Introducing the world at large to a new concept, viz., “Blog-Filling”—Part 1

I hereby introduce to the world at large, awaiting for it with a withheld breath, a new concept, viz. (which is read as “namely” and not “that is,” though the difference has been lost on the English Newspaper Editors of my current town, apparently, long ago; apparently, out of not only a very poor sense of English, but of equally poor sense of supervision descending here from the likes of Delhi and Mumbai—the two highly despicable towns of India).


The concept itself pertains to the idea of having to fill some column-centimeters (or, column-inches in that deprecated country, viz., USA), with whatever it is that you have to fill with.


The world (including the said USA) has been waiting precisely for such a new concept, and I am particularly glad at having not only announcing it, but also having had developed the requisite skills.


The concept in question may most aptly be named: “Blog-Filling.” Translated into a noun, it reads: a “blog filler.”

This post now is [in case you didn’t already guess] is The Blog Filler. [Guess I might have already announced its arrival, given my psycho-epistemological habits i.e. second natures.]


Ummm… In case you still are found wondering, may I repeat, this post really is a blog-filler.


OK. Honest. I will deliver on the promised count. So, here we go: I mean on the RD+Gulzar+Lata song I had had [and may be, also have had/had had/had have/etc.] promised…


A Song I Like:

(Hindi) “silli hawaa chhoo gayee, sillaa badan chhill_ gayaa”
Credits: Are you so dumb as not to be able to guess even these?
OK. I will tell you what? I will note these down, right here:
Lyrics: Gulzaar
Music: R. D. Burman
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar


A “Philanthropic” Assertion:

Even if you are so dumb, and, as usual, richer-than-me, or an Approved SPPU Mechanical Engineering Faculty (or of Any Other Indian University/AICTE/UGC), as not having been able to even guess it, or, in summary, if you are an American Citizen:

Don’t worry, even if you have not been able to guess it. … It was just a small simple game…

…Continuing on the same lines [which lines, people like me don’t need]: now, take care, and best, and good-bye; I mean it; etc.


Bye for now. Don’t bother me too much.

 

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Speaking Truth to the Pinkos

Preamble: Today, I am in a “bad” “mood.” … (Marathi) “aataa maajhi saTakli!”

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I saw this article by Ramachandra Guha [^] highlighted at Prof. Abinandanan’s nanopolitan blog [^].

I went through the first two comments to Abi’s post, and immediately later, also went through Guha’s article. As I began reading the latter, it seemed to me way before finishing it that the author does have some kind an axe to grind here. The question was which one, but the answer was not immediately obvious within the first 10 seconds, and so, I had to find it out… Realize, both Guha and Abi reside in Bangalore; Abi highlighted the excerpt containing the Mashelkar name in his post (and has done so in the past on his blog, too); and there is this Marathi Theatre Meet currently going on in the Marathi town of BeLgao (aka Belgaum/Belagavi) currently in the state of Karnataka. … I did finally find it—the nature of the axe.

Alert: I write at length (more than 4000 words in all).

Spoiler Alert: What I found isn’t about [not] restoring BeLgao back to Maharashtra, but something else. And this something else is what I found to be even more interesting. So, here we go.

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Guha begins his article with Modi, but his writing became interesting to me only when he came to Mashelkar. [Ummm, yes, Mr. Modi… But that is a fact!]. Guha begins his take on Mashelkar with:

Next only to Rao in the hierarchy of Indian science is R. A. Mashelkar.

That was the line which engaged me in a real sense for the first time while reading this article. “Watch the action, now!,” I involuntarily said to myself, “this is going to be interesting.” … To think of the hierarchy of Indian science, and still to skip over Sarabhai—the relocator of the IIM Ahmedabad to Ahmedabad and a Gujju, in a piece that begins with Modi and written by Guha—had to get very interesting. … And sure enough, I soon found my first reference point in Guha’s article. Guha says:

Entitled ‘”Indovation” for affordable excellence’, [Mashelkar’s article] is mostly about the author himself [i.e. Mashelkar].’

Interrupting my reading of Guha’s article, I immediately did a Google search (Guha does not provide a link) and checked out Mashelkar’s article in the Current Science, here [^].

