Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Osmania Biscuit XVI--Part-I: Of Martand Rao, Osmania Biscuit, and the Richest Man in the world

How old are we?
And what determines our age?

Of old, elders, especially the aged used to transmit all the knowledge of the world they gained to the younglings by the medium of stories, anecdotes, and fables.

Hence, each region developed its unique culture, traditions, and hence, history. Some cultures were meticulous and wrote this history down as records, but some others like ours believed that history is not something just for historians (also the fact that our history spanned thousands of years).

But history, as a subject is extremely dry for many. Hence, our anscestors discovered a way in which history can be preserved in the minds of every single being. Anecdotes and fables and mythical stories make sure that even the most illeterate person has a hold of history.

It is my contention that the age of a people is determined by that of the oldest stories they carry in their mind. At an individual level, the age of an individual is that of the oldest story the person has.
In this sense, I count Lingam to belong to the generation of no less than my grandfather. He has never read a history book, but has a sence of when something happened, why did it happen, and how it affects us now. And this is not a special quality of Lingam. Its just that the rest of us have forgotten how to be Indians.

One of the past-times of Lingam was sitting with elderly people during late evenings when there were frequent power cuts, and listen to their long tales of their past and extracting history from them. Learning history by doing something called 'reading the books', let alone doing something called "visiting a website" like was something his deeply Indian brain would not comprehend.

When I used to study for my social studies exam, he used to ask, with his innocence, some very disconcerting questions --
"How can you feel what happened just by reading this book?" or
"How does what happened affect you now?" or his favorite
"Are there any eyewitness accounts?"
to which I had really no answer. I had to shoo him off saying I was studying all this because I had to pass the test the next day.

So it was that while I was cramming the now-disproved-but-still-taught Aryan Invasion Theory, the irreverant single line mentions of Satavahanas, Pallavas, and Chalukyas, and the glorified depiction of Otto Von Bismarck's "blood and iron" policy for my exams, Lingam was busy listening to old tales from my Ajji about Martand Rao, about the Richest Man in the World and of course about Osmania Biscuit.

to be continued...

Monday, March 09, 2009

No love lost

Vikram Sood writes thus in Times Of India:

No love lost

Over the years Pakistan has come to believe that the world is beholden to it because it exists. This notion of indispensability allows those in power in that country to be wild, delinquent and dangerous.

Like the spoilt brat of a rich and doting parent, Pakistan either becomes petulant when it is not granted what it unjustifiably demands or becomes belligerent when it is granted that wish by its benefactor.

Today, Pakistan has a begging bowl economy; terrorism is its main export. Unending unrest in Balochistan and sectarian violence in Dera Ismail Khan and Dera Ghazi Khan, coupled with a creaking law and order and judicial systems, evoke little confidence in that country. There are many in India who are ready to give Pakistan another chance forever. They say Pakistanis are like us but the poor souls are stuck with rotten governments and they need our help to get them out of their predicament.

It is incredibly naive of us to build policies for our future and security on fond nostalgia, which is mostly one way. They teach their children mostly how to hate India with warped versions of history, even in their mainstream schools.

It is strange that we still keep telling Pakistanis that we are all alike and have a common culture and so on. The truth is that they do not want to be like us and, quite honestly, we have nothing in common with them. Not anymore.

First of all, our minority population is more Indian than the minorities there are Pakistani. And our majority too is different from the majority across the border. Pakistanis have never understood, therefore never accepted, the concept of accommodating minorities. Not that we do it perfectly but we do a fairly good job.

In Pakistan, you are either a Shia, Bohra or an Ismaili or an Ahmediya. Being a woman, a Baloch, a Pushtun, a Sindhi or a Mohajir or a Hindu hari is a curse.

Only a Sunni Punjabi is a true-blue Pakistani. Arguments with minorities are settled with a bullet. It is difficult for a Pakistani to understand that minorities can also have a say. Our cricket team symbolises our diversity. Pakistan does not have an equivalent of Bollywood and if it did, Hindus would never dominate the industry.

