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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Books Read in 2014

“Why is America so rich and we are so poor?” I posed the question to my father in the summers of 1998. My father answered me as best he could: “India is a young democratic country of 50 years with huge population while America is almost 200 years old." I nodded in agreement, satisfied with the explanation. One answer unearthed a dangerous way to more questions.  I was a nationalist, theist and a more enthusiastic supporter of RSS version of India at that phase of life. I had complete trust in their claim of ancient knowledge and glory of Hindu India. So, why we failed to defend our country from foreign culture and invaders ? Why Hindus were treated like slave for thousand of years in their own country ? How to solve Islamic and Christian problem?

That started an active engagement with history books. Yet, I haven't touched NCERT books. I studied history books to have an idea of India. My grip on history was weak because, half-truths and myths are intermingled as historical fact. I wanted to know an accepted version of history - validated by both losers and winners. It was the reading habit that gave me the chance to think more deeply. Nothing was considered as averse and accepted with open heart in heated debates with friends. It's often hard to separate myth from reality. Reading diverse set of books helped me to find rational view in the haze of morality and deliberate ignorance. I was able to see that every perceived external interference doesn't involve a sinister plot. I was able to challenge infallibility of books and beliefs. There was not always misinterpretation by the reader. The travesty of the modern world history is to find a 'factual' narrative in the versions of religious 'right' and Red 'Left'. I concluded with a solid reality of our lives - Social Reality in past or present does not come, like topaz crystals, already made. It is well hidden in camouflage of culture, taboo and class in the maze of daily life. I had started not to view at history as a place of debate and multiple opinions, rather than reductive nature of evidences. Our history is a hybrid of facts and fiction, it is a tale nonetheless, which represents a sore reality, and I have tried my utmost to learn it in a sympathetic and sensitive manner.

If one doesn't contradict oneself on a regular basis, then one is not thinking. We all start popular readings for a start, then make own way. Everyone’s reading list is unique, but each is remarkable in its own way.I don't read today in order to master the craft of writing; I read because I like to read but surely it helps in putting words together. Imitation, it turns out, is a great engine for personal growth to some extent. I always travel through books, but never get lost in them. A lot of books are in the pending list for reading. Life is short for reading all I wish. There’s a more likelihood of me doing what is necessary but mot sufficient.

Books Read in 2014:

Our Moon has Blood Clots - The Exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits :- Rahul Pandita - English - 9/10 - Compelling Memoir of person giving us a brief account of ethnic cleansing.

In the Land of Invisible Women :- Qanta A. Ahmed - English - 7.5/10 - It gives a vivid description of religion, racism, culture and society of Saudi regime from the perspective of a Western trained Muslim doctor woman.

Hello Bastar: The Untold Story Of India's Maoist Movement :- Rahul Pandita - English - 7/10 -  A poignant book that explains story of Maoist movement  through the eyes of reporter.

Acts of Faith :- Erich Segal - English - 7/10 - A boring romantic story caught in the web of Jewish Christian relationship.

I am Malala :- Malala Yousafzai & Christina Lamb - English - 6/10 - A brave account of girl but written for people having not having clue on Afghan situation

And the Mountains Echoed :- Khaled Hosseini - English - 7/10 -

A Game of Thrones :- George R. R. Martin - English - 8.5/10 - A must read thriller in realm of epic fantasy novels.

A Clash of Kings :- George R. R. Martin - English - 8.5/10 - A must read thriller in realm of epic fantasy novels.

A Storm of Swords :- George R. R. Martin - English - 8.5/10 - A must read thriller in realm of epic fantasy novels.

A Feast for Crows :- George R. R. Martin - English - 8/10 - A must read thriller in realm of epic fantasy novels.

A Dance with Dragons :- George R. R. Martin - English - 8/10 - A must read thriller in realm of epic fantasy novels.

The Devotion of Suspect X :- Keigo Higashino - English - 7/10 - A detective novel that starts beautifully but was disappointed with sudden and swift end.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Why I am infrequent here ?