Saying so might perhaps be a bit too harsh on Guha, yet, I did get a definite feeling that perhaps he was counting on the fact that very few of his readers would bother to actually go through Mashelkar’s article from the Current Science. Guha could even be counting on the fact that people also find it difficult to hold on to context whenever they read a very brief article on a very complex topic—esp. in the middle of a casual browsing on NDTV’s Web site (and even more so, while reading anything on the Web site where the article was first published, viz., The Telegraph of Kolkata/Calcutta). The Bengali-named Doon-educated Bangalore-residing author could easily have, in some way, counted on that.

Getting back to the issue at hand: No, Mashelkar’s article isn’t mostly about himself. Check out the article for yourself right away, and observe the places where Mashelkar’s self-references appear and the flow of the writing in which they do. Nothing extra-ordinary here—certainly not for a man of Mashelkar’s accomplishments.

(In case you don’t know it already, purely metrics-wise, check out what arguably is the biggest metric in favour of Mashelkar, viz., the sheer dramatic rise in the of number of patents filed by the CSIR labs under his leadership, and the sustainable way in which he came to implement this program of his. For the latter, check out also the number of patents filed after he retired from the DG-ship of CSIR. As to the very idea of patents and all, I suspect that Guha should have an opinion about it, though he avoids any mention of this point while writing this particular opinion piece, and so, let’s not pursue that angle any further.)

If some leftist experiences some highly intolerable kind of reaction in the very process of going through a piece by Mashelkar, then, to get at the real issue at hand, let him also go through Rajendra Singh’s articles; as an example, the one here [^]. Guha does not mention Singh. [In case you don’t know, Singh started out as a committed socialist in his youth. He has not filed any patents or made any profit.]

IMO, the best way to approach this controversy of self-references is to begin, not by going through its worst practitioners but those who at least arguably are its best—and IMO, both Mashelkar and Singh fall in this latter category.

Observe that whenever people who have achieved success under very trying or difficult circumstances are later on invited to talk/write about their insights and their plans for the future, they invariably make salient references to their own experiences. By definition, when they began, and while they were at it—making that success happen—no outside agent more important than their own self—their own resolute, unyielding, rationality—was available to them, in order to effect the positive changes which they did come to effect.

They must make reference to their experiences, and as a part of that, yes, also to their very personal experiences. Yes, even in “science.” The self does have a causal efficacy; if it did not, no science would at all be possible because no knowledge would be. … Who else but a leftist/materialist sort of a fool could have told Guha that science is supposed to be apersonal?

But coming back to making references to one’s own achievements and plans, the richness to the perspective that this practice brings is far too valuable in its own way for the reader/listener (assuming, again, that it comes from a man of authentic achievements).

Science sure is objective, but “doing” science also is an art—it’s a skill, a very demanding skill. And, it is a very personal skill. Each individual differs in his own skills-set. And the world—the reality—is far too complex. When significant success is at all achieved by a person, such advancement comes about only through those personal skills-sets of that particular, thinking individual. The resulting science, management practice, or achievement does carry over this personal “imprint” of his, as a background context to his work. Given the complex and delicate nature of the process, knowing more about that personal context does have an objective value. It not just a spiritual value by itself—it’s not just an inspiration to the others. It is also not just a social value—a knowledge of the kind of society that made that success either possible, or, more difficult to achieve. Apart from these and similar values, personal notes also have a cognitive function or value—precisely because achievement of success is so complex, these personal notes become helpful in putting in context the nature of the achievement itself—the kind of objective science that has been done, the kind of lasting institution-building that has been effected.

Mashelkar’s article runs so contrary to the spirit of science that I wonder how it was accepted for publication. How did the editor of Current Science allow the essay to pass without major cuts and changes?

Yeah, right.

Either the editor is plain incompetent, or, what is more likely, too intimidated by Mashelkar’s reputation and influence to have asked him to revise his essay. Founded by C.V. Raman, Current Science is modelled on the American journal, Science, and the British journal, Nature. Like them, it publishes original scientific papers as well as shorter commentaries, book reviews, and obituaries. But one would never find in Nature or Science editorials remotely as self-promoting as this.

Really? Guha assiduously reads scientific papers and editorials from both Nature and Science?

Sure then he would know that one wouldn’t find an article like this in Nature or Science—or, for that matter, probably even on arXiv: N. P. Dharmadhikari, D. C. Meshram, S. D. Kulkarni, S. M. Hambarde, A. P. Rao, S. S. Pimplikar, A. G. Kharat, and P. T. Patil (2010) “Geopathic stress: a study to understand its nature using Light Interference Technique,” Current Science, vol. 98, no. 5, pp. 695–697.

Guha doth elevate Current Science too much, methinks.

