# Shaken, because of a stir

We have demonstrably been shaken here on earth, because of a stir in the cosmos.

The measured peak strain was $10^{-21}$ [^].

For comparison: In our college lab, we typically measure strains of magnitude like $10^{-3}$ or at the most $10^{-4}$. (Google search on “yield strain of mild steel” does not throw up any directly relevant page, but it does tell you that the yield strength of mild steel is 450 MPa, and all mechanical (civil/metallurgical/aero/etc.) engineers know that Young’s modulus for mild steel is 210 GPa. … You get the idea. …)

Einstein got it wrong twice, but at least eventually, he did correct himself.

But other physicists (and popular science writers, and blog-writers), even after getting a full century to think over the issue, still continue to commit blunders. They continue using terms like “distortions of spacetime.” As if, space and time themselves repeatedly “bent” (or, to use a euphemism, got “distorted”) together, to convey the force through “vacuum.”

It’s not a waving of the “spacetime” through a vaccum, stupid! It’s just the splashing of the aether!!

The Indian credit is, at the most, 1.3%.

If it could be taken as 3.7%, then the number of India’s science Nobels would also have to increase dramatically. Har Gobind Singh Khorana, for instance, would have to be included. The IAS-/MPSC-/scientist-bureaucrats “serving” during my childhood-days had made sure to include Khorana’s name in our school-time science text-books, even though Khorana had been born only in (the latter-day) Pakistan, and even if he himself had publicly given up on both Pakistan and India—which, even as children, we knew! Further, from whatever I recall of me and all my classmates (from two different schools), we the (then) children (and, later, teen-agers) were neither inspired nor discouraged even just a tiny bit by either Khorana’s mention or his only too willing renunciation of the Indian citizenship. The whole thing seemed too remote to us. …

Overall, Khorana’s back-ground would be a matter of pride etc. only to those bureaucrats and possibly Delhi intellectuals (and also to politicians, of course, but to a far lesser extent than is routinely supposed). Not to others.

Something similar seems to be happening now. (Something very similar did happen with the moon orbiter; check out the page 1 headlines in the government gazettes like Times of India and Indian Express.)

Conclusion: Some nut-heads continue to run the show from Delhi even today—even under the BJP.

Anyway, the reason I said “at most” 1.3 % is because, even though I lack a knowledge of the field, I do know that there’s a difference between 1976, and, say, 1987. This fact by itself sets a natural upper bound on the strength of the Indian contribution.

BTW, I don’t want to take anything away from Prof. Dhurandhar (and from what I have informally gathered here in Pune, he is a respectable professor doing some good work), but reading through the media reports (about how he was discouraged 30 years ago, and how he has now been vindicated today etc.) made me wonder: Did Dhurandhar go without a job for years because of his intellectual convictions—the way I have been made to go, before, during and after my PhD?

As far as I am concerned, the matter ends there.

At least it should—I mean, this post should end right here. But, OK, let me make an exception, and note a bit about one more point.

The experimental result has thrown the Nobel bookies out of business for this year—at least to a great part.

It is certain that Kip Thorne will get the 2016 Physics Nobel. There is no uncertainty on that count.

It is also nearly as certain that he will only co-win the prize—there will be others to share the credit (and obviously deservingly so). The only question remaining is, will it be just one more person or will it be two more (Nobel rules allow only max 3, I suppose), what will be their prize proportions, and who those other person(s) will be (apart from Thorne). So, as far as the bettors and the bookies are concerned, they are not entirely out of the pleasure and the business, yet.

Anyway, my point here was twofold: (i) The 2016 Physics Nobel will not be given for any other discovery, and (ii) Kip Thorne will be one of the (richly deserving) recipients.

[E&OE]

/

# Why I won’t be writing for a while…

Why I these days can’t find the time to write blog posts:

As you know, I have joined a private engineering college as a professor (though it’s a temporary appointment). I have a lot of work-load. While in the interview I had insisted on a work load of 8 hours + ME projects from the computational mechanics field, this is what I have been asked to carry out, after joining:

1. A course on Thermodynamics (the first course on the subject) to SE (Mech.) students (4 hrs/week)
2. An elective course on Operations Research to final year BE (Mech.) students (4 hrs/week)
3. Guidance of three project groups (of 4 students each, i.e. 12 students in all) of final year BE (Mech.) program (technically, “only” 2 hours/group/week)
4. A course on Advanced Thermodynamics and Combustion Technology to first year ME (Mech.) students (3 hrs/week)

Furthermore, for the first three items (and probably also for the fourth), I basically have been asked to fill in for an associate professor who quit the college (he said “for better prospects” during our brief interaction), mid-term.

