But I shall not ever do promise…

But I shall not ever do promise that I shall not write a blog-post such as my last one! [^]


A song I like:
I am in a fix. There are two songs, both sung by a Pune-based (and fortunately) little-known lady (also, unfortunately, a caste-Brahmin, going by the surname and all, obviously). I will pick one up at random and continue to run the show in here for now. (As it so happens, the other song, I had already run, though I found it worth repeating too. It’s just that I am not going to repeat it right now.) Here is the one I have in mind for today:

(Marathi) “sunyaa sunyaa mehafilit maajhyaa …”
Lyrics: Suresh Bhat (aided in a small measure, I now gather, by Jabbar Patel, and then, finally, by Shanta Shelke)
Music: Hridaynath Mangeshkar
Singer: Devaki Pandit (as recorded in the Sahyaadri Doordarshan studio).

[Personal comments: Yes, I loved the tune of it, right from the first time I heard it. No, when I first heard it, the lyrics simply didn’t make any sense. (Some of them do, now!). No, for whatever my opinion is worth, Lata’s rendering had always sounded a bit too shrill (or “karkashsha”) to me. … To the point that I had come to slot this song down in my list, always. (Ditto, for the theme of the movie in which it appeared—though not the actress or her acting in this movie.) But when I heard this version (just recently), I then began liking this entire song too.


But speaking of other things, yes, I again got rejected today in a job application. Within minutes. For an MNC (probably an American-owned). By an IIT K-trained (highly junior) guy named Jain. (Not sure about his own competence. Don’t have any idea about it—not even after having gone through his LinkedIn profile.)

So, I am completely jobless, anyway.


Stay tuned for further updates. I shall write. On whatever it is about which I want to write.

 

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To the “subscribers” of this blog

This post is being written entirely on-the-fly.


I have over some period of time observed that far too many of the subscribers of this blog (may be more than half of them) actually are/should be fake accounts.

But, as you perhaps might know, I have been, say, “follow-up”ed for a somewhat longer length of a time—and, with those “followers” never having to have had created any email account any-where, to be able to “follow-up” on me—in real life, too.

So, being “follow-up”ed, but without causing immediate trouble in my immediate life/surroundings, was a bit of a curiosity for me, and so, I tolerated them—these recent email IDs, so to speak.

No, not with a sense of amusement, but with that of keeping them, as they say, “under observation.”


Anyway, as to the non-authentic ones:

I invite these “subscribers” to get themselves off, silently if they prefer, but very certainly—and, very immediately.

[Yes, they may “post” their “protests” in the forms that are able to more silently hit me in ways more than just a few postings here and there on the ‘net. I don’t care, any longer.

Neither about these account “creators”, nor even about those who are (and were) skeptical about what such forms could possibly be—even if I wrote about such forms honestly.]

But for those among my “subscribers” who are willingly to unsubscribe from this blog, I shall give them a time-period, of until:

2 \text{April\ } 2018  - \epsilon \text{\ IST\ }

where (\epsilon \rightarrow 0) is: what even an idiot who has never studied beyond XI/XII science would be able to tell them—or, should be.

In other words, the Fool’s Day is their last day, as far as this blog of mine is concerned.


In other words, I “promise” to grant them a personal pardon that if they do wind themselves up, off my blog, in the due time-limit.

… No, I don’t expect them to do that. …

But if not, I shall do the latter for them.


[… No, never ‘been afraid of an extra bit of a work, ever in my life. …]


A Song I Like:

(Hindi) “kitnaa pyaaraa waadaa hai in matwaali aankhon kaa…”
Music: R. D. Burman
Singers: Mohamad Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri

 

My loud thinking concerning the recent questions about Narendra Modi

Recently, I felt like writing a response to the following questions [^] as soon as I read them:

“What is Narendra Modi? A visionary and a statesman? Or a demagogue and master orator who can tailor a speech to his audience?

And there is another question too. One that I believe is even more important. What do Modi’s supporters really want? Development or Hindutva?”

The answer I wrote on the fly [and as usual, at a great length] appears below, but, first, an important note: I am just copy-pasting my answer. It certainly needs to be edited, but in the meanwhile, there was a kind of medical emergency at home and so, I will do the editing/expansion later. [My mother had to be hospitalized soon later, on Feb 11th; she still is in hospital—and, BTW, this is a reference which I am going to remove in the subsequent editing.]