But science begins with an interest in the world outside yourself.

Observe how this quote has been used out of its context. [I told you, Guha must rely on [your] ability to drop context.]

In particular, there are only two possibilities here:

(I) Possibility 1: (i) Guha first takes an unknown Indian student, say in his twenties, talking about some irrelevant personal things of absolutely no imaginable consequence to the development of science as such, even while talking up to a senior British scientist in his sixties who has come to India to help build an institution of science, and then, (ii) Guha takes a retired Indian FRS (etc.) of notable achievements and track record, who, now in his sixties, is supposed to share via an editorial piece his personal experiences, further achievements and ideas for the future, with a view to engage the younger working scientist in their common quest of further development, and (iii) Guha then equates the two: the senior British scientist with the audience of Mashelkar’s piece at the Current Science, and the inconsequential young Indian student with Mashelkar himself.

Don’t believe me? Re-read what Guha writes once again, and pay attention to the order in which what kind of reference appears to which man—in particular, who has been saying what personal things to whom in what kind of settings. Such things too are included when you say “context.” Going by the context, Guha equates Mashelkar to that inexperienced student.

Either Guha does that, or he does this:

(II) Possibility 2: Guha takes a respectable British name from science, and then relying at least on the argument from the association if not the argument from the authority, he tries to elevate the idea that pursuing objective science consists of wiping out any trace of the self as its crucial precondition.

I can’t think of a third possibility.

Does Guha habitually quote his quotes this way? to this kind of an effect? I have no good idea, though I wouldn’t have thought so. But then, he mostly writes about the things from the humanities, not sciences, and so, one wouldn’t really know all that well, and all that easily.

Still, observe the actual context here, the nature of each of the only two possibilities that can at all explain how Guha deploys that quote the way he does in this article. Then, take a moment to consider what it is that he must count on, in order to subtly advance his argument in this kind of a way: he must rely on your dropping of the context. [I told you so!]

I always thought that Guha was merely an enormously water- or fog-diluted—but not a white oil paint-diluted—shade of a pink. And I did also think that he wrote well—in a lucid kind of a way, even if not always in effect very persuasively. These two attributes—the colour and the quality of his writing—taken together made his articles an interesting sort of a reading, as far as I was concerned. But I also thought, with good reasons, that Guha also fairly regularly did his homework well, before embarking on lucidly painting the world in those watered down pinks. …In contrast, in the current piece, he doesn’t even care on that count of first doing his homework well. Interesting turn this, don’t you think?

One of my own intellectual heroes […] He nurtured an atmosphere of egalitarianism in the NCBS, where juniors could fearlessly challenge seniors and where honorifics such as ‘Sir’, ‘Professor’. were rigorously eschewed. Sadly, not many Indian scientists are cut of the same cloth as Obaid Siddiqi.

His acute observation about the usual sort of Indian scientists notwithstanding, realize, Guha now advances equating an informal and collegial atmosphere with … egalitarianism.

Guha is no enthusiastic graduate student, say of science or engineering, one who has just begun dabbling in writing blog posts that gush with impressive-sounding philosophical words. He is a much published intellectual from the humanities. At this point, we are still somewhere in the middle of his article. Therefore, this construct must eventually find its uses, some time later in his article. … For the time being, it might perhaps be worth noticing that among those who encouraged a nice academic/research atmosphere in India, Guha informs us Siddiqi as one of his intellectual heroes. But, in particular, Guha does not mention that other contemporary of Siddiqqi, viz., Narlikar—whom every one at IUCAA (or TIFR) would call by his first name, Jayant. …. “Gee, where is it going now? Could BeLgao come in at least now?,” I did catch myself wondering at this point. And, in comes, not Narlikar, but a different Marathi manoos! One from the humanities:

B. R. Ambedkar famously said that hero-worship is antithetical to the democratic spirit.

Another quote being quoted by Guha!

Now, this quote itself is objectively quite accurate: unlimited democracy is the rule by the mob, and it does thereby serve to annihilate, via the political means, any possibilities of any worship of any hero.

But Guha couldn’t possibly have meant it in this sense—not at this juncture in this article. Still, given the better [and actually mistaken] sense of the term “democracy” in which Ambedkar probably accepted and used it (he probably would have thought it to mean a civilized form of government on the lines of the British model, certainly not the rule by the mob—and such a meaning of the term is what both American and British intellectuals would have been arguing even in his times), it seems unlikely that Ambedkar could have meant this quote quite in the same sense as Guha now uses it. Possible, but unlikely.