From my last job, I know that if I am going to teach a course for the first time in my life, I need about 3 hours of preparation per hour of the actual lecture delivery. That is, about 4 hours in all. By that reckoning, I am already doing: (4 X 11) + (2 X3) = 52 hours per week.

Even if I cut down on preparation, it would still be about (3 X 11) + (2 X 3) = 39 hours.

And then, there are administrative things like meetings (3 hours at the college level which I must attend because I am a “senior” professor and a PhD holder), 1 hour at the departmental level, and 1–2 hours for my faculty groups (I am a mentor to 4 junior faculty)). And, I haven’t counted in the time spent on grading in-semester examination papers for the three courses.

On top of that, many topics of both Operations Research and the ME course on Thermodynamics are completely new to me. (About 60% part, and about 30–35% part, respectively.)

Clearly, I am putting in way beyond the norm of 40 hrs/week. In fact, about 58–45 hours, it is, at the minimum. The calculation is right. Mid last week, I had to take an extra half tablet for angina, because I was getting up at 4:00 AM for teaching two consecutive classes of two different courses both of which were new to me.

I therefore don’t have any time left for blogging.

The situation is going to continue for quite some time. Mid-October for UG and Mid-November for PG is the time to which the current semesters respectively run.

On the other hand, the ME course on CFD (though compulsory for the ME (Heat Power) program) has not been given to me. “Orders from the top” is the only reason I have been made aware of, in this connection.

The faculty member who left (and thus created a vacant slot leading to my hiring) was an Associate Professor (yes, he too had a PhD; he was about 35 years old). Here as an Associate Professor, he was making the same amount of money which I was making at my previous job in Mumbai as a Professor (at my 50+ age). However, now, for filling in his shoes in the middle of the term, they offered me 15% less salary. This offer they accommodated by not adopting the UGC scale in my case. (That was because, they bluntly asserted, I wouldn’t be approved for a Professor’s position at the Savitribai Phule University of Pune because I don’t have the required experience. It also is conceivable that they thought that the empty shoes left behind might be too big for me to fill in.)

I was given a choice: accepting the UGC scale as an Associate Professor, or choose the same Rupee payment as a gross/lump-sum salary but with a Professor’s title. I chose the latter. Reason? so that at the time of any future University approvals for a Professor’s position, I would not have to explain a discontinuity in the title of the full Professorship.

Why did I do that? Accept this offer?

Two reasons: (i) This way, I had hoped, I would get to teach CFD right in Pune. Teaching CFD would be in line with my research interests, and being in Pune would be convenient to both me and my father. (ii) I knew that professors of the Savitribai Phule University of Pune (and also their “management”s) are quite well organized a lot. With the “shikshaNa shulka samitee” i.e. the professional body deciding the fees for the private engineering colleges choosing be its members, almost each private engineering college knows everything that goes on in the other private engineering college. I therefore was sure that now that this offer was actually made by this college, not a single other college would ever make any better offer to me. As it turned out, no one made any other offer at all—better, or worse. (The Executive Director of the Trust of a better reputed college in Pune happens to be a past student of a friend of mine, and the former still respectfully returns every call the latter makes to him. I had approached the Director through this friend of mine. While my friend was honestly hopeful that I will get a good opportunity there, even though this friend is a man of the world, I still thought nothing of the kind is going to happen, once I received this offer. Turns out that I knew better. (Yes, sometimes it is a hassle in life to even know better!)

So, I accepted it. This offer.

(Dear CapMag.com and Objectivist sites, yes, the period spanning the last week of August and the first week of September is coming to an end; so kindly run a few articles highlighting the employer’s rights. You too, dear Hoover. Very, very capitalistic and/or Republicans, it would be. As to the Democrats: raise the questions as to why a woman candidate was not given a chance in my place.)

Anyway, while the payment issue can be kept as an aside (in private colleges, they do have the flexibility to offset such issues later on (I told you I know better)) what bothers me is this part: Going by the absence of any comments on the interviewers’ part during the interview, I assumed that they would give me only two courses. But they still passed on three courses to me.

Similarly, I also truly believed that I would get to teach CFD. (Unlike Mumbai university, in Pune, final year BE students don’t get to learn FEM.) But here they instead gave me Advanced Thermodynamics and Combustion Technology. The combustion technology is the latter is the part I’ve never studied, though I know its importance through my six months’ stint in Thermax (and which experience the UGC and the Savitribai Phule University of Pune anyway don’t formally count in, because I have lost the experience certificate for that job). The topic is simple, but remember the Indian requirement: being able to rattle off an answer on the fly and instantaneously—whether accompanied by understanding or not.

Similarly, I also truly believed that I would get ME students to guide. But I didn’t get any. On this count, their reasoning seems right: there are only 4–5 students in two ME programs put together.

