Where are the argumentative Indians?
Fighting for our freedoms and democratic safeguards!

Recent events on the international scene, military coup in Egypt, before that the Snowden affair  that roused world public opinion in favour of giving asylum to him and India’s cowardly  response and many other events including inside India, the Narendra Modi vs. Rahul Gandhi etc are all concerns for India as the world’s largest democracy. But then where are the articulations? Where are the Indian intellectuals? Those who are competent are residing (or hiding?)in comfortable Harvard and UK university campuses.

Those inside India have to suffer the hang-ups of a historic buren of 100 years slave history, under the British a dead weight of inferiority complex, slavish mentality and cowardliness.
This shows in our current behaviour in private and public. India must learn to speak up, speak out its mind and must demonstrate courage, moral courage and conviction.

Do Indians follow world events?

What a shock and surprise! We had to cancel our holidays to Egypt so suddenly!
A military coup in Egypt! So soon after the democratically elected government there hadn’t even completed a year!

My memories of Egypt goes back. As a student to Oxford I travelled by ship which took me all along the seas and through the Red Sea and Suez Canal and we halted at Port Said for a day.
I missed the day out to the famed Pyramids! This time I wanted to make it up! But alas! This is now postponed. I remember distinctly then that when, we Indians, mostly students heading for UK, when we went into the Cairo bazaar, we were mobbed by friendly Egyptians, mostly youngsters, as “dear Indian brothers!”It was not long before Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal and Nehru and Krishna Manon backed Nasser and the whole of Egypt became a friendly country and India, Egypt and Tito of Yugoslavia became the trinity of the famed Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
Oh, where are we now?

That is how I felt when we cancelled our trip to Egypt.
What is at stake for India?
Both historically as well as diplomatically?
Does India count these days in the international arena?
Do India have a vision or a policy?
What are we as a nation?
Do we have a sense of history?
A cultural and civilisational legacy?

After the historic Italian, Roman experience!

What an irony! Yes, there can’t be a more shocking experience than this one!
We had long ago booked for a holiday to Egypt   for the entire family in the third week of July this year. This holiday plan was discussed at length at our home for months and weeks.
In fact soon after we visited the Italian cities and witness some really unbelievable coincidences we were always prepared for some last minute surprises. In Rome we went to see the Pope and hear his weekly address.

The very meeting fixed earlier with a travel agency failed to some reasons and we were about to give the visit to the Vatican though we were in Rome that day and that too caught up in a heavy and continuous downpour. At the last minute we made it to the Vatican City and the gate through which we had a hasty entry without any ticket! They allowed us all and once inside in a few minutes we couldn’t believe our eyes, there was the Pope Bendict, the previous one appeared as if he was just waiting for our entry and taking our seats! That very sight itself was very extraordinary.
Who then imagined as we were listening to him that in the next few days came the bombshell that the pope resigned! A new pope was to be elected. And where?

Where else but in the very Sistine chapel, the very haunt we visited more than once! Yes, the famous chapel where Michel Angelow had pained the ceiling with his unbeatable feat of the entire ceiling with the entire story from the Bible! That story itself needs a separate chapter if not a book. Yes, such is the overwhelming experience we went through trying to know and digest the very magnificent experience. The other artists’ works, including Raphel were an education and an altogether experience and an education. It was life-changing experience for me at any rate.
So, were the very Roman history ruins? The Roman Forum was another such life changing perspective on world history and many such history-changing concepts and perspectives.
The very rise of civilisation in man’s history.

Of all the 24 or odd civilisations listed by Arnold Toyenbee, it is the Roman civilisation, apart from the Greek one,  that had changed the modern man’s vision, seen from any angle.
Now after such a Roman experience and the Roman holiday, after visiting the Pompeii and Florence cities, we came back as altogether changed persons. We now call ourselves international citizens! Yes, what after these   life-changing experiences and intellectual conversion, so to say.
Of course there is much to say for me on the subjects that had engaged me for the last so many years. Of course, I have read mostly all of Edward Gibbon.

For him it was the decline and fall of Roman Empire. Now, after my recent Italian visit I got hold of some of the new books that was on sale there at the Roman Forum bookstall.
Among the new ones I picked up were one slim volume but this was a provocative volume.
The book:
The Fall of Rome
And the End of Civilization

The writer: Bryan Ward-Perkins. Obviously a young historian who teaches history at Trinity College, Oxford. Interestingly he was born and brought up in Rome where his father was an archeologist and thus, the young historian grew up imbibing the very atmosphere in which Roman history rose and fell and found itself in disuse. So also his new insights made me read though him, more than once and in fact this small volume is so full of new insights. One or two observations is that Rome didn’t go off in a smooth way. It was violently destroyed by the German tribesmen, it was ruthlessly pillaged and what came after is a painful history of decay of civilization and the emergence of a Dark Age.