"Sometimes one has to be a fool in the beginning, to become wise in the end." - Irving Stone, Lust for Life

It is human nature to underrate the present and grossly overrate the past. Life is full of these strange vignettes. So it’s easy to see why what others would call strange is simply pure normality to a person. I had gone through many small experiences that has changed me in a way that I could never go back to the carefree person I once was. I feel neither responsible, nor easy-going towards anything. A habit of seriousness coiled the soul. Amid this habit of pessimistic outlook towards life, I kept blog as a a diary in order to express inner feelings. Writing is one of my favorite hobby that I pursued with passion to understand life in little details. I was in an eternal search for an emotional anchor from long time. Slowly an inner frustration bloomed as mental blockage that can't be put in the word. I stopped writing and became infrequent here.

When we are in relations for the sake of it, they only serve to crush our life. Even when we try hard to live a life to that didn't naturally suited often gave a quick route to unhappiness. The big question arrived on the scene - Am I wasting entire life looking for what looks like a mirage? Frustrating jobs, private life in doldrums, and no financial base were always on the margin. I was lost in the dark side of the personal quest of happiness. It becomes mental stress to cope up with self expectation to fulfill potential and combating peer pressure. I was in dire need of huge detox for getting out of this negative frame of mind. Some miracle happened on Friday the 13th.

I met someone. It was the the moment of time in life when one person changes the journey of life. It’s in these moments of discovery and acceptance that the life finally comes into its own shadow. We talked few times and met once. We are getting married in upcoming January. 'Nidhi' is the name of my better half. She is a lovely, mature and confident person. I have found calmness and peace of the mind in my life partner lately. I am finding time and energy to do things I used to enjoy, like reading books, and finding happiness in small things in life. But with rediscovered inner tranquility, I will prefer to do meditation, jogging, explore nature, or do the many other things on my life to-do list. Writing is like an aesthetic part of my life. That is inseparable from me, and  I will rediscover my grove.

There are pain and tough times in life to ensure a balance is sought. It can't all be roses and bloom. There has to be a bit of dark days to remind us to not be complacent and to not take anything for granted. Often failure of dreams often rock our sleep. And, when you hit rock bottom the only way is up. As we get older, we come to appreciate the tough times; Just as bruises heal quicker on the young, so do mental scars. Life's bitterest tears are shed in the graveyards for the words that were left unspoken and for the deeds that were left undone... 

Gaining wisdom is hugely healthy for mind and body. It keeps us fresh. I re-framed personal and professional goals. I have been a work in progress for several years, and is a long way from realizing the full potential.Things doesn't changed in a day or two, I am finding today love gradually over time. We are on a journey into the unknown; their heads are clear. For me this is new beginning and success of relation is event horizon ; a story in which the journey itself is as important as the arrival. It is the importance of the present and the need to recover waste time. In the life marked by more ifs and buts than certainties, to dream of better future with a loved one is daring act. To express unspoken and write from heart is nice gesture. There are small comedies and romance of the everyday life that occur, that I love them in my own search for life and place. I try to join in my own good memories through all kinds of experience, through thick and thin, and finding myself when self-acceptance kicked in. I I think, is to bear the bad days with a smile. If you can do that, the good days become more and more frequent.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Role Models

India is passing through the transformative period when we are shifting slowly from being a culture "based on a largely diverse but shared core of faith, tradition and authority" to one in which "everything under sun, no matter how fundamental or deeply rooted in values, is under the scanner of reason". We need role models more than ever in this changing phase of economy and society. We have either western educated elites, who always remain resentful for anything traditional or nationalists who see every change as an act of corruption to pious way of Indian tradition. We need examples of person who are not involved in corruption, conspicuous consumption and oppression of their unlettered citizens. They must be good role models in the eyes of their less educated and younger compatriots. What I ask may sound unrealistic perfection of the characters, but we can lookfor.

Role modelling is important for a person. I was once destined for bigger and better things through IIT JEE. In the eyes of society, I was qualified for a glamorous life in a metropolitan, a job with the prestigious MNC and the pleasures of such lifestyle. Yet, I never arrived on the scene. DNA of my values were completely different. This is because, I chose different role models in my life. I am always a person looking for 'Balance' rather than 'Success' in life.