As far as editing goes, in particular: the form of the answer needs to be changed from a personal reply to an independent blog-post in general; certain points need to be put in a slightly better context; and, as usual, some words need some qualifications or need to be changed; etc. Also check out on the “Applying philosophy…” blog my subsequent elaborations: [^] and [^].

Also, to keep the perspective/context (which often is lost days, weeks, months or, more understandably, years later, and which often is deliberately dropped as a part of the “follow up”), make sure to also check out the recent flurry of media articles/opinion pieces (some of which appeared just days after the above-referred discussion in the blogosphere), e.g.: Chetan Bhagat and Swapan Dasgupta’s pieces in the last Sunday’s Times of India, Tavleen Singh’s piece in the last Sunday’s Indian Express, and most recently, the blog-post by Pritish Nandy at Times of India.

[Links to all to be added.]

Anyway, here is the answer I had written on the fly:

* * *

He is not a statesman, that’s for sure.

We have had mixed economy for such a long time that it would be next to impossible for any one of his or younger generation to rise to that level. The cultural trends have been mostly taking a downturn for such a long time that, these days, all politicians are all driven by the compulsions of democracy—the actual, *systemic*, compulsions imposed by the rule of the mob, within a constitutional framework that contains too many contradictions and so succeeds in giving only a semblance of cohesion or integration to the polity. For instance, the constitution prohibits changing parties, thereby inducing the herd effect to a greater extent. Gone are the days of being true to “conscience.” In fact, conscience is a word which one would run into at least once a week some three decades ago, but doesn’t find mentioned anywhere for months together, these days.

Still, about the cultural downturns, I said “mostly.” That’s observation-based, not an expression of a general pessimism.

The only noticeable cultural *up*swings have been those in the wake of the *political* liberalization in the early 90s (which itself was driven by the *economic* compulsions and the better, liberalizing, terms set by the somewhat better, i.e. the Western, elements in the World Bank, when we had gone bankrupt due to our socialistic political pursuits). Though liberalization was a political process, in reducing shackles and exposing India to the (whatever remaining) better elements in the West, it also allowed betterment in *culture*.

However, these accompanying *cultural* upswings have been countered by the other cultural *down*swings, in particular, those of the religious kind.

BTW, I don’t think we have had a *cultural* downswing of the communist/socialist kind since the 1970s. All the recent downswings in India have been of the religious kind. Sonia Gandhi’s NAC-inspired socialistic programs, or, to a lesser extent, Vajpayee’s populist programs, have been downswings on the economic side, not cultural. For that matter, even when the left was a part of the power at the Center in UPA1, they were completely ineffective in promoting the leftist trend in the *culture*. Bollywood continued with the pelvic thrusts, and even artsy “socially conscious” cinema chose themes like Peepli Live, Shwaas and Deool, rather than a glorification of egalitarianism, of redistributing poverty.

So, the main thing to worry in today’s India, as far as *cultural* degradation is concerned, is: religion, not socialism. Notice the lack of any enthusiastic coverage in the urban, well-educated, middle classes about the movie: Deool. Its theme contains too many undercurrents uncomfortable to the religious mystics of the modern Indian variety.

Incidentally, despite India being a mystic country for such a long time, the execution model they (the religionists) have tried to follow in recent times is not indigeneous in origin; it’s a recent import from America. The recent Indian model is based on the upswing of religion in America, which itself is a rather recent phenomenon (gaining ground after 1970s, and consolidating during the Reagen years).

Thus, Jansangh, for instance, would never have put up a rippling-muscles, six-pack abs kind of a portrayal of Shri Ram on those wide-view flex boards in the cities; it would take the BJP to do that. The traditional Indian portrayal, in fine arts, sculputre and literature, of this God, even if he was a “kshatriya”-born, is that of a middle-aged deity with a somewhat roundish body and carrying a vague, almost nurturing kind of a smile, with the deity situated in a rich, opulent, but peaceful settings, together with family—not that of an angry, young warrior, taking aim with a tautly stretched bow-and-arrow, with his clothes flying in the strong winds as he stands alone on a treeless strech of brownish land, with anger uncontrollably shooting out of eyes. (With all that evident anger, it would be difficult to hold aim to the target, one wonders.) The traditional Indian portrayal of this deity—qua deity—has been different, the history of there actually having been a major war notwithstanding.

The elder Indian even today sometimes does an involuntary double-take at the spectacle of “teertha” (holy water) being sprayed onto those wildly dancing, hysteric masses from a high platform as in the rock concerts, using water-pumps and hose-pipes to spray the “teertha”. To the earlier generation of the religious Indian, “teertha” is always taken in a small quantity using the right hand. A small bamboo “pichkaari” is acceptable at the time of Holi, but it’s not a religious event. Using a *hose-pipe* and a *pump*, for *spraying* “teerth” is too much.