But still, here, I didn’t bother to check the context in which Ambedkar might have said it. Checking and all wasn’t any more necessary. I knew by now how the author was using his quotes here in this article, and finding out the subtle viewpoint from which he comes, was now getting far too interesting a goal by itself. And so I thought: “May be a hero, to Guha, is one who reifies himself out to his own annihilation in a democratic manner? … Must read on… As a temporary note: The author has heroes but he indicates no hero-worship. Either these supposed heroes actually are just zeroes who cannot at all be worshipped, or he himself tends towards being a zero that couldn’t possibly worship an actual hero, or, both are/tend to the respective zeroes. …  Must find out what is the truth, here.” That’s what I thought. Gripping, this stuff had by now become!

Respect for senior scholars for what they have achieved is fine; but when respect shades into deference and even reverence, it is not conducive to independent and original thinking.

Reverence for senior scholars kills independent and original thinking? Says who? Blank-out. On what basis? Blank-out.

Quoting someone heroic, even if in an out-of-context sort of a way, Guha no longer finds necessary at this stage in his article. He apparently has found his form, and now he can take on any one, make any general assertion, without finding any need to support it with any sort of argumentation—before, during, or after asserting it.

But leaving aside Guha for a moment, why must reverence hinder independent and original thinking? Is there any fact of reality, man’s nature included, that makes this statement compelling? … If you have an honest doubt, let me give you just one counter-example: Read what Poincare, Einstein or Feynman (and if you want an example closer to the Indian genes, Chandrasekar) have said about Newton and his theory—the kind of terms they used while expressing their respective evaluations of Newton.

Either Guha’s reading of science is very limited, or, counting on his abilities of persuasion, at this point in his article, he no longer needs to use the crutches of mentioning science—not even some vague anecdotes about it. He can now “generalize” expansively, while taking care to drop just a hint here and there to the effect that some critical sort of thinking has gone in making those generalizations. So, he now turns to generously letting us have some further pinkish pearls of wisdom, concerning what to think of a person of eminence who is found handing out some prize named after himself:

…These were are the pertinent questions, and I suspect that in each case the answer is `No’.

Why must a scientist retire, or better still, die, before a chair or an award in his name may be instituted? What benevolent/desirable metaphysical prowesses does the fact of retirement—or better still, of death—possess, which makes this practice acceptable to people like Guha? What precise value does the fact of death [or of retirement] endow on a chair/award that was not already within the powers of the life [or the work-career] preceding it? Blank-out.

Any way, the author now ostensibly does not even think that questions like these need to be pursued with full clarity. As far as such issues go, mere suspicions residing in his mind should be perfectly acceptable alternatives to stand in for any objective answers. …

Hmmm… Even if I don’t care to counter his implicit argument in more detail than I have, I could—and I think I must—supply at least a few examples going counter to the answer that his suspicion derives: Check out the name of the highest award in applied mechanics, the name of its first recipient, and his life-span, starting here [^]. Also, check out the Belytschko Award (2008–2014), here [^]. Closer home and closer to Guha’s primary expertize (viz. humanities, India), how about the Lata Mangeshkar Award for Lifetime Achievement? Think: Possibly leaving aside intellectuals, do you know of any Indian—either the man on the street or the one from those innumerable government offices, either in the agricultural fields or in the urban IT parks, either in the coaching classes here in Kota or in the research labs there in the USA—who has ever had a problem with Lata Mangeshkar “in the flesh” handing out the Lata Mangeshkar Lifetime Achievement Awards? [… Oh well, but then, what I have done is to drop a Marathi name here, haven’t I?]

In allowing (or encouraging) things to be named after themselves, C.N.R. Rao, Amartya Sen and Jagdish Bhagwati have not done anything that is illegal. What they have done is not even immoral. But it is unquestionably in poor taste.

Ah! Now I get it. Guha really, really transcends the BeLgao issue. Also the science issue. Also the hero-worship issue.

Instead, it has only been just a matter of tastes! The issue is tastes. Not aesthetic standards or their applications, but mere tastes!

And, reading further, the author seems to have so badly fallen in love (if it can be called that) with his own tastes that he would somehow arise, awake, and write for the public consumption an intellectual defence of those very tastes—his own. But not before pre-emptying the possibility that a question or two may be raised about it. The instance of his tastes which he supplies is, by his own prior declaration, unquestionable.

