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Sep. 4th, 2009

Moved Blog

I've moved my blog to biskoot.com

Migrated all my LiveJournal posts (including comments!) to wordpress there.

- Ketan

Feb. 23rd, 2009

More rants on Indian elites (courtesy Slumdog)

OK, OK. I won't spoil the party. Slumdog Millionaire won 8 Academy Awards. For many people, this is a great achievement, and they are elated. They are celebrating and thumping their chests. Who am I to "dare" complain and spoil the fun? I am just a humble citizen leading a fairly inconsequential life.

I am not saying it is a bad movie. In fact as I mentioned in an earlier post, I liked many things about it. I am not even passing any kind of judgment on whether the awards were well deserved or not. Honestly I don't care much about that.

My only concern is the way so many of my fellow-citizens are reacting to the awards. Receiving awards is of course nice, but come on, please don't make it a matter of "national pride".

The reason for my concern is simple. When you let others judge you and seek their approval, you will always look at the world through their eyes. This will hinder your own independent view of the world. You become their mental slave, because your own sense of self-worth becomes dependent on what "they" think and say about you.

This underlying psychological complex manifests in different ways depending on where you look. In education, it results in English being accorded primacy over Sanskrit. In Government and policy-making, it shows up as a lack of sufficient resolve and ambition to lead the world, preferring instead to accept another power's authority and supremacy in the world.

If this situation persists, sorry, India will never be a "Super Power". Come on, how can you expect others to respect you and accept your authority, when deep in your own mind, your own sense of self-worth comes from another power?

Or maybe, one fine day, USA, Britain and EU will announce that "India is now a Superpower". Yes! What more could you possibly want? Your Master has spoken and given you a favourable judgment. Once again, our Anil Kapoors will break down and cry on the stage and exclaim emotionally that "we have finally got our due, this is a great moment for India", yada yada, bla bla. Meanwhile some others' "hearts will burst with pride", and again it will be chest-thumping time for them.

Sick, no? But what to do? As long as we allow the same education system that the British created to institutionalize inferiority in Indian minds to continue, we will continue to produce intellectuals who lack cultural and national pride, who are doomed to accept a set upper limit on their ambition and level of thought, and who gleefully accept mental slavery of the West.

But, all is not lost. India will probably never be a super power, but Bharat will. What is the difference, you ask? That is the point. The difference between India and Bharat holds the key that will unlock Bharat's destiny and make it realize its true potential.

The way forward, ladies and gentlement, is to transform India to Bharat.

Ideas welcome.

- Ketan

Feb. 7th, 2009

Naming Soham



Coming up with a name for our baby turned out to be a much more demanding exercise than I had imagined before he arrived. Life suddenly became so hectic in the days following Jan 24th, thinking of a name seemed like an unaffordable luxury. And given my natural tendency to get overwhelmed when the choices are many, picking one name over another from the vast universe of "good" names was no mean feat for someone like me.

Besides, the name had to meet these exacting requirements:

+ It must be of Sanskrit origin
+ It must be easy to write in multiple languages
+ It must not be prone to mis-pronunciation and mis-spelling

After flirting with various options and almost picking "Krish" (derived from Krishna), we finally decided on "Soham".

Jan. 28th, 2009

Baby Arrives




Our baby boy arrived in this world at 22:15 hrs on 24th Jan. Needless to say, things have been very hectic.

People in the family say that he looks like me. But I think he looks more like his mom.

Between sleepless nights and demanding days, I hope to be able to squeeze in a post now and then.

Here are links to some photos of the little one:

http://picasaweb.google.com/ketanpandya/Baby

http://picasaweb.google.com/ketanpandya/Day2

- Ketan

Jan. 23rd, 2009

Slumdog, Oscar and the Elite Indian Inferiority Complex

At the outset, let me mention that I watched Slumdog Millionaire, and liked the film. It is fast-paced, entertaining and the love story is beautifully told. The somewhat perversely voyeuristic portrayal of Mumbai's slums and poverty in India is a bit unsettling, however I don't think it is something to make a big deal about.

What *is* annoying to me is the way the Oscar nominations have once again brought out the slavish mentality of the so-called elites in India. The elites are triumphantly proclaiming how Indian Cinema has "finally got its due". Servility at its best!

Come on, didn't we already know that A. R. Rahman is a great musician? Have we not already recognized and honoured him?