Before these trends spread elsewhere in India, they had begun in those massive religious gatherings in Gujarat, during the times of Modi’s rise to, and assumption of, the political power.

One reason the elderly Indian winces at such sights is: an Indian, true to his color, would in principle be averse to any grand-scale show on the material side. Especially so, when it comes to the matters related to religion. The Indian tendency, particular in the spiritual matters, is to turn the gaze inwards, not outwards. The Indian is not averse to the bodily power; but in his view, either the bodily power is to be subjugated to the spiritual wisdom, which is all outwordly, or the entire matter is superfluous to him simply because it pertains to this world. There is a reason why the “gopur”s of our temples may be grand on both artistic and spatial scales, but the “garbha-griha” is spatially so small as to hardly admit only a few people at a time. When it comes to temples, the idea of a vast space or a large auditorium accomodating a large gathering, with a high pulpit for the priest, is specific to the Abrahamic religions, not to the Indian ones. Clearly, “event management” of *this* kind is a recent import. (We have always had massive religious gatherings, e.g. Kumbh Mela or Wari, but these have been more noticeable for their messyness, randomness, than for masses being coralled together and aroused to a common passion by an organized priesthood. The Indian religious philosophy is far too outworldly to ever care for any organization or purpose in this world, especially that on a large scale. Our temples may have large spaces surrounding the main building (“aawaar”), but these spaces noticeably lack the pulpits to address the assemby—in fact, there never is an assembly, only a random and overcrowded collection of people.)

We have only recently imported the more effective, large-scale, techniques of management of mobs on the basis of religion as a uniting force.

Modi’s management style seems to reflect his times; it seems to be a mix of an upbringing in the traditional organization mold of the old RSS (itself based on an awkward mixture of the European fascists of the early 20th century for the most part and some Scouts-like activities thrown in for good measure), *and* these modern techniques of religion-based political management imported from America.

In short, there have been cultural betterment in certain areas. For example, today, we can openly advocate capitalism in India, without any fear of ridicule, which was not possible as late as when I was in my 20s, i.e. in 1980s.

However, overall, the net cultural change has been to go on to the down side.

Since, as you observed, culture (in the broad sense of the term) does drive politics, the culture of politics also has been going down. (I never thought it stinks to the extent you and many others do.) It’s in the recent atmosphere that it’s difficult to produce statesmen. Try to think of a successor to Jamshedji Tata, in today’s world. Or even to JRD, for that matter. Politics is hardly different. You don’t expect a Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan or even a Shankar Dayal Sharma, in today’s world; the alternative to Pratibha Patil was Bhairo Singh Shekhawat. Even if IMO politics does not stink to the extent you seem to think it does, it is very obvious that we can no longer expect statesmen to rise in today’s India.

So, the smart spin of Modi’s internationally outsourced image consultants aside, he simply can’t be a statesman. The very suggestion is ludicrous, and a direct product of his spin-doctors. (He is not alone in employing/benefitting from spin-doctors; his anticipated 2014 opponent, Rahul Gandhi, supplies an easy example.)

Is Modi a visionary? Ok. Can you use that word to describe a fascist? To clarify this issue, let’s take a more extreme example of a fascist: Can you use that word for Mussolini? If yes, then, sure, Modi is a visionary. He has the “vision” of unleashing the Hindu religious kind of irrationality, on India (and if possible, elsewhere, too), and to preside over the accompanying political power in an executive capacity. That’s his “vision.” (He might succeed in “achieving” it—simply because Rahul Gandhi is what he is.)

Is Modi a demogogue? In view of his political success in Gujarat, he must be. But then, of course, there are so many demogogues, even within his own party. Rajnath Singh, for instance. An array of them could be witnessed during the recent FDI issue. That hardly makes him special.

Is he a master orator? I don’t think so. I haven’t seen the video you refer to, but from whatever his earlier speeches I have seen, they seem to indicate skills lesser than those of a master orator. A master orator is different. Balasaheb Thakarey? Yes. Narendra Modi? Not really. Of course, he does have that ability to deliver effective speeches, often with a lot of punches. But then all politicians routinely do that. When you say a master orator, the person has to go beyond that level. I would certainly put Lalu Prasad Yadav ahead of Narendra Modi in that department. This is not humour; I mean it. When it comes to superior oratorial skills, just the way Vajpayee is (rather was) a master orator, so is Yadav.