It’s all just a matter of taste. So what, if a recognizable eminent name or two begins to get seen in an unseemly light, in this entirely “tastefully” done process.

The author may be Indian, but he is no leader in any field. What is to his taste is both unquestionable and for public consumption, esp. of Indians. So, they should follow him…err… they should have the same tastes as his.

… Just imagine how India would be like, only if his kind of tastes were to be carried by every Indian who has achieved eminence. How much for the better the whole world would turn, if only his tastes were to be carried by all the rest of us. Tastes, such as wiping out any references to ourselves, should we ever come to write any science-related article.

Taking the essentials of Guha’s basic logic and extending it just so slightly further, even a scientific article written with the pedestrian “we” would of course be in a bad taste. And, note, I am not even talking about the royal “we” at all, let alone writing a research paper in the grammatical first person singular [^]! How disgustingly lacking in taste would that be, if it came not just from a hapless graduate student but also from a leader of science, can you imagine?

It’s so damn tasteless to have any other tastes, and so, may be, we should think of imposing his tastes on every one else? To be fair, Guha himself doesn’t at all even hint at anything like this prescription. But since it is all in a fine taste to pull down a name or two, and since he writes of his tastes with such gusto and boldness, may be, we wouldn’t be too far off the mark if we begin to think along those lines?

But of course, as the author himself would sure know, imposition of mere personal tastes on other individuals would be a very hopeless kind of an enterprise—that is, if the very nature of the enterprise were to be spelt out in a forthright manner. One must therefore first drop some prior hints to the effect that a very reasonable sort of argument is and has been in progress, and thereby make the spelling out of the tastes in the end, say, a little more palatable. And, if such a flow of the writing, if such arguments, seem to require staying clear of anything to do with morality, then all the more power to… to his personal tastes—what else?

The kind of vision he by implication seems to keep, of an India transformed thusly—i.e., in keeping with his tastes—also explains the nature of the “research” he did, before sitting down to spilling all that electronic ink. It was all only in the name of that good taste of his, of course.

Nope. I got it [at least somewhat] wrong, once again!

In societies whose spirit and form are egalitarian, or where the aesthetic ethos is one of refined understatement, what [Modi] did would be completely out of place…

If you have read both Guha’s article and my commentary on it this far, you would know by now that this article by Guha is not about Modi the person or the kind of taste which he did come to display. BTW, given the genius of Modi’s image consultants, I do wonder how they at all recommended that sort of a suit to him, in the first place. Did they intentionally mean humour, by any chance?

But, coming back to the main point, even though Guha both begins and ends his article with the customary mention of Modi, an obvious fact of the matter is, Modi’s taste actually doesn’t matter much to Guha. Certainly not at all to his more basic and abstract argument. And, as it so happens, for exactly the same reason, Modi’s mention also does not matter much to me either.

Therefore, read that quoted line of Guha’s once again, keeping the entire context of the article thus far, but now dropping just for a moment this weaved-in instance of Modi’s name. If you do that, you will then immediately come to know that, above all, the article has always been rather about the “spirit” and the “form” of societies. And what does our author have to say about these things?

Not much, really speaking! He is already near the end of his article. And so, a hint or so is all the rest of us should now expect from him.

Thankfully, Guha, a some-time professor at LSE, Yale, Stanford and Berkeley, does deliver at least on that last count, viz., that of a hint. He is at least willing to grant us a glimpse into his ideal world—the sort of ethos in which his aesthetic tastes would find themselves perfectly at home.

That world is ruled by egalitarianism!

Phheewwww…. That explains it!

Going by the logic of the entire article and the way it has progressed, obviously, by now, no understatements are necessary on Guha’s part. His position is unquestionably refined, and he tells you about it quite explicitly, clearly, unequivocally, and boldly:

It is about forming the society according to the egalitarian ideals.

The aesthetics and tastes and all that was merely a stepping stone to leap to this grand finale, the overarching purpose.

… Poor me… I just thought that it was just about this and that…. About Mashelkar or Modi, or about science or economics, or at least about articles in the Current Science and the practice of naming traffic islands near IISc Bangalore by the names of professors who are currently employed in Bengaluru… But, in the final analysis, it was to be none of these things! … [And, no, it didn’t even turn out to be anything about the state and the State of BeLgao either!] … And, for that matter, it wasn’t even about this shade of the pink versus that. … Lying underneath and also simultaneously transcending beyond all those issues and all those shades of pinks, it actually was only about egalitarianism.