If you crave for a foreigner's approval, you have already become their slave. Thomas Babbington Macaulay understood this. That is why during British rule, he created an education system that institutionalized a West-centric servile mindset. Through this system the British hoped to groom a class of Indian elites that would admire and look up the British, thus making it easy to rule India.

That system obviously succeeded beyond their wildest expectations, since even know we have educated elites in our society that think and behave exactly how Macaulay wanted them to when the British were ruling us.

It somehow does not occur to these elites that such a brazen and open display of craving for recognition exposes a lack of confidence and an inferiority complex.

A truly self-assured and confident Bharatiya would not go out of his way to make such a big deal and elevate the Oscar Awards to a pedestal like this.

A confident Bharatiya derives quiet satisfaction and pride in his country's ability to send space missions to the moon, for example. He/She does not need awards or certificates from the West to confirm his sense of self-worth.

Ketan

Sep. 3rd, 2008

Too Much Democracy

I have been watching with pain and anxiety the events unfolding in the last few hours after the "secret" letter from the US State Department to the Congress was leaked by Rep. Howard Berman.

No, no, I DO NOT believe that the UPA Govt. misled the people or the Parliament. I also DO NOT believe that the US Govt. deliberately misled the Indian Govt. on this deal. My being upset has got nothing to do with this. I am upset because of the way the so-called "revelations" in this alleged letter are being misinterpreted by the media. The media is proving that it is thoroughly incapable of understanding the nuances in an international agreement, particularly one of this nature.

If the news channels are incapable (or unwilling) of understanding the dynamics around the deal, they should stop passing off uninformed speculation as "news".

While I am no fan of the Congress or the UPA govt., I do believe that Dr. Manmohan Singh, Dr. Anil Kakodkar and others in the team are patriotic citizens of Bharat. I cannot imagine that they would deliberately do anything that compromises India's vital security interests.

Seriously, I am beginning to feel that there is such a thing as TOO MUCH Democracy. It looks like our democracy is somehow obliging EVERYONE in the country to have an opinion on the nuclear deal, even though 90% (maybe more) of us are not equipped to understand it.

Hello, Boss! This is an international agreement. In any agreement, there is some give and some take. Each side has its own interests to pursue via the agreement.

In this case, India's interest is to secure supplies of nuclear fuel and reactors and become an active participant in the global nuclear energy industry.

USA has multiple interests here. Firstly, helping India reduce its own dependence on oil is good for the US economy. Secondly, the US does not like the prospect of China dominating all of Asia. It prefers an Asian order in which there is a more equitable power balance between India and China. The US sees a strategic relationship with India as a step in this direction. Also, with the nuclear energy option, India will be less compelled to go for other options like the Iran gas pipeline.

So where does nuclear weapon testing figure in all this? Nuclear testing is a hot issue, and one that is invoked the most by almost all critics. The deal has been criticized on the grounds that it constrains our "right to test" a nuclear device. This concern seems misplaced. After Pokhran-2, Vajpayee must surely have received proper assurances about our capabilities from the scientific and defence establishments, before he announced India's voluntary moratorium on future testing.

So, even if Manmohan Singh proceeded with the deal knowing that India's "leeway" to test may be constrained to an extent, it could be acceptable given the size of our existing arsenal and ability to take forward the nuclear weapons program without explosive testing. If we already have what is necessary to make different types of warheads, further explosive testing may actually be pointless. In fact we should be focusing our efforts on delivery systems (missiles and the like) and command/control systems, which are essential elements of the nuclear detterent.

Coming back to the issue of the letter made public by Berman. In any agreement between two governments, there are bound to be some "unwritten" lines and implicit understandings. It is not possible to write everything down or conduct everything in public, because as a whole the public's IQ is low. The public wants everything in black and white, has crudely simple notions about good/bad, right/wrong, trust/betrayal and easily falls for cheap, sensational news reporting.

For example, the public cannot understand the finely nuanced notion that even if the US "implicitly" has no problem with India conducting further nuclear tests, it cannot put this down in writing in an agreement. For obvious reasons, such an understanding needs to be between the two governments behind closed doors. Similarly, assume for a moment that the Indian Govt. after proper consultations with its security and scientific advisers concludes with reasonable confidence that India is not unduly harmed by desisting from further testing. Even then, it is politically unviable for them to say something like this in writing in the agreement.

I am not asserting that these specific "unwritten" understandings exist in the nuclear deal. Just that such a dynamic exists in international relations. That is why we have governments, assisted by experts and think-tanks who do the decision-making and enter into such agreements.

At some level, we need to trust our government to do what's good. If they betray that trust, make them pay for it later. But I don't think it's productive to stall, impede, thwart or destabilize the Govt. at each and every step, in the name of Democracy. I think that is too much democracy, which is actually a bad thing in India, as I wrote sometime earlier.

Ketan

Jun. 27th, 2008

Is Democracy more important than Rule of Law?

Is Democracy more important than Rule of Law? I find this question popping up whenever I try to make sense of things happening in India. I have felt myself forming a clear, concrete opinion on this question of late.

Does a citizen really care more about his vote than his desire for a safe, secure, healthy and prosperous environment to live in? I know this is already starting to sound like something that Indira Gandhi would have used for propaganda during the emergency, but seriously - of what use is your power to vote if the government you elect is not able to deliver on basic things - like safety, health, and civic infrastructure?

I have come around to the conclusion that Parliamentary Democracy is a luxury that India is paying a heavy price for. If Parliamentary democracy encourages somebody like Mayawati to threaten the Govt. because it doesn't give her immunity from prosecution for known wrongdoings, or if it allows so-called Communist allies to blackmail the govt., dictate terms to it and virtually paralyze it, then seriously something is wrong.

More important than Democracy is the Rule of Law.
More important is the assurance that all law breakers will be punished.
More important is your government's ability to protect you from acts of terror.
More important is compliance of the law.
More important is the image of a powerful, no-nonsense govt. which commands respect and ensures compliance.
More imporant is a Government that is empowered to take forward national agendas.

This is the only way I can explain the difference between China and India. Whenever faced with the facts about China, we keep consoling ourselves by thinking that we are a free democracy and China is not, but this is irrelevant. At the end of the day, China will be able to lift more people out of poverty more quickly than India, and that's what really matters.

Jun. 12th, 2008

पुनः आगमन

I am back and hope to write something here more regularly.

However, I expect that what I write here will have very little in common with music and poetry and more in common with fire and angst. At least for a while.

Frankly, I have decided to write something mainly because I feel my thoughts become sharper and more purposeful when I sit down to write. I have a sincere hope that this will help me become a better citizen and put my energies and faculties to purposeful use for the benefit of my country.

So, I am writing more for myself than for anybody else. This means that what I write here will not always be "pleasant" or "interesting" reading for others. If you are reading this, you have been warned...

Aug. 26th, 2007

Notable Movie


1971 is an Eye-opener. The film is about missing Indian POWs of the 1971 War believed to be still languishing in Pakistani jails. While the story and characters themselves are fictitious, the issue is real. And this film brings it out forcefully. The plot revolves around a group of Indian POWs who plan to escape from Pakistan into India. Their mission - to prove beyond doubt that many Indian POWs are indeed still in Pakistan - and to force Pakistan to release them.

Great performances, and the real historical context gives a highly "believable" feel to the plot.

This is a serious film, about a serious topic. There isn't exactly a happy ending, but it is powerful and will make you think, and feel about these missing soldiers who seem to have been forgotten.

* * * * 1/2

Other notable films (I'll write about these in a later post):

Shikhar


Sehar

Yuva

Kabul Express

Aug. 9th, 2007

iitb.discuss - Flashback

While rummaging through the contents of an old hard disk, I found an archive of postings on a local IITB campus newsgroup called iitb.discuss.

I had created this archive back in May 2002, and contains all posts between Feb<-->May 2002 (basically an entire IITB Spring Semester).

Reading through these posts again was nostalgic. It brought back a flood of memories, some laughs and some surprise (did I really write these things??). These were days when I used to be extremely vocal and energetic about my Hindutva/Right-Wing leanings. I still have more or less the same disposition, just that I don't write/talk that much now...

I've html-ized this archive and made it available at http://avishkar.in/personal/iitb.discuss/

To ex-iitb.d'ers reading this - I think you'll enjoy going through those posts again...

Even if you don't know about iitb.discuss, you might find the posts interesting!

btw, in those posts, the names Virtual Kshatriya, Intellectual Kshatriya and Bauddhik Kshatriya refer to the same person (me)

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