Rather than pieces of superior oratory, Modi’s speeches seem to be like *events* that are quietly and masterfully coordinated in the background. The actual speech seems like just the tip of the icebert. The silent coordination is palpable. Right from creating the atmosphere for an upcoming speech, including coordination in the media (not just locally, not just in the neighbourhood or with the people in the city, but specifically within media), to the necessary followup capitalization on what(ever) he said.

The only way to explain the extraordinary effectiveness of this not-so-extraordinary personality is to make reference to the quiet work done for him by those “swayamsevaks.” Take away the aura they impart him, and then, judging him for himself, Modi comes across a far more ordinary personality—not just in speeches but also in every respect. There are times when I wonder if he could be described as a pigmy. He is said to divide all people into two camps, and evoke extreme passions of either admiration or loathing in them. The description is accurate except for the starting word: you have to replace “he” the person by “he” the image—nay, the rather seamless sort of an enormous collage—built up by all those collectivist “swayamsevaks.”

As to demoguery, I think more than being just a demogogue, he is a shrewd “organization man,” capable of slowly but surely advancing over his competition, especially internally. Here, I think a definite credit is certainly due to him. Not just in a value-neutral sense. I think he has put in very honest and very hard efforts in rising through his organization. To a certain extent, esp. for politicians, personal honesty *is* compatible with a contradictory or irrational political agenda.

He is not a typical BJP leader. Nope. He is more pure-minded on their agenda, more hard-working on that agenda, than any others from his party. Compare him with your ordinary, compromising sort of a guy like, say, Ram Naik, Nitin Gadkari, or even Rajnath Singh. When it comes to the BJP agenda, Modi would be more ruthless compared to any other BJP leader. Not because he lacks emotions, or controls them better, or manages to suppress them. Not even because he wants to be ruthless with people—in fact, quite the opposite is very likely, from whatever I can gather from his coverage on TV in general (never saw him in person at a close distance). It is easily possible that he is responsive and sensitive.

Still, he will end up being more ruthless simply because he would be morally more unshakeably convinced about the moral worth of the BJP agenda.

I think that it is possible to imagine Modi’s developing inner doubts privately, when it comes to his assessments of his own abilities, his own capacity to lead and to rule. He certainly does seem to be both sensitive and intelligent enough to be able to develop such doubts, at least some times. But what he seems entirely incapable of doing is: ever challenging the moral worth (to him: the moral *superiority*, nay, *infallibility*) of the *moral* agenda of his organization, of his party. It’s this greater—moral—conviction which would make him more ruthless. And it is this emphasis on the moral agenda rather than a political agenda which permits him enough flexibility to be a chamelion on many political issues or to even strike some compromises—the reason why so many Muslims do in fact support him. They too are religious, like him, but too short range, unlike him.

It’s Modi’s moral convictions that set him apart from the others in his party. It’s not any particularly superior personal set of qualities, except for being a better organization-man among them. Honest hard work, a lot of them do. Shrewd, a lot of them are. May be, he is slightly more shrewd, that’s all—though I honestly doubt that. From all that you can gather about him, he is very shrewd, but he could even be more sincere than shrewd. So, the real difference setting him apart from his colleagues is his willingness to go all the way down along the path of their shared morality. And the real reason why he can make that contradictory morality work, is: using his superior skills as the organization-man. The burden of the contradictions is calculated to fall on those outside the organization, the enemy camp (whoever they may be), and, since a contradiction nevertheless has a way to also run in the opposite direction, i.e. internally, the burden then has to fall on to those who have lesser skills to make the organization work for them. (One reason for this last also is the lesser strength of the same morals. There does seem to be a feedback loop here.) And so, when it comes to his individual assessment, the actual reason can only be ascribed to the depth to which he carries his (wrong) moral convictions.

Finally, coming to his supporters. In wondering about what *Modi*’s supporters want, if you are at all going to set up an *alternative,* esp. an alternative between Hindutva and “development” (whatever that means)—or, for that matter, between Hindutva and anything else—then, I would say, you are politically so naive, so very naive, that I have a suggestion for you: consider abstaining from voting regardless of where you are (i.e. even in places/elections where the BJP is weak/absent), for, when it comes to politics, you obviously cannot be trusted to choose wisely. :-) [This last was just a joke, BTW.]