I also truly believed that when a couple of distinction class final year undergraduate students came to me, and were enthusiastic about doing a CFD project under me, the required project group reshuffling would be possible. (Their entire group of four soon became eager to join me.) However, the students’ request was declined out of the apprehension that it would lead to “system collapse”: every one would want to work with someone else, it was feared.

BTW, this was the same idea which I have been having from 2010 or so. In 2013, I was going to use it for an ME level project at YTIET Karjat, and so had submitted the abstracts for two papers in an international conference in July 2013. Both abstracts were accepted and the full-length papers were in preparation. I had to soon later (in August 2013) withdraw the papers’ proposal because I had in the meanwhile lost that job. As to the current job: Despite two months, not a single student had yet submitted a single project proposal. So, it wouldn’t have been the case of my jumping in, in the middle of an on-going project. The project would have started from the scratch anyway. But then, the apprehension that the system would collapse could faithfully be applied in this case, but not in the case of asking me teach subjects that are new to me, in the middle of a semester, after half the portion had already been covered by someone else.

So, you can see that things don’t always go the way I truly believe they would. I, too, don’t always know better!

(Even though, almost predictably, students supposedly have already begun giving a good feed-back about my teaching, in comparative terms, that is. When a professor remarked this part in an informal chat, I actually was blank: emotionally, as well as cognitively. I was too worried about ending that chat in a polite way as soon as possible, so that I could continue taking out notes for my upcoming class.)

Anyway, that’s how I don’t have any time in hand for blogging.

Further, until III week of September, all our weekly offs have been suspended (compensatory offs will be given later) because of some definitely valid reason (accreditation-related documentation work). That’s yet another reason… (To my mind, the only valid reason by which an extra load can be justified. But then, as I said, it comes on the top of the above mentioned 58–45 hours/week, and so, I really can’t care for the justifiability of this further additional component.)

An idea for a brief paper:

The silver lining is this. I (after two weeks) have (barely) begun somewhat enjoying teaching Operations Research (OR). It’s not exactly my field, but at the BE level, the subject seems to be such that even as the models are somewhat simpler to deal with, they also have enough potency by way of supplying some food for thought. Possibly, also some new research paper ideas.

For instance, while commuting by bus (it’s a 25 kms one-way commute for me; 1 hour to, and 1.5 hour fro due to the heavy evening traffic) I stumbled on an idea related to the topic of Queuing Theory—an OR topic which I am currently teaching. I had never studied (or even run into) this topic before, and so, while it added to my harder work, I still have managed to find this topic to be a bit of a fun.

And, I could still stumble on an idea of building some toy computer models about it. … It’s just that I am weak in mathematics and so, I have to study harder. Which means, I have to work on this idea later, after this semester gets over.

… In the meanwhile, if you can’t suppress your curiosity, here is the idea: Hopefully, you know that the normal distribution is a limiting case of the binomial distribution. Hopefully, you therefore know that Galton’s board can provide a neat toy model to introduce the normal distribution. Hopefully, you also know that the Poisson distribution is sort of derived from the binomial distribution.

The idea is to build a similar sort of a suitable toy model (either physical or, better still, in software) for the Poisson distribution. And, to prove the convergence from that toy model to the Poisson distribution.

So, in short, the idea we are looking for is this:

Galton’s Board : Normal distribution ::  ? : Poisson distribution.

And, to supply a neat (fairly rigorous) mathematical proof.

I tried to find such a model via 3–4 quick Google searches, but failed to find any. There are any number of texts and papers connecting networks and the Poisson distribution. But what they always discuss is the use of Poisson statistics in network models—but not a finite network/graph/similar model leading to the Poisson distribution (in appropriate limits). The “Galton board” is missing when it comes to the Poisson distribution, to speak loosely.

Spoiler Alert: Here’s a hint—a very loud hint IMO. So, skip the next line appearing in the very fine print if you want to work on it yourself. (Further, the topic also is out of the syllabus of the Savitribai Phule University of Pune, and of every university syllabus that I came across during my searches on this topic—that’s why I believe this can be a good topic for a brief research paper):

The detection times of photons, and the arrival times of taxi-cabs at an arbitrary square in a city.

No, the hint may not be sufficient to you. But then, I do intend to write a paper on this topic, or at least: search better, using Scopus and other indexing services, during my next visit to IIT Bombay, and then, if the suitable paper has not yet been written, to write it.

Am too busy to be in the right frame of the mind even to just listen to music, so let me skip the usual “A Song I Like” section….

The noise pollution and the government-running people’s explicit, loud and strong support thereof:

However, of course, with the upcoming “GaNapati” festival and all, you know that I will have to listen to at least 10 hours of very loud “music” every day, in blatant and rampant violation of my relevant rights as an Indian citizen.