Whenever I read now, I read continuously, thnaks to other things, Bangalore has a number of high class antiquarian book shops. Mr.K.K.S.Murthy of the Select Book had been supplying me a steady list of Roman and Greek history and civilization and art and culture books. So too other good book shops. There are a few such ones on the Church Street, run by young men of enterprise and I patronise them and in many ways they had earned this patronage by doing this business, not any other humdrum businesses. Before I move on I want to make these observations too.

Youth idealism thrives even today in India!
I don’t find this youth idealism in other parts of India. Anyway I might not know.
But in TN I find such deterioration that there is no civilizational and cultural values and belief systems. In this age of such a popular democracy, in TN, I find the sight of ministers, MLAs prostrating before an elected Chef Minister in such degrading manner!
So, I want to take up here the questions of civilization and culture.
But alas! There is not enough space left.

Civilization must uplift up for more, higher aspirations and a higher level of vision.

Culture?
Culture must give us a sense of refinement. Our behaviour and conduct must be a lesson for fellow being. Is our current Indian experience on such a level? I ask the intellectuals and the educated middle class to ask themselves.

Where are we, Indians today?
How can you live just as a member of a small local community? You have to be a national citizen! Now, you cant even live like that. There is so much degeneration in our politics and culture; there is simply no awareness beyond one’s narrow castes and sub-castes!

I travelled yesterday by car through Salem and Dharmapuri where there was the imposition of 144 and the huge crowd that assembled on the Dharmapuri road led to so much crowds and tension over the Dalit youth’s cremation. It was, to say the least a bizarre scene. Where the normal scene would have been for leaders of various parties and communities to participate and mourn a death of this nature. But here was prohibition on the leaders of the community to come and pay their respects.

Why? Why but just caste fury unleashed owing to a combination of factors that current democratic politics leads to discard all values of human life or human sufferings. Democracy has been turned into monocracy and in recent months a number of court judgments have imposed so many bans and prohibitions.

“My answer to God!”

Convicted by a court of law or even under police custody no man or person can contest an election, ruled the Supreme Court! This opened a flood gate! Why, as any as one third of the current Legislatures, both state Assemblies and the Parliament, both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, are indicted by the courts and are yet to be discharged from criminal cases. I am glad to read and pay my tribute to the Supreme Court lady advocate, the 85-year old Lily Thomas who calls this judgement “my answer to God!”How wonderful!
So far Indian democracy tolerated these dubious characters. No more now!

So too the RTI Act that mandates the political parties, as of now the six major national parties, are under obligation to give out information about their funds, receipts and expenditure, the very way they collect and account for their funds! So far they were free to do what they are accustomed to do. To tap the big corporates, and use their other facilities, including their private Boeings and helicopters and also their unlimited access to cash. Elections had become the great cheating game with freebies that are now also prohibited. Both the courts and the Election Commission are now set against such ridiculous freebies like free colour TV sets, free mixies and grinders and free laptops.
The latest news item is that in UP where they took the cue from the most intelligent of the political parties in India, both the DMK and the ADMK, free laptops! The procured laptops are dumped in godowns; there is no godown space in UP to keep the bulk purchase of the laptops from such companies like HP and Dell!

So, what do you do?

The most exciting and the most audacious recent, latest freebie is the supply of free rice, the food security bill through an ordinance. In the heat of the coming elections to the state assemblies and the mega one at the 2014 general elections that would decide the fate of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, the entire nation is going to be flooded with a propaganda war.

Yes, it is a war. The advertisement budget too is very heavy, something like some 400 /500 crore budgets. On the other side of the spectrum is Mr.Narendra Modi.

Mr.Modi is a great challenge. One can call his propaganda techniques and language in any language one likes. It is neither proper and respectful English or even his method of calling his opponents by various jibes is a bit too much. I am afraid he might not win more friends and unlikely to influence more supprorters. Certainly no one educated will take his wholesale denunciation very seriously. Yes, he says Indian education had failed the Indians. Failed the youth.
Then, what are his alternatives?

Mr.Narendra Modi and RSS propaganda?

What serious alternative vision he has put forward? All simplistic, very unhistorical and very inarticulate talks. That won’t evoke any response, serious response or hope. Specially, among the merging youth and middle classes. Why even the poor! I am sure his view of Indian history, his articulation of his calling his Hindu nationalism, or calling himself bluntly as Hindu would have many takers. Yes, I am a Hindu! Then, what? I am a nationalist! Yes, then what? Everyone is an Indian Nationalist, Indian citizen, everyone is a patriot, irrespective of one’s religion or caste or community! Then, what?

Mr.Modi is grievously at fault to paint the entire mosaic of culture and diversity with just one colour. That is Hindutva colour. Hindutva is yet to be articulated in a rational and historic manner.
India is a very diversified country and culture.

The Hindu-Muslim unity is a sacred trust. Secularism is not a new concept and yet it is a modern concept. The youth of the country belong to a globalsied world, globalised culture.
What about the new generation of educated youth who dream of an American dream, why even those who dream of an Indian dream?

We have to give them modern economy, modern economic growth goals. give them inspiration and motivation to dream and dare. Create modern education and cultural environment and experiences. Let India stand up and be counted in the modern