Too long, in fact longer than usual. Hope you tolerate. (It was just a writing on the fly.) Guess one of these days I should write a slightly better organized piece on Modi, at my own blog. I wanted to do one well before the heat of the campaign begins, and right now might as well be a good time to do that. So, unlike my comments on spirituality and all, this time round, this comment might actually move very quickly to my blog. Though, guess I will let it begin its course here.

[E&OE]

Three (Present-Day) Americans: Two, Morally Morbid, and One, Coarse

The two morally morbid Americans are: (i) Warren Anderson, and (ii) James Laine. The coarse one is: Joel Stein.

I don’t have much to write about the first two except for clearly stating that both, indeed, are morally morbid.

(I) James Laine, the Present-Day Maharashtra Politicians, and, the Freedom of Speech

In recent times, if the justice didn’t appear to have been served in the first case (that which did not involve Anderson but should have), the judicial system of India did itself good by clearly upholding the principle of the free speech in the second case (that of Laine).

I would have liked to be able to “source” Laine’s book, at least on the Internet, just to see for myself precisely what was the objectionable matter contained in it. One indirect account in an English (Indian) national daily a few years ago had said that the objectionable matter, which James Laine had heard on the streets (and which he proceeded to include in his book) was a remark made by a Dalit [sorry, can’t easily find a link to that piece]. Last week, a piece in the daily DNA attributed the same remark to a Brahmin [^]. … What’s going on?

A more important matter is the view of Laine’s book taken by the above-mentioned DNA writer, Amberish K. Diwanji. The piece prominently says that Laine’s book is an attempt of the scholarly” kind. I fail to see how.

Perhaps Diwanji mistakes any writing coming from any professor of a theological background to be a piece of scholarly writing. Perhaps, such indeed are the standards followed in those two particular vocations, theology and journalism, esp. as practised in the theological departments in the American universities.

But if you look at that field of knowledge which actually made the word “scholarly” respectable, i.e. science, you would immediately notice the difference. There is this enormous amount of rigour, discipline, propriety of attribution, etc., that goes into writing [the rational kind of] a scholarly work.  As a general rule, anecdotes are not even mentioned under the category of “private communications” let alone elevated to the status of “sources” or “references”—or made these a part of the main text, without sufficiently clarifying commentary! Now, if you subtract most prominently science, and then more generally rationality, from academic settings, then you would still be left with universities. But there wouldn’t be any need to identify anyone as a specialist scholar in theology, because irrational speculation and empty Rationalistic debates (as the number of angles that can dance on the head of a pin) is all that would be left under the name of “scholarly.” I am not offering a speculation; this actually was the state of the European universities during the medieval Dark Ages; also in India—e.g., refer to the times of Dynaaneshwar. Now, certainly, that kind of a scholarly enterprise is not what Diwanji had wanted to attribute to Laine’s book—the DNA writer did mean “scholarly” in the sense of the term that we now understand—after Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, Science, etc. If the term is to be taken in this sense, then one doesn’t have to read the objectionable matter to arrive at the conclusion that Laine’s work is not scholarly—the methods of “research” he follows are by themselves a sufficient ground to throw his text out of the limits of the scholarly. It must be clearly understood that there is no need to elevate Laine in order to uphold the principle of free speech.

While Laine is despicable, his case still does not qualify for legally banning the book. Indeed, for that matter, no case ever does! Book-burning (in principle indistinguishable from a government-enforced ban) is a method that fits the primitives and the authoritarians. And, in between the last two, the former are more innocent—their action results rather from ignorance than from a deliberate desire to dictatorship, to wrench power over others via the force of the muscle.

I am not at all surprised that certain political parties in a wholesale manner, and some politicians from the entire range of the parties, should try to grab this issue; and then feign to possess an anger that none can actually feel in such a case; and then proceed to use this excuse towards blurring the boundaries between the moral and the legal, and thereby either try to advance their justifiably floundering political careers—or follow the trend established by the worst offenders of Free Speech by appeasing them!

In the above paragraph, there is only one matter on which I might perhaps be misunderstood, and it is: feigning the anger. So, let me explain at some length.