What you might not know is that both the parties in the ruling coalition in Maharashtra, viz., the BJP (the state education minister Mr. Vinod Tawade) and Shiv Sena (the party chief Mr. Uddhav Thaakare) have openly and strongly declared that if festivals (“utsav” was the term they both used) cannot be celebrated by “getting on the road,” what’s the point?

Yes, that is the point they had, concerning this issue. These are the people who are running this government. (And, government, you know, associates to “gun.”)

Another point you would not know is that every year, about 2–3 police officers on the “bandobast” duty in Pune (alone), and also about 2–3 senior citizens in Pune (alone), die because of the noise pollution (alone). Yes, police constables and even officers have suffered cardiac arrest and collapsed on the spot, after 20 hours of continuous policing in front of the loud-speakers walls that are erected in violation of the Supreme Court of the land.

There is no Kasab involved here, and I am certain that the honorable politicians must be looking at some … greater… social cultural… good, …. what do you say?

The solution usually discussed is, what else, “yoga.” (Which word is pronounced (by the proposers) as “yogaa”).) “Yoga” classes for the police, to combat their job-related stress. And also for the rest of us.

The Times of India, the Indian Express, the Marathi-language newspapers, and the TV media in general, have not isolated this above-mentioned bit. They do report such news, but only in a piecemeal manner, i.e. as the death events separately occur over some 12.75 day festival—i.e. the 11 days from the Chaturthee to Chaturdashi, both inclusive, and an additional day or two days for the final day “festivities” that, because it’s “utsav,” must run into the “pitru pandharwaDaa”—after it involves sending off the “baapaa” doesn’t it?.

Thus the media people tend to report the “incidents” as un-correlated occurrences.

(Marathi) “gaalboT” is the most they (and the politicians) are ever willing to ascribe to such incidents—incidents in which people die out of noise pollution. [“gaalboT” is the black mark mothers apply on the cheek of their infants. The idea is that the presence of a black mark distorts the beauty of the infant, and thus, by pre-satisfying an evil onlooker’s desire to destroy the beauty, it preempts the evil’s power, and so, the child remains safe. Yes, the “susanskruit” puNeri applies the term to incidents of deaths by noise pollution—after all, it’s a Hindu festival and not a Quranic prayer coming on a loudspeaker from a mosque, right? So, it has to be just a “gaalboT.”

As to me, loudspeakers should be banned for not only “gaNapati” “music,” but also the mosque prayers, the “jai bhim”/“aNNasaaheb saaThe” “festivities”, the loud crackers cracked in the middle of the night for a random marwaari/Punjabi marriage, and every other “religiosity” or “festivity” of every kind. Men may observe their religious rituals or practices, but only without affecting others’ objective rights. Sound is not a laser light; it travels also to unintended locations, and with these loud speaker walls, it travels well over half a kilometer radius to acutely disturbing levels.

But coming back to the “puNeri” culture in particular, none has bothered to study or even think of the loss of time and the non-fatal health injuries, so such things don’t at all get reported.

However, to be fair, the media have, at times, shown the due sensitivity to run news articles about the ill-effects that the loud crackers have on pets such as dogs. Such articles usually make it to the print at the time of “Diwaali,” near the end of that season: both the “Ganapati” and “Navaratri” festivals are, by then, fully over, of course. Also the “laxmi pujan.” (Each festival has, by then, been covered highlighting the due presence of foreigners, especially the white-skinned ones. Apparently, these white people come to India at the time of the Pandharpur “waari” and then they stay put until “Diwaali”. And then, almost as if on a cue, these visiting whites suddenly disappear as the Christmas approaches. At Christmas proper, only the white people working in the Pune IT industry (“expats”) get coverage, apart from the Indian-born native Christians. But not those aforementioned visiting white. At least not in Pune. … I suspect that it’s then time to shift the focus towards the Goa beaches…. But I digress…

And, I also write too long posts…

OK, some time later (after a month or so).

[If I at all find time, I may streamline a few places in this post, but I can tell you that it won’t be more than a 10 minutes’ editing. So, this post isn’t going to change a lot from its present shape. Take it or leave it. But no, I really won’t be able to come back to write blog posts on the topics such as what I mentioned the last time or so. So, bye for now, and for quite a few weeks.]

[E&OE]

# 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.

* * *

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]

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# FDI in Retail

This cartoon [^] by Ashok Jhunjhunwala says it all. It had appeared in yesterday’s Indian Express. Jhunjhunwala is a professor at IIT Madras.

[I remain jobless; the “A Song I Like” section is once again being dropped.]

[E&OE]

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