I procrastinate, therefore I am.

I procrastinate, therefore I am.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

India After Gandhi

I have started reading "India After Gandhi" by Ramchandra Guha, and am slowly getting addicted to it. The book documents the political history of India from 1947 to the present day. Though it will take more than a month to finish a 900 page volume, I hope to stick around till the end. Here are some excerpts.

...throughout the sixty years since India became independent, there has been speculation about how long it would stay united, or maintain the institutions and processes of democracy. With every death of a prime minister has been predicted the replacement of democracy by military rule; in every failure of the monsoon has been anticipated countrywide famine; in every new secessionist movement has been seen the disappearance of India as a single entity......The heart hoped that India would survive, but the head worried it wouldn't. The place was.....far too diverse to persist as a nation, and much too poor to endure as a democracy.....

....On my way to work, I had to pass through Rajpath, the road whose name and location signal the exercise of state power. For about a mile, Rajpath runs along flat land; on either side are specious grounds meant to accommodate the thousands of spectators who come for the annual republic day parade.......By the time I had moved to New Delhi the British had long departed. India was now a free and sovereign republic - but not, it seemed, an altogether happy one. Signs of discord were everywhere. Notably, on Rajpath, the grounds meant to be empty except on ceremonial days has become a village of tents, each with colorful placards hung outside it. One tent might be inhabited by peasants from the Uttarakhand Himalaya, seeking a separate province; a second by farmers from Maharashtra, fighting for a higher price for their produce; a third by the residents of the southern Konkan coast, urging that their language be given official recognition by inclusion in the Eighth Schedule of the constitution of India. The people within these tents and the causes they upheld were ever changing. The hill peasants might be replaced by industrial workers protesting retrenchment; the Maharashtra farmers by Tibetan refugees asking for Indian citizenship; the Konkani-speakers by Hindu monks demanding a ban on cow slaughter.....I wished I had the time to walk on Rajpath every day from January 1 to December 31, chronicling the appearance and disappearance of the tents and their residents. That would be the story of India as told from a single street, and in a single year.....However, this too, is a story, above all, of social conflicts; of how these arise, how they are expressed, and how they are sought to be resolved.......

The forces that divide India are many. This book pays due attention to them. But there are also forces that have kept India together, that have helped transcend or contain the cleavages of class and culture, that - so far at least - have nullified the many predictions that India would not stay united and not stay democratic. These moderating influences are far less visible; it is one aim of this book to make them more so....Suffice it to say that they have included individuals as well as institutions.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Feminist Rant

March 8th was women's day. The upper house of Indian Parliament passed the historic women's reservation bill on March 9th. Though I have serious misgivings regarding many aspects of the bill, it is heartening to see the issue of female empowerment receiving a degree of political attention that was long-overdue.

I grew up in an urban middle class society and have never been to a village. Thus it is not appropriate for me to comment on the grave socio-economic discriminations the females suffer in rural India. I will rather highlight some practices, quite demeaning to women, that are still prevalent amongst the so called educated sections of the populace.

1) A girl has to get married before a certain age, even if she is not financially independent by that time.

2) The husband should be professionally more established (in terms of job profile) than the wife.

3) The husband should be older (and taller) than the wife.

4) Even if both the husband and the wife are working, it is the wife's duty to manage the household chores.

5) If the parents of two kids (a boy and a girl) are constrained financially and have to make a choice, the boy will be encouraged to go for higher studies (PhD / MBA) while the girl will be married off as quickly as possible.

6) The girl's family will pay for the bulk of the cost of organizing the marriage.

7) It is the wife's duty to give up or change her job (or seek a transfer) and relocate to the place where the groom is working. She should not expect her future husband to relocate to her place.

8) A woman cannot preside over a religious ceremony. How many female purohits have you seen?

I can only hope the next generation will be more liberal and open-minded than us, and things will change for the better.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Khamkheyali Chora

amar gaane tomar sur-

bajlo moner ontopur;

ontopure kanna hashi-

kotok notun, kotok bashi;

kotok asha, kotok bhoy,

diner sheshe shondha hoy;

shondhakashe shopon bhela,

prothom prem r cricket khela;

khelar majhe jhogra-jhati,

akla pothe akla haati;

egiye choli, hochot khai -

aro onek haat-te chai.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Looking Back

Have you ever seen a quintessential "Good Boy"? I was one such rare specimen in school. I never went to a movie with other students, never bunked a class, and was pathetic at initiating conversation with any classmate who belonged to the fairer sex. Four years in JU helped me rectify the first two personality defects, the remaining one seems incurable. As you may have guessed already, I enjoyed a lot in college. We were a group of 50 boys and 2 girls (what a pity!). I found many good friends. We used to have long "adda" sessions, the topics varied from cricket, girls and movies to discrete maths and algorithms.

It has been a couple of years since we got out of college, and slowly lost contact with each other. I still call up some of my best pals, but it is no longer possible to stay in touch with all of them. Do I miss those wild days? Yes I do. But at the same time I am happy with my present circumstances. I cherish my work. I talk with my family and a few old friends on a regular basis. What more can a person ask for?

Sweet memories are like lost love. While taking a solitary walk on a pleasant Saturday evening, you stop by the road to relive the golden times and wonder what went wrong. It brings out a wistful smile and a few drops of tears. Then you suddenly come to realize it is getting dark; you move on.

This is life.