Egalitarianism, as the ideal spirit and the form of the society!

These humanities folks… They always make you read so many unnecessary words, before coming to unequivocally telling you where they come from. Pheeewwwww…. Hey, did I tell you that Guha has taught in the humanities at LSE, Yale, Stanford and Berkeley? … No, he did not mention that part in his article. But I found out, anyway. That part, as well as this part about egalitarianism.

And as to the ideal of egalitarianism itself, well, check out Ayn Rand [^].

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To the NDTV editors: Yes, there was a click originating from my IP address to Guha’s article at your site (originally published at The Telegraph, Calcutta/Kolkata, West Bengal, India). No, the aforementioned page at your site was not closed within one minute. Thanks, but no, I won’t take a survey about your Web site, its presentation, or its contents. Yes, I should be visiting back your site once in a while.

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See, see, how things get totally out of control whenever they touch on anything philosophical or deeply fundamental? That was the reason why I didn’t want to participate in that FQXi essay contest either, and, indeed wasn’t even sure if I should be writing even just an informal document by way of my answers (I mean even without participating in the contest). …

Well, I have begun writing the document—my brief answers to the FQXi questions, but without forging them together into a coherent essay. Yet, I am also deliberately taking pauses… I don’t want it to grow and eat into all my time. I don’t want it to get out of control, say, the way this post has. When I began writing this post, it was going to be just a simple two or three short paragraphs’ reply, at Abi’s blog! … It always happens. I don’t know why….

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A Song I Don’t Like:

Hindi(?)/Marathi(?) “aataa maajhi saTakli, malaa raag yetoya!”

[E&OE]

Trivia Like the M. F. Hussain Controversy and the Women’s Reservation Bill

0. With this post, I once again resume blogging…

First, I need to quickly get a few things out of my system before I am ready to write on some of the things I have wanted to write about. … So, here we go with the more trivial (but far more discussed) matters first…

(1.) About the M. F. Hussain Controversy…

There was a spike of discussions concerning this particular controversy about one/two weeks ago. So many interesting angles got thrown up that it would be impossible to even summarize them. I felt like jumping in, but instead, just kept on reading on the ‘net and otherwise, to get the “lay of the land” before I wrote. In a way, this turned out to be a good decision.

After all, I did find a very highly quotable position post which explains most of what I had wanted to say anyway. By that, I mean the post on the topic by Dr. Atanu Dey, here [^]. Please do read it. Highly recommended.

Not that I agree with every nuance of every point he states. Speaking in overall terms about his blogging about other matters too, I suspect that there might be a difference among us in that I might look at something from a moral/judgmental viewpoint whereas he wouldn’t, necessarily. That hardly matters here, though…

Here, I find his ability to think in principles, and the straightforward way in which he puts his thoughts, marvelous! And I completely agree with all the essential points of this post of his.

Just a couple of points I shall add to what Dey has already said.

(1.a) Dey says that “[he is] not much of a paintings person, anyway.” But I am, to a certain extent. And used to be one to a major extent about two-three decades ago. So, I can add a bit about this matter.

The question I very briefly address here is: how great is Hussain, as a painter (i.e. artist)?

Even a casual glance at his paintings would tell you that he has an extraordinary mastery over the line. He is an abstract painter—which, to my mind, generally speaking, doesn’t qualify as art to begin with. This applies as much to Hussain as also to Souza, or Gaitonde, or Anjali Menon, or even Sujata Bajaj, or anyone else of their kind—which means, about 99% of today’s painters: they, too, are not artists.

But keeping this aside for a moment, the next question is: Doesn’t he show at least some elements of great art in his work?

Here, I think, as a craftsman, his defining skill is not at all light and perspective, certainly not color, nor even subject, but it’s: his line. His painting unmistakably show that had he chosen higher goals, he would have made for a recognizably great artist—and, despite spending 95 years of his life, he still has not managed to even become an artist let alone a great one.

But why do I say it’s the line which really defines his craftsmanship? Just look at the lines that define the contours of his horses, and the women he paints. His line is capable of bringing to life the sheer life power, the very unruly dynamic, of a horse. Just one apparently careless stroke of a brush in the right place while drawing the eye of a horse, and that raw, unruly energy of the horse begins to jump at you. Similarly, consider the fact that despite carrying the crudeness of the abstract technique, his straight lines still perfectly capture the contours of the feminine form, whenever he manages to slip-in to the remnants of the better elements of the technique he must have been taught at the JJ School of Arts.