I happen to have been born a Jadhav, which, in a certain relevant sense, makes Jijau a grand^n “aatyaa” (paternal aunt) to me, certainly a daughter in the family, so to speak. (While my immediate ancestors come from a village near Baramati, both the oral tradition in our family and also some documentary evidence indicates that this was  not always so; a grand^n father of mine had immigrated to and settled down near Baramati only in the mid-19th century, about 150 years ago; but he, in turn, came from Sindkhed Raja—the same family-town of those Jadhav’s in whose family Jijabaai was born. This happenstance makes Jijaabai even a shade closer to me, ancestry-wise! But again, though knowing this “root” momentarily feels nice, I hardly care for it one way or the other. And I mean it. It’s the individual free-will, the individually chosen action that matters. Genetics are, properly, relevant only in biology and medicine, and nowhere else, certainly not in deriving a better moral evaluation via a genetic relation—or worse! (I do sometimes hear Australians to be sons of outlaws—and the same principle applies also to their case.)

Yet, I mention this part about my ancestry for two reasons: (i) The first reason is to highlight the fact that even if one is related to a great personality, if the relations are as distant as to be centuries away, with no direct context being applicable for one’s own life as an individual, then neither praise nor criticism really can evoke any significant emotional reaction. Those who say it does, are outright liers: do they twist in their sleep for some unjustified manslaughter, raids, untouchability, that some or the other of their ancestors would undoubtedly have committed? Of course not. (ii) The second reason is that identifying ancestry here is convenient to me. Given the level of the current climate of  “debates,” and all sorts of methods of the muscle actively being depoloyed at every small excuse, and given the fact that I am publicly criticizing these “goonDaa”s, I feel that immediately stating my ancestry might perhaps provide me with a measure of protection from them. That’s why.

So, coming back to the main issue, though a Jadhav myself, I completely fail to see how can a slur, as on the part of a modern American humanities professor of the pathological variety of Laine’s kind, possibly can reflect on the character of any lady, let alone a lady as great as Jijaabai. If you are clear about the respective moral characters of the individuals  involved—hers, and then, also of anyone like Laine—then you don’t really feel all that much of an anger—as in my case.

You see, if one of these politicians-cum-“goonDa”s visits a mental asylum and hears some patient blurt out some sly or swear or allegation at him, would he feel offended? Angry? To the extent of taking sticks in hands and going about destroying property? No way. A similar consideration applies here. That’s why I think that that anger is feigned—the supposed anger purely is a political convenience to some.

Of course, this allusion to the mental asylum does not mean that Laine is a mental patient. He emphatically is not. Indeed, this fact precisely is what makes it possible for us to pass a moral judgment on him—and that’s why I call his moral character morbid.

But consider what are the implications of reaching such a moral judgment. All it means is that one should expose that morbid kind of a writing, morally denounce it, perhaps also give Laine a verbal one or two as required, perhaps simply because some people can’t understand a writing at one’s own level—as the popular Marathi saying goes, you can wake up someone who actually is asleep but you can’t wake up someone who is merely pretending to be asleep. You may even do that, perhaps. And what you ought to do is to make public your admiration of the heroes in question: Shivaji and Jijaabai.

But that’s about all! It does not mean that you go burn books, destroy private and public property, beat up the people who won’t agree with your “goonDaa” methods—or, on a more polished level, seek to impose a legal ban on the writing.

Ideas cannot be fought except by means of better ideas.

The typical of our present-day politicians are internally well-aware that they are thoroughly incompetent in the world of ideas. Reason is not predominantly their method of functioning or reaching conclusions; emotionalism is. Just open any newspaper, the smaller and more concretes-bound the better (e.g. regional language or city-specific newspapers), and note down the number of times our working politicians use terms like “public sentiments” vs. “the arguments put forth.” You can easily see the glaring contrast between them, and the working, active politicians from that glorious period of the Freedom Movement. Reason and ideas typically are alien to the routine mental workings of our present-day politicians. The only method they work on, and therefore can recognize, is: government-enforced something. Naturally, if they wish to express their disagreement, or wish to convey this to the general public in a strong manner, all that they can think of doing is to impose a legal ban. They can’t care that this way, wittingly or unwittingly, they stifle also any voices of reason—and thereby, help pave the way for a dictatorship. As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Indeed, the principle of Free Speech applies in all cases: Laine’s book, as well as that infamous book on “Tejomahaa-aalay” or something like that, by a certain Hindutva sort of a guy from Pune (is his name Oak?) who was arguing that the Taj was a Shiva temple. A lot of portion of that book is outlandish, and yet, he also has a lot of plausible kind of argumentation in that book. But then, someone from the Indira Congress didn’t like it (perhaps felt that it was anti-Muslim), and so, it was banned. I have always maintained that regardless of political orientation, that book still should not be banned. I am an intransigent critic of the entire BJP and Hindu Cultural Nationalism movement. Yet, I have no issues seeing that book in print. Ditto, for the Communist Manifesto. Or, the books glorifying Hitler. None of these should be banned. Even if their contents are outright outlandish, bad, or pathetic.