My brain not physique has always been my asset. While growing up, my role models were different from others. I use to prefer Robin Singh, Andy Flower, Heath Streak, Lance Klusener and Rahul Dravid for their grit and hard work. They were athletes playing for a weak team and often end up with the losing side despite brave efforts. That was the core reason for me becoming a supporter of underdogs. The noble knights of mythical stories, animated series of superheroes and Bollywood movies also contributed in building a character. I came to respect values like personal liberty, freedom and justice above identity issues. I have strong opinion in the favour of Edward Snowden, Aaron Swartz, Bradley Manning, and Julian Assange who are people who have the balls to do what they think is right.  The journalist like Arun Shourie, Christopher Hitchens and P Sainath are a source of inspiration to me. I took persons like Deep Joshi as perfect role model due to brilliant brain, compassion and integrity. I am a person who will any day prefer Dennis Ritchie to Steve Jobs. I prefer a role model who can be remarkable for their "intellectual complexity, compassion, and resourcefulness";

Moderates are made not born. - Robert M.Calhoon

Act 3, scene ii of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare (Mark Antony: "The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones". History makes people unidimensional and lives are summed up by a single incident. Hansie Cronje was my hero who can't do anything wrong. The Cronje Match fixing scandal was the most shocking incident with which the worship era of teenage years came to a disruptive end. It showed me that our heroes are fallible and the justice is important rather than following personality cult.  Even liking for a person must be built on hard facts. That was only half of the lesson.

The historical injustice are often mixed with our identities. There's a strong silence, sometimes people even don't want to listen leave apart understand it. Injustice is often inherent one in the system, it cannot exist without it. I can be an idealist and can be against everything—that won't change me. Can I look for some feasible solution ? I learn importance of practical and inclusive decision making from NDA government. I gradually came to respect Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Jawaharlal Nehru and Bhimrao Ambedkar for their role in political space. The other half of the lesson was delivered. I didn't turn into self righteous, cynical and vague critic due to a simple interest in politics.

I look for truth but am happy with less than perfect solution. That is why, I didn't turn a NaMo fan boy despite supporting BJP. Today, I am too radical for the conservatives and too social-democrat for the neo-liberals. I am committed to the higher values like justice, love, peace and freedom. I value excellence but pay heed to voices for equality. A person who shows me knowledge gets my attention but those who show wisdom always gets my respect. I am as reckless and foolish as only young men can be - and that is why ideological differences with family, friends and community appear in no quick time. I have a dry sense of the absurd mixed with humanistic, passionate and rational approach towards life.

It was one of the best moments of my life when I met Prof. M S Sriram at XIMB. He has an unsurpassed blend of the sublime and the precise knowledge combined with wit. I was much impressed with his gyaan but resisted taking his autograph for a particular reason. Autographs are taken by people who wants to collect soverigners and are struggling to find an identity for themselves. I am also struggling to build an identity. I want to explore it instead of handing useless bits of paper even to my role model.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

LokSabha Elections 2014

Leadership and ideas can change the working of institutions and affect policies in long term. Atal Bihari Bajpai is a name whose transformative leadership changed landscape of Indian politics. Mild nature of his personality led to partial reconciliation and negotiations of different ideology leading to the formation of NDA. Nehru's Unity in Diversity was the old idea that shaped India. Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi is creating big change in the thinking of new generation.

Eric Hoffer once stated that Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket. That is the life cycle each political party. Indian politics scenario is always revamped in the period of nearly 20 years. Be it 1970's J P Narayan or 1989 Mandal commission has brought of youth into the politics. In 1977 elections, which ended the emergency and ousted congress from national power for the first time, three quarters of the electorate were either born or reached voting age after 1947. Indian Youths with age of 18-31will decide the fate of election if we look into census data. Most of the political parties lack leaders in their late thirties from whom one can expect disruptive thinking.