So, here is a very curious phenomenon. You have a gifted craftsman—at the level of the line. But this same guy, then, refuses to use that gift to paint a picture—i.e. to create a work of art. Instead, he uses his more abstract powers to mangle the elements like the objects making up those lines, the color and the perspective etc, deliberately disorients them all, throws them together to deliberately create incoherence or even un-intelligibility in his work of “art.”

Consider its counterpart in other forms of art, for example, literature, for example, poetry. What Hussain’s approach would yield is not a poem but something like a poem. Of course it would be called a “free verse.” But the matter doesn’t end there—it gets worse. What Hussain would give you would be a collection of in-principle disconnected bunch of lines, some phrases of which being extraordinarily brilliant on counts such as drama, innovation of expression, metaphor, imagination, etc. Mind you, the brilliance would be restricted only to phrases, not even to lines—the mangling would begin right at that level. And, the lines, taken as sequence, would all be disjointed, hinting at something which, in principle, cannot at all be known, not in toto. The hints themselves could at times be grotesque, at other times sly, at other times profane (and this term is to be taken in its objective sense, not necessarily in connection with this religion or that)… You could, if you try, easily locate Hussain’s parallels in modern “poetry” too. The point isn’t that. The point is to convey what Hussain really is like, when taken as a painter. Namely, that he isn’t one.

(It would be an error to compare Hussain’s paintings with the strokes produced by a student studying at a school for the mentally retarded—the first has the ability to do better, the second doesn’t, and the deliberateness of the rebellion against integration is the crucial difference.)

(1.b) Another point that many people seem to have missed is this. I ran across a court judgment that did agree with the opponents of Hussain in all other points. However, it refused to try Hussain on a point of legal technicality. And, that brilliant piece of the legal technicality was supplied by the current Central Government of India minister Kapil Sibal. … The less I say, the better it will be to my health and life…

(1.c) Nevertheless, we must stop and ask ourselves one question. If merely brilliance in respect of an element like the line-work can be enough to qualify a guy to be counted as an artist, even when ample evidence from his art-work as well as his interviews exists that he has deliberately followed a policy of working against proper integration as required by a proper piece of art, then, following the same standards, why not also consider those millions of anonymous Indians whose “work” adorns the walls of all our public urinals to be artists in their own right, too? [And, I deliberately use the word “urinal” rather than “toilet” or “rest room,” because only the former can adequately convey the strength of the stink in question.] Why not decorate also them with those Padma awards?

Any answer, Delhi “intellectuals”? Rich Bombay “businessmen” patrons of Hussain’s “art”?

(2) About the Women’s Reservation Bill

First of all I want you to note that here I am going against many politicians I otherwise respect, first and foremost, Sharad Pawar. Also, many other politicians I fear. … The reader must excuse me here; there would be too many to name them to list them individually. …

The best commentary—and the only reasonable one—that I saw in print or on monitor, came from one Mr. Parsa Venkateshwar Rao, Jr., in a column he wrote for DNA, here [^]. The only other media/blog to highlight it (in my limited browsing) was “Churumuri,” here [^].

… As usual, at least one qualification. What Rao calls “politics of identity,” I would call such things as “politics of narrowness/of insularity/of divisiveness.”

And, here’s the extraordinarily brilliant part of Rao’s comment, expressed so tersely but so well:

…Women’s reservation bill too is supposed to promote gender equality but what it really does is create yet another special interest. And society is turned into a bureau of cubbyholes. And the power of the State is increased yet again. …

Thank you for saying it, Mr. Rao!

To Swamy of Times of India, regarding his today’s column. Nope, Swamy, you don’t get it right. Hmm…

Back to basics. There are three pillars of a nation state: (i) legislative (L for short), (ii) judicial (J for short), (iii) executive (E for short). In India, the mangling of the E branch began right with the original version of the Constitution (C for short)—it’s just for five years, no principled, i.e. unreserved respect/acknowledgment of the individual rights, etc. As such, the J, if pushed to the wall, would have been helpless, in principle. For the aforementioned reason (viz. the absence of an explicit ack. of the Individual Rights), the Constitution always had been sufficiently vague—i.e. weak–that if L grew, it could not only overpower the E but also effectively restrict the J in various indirect ways. Enter the mixed ideals of Nehruvian socialism. L had become powerful. In Indira’s semi-dictatorship, it changed C and systematically weakened L and then also J. With the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of USSR, there seemed to be a reversal of sorts, but it was necessarily doomed because C was weak to begin with anyway so there was poor theory, and, in fact, Indira’s years had weakened the level of the public discourse to such low levels. So much so that on this issue of reservation, all major parties—Congress, BJP, and the communists—they all agree. (Also all the rest of them: they simply fight for greater reservation—not less). Ok.