It’s a complex matter as to what kind of material may properly be banned. Off-hand, I can think of manuals for making atomic bombs, or biochemical weapons, or even the more ordinary sort of bombs—whether for that Japanese movement (“Shinto”?)  or for the Jihadi purposes, etc. Note, such material can objectively be said to be parts of criminal conspiracies, terrorist attacks, and worse. The normal rules do not apply in such cases. But, still, politically, such materials is almost a non-issue; far more important is the idea that you cannot sue someone for possessing or proclaiming bad ideas.

We have enough good ideas to replace bad ideas. But the point is that whether you like it or not, this is a matter of principles. If you suppress one type of ideas—rational or irrational—then, you in principle introduce a way to suppress any type of idea—rational ideas included—ideas as such. Only dictators can fancy that (to their own peril and that of their subjects).

I would better leave the CM of Maharashtra Ashok Chavan “free” to have consultations even for settling this issue with his “High Command.” I really can’t tell him anything and expect him to listen—you see, even if I do tell him, I know that it would always be overridden by whatever it is that his “High Command” “advises” him. If so, why bother him? (And spoil our good relations? (LOL!))

But I certainly can tell others. I can tell the Maharashtra Home minister, R. R. Patil, this much: (Marathi) “Aabaa, hyaa baabtit tumach_ “judgment” chuklel_ aahe” English translation: (“Aaabaa” is the common pen-name by which Mr. Patil informally gets called), as far as this issue goes, your judgment is in the wrong.

The judgment by the court is the right one; there is no need to get into further legal proceedings to continue having a ban on the book—or pressuring the publisher, The Oxford University Press, in any way.

And yes, I also believe that Indians should also be left free to write books concerning Laine’s own family—should they feel the need to do so! … Personally, I don’t, but the point is that the freedom should be available. … One gets into the muck only to the extent of throwing it out; no more! (And that is one of the reasons why I don’t quote Voltaire here—these days, it’s easy enough to be made a martyr for others’ causes; look up the psychic attacks-related posts I have made here!)

(II) Warren Anderson:

Enough about Laine. On the other hand, what’s the news on the Anderson front? Have they got anything/anyone—from the side of the American government and politicians? Or, from the side of Indian government and politicians?

(III) Joel Stein

That leaves us to address the third American, the coarse one (but not a morbid one even after factoring in his recent controversial article): Joel Stein.

I have written a long comment on Stein at Atanu Dey’s blog [^], which, for the time being, I copy-paste here. I will improve it with one more update either today or tomorrow, and then, this post will be done. [And yes, I do remember the promise to complete the series on homeopathy—which I will do, but not in a hurry. … In blogs, I write more or less on the spur of the moment.]

Today [i.e. on July 15, 2010, evening, IST], I first took the link to Stein’s column and then went through the reactions by the Americans of Indian origin. Guess I could add a bit here because though I am firmly in India these days, I have spent some 7 years in the USA. (In the ordinary circumstances, I wouldn’t want to go back to the USA.)

Anyway, two points first:

(i) For the most part of Stein’s write-up, I did not at all feel offended. In fact, quite on the contrary, I found a bit of humour underlying most of his lines, even a sort of friendliness. It was coarse, to be sure, but it was there. Why, while in graduate school at UAB, I have heard many Indian students talk in worse terms about both India and Indians.

To be sure, his reference to “dot-heads” was somewhat surprising because the connotation to “dot-busting” would be so nearby. One could enjoy it on a blog or in an email from a friend, but not for a column in Time. Yet, it was a minor thing. There was another line that really caught my attention—made me think of writing back. I will come to that line later on. Before that, I want to touch on the second point.

(ii) I was really impressed by the response by Srivastava and Bhatt. None of their points had occurred to me on my own, and after going through them, I just couldn’t think about the issue in the same way again. They showed how to give back a firm reply, in a civil manner, without nit-picking and without losing one’s temper or points.

I also enjoyed reading the reactions by Kap Penn, Sandip Roy, and others.

(iii) Now, once again back to the one point by Stein that I want to take up i.e. address.

The point is Stein’s remark concerning having Gods with multiple arms etc.