There are other fundamental differences. They deny history and even geography, we seek our roots in our civilisation. Extremists there cry jihad in the name of god.

We have room for all faiths at the Dargah in Ajmer Sharif, in Darbar Sahib (whose foundation stone was laid by Mian Mir) or San Thome. Fewer Pakistanis understand that it is easy or natural for an Indian to listen to Jafar Hussain Badayuni's rendering of Amir Khusro's `Bahut kathin hai dagar' or `Ek pita ekas ke hum baarek' by Bhai Maninder Singh and Bhai Jitender Singh or `Jai Madhav Madan Murari' by Jagjit Singh on any morning.

In Pakistan today, we see images of mullahs leading a march to medievalism. In India, we see the young and exuberant marching into the 21st century. We are still behind the rest of the advanced world but are determined to catch up. Across the border, they wallow in a sense of victimhood, and blame everyone else for their plight.

In Pakistan, the extremists believe that Islam and democracy are incompatible. Secularism does not exist in the mullah's vocabulary, or even in the minds of some self-proclaimed moderates like General Musharraf.

So what do we have in common with Pakistan that we yearn for? The answer is nothing. We are two different countries with two different kinds of people on two different trajectories and we here should be happy with that.

Pakistan will strike deals with al-Qaeda, will encourage Lashkar-e-Taiba to carry out attacks on India and will appease the Taliban. It would seem that they have a death wish. It would be prudent for us to take measures now in case Pakistan's wish is granted.

The writer is a former secretary, Research and Analysis Wing.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Lessons From Buddhism

What can be an appropriate response to an persecutionist ideology and a relentless assault of intolerant hatred?
Well, we atleast know what can NOT be a response to such an ideology--

Case Study: Buddhism

1) Hindus didnt kill Buddhists eventhough Buddhists were vehemently against and openly preaching against idol worship and the Vedas.
2) Hindus were not massacred under Buddhist Kings and Buddhists were free to propagate their religion under Hindu Kings.
3) Hindus and Buddhists came face to face through open and public debates. The loser had to convert to the victor's religion. Thus, the conflict was, more or less, restricted to priestly class.

1) Thousands of Buddhist monks were killed and hundreds of monasteries were razed to ground by the Islamic invaders from central Asia and Afghanistan till East Bengal.
2) Buddhists could influence Ashoka, but not one among Mohd. Bin Kasim, Mahmud Ghaznavi, Mohd. Ghauri, Qutubuddin Aibak, Timur, Ghiyazuddin Tuglaq, or Aurangzeb.
3) Incidentaly, the only place where Buddhism thrived till the end of medieval ages was in Tamil-nadu, the only Hindu region unconquered by Muslims.
4) But even more interestingly, even that was destroyed... this time, by Jesuits (Christians).

1) Whenever a new and different ideology creats an environment of conflict in an existing system, there are two options left with either people: a)Non-violence, peace pacts, and inter-religious dialogue or b) Vigilance, self-defence, and counter-hatred. (With the advent of nation-states and democracies, the victims also have a beautiful option of going to the law and demanding justice, but I am talking about the even more beautiful middle-ages).
2) Buddhism is a totally peaceful religion that took the first path against both Hinduism and Islam.
3) Against Hinduism, it was the ideal "clash of religions" where no one was physically hurt and where there was an opportunity to show that one's beliefs were logically better than the opponent's. Compare this is to the cheap attitude of claiming hurt, then imposing guilt on the opponent and thereby extracting several concessions like reservations and free pilgrimages.
4) Against Islam, Buddhism was wiped out of India. Monotheistic religions are not made for peaceful and open debates, and Buddhism was not made to deal with such hateful ideology.

The revered Dalai Lama has put it succintly:
"terrorism cannot be tackled by applying the principle of ahimsa because the minds of terrorists are closed."