Against this background what would this Bill do? There are certain implicit grounds for negotiating any kind of agreement in any free society. Due to a better past—and interactions with better countries like the USA and UK—despite the systematic abuse of the above sort and all the weaknesses of the Constitution and legal codes, the common implicit grounds in India actually tend to be better. This is the reason why gays (as much the “chhakke”s as the more hype urban ones) could at all live without having cases slapped against them. This is the reason why in Maharashtra, the ANS-sponsored Bill gets halted. (The reason I oppose it: What standards would permit an ordinary police officer to distinguish between proper private practice of religion and blind faith as prescribed by ANS?) This is the reason why business can at all in fact function even if enough legal codes exist that in theory it would be impossible to run a business without breaking some or the other legal code. That implicit ground is important.

In a country with as huge illiterate, semi-literate, and literate-but-uneducated population as India, a country where to run the elections you have to use symbols—not candidate’s names—it does matter a lot what kind of signals we project to all those people.

When reservations in jobs came into force, it actually did not matter to large parts of population: most of the labor is in agriculture or unorganized sector, and even in organized sector, job reservations applied only to government jobs, not private. It was bad, but it was limited in terms of impact. When the Constitution got mangled almost with each successive amendment (some of which being more deeply mangling than the others), it rather affected the upper echelons of the society—their effects on that implicit negotiating grounds that I alluded to above was at least initially minimal; in any case, their effects would have to slowly trickle and diffuse.

But when you introduce a Reservation Bill of this sort—whether on the caste basis, gender, or any other, it matters not in principle—what you do is that you not only mangle the L branch of the government out of its shape, but, since the common illiterate man, right since the Freedom Movement, has always been an active part of the political process, you also affirm to him that divisive agendas like that are alright so long as ratified by an overwhelming majority, as led by the likes of Sonia Gandhi and Sharad Pawar and Advani and others.

In other words, you affect that implicit understanding of what kind of state one lives in, for that common illiterate man. In essence, you tell him: It’s perfectly “sarkari” to be prejudiced against any innocent man. It is perfectly OK to be prejudiced. It is perfectly OK to be so even at the level of elections for law-makers. It is perfectly OK to follow the blind politics of special interest groups.

The first implications of this kind of a message has already emerged, in the form of the opponents to the Bill. … And, Sharad Pawar, and Sonia Gandhi, and Nitin Gadkari, and Brinda Karat and their lesser colleagues all find a cause to celebrate for. What a tragedy!!

. . . . .

[BTW, if someone from NCP or Indira Congress comes and asks me (which is very unlikely), rather than give them a lecture on principles and all, I am just going to be a bit smart and raise a few points in turn: (i) Why did “Sakal” stop carrying the news of new PhD awards precisely around the time I was awarded one—and why does, through other columns, it does sometimes (even if rarely) does cover the news of other PhDs… Is “Sakal” ashamed of the kind of work I had submitted for my PhD? (ii) Why did I not get that job in COEP—even after my PhD defence? [^]  (iii) Why did the IIT Bombay Conference ICCMS09 reject my paper (citing such flimsy grounds that I had used the grammatical first person while writing the abstract)? Who gave them the encouragement to behave thus anti-intellectually? (iv) Why did CERN reject my paper?. I think this might keep them busy for a while… We could discuss principles and all later on…]

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Things I Wanted to Write About

Now that the trivia are out of my system, here is a word about what I have been wanting to write about for quite sometime, and may write in near future (not necessarily in the next post):

On the political side: The magnitude of the black money kept abroad by Indians, Why no Maharashtrian could become a PM thus far.

And, then, of course, Physics: A simple but important example illustrating how, in Physics, it is impossible to get rid of certain basic assumptions delineating the nature of your theory.

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A Couple of Songs I Like

1. (Marathi) “kase kase, haasaayaache…”
Music: Hridaynath Mangeshkar
Singer: Asha Bhosale
Lyrics: Aarati Prabhu

2. (Hindi) “jaaye to jaaye kahaan…”
Singer: Talat Mahmood
Music: S. D. Burman
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianwi

PS: As usual, I might edit/streamline this post a bit, later on…