This was not the first time that I had run into this kind of a remark by a Westerner, and we all know that it wouldn’t be the last. Why, the first time I ran into this issue was while reading Ayn Rand. Off hand, I think that she was writing in the context of primitive societies—sacrifice of man and worship of insects was the point (or something like that). Taken both together, of course, I have no issues with it. But the reason I mention it here is that right the first time I read that, I remember, I had suddenly thought of what she would have thought of the more cultured Indian people also offering prayers to Gods that also looked like animals/insects. And, further: I could easily see how the lesser Westerners could “love” to make an issue out of it.

I would like to note a few points in this regard, in no particular order. (May be, I will also post this at my blog later on.)

1. At least some of the prominent images of the multiple-arms-types are obviously derived from the Indian dance forms. For example, consider Durga with many arms, and the front view of a group of dancers waving the arms with differing phases. Not every group action qualifies for a collectivist or primitive interpretation. Indeed, as in this example, there can be beauty to it.

2. I had read of an interpretation that Ganesha’s elephant form with the long trunck is symbolic of the major anatomical features of the nervous system: the brain with the spinal cord. Even if having such an origin, one still does read something of a tantrik sort of practise to it. On the other hand, brought up in Marathi culture of “Ganapati Bappa Morayaa,” even if I can approach it thusly at an intellectual level, it doesn’t at all affect my appreciation of such a form.

3. A lot of this has to do with the things spiritual—many of which most of us don’t even have inkling of.

In general, in spiritual symbolism, the correspondence isn’t meant to be made with the material forms and what that suggests—instead, it is to be made with the actual spiritual experience that a Shishya’s Guru has managed to convey him. [I must add: this is only one simple observation; I don’t mean to imply infinite regress. In principle, it would be always possible to have the spiritual experience on one’s own, without a Guru—that’s how the traditions could at all have begun. The Guru simply makes the process easier and faster, as in learning and mastering any other type of knowledge.]

Science and culture and every field of progress has had similar blurry, halting, mistaken beginnings. The difference is that the grasp of the material phenomena being easier, we have been able to correct these mistakes more easily. For instance, can you imagine that in the millions of years of development of the human race, it was as late as barely 2000 years ago that people had a radically wrong model of visual perception: they thought that when you see an object, something emanates from your eyes, hits the object, gets reflected and comes back into the eye. The early thinkers were mistakenly taking the mechanism of texture to apply that for vision. We have had easier progress about the material world; not so about the spiritual matters.

(And, no, I, for one, don’t believe that all spirituality ends with intellectuality. No. One has to intellectually approach anything before it can be properly understood and brought under control, of course. But this does not mean that starting with the intellectual level resolves alone you might experience those experiences which have come to be bundled under “spirituality.” In other words, you shouldn’t abandon intellectuality or thinking; however, you won’t get the referents of the concepts pertaining to spirituality simply by thinking about it alone—that, indeed, would be Rationalistic (i.e. a false way to approach such things).)

So, one can generally advocate evolution and progress even for the symbols part of it.

Yet, it must be understood that symbols aren’t primary—referents to certain mental states are. That’s what, as far as I know, (at least the civilized, cultured) Indians understand and focus on when they practise religious worship.

And, indeed, similar is the case for all other religions/regions too. Which brings me to my final point.

4. How would a Stein (i.e. either Joel himself or others, worse) think of this: What Indians worship is at least animate—living—forms: a group of girls dancing in unison, a man (Buddha), and decidedly animate forms (or likeness) of the elephant (Ganesha) or the monkey (Hanumant). But how about the others? How about the Jews and Muslims (“just a wall,” “just an empty hall facing a certain direction”)? How about Christians (“a hanging corpse”)? I am sure many readers would feel that this is a flame. But it is not meant to be. It’s just meant to be a dramatically direct confrontation.

It looks like a flame simply because we lose the context. The context is that it isn’t the “external” i.e. material symbols that are really important to a spiritual person—the actual referents are within the consciousness. If so, at a certain basic level, most any symbolism is more or less acceptable. Of course, within limits.

Here, since we still don’t understand the essence of those spiritual things, the best course of action is to approach the best practitioners of a given culture with a certain authentic good-will, and try to learn—if you care. I of course don’t advocate egalitarianism, not even in the spiritual regard. But, frankly, there really is no other way—other than following this kind of an “enumerating” sort of approach. And, if anyone thinks there is an objectively better way to approach these things, well, let them present the case!

= = = = =

A Song I Like:
(Marathi) “tujhe roop chitti raaho, mukhi tujhe naam…”
Singer: Sudhir Phadke
Music: Sudhir Phadke
Lyrics: G. D. Madgulkar

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…]

– – – – –

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.

– – – – –

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…