see the popular faces of parties fighting tough battles. This is true for all parties. Indira Gandhi, Jyoti Basu, Jawaharlal Nehru never fought against strong candidates. In this case it won’t have been wise for BJP to place important persons against Milind Deora or Sangliana because then their victory can’t be guaranteed. So we shouldn’t feel awkward to vote for a relatively unknown candidate of our party of choice against a more popular or better one from the other party we don’t like.

Importance of History and Heritage in Indian Politics

There has been a furore against BJP’s manifesto that has spoken much about the history and heritage of India. Though I don’t accept everything that Murali Manohar Joshi, supposedly the main person behind the preamble of the manifesto, says or does. But I was taken aback by the sort of response and reaction, especially from the media, that it evoked. As if it’s a crime to feel proud of my own past and culture. 

Before I say anything in defence of taking pride in cultural and heritage let me quote something interesting.

Jawaharlal Nehru’s three classics – Glimpses of World History, An Autobiography and The Discovery of India – remain essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand the ideas and personalities that have shaped India through ages, and moulded the character and special genius of her people.... through them runs the common thread of Pandit Nehru’s own vision and ideals – his passionate commitment to democracy and social justice,... and his exuberant celebration of India’s pluralistic culture....”.

I don’t think there’s anything special about these comments about the importance of history and the past of any country to understand her and her people better. What we’re now is always the manifestation of an evolution of ages of traditions, believes, education and culture.  The “exuberant celebration of India’s pluralistic culture” is something that hasn’t only shaped the vision and ideals of Nehru, but has been the source of inspiration of almost each Indian, greater or smaller in any field. History has provided the basic foundation of many successful ideas and ideologies in all countries. Gandhi’s nonviolence is not a theory out of blue. It’s what Ashoka or Akbar had also tried and applied very successfully and became the two greatest emperors of India. Gandhi became the third one to make the best use of a theory which existed even before Ashoka or Buddha understood the importance of nonviolence.  Had Gandhi not been an adept reader of Indian history he won’t have become the Mahatma.

Cutting short the importance of history and past, let me go back to the quotation I’ve used just now. That’s actually Sonia Gandhi’s - in the foreward for the 2004 edition of Discovery of India published by Penguin.  The Discovery of India is perhaps one of the best books about Indian history. Sonia Gandhi accepts very correctly that it’s essential to read these books if anyone wants to know about India, her people and her culture. Isn’t that exactly what the preamble of BJP’s manifesto also says? So why so much fuss about it?

The sad thing is that a part of the intelligentsia and media have made anything related to India’s past a taboo. As if it’s foolish to look back and take pride in things of past. That’s perhaps the case only in India. That’s also the reason why Indian’s are the least proud of their own country.

I always feel elated when I see how much pride an average American takes in his or her own country or heritage despite the fact that they don’t have any past beyond 300 years. Romans and Greeks and even the Persians take so much pride in their past. It’s this pride that instils confidence and self esteem among people and history bears testimony to the fact that only nations with undeterred confidence and high self esteem prosper.

It’s the tremendous self esteem, confidence and pride in his own country and heritage that inspired Swami Vivekananda to go to the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 and represent India before the world. He had pointed out to the world, Three religions now stand in the world which have come down to us from time prehistoric Hinduism, Zoroastrianism and Judaism. They have all received tremendous shocks and all of them prove by their survival their internal strength. But while Judaism failed to absorb Christianity and was driven out of its place of birth by its all-conquering daughter, and a handful of Parsees is all that remains to tell the tale of their grand religion, sect after sect arose in India and seemed to shake the religion of the Vedas to its very foundations, but like the waters of the seashore in a tremendous earthquake it receded only for a while, only to return in an all-absorbing flood, a thousand times more vigorous, and when the tumult of the rush was over, these sects were all sucked in, absorbed, and assimilated into the immense body of the mother faith.”

It’s indeed a matter of pride to possess the body of an Indian that has “sucked in, absorbed and assimilated” “sect after sect” that arose in India. Here again it’s the all inclusiveness of Indian culture that stands aside. The people who are into the present day politics of appeasement, castes and regions and want to create a number of exclusive and fragmented Indias – one for the Muslims, one for the Dalits, one for the Tamils, one for the OBCs, one for the SCs, one for the STs and so on -  are the ones who perhaps haven’t read much about India’s past and don’t take pride in her cultural heritage. The point when we start taking pride in our past, we’ll also become confident like the Americans, the English, the Frenchs, the Italians and many others – who have made better progress than us.

Did you notice that it’s only in the past ten or fifteen years that India has again started making a mark in the world? And it’s no coincidence that it’s also in the recent years that Indians have again started taking pride in their culture and past. In eighties any young Indian would have always cursed of being an Indian. But same the youth of today rarely curse India. Many people who had left India for better pastures then have already come back in the recent years back to India. It’s not only greater opportunities that have brought all of them back. But it’s also because of the fact that they have also started taking pride in India.

It’ a matter of fact that till 1700 India and China used to be the greatest two economies of the world, contributing to more than 40% of world GDP. Till that time India used to be a prosperous and proud nation. The only thing that the Britishers broke was not the economy, but the self respect and the pride that had driven India to prosperity for thousands of years in the past. All that Gandhi, Tagore or Vivekananda or Tilak and many others wanted to achieve was to revive the lost pride among Indians. Otherwise why would all of them write and speak so much about India’s glorious past. We’re again in the fast track of progress because we’re again proud of our country.

Few notes of Murali Manohar Joshi might be a bit off tune at some places, but that doesn’t mean that the entire symphony is bad. It’s ridiculous to turn a deaf ear to it. It would be really sad if we do that. It would be the greatest irony for India and we would again go back to the dark ages of the British Rule.