Friday, 18 March 2011

Of Chinky Japanis and someone's Joota...

India is a very weird place to come to at the best of times. The people here are weird, and their actions, however well intentioned, inevitably turn out to be, for lack of a better word, weird. But to come here during Holi, would be akin to committing suicide. And its a good thing that the Japanese people know how to do that... Yes, they have perfected the art of suicide and can commit it in no less than 23 ways. How do I know? because I met one such guy, who had travelled to India during Holi, from Bangladesh, which was a marked improvement at least.

Anyway, this person, unlike most tourists, was smart. He was a trained Civil engineer, who had worked at a Government job, had left it, and was now out to see the world. As such, he had developed his own views on the world, and the economic laws that shaped it. He also knew a thing or two about Indian poverty, as does everyone unfortunate enough to have ever boarded a train at Varanasi Junction. And he had been in India for three weeks, which is a sufficient time to form your views on a country and its people.

A friend of mine was kind enough to point out on facebook that there is currently a nuclear disaster in progress in Japan, and while his Machiavellian intellect had sufficient perspicacity to point out this seemingly crucial bit of information, I did have the courage, if not the courtesy to ask my Japanese friend about the tragedy. He informed me that his family was safe, and in the interior of the country, ergo not prone to immediate danger. This being the case, he was travelling alone in and around the world. The reason he was on my train was of course, he was a practising Buddhist. Which meant that a place called Bodh Gaya was of particular significance to him. Also, his girlfriend was South African, go figure... which meant he knew english reasonably well.

After the usual banter about engineering, and jobs, and how, in general engineers are better than the rest of the people in the world, and of course, about how difficult it is to get a girl in an engineering college, there being so few of them, we decided to get dwon to brass tacks. And this meant that I was questioned about equality in India, or rather, the lack of it.

Because, according to this Japanese guy,people in Japan were equal. There wasnt the level of poverty that we take for granted here. The poor were largely urban, and even then, they were better cared for than our rural poor, in terms of government welfare. He said that Japan wasn't growing as fast as India, in fact it wasn't growing at all, but shrinking. China had pipped it to the number two spot, and this caused a lot of grief to the Japanese people. Of course, this was followed by the force de majeur events of the past week, and might well lead to a significant collapse of the Japanese economy.

But the fact of the matter remained, the people there were equal. Here they were not. And so he asked me, how long is it going to be before India is a true economic power? I said, well, at least the government here is not as autocratic as that of China, and while it is helping the people, it may be a while, but it would certainly happen in my generation. He nodded assent, but seemed unconvinced. I didn't blame him, there wasn't much conviction in India's economic might. It seemed as fragile as a house of cards. And I wondered what would happen if 2 nuclear reactors melted down in India...

You see,there's more to those Japanese than just that joota...

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Lingua Franca

"East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet..."
-Rudyard Kipling

We have a strange problem in this country, and that problem is one of communication. Or,as the auto wallah in Bangalore said to me, in one poignant moment of greivously mismatched rhetoric, "Naai Aaatta..." So, the point I am trying to make here is, that of simple communication. One book which had a profound impact on me was Fritjof Capra's The Tao Of Physics.

I thought it was a load of shit. But it was in our 1st year curriculum, and I had to read it anyway. Now waht it said was something like, people make up words to communicate words, and once those ideas have been communicated, they forget the words they used. This makes sense. You see, language is all about ideas, and ideas do noyt come from the lnguage, they come from the person speaking the language.

Here's the point. Most ultra nationalist, Hindutva loving, saffron terrorists would deny this, but the primary mode of communication today, is in fact the english language. And while Hindi might be the official language of our country, there are very few people who, in fact speak it on a regular basis.

For we are a country without any homogeneity. Either in terms of finance or culture. We are a country with most people who have very little in common trying to find some common ground. India has over 1800 languages and dialects, and no one could expect any single person to know all of them. Hence, while Hindi may be our choice language for abuse, and filling up govern,ment forms....

WE all know its Englih we prefer.

Friday, 11 March 2011

(dis)United States of India

“To be paid..to do what you love, ain’t that the Dream?” –Jude Law, Road to Perdition

The Indian dream, in short, and to be rather brutal, is to emigrate. You see Indians are a lot better at EVERYTHING they do, when they are not in India. The greatest passion among most Indians, is unequivocally, to settle aborad. You hear it in the quavering voice of the fat aunty next door, when she informs you that her son has been accepted “to UK”, you hear it in the respectful tone of your parents when a family friend tells them that he has been placed at a company in Spain, you hear it in the envy of your friend’s voice, when he tells you that his roommate is going to Germany for the summer. But above all, the most unifying factor in India today is the reverence of that splendid nation, the US. People who have been there are US returned, which makes them equal, in most respects, to God. People who are from there, despite having the notable handicap of being Indian, are referred to as NRIs, and everyone knows they make the best husbands, and are filthy rich. People who are from there, are of course, Americans, and once again, we all know that they are simply fabulous.

