Sunday, July 27, 2008

Thoughts from the spectacle

I watched with great amusement the (in)famous trust vote in Parliament on live TV. Must say it was more engrossing than any of the K-soaps (not that I have, or ever would want to watch the damn things). It had all the elements - drama, suspense, passion, intrigue.

At the end of it all, the primary thought that struck me was that there is a silver lining in all this muck - no, I was not at all disgusted by the sight of wads of money being waved around - lets face it, how surprising was it? Everyone - bar none - knew that large scale buying of votes is pretty common in our polity - it has happened before, and will happen again. So why go all hypocritical and apoplectic about the 'sanctity' of Parliament or the 'damage to the integrity of the nation'? In fact I think this is a good thing because it at least lays out the rules of the game clearly - jiske note uska vote.

But to return to the silver lining - and that was that among all the cacophony and noise, the speeches by Rahul Gandhi and by Omar Abdullah stood out - for being sensible, rational, and (dare I add?) ethical. I was an ardent opponent of Sonia Gandhi being offered the PM's post, but I have revised my opinion about Mr. Gandhi Jr. For one, the guy spends a lot of time actually visiting far flung places and seeing how things are happening on the ground. For the other, even for his (incorrect?) prescriptions to problems - remember the famous Rs. 70,000 crore farm loan waiver? - at least he has in his target the correct problems. Not stupid cliches like 'communalism' or 'communism' but a much more real and practical war against poverty. That is the real scourge that needs to be eradicated, and that is what our esteemed lawmakers should spend their time thinking about. Whether you choose Medicine A (i.e. fiscal grants, loan waivers etc.) or Medicine B (i.e. spreading education, enabling entrepreneurship, upholding basic human rights and restoring individual dignity through capitalism) is the next step. But the basic step is to recognize the problem.

I have hope that Rahul Gandhi and Omar Abdullah and their like have recognized this problem. The King is dead - long live the King!!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Quotes on fear (thank you Wikipedia!)

Like one that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows, a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Part VI, st. 10 (1798)

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear — not absence of fear.
Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson, ch. 12 (1894)

I must say a word about fear. It is life's only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unerring ease. It begins in your mind, always. One moment you are feeling calm, self-possessed, happy. Then fear, disguised in the garb of mild- mannered doubt, slips into your mind like a spy. Doubt meets disbelief and disbelief tries to push it out. But disbelief is a poorly armed foot soldier. Doubt does away with it with little trouble. You become anxious. Reason comes to do battle for you. You are reassured. Reason is fully equipped with the latest weapons technology. But, to your amazement, despite superior tactics and a number of undeniable victories, reason is laid low. You feel yourself weakening, wavering. Your anxiety becomes dread. Fear next turns fully to your body, which is already aware that something terribly wrong is going on. Already your lungs have flown away like a bird and your guts have slithered away like a snake. Now your tongue drops dead like an opossum, while your jaw begins to gallop on the spot. Your ears go deaf. Your muscles begin to shiver as if they had malaria and your knees to shake as though they were dancing. Your heart strains too hard, while your sphincter relaxes too much. And so with the rest of your body. Every part of you, in the manner most suited to it, falls apart. Only your eyes work well. They always pay proper attention to fear.Quickly you make rash decisions. You dismiss your last allies: hope and trust. There, you've defeated yourself. Fear, which is but an impression, has triumphed over you. The matter is difficult to put into words. For fear, real fear, such as shakes you to your foundation, such as you feel when you are brought face to face with your mortal end, nestles in your memory like a gangrene: it seeks to rot everything, even the words with which to speak of it. So you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don't, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you
Yann Martel, "Life of Pi", (178-9)

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
Frank Herbert, Dune - Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear (1965), pg. 8.


There is nothing to fear but fear itself - Franklin D Roosevelt

Oftentimes the fear of the unknown cripples me. A dark gnawing shadow grips my very heart and paralyzes my brain. I become helpless and freeze. Such is the power of fear.

At such times, I draw inspiration from stories of other peoples' overcoming great obstacles. I remind myself that life is a series of arbitrary events that even out in the end. I reassure myself that I can take the rough with the smooth.

I read this statement again. I am no longer afraid.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Jaane Tu? Not really...

Saw the mega-hit and much appreciated Jaane Tu yesterday. And came away with mixed opinions. The movie is overall ok, though only because of 3 positives. The negatives, per me, are 2 (but really big ones!).
Ironically, 2 out of the 3 positives are probably the shortest parts of the movie. And they are: 1) Naseeruddin Shah's character 2) Bhaloo and Bagheera and 3) the hero himself

The negatives are 1) The heroine: all she does in the entire movie is sport a very supercilious expression. The lady tries to be "sweet" but ends up looking like a class A candidate for punishment. Her accent is also pretty thick and should have been worked upon.
The 2nd negative is the story itself - somehow it does not seem feasible in the least (not least the rigmarole and hurry-scurry during the climax). What are mobile phones for, if I may ask?? And how about PCO booths?

All in all, I think the problem was that I went in with expectations that were higher than warranted.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Communist bashing

For a change, this is not me ranting away, but more measured opinion :-)
Check it out here

Some excerpts:
There is a long history of such conduct, going back to the Communist hostility to the Congress-led freedom movement and the willingness to act as agents of the British imperialists (because both Soviet Russia and Britain were on the same side in World War II). That was followed by the denouncing of Independent India as a bourgeois sham, leading to armed insurrection against the lawful government. And when the Chinese attacked India on the northern borders, the Communists once again did not take a clear position with the national mainstream

As for economic issues, when the Green Revolution was achieved, the Communists criticised it as a phenomenon that would displace labour and help only big farmers — whereas it is the Green Revolution that helped India become self-sufficient in food. Indeed, in Punjab which was at the heart of the change, there has been a growing labour shortage, and not the creation of surplus labour. The Left was also critical of the induction of computers, organising strikes to stop computerisation and thereby condemning office workers and whole organisations to manual processes long after they should have computerised and achieved quantum gains in productivity. Once again, the war cry was that workers would be displaced, whereas it is the computer age that has created huge employment in the country — with the Left Front-ruled West Bengal now struggling to reap some benefit by inviting the computer software giants to come to the state. And, of course, the Communists were bitterly critical of the "IMF-World Bank-dictated" economic reform programme that got launched in 1991; ironically, it is this very programme that has given the country freedom from IMF conditionality and also from the need to borrow from the World Bank

For many years, the Communists have also criticised those not of their ilk as being foreign agents, compradors and such like. Yet, as Soviet documentation has established, it is the Communists who were busy taking money from a foreign country, even as they pointed fingers at others. And coincidentally or not, the Left's opposition to the nuclear deal happens to tie in quite nicely with the interests of Communist China, which would like to see India remain in a nuclear straitjacket