We are seeing decline of social engineering of caste and religion, twenty first century voting pattern gave the word Development a new importance. While Congress was giving illusion to voters with secular and inclusive image, BJP was projecting itself as development oriented and nationalist part. Regional parties were still caught in their own trap of caste based politics. India against corruption is the new talk of the town. Recent research by Toke Aidt, Miriam Golden and Devesh Tiwari (“Incumbents and Criminals in the Indian National Legislature”) shows there are other very problematic aspects of the Indian democratic system: a quarter of the members of the Lok Sabha, the Indian legislature, have faced criminal charges. Corruption, Transparency in election funding and Decriminalization of politics are big three pointers projected by AAP. AAP  has transformed a social movement to political party. With the absence of a thriving leftist scene, AAP is gradually filling the political vacuum. Despite of their all backing of Jan-Lokpal Bill, we all know that no law is strong enough to fight corrupt minds and methods. But they have given direction to the agenda of future elections.

Poverty, Secularism and Economic Growth

Public dissatisfaction continues to grow due to unprecedented rise in corruption under UPA-2. Deja vu is never so good the third time around. Congress always plans to buy loyalty of voters with an unprecedented expansion of what is an already generous welfare state. The "Congress is bad" defence does not exonerate the BJP; being equally bad is not good enough for our times. BJP has its own problem as it is not able to create a new cadre of leaders at national level. In the chaos like environment created by indecisive policies of UPA, there is fair chance of rise of Narendra Modi.

Each party irks at the mere mention of secularism because they really confuse its meaning with minority appeasement. If young people think that they can assess someone's viewpoint from social media branding, they're being naive. But a large number of Hindus to continue to believe in the developmental yet non communal image of BJP.  Muslims and Christians still vote for congress despite of poor track record in the safety of minorities. 1992, 2002 and 2013 riots affected Muslims but they are crimes on par with the 1984 genocide of the Sikhs. 1989 exodus and near genocide of Kashmiri Pandits must be described in the same line. There can't be double standards in a secular governance as shown by Congress.

There is a persuasive power in numbers, particularly the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments. National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) data shows that the percentage of population below the poverty line has come down from 37 per cent in 2004-05 to 22 per cent in 2011-12. Planning Commission has last year (in Mar 2012) announced that poverty percentage has come down by 7.3 per cent, which means from 37.2 per cent in 2004-05 to 29.8 per cent in 2009-2010. This shows numbers related to poverty are manipulated for political benefits of ruling Congress Party rather simply becoming a statistical exercise.

Economic progress brings social and political change, eroding the political power of elites, who in response often prefer to sacrifice economic development for political status quo with a bit of welfare policies. Inflation has devastated financial growth of India. Let me quote Pai Panikkar for explaining this point - "India’s present concerns are of a different kind. Inflation is too high and instead of providing stimulus to the economy, it has actually weakened growth. The jump in inflation from 4 percent to 9 percent dragged growth down from 9 percent to 4.7 percent. Inflation beyond a point can be as detrimental to growth as inflation below a level is. It is generally accepted that 3 percent inflation is just enough to stimulate growth and prevent the economy from sliding into recession. At that level, repo will be about 5 percent and interest on bank credit 7 percent. This combination will be ideal for growth with relative stability, provided other components of growth are in place.What about political susceptibility of inflation? The government has expressed concern only when inflation exceeds 5 percent. It would appear that inflation below 3 percent may hurt growth and above 5 percent may not be politically acceptable. The inflation target for the RBI should be in the range of 3 to 5 percent to balance growth and consumer concerns."

Discontent is simmering under the surface but I had given above three reasons to ouster UPA-2. India is growing because of the institutions that we have built and sustained over the years. They are often under stress beyond their capacities but have never given right of way to leaders who thought they could subvert them. As per Prof Cornel West, Democracy always raises the fundamental question: What is the role of the most disadvantaged in relation to the public interest? But no political party is seriously working on this answer. The results of this election will have long term effect on the history of India. Embrace yourself Indian citizens, 2014 election is coming !


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