We love Americans, because they are so much better than us. They look so much better than us. Our rather flawed concept of beautiful people, as being tall and fair, is perfectly matched by them. Even the so called African Americans( c’mon we’re cool…NEGRO) look beautiful, and while any girl unfortunate enough to be born with a dark skin tone here is ostracized, black Americans are considered, well rather sexy here. And come on, they make the best TV shows, period. Friends, 24, Heroes…soo much better than the shit they show here. And they get soo much more action than we do, they’re practically more experienced at 15 than we are at 39. And well, they are jus soo much richer, drive such better cars than we do, have so much better lifestyles than us, soo much more glamorous. We can’t help but be seduced by their wealth and power and influence and white skin.

And in a country where the Marathis hate the Biharis, the Kannads can’t stand the Punjabis, the Assamese get irritated by the mere mention of the Rajasthanis, we welcome with open arms the Americans. From Alabama or California, we don’t care. Black or White, who gives a shit. And while gay and lesbian people here are mentally unstable or even criminally insane, Americans are Americans…chalta hai…. A pregnant 16 year old girl is a slut, a witch and a whore, if she’s Indian. If she’s American, she’s cute, and liable to be the female lead in a really sweet movie. We are a country divided by language, culture, and employment issues. And united in our admiration for America.
The most brilliant Indian economists might wax lyrical about the Indian economy, and be branded a biased, myopic fascist for his troubles. But when Barack Obama says it, our ego troubles are assuaged. People give more weight to the words of the president of a country facing the worst economic crisis of its recent history, than to the words of our own Finance Minister. Because while our netas are corrupt, their netas are upright, and he’s even won a Nobel Prize for gods sake.. must be legit.

People fail to realize that not all American universities are better than ours, not all Americans are better than us. We have substance in our country. The Americans now have nothing, but brash attitudes and billionaires. The great Indian dream should not be to go abroad. The Great Indian dream should be to do, what you love…

Thursday, 10 March 2011

An eschewed democracy

“Give me control of a nation’s money supply, and I care not about who makes its laws.” –Mayer Amschel Rothschild

We have made the grave mistake of equating a country's economy with the standard of its society. We have made this egregious assumption because our country’s people are no longer governed by their elected representatives. And there is a reason for this.

You see, in order to govern anyone or in this case, everyone, there is a need for leadership. At the outset of society, the leader was the strongest warrior. The Alpha Male. He gave people what they desired, security. Protection from the ravages of the other tribes, of savage animals, of natural disasters.,a single entity for the redress of all their problems.

You see, most people had realized long before the advent of modern society that large masses of people cannot govern themselves. There has to be one person, one leader, capable of being pliable to the vox populi, yet independent enough to make his own decisions. This leader, for effective governance, must give the people what they need, must in other words, be able to motivate them.
After the cavemen had evolved into reasonable beings of art and culture, there was a need to provide more to the people than security and redress. Human beings were no longer governed by the need to hunt, or scavenge or forage. Human beings were now smart, resourceful creatures. This in itself brought a new challenge to the leaders of society. How do you lead so many humans, each with his own thought process. How can you motivate each and every one of them, in order to serve a common purpose. Slavery was an option, but not a viable one. Slaves were inherently inefficient. You had to spend a lot of energy to get them to work, and in modern management parlance, attrition was severe. This led to the concept of GOD.

You see a man with a vision, for a collective goal for humanity, for a single purpose is a stupid motherfucker. The people around him would question his motives, some out of jealousy, others out of indignation, yet others out of a genuine sense of cynicism. That one man is NOT better than any other man, he is just as flesh and blood as the rest of us, popular opinion would go, how can we let him govern us?
But if that man, were to say, oh I don’t know…I’m doing the work of GOD. An all knowing, all powerful, divine presence, who only manifests himself to TRUE believers, and who only acts through his puppets on Earth. If that man were to do the WORK of GOD, isn’t that noble enough to engender the support of everyone? God continues to be the single most important motivational force for millions of people to this day. Except for one problem.

Atheists, and greedy people far outnumber the pious and altruistic people of this world today. And as a result, humanity needs a different source of collective motivation, a different reason for being united. Our unity no longer arises from our Country, or from our religion. No, our unity now arises from our employment. People of all religions, all countries, stay happy and contented under one roof, provided they are paid better than the people who live next to them. We do not elect our leaders anymore. Our leaders are not in Delhi, attending some stupid meaningless session of parliament. Our leaders are in 5 star hotels, in executive class seats on flights, in video conferences halfway around the world.

The corporate world is the worst example of nepotism, of arbitrary steps taken, of common people not having a say in its machinery, of lack of a social conscience, and of corruption. The government runs a country, only in some respects, because most people like to think they’re in control. They think that their vote counts.
Well it doesn’t count for shit. Because the country isn’t run by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister couldn’t do anything to help you if you lost your job tomorrow. The country is run by rulers who are never democratically elected, who answer to no one, and who could do something if you lost your job tomorrow. But, of course they wouldn’t.

They’d be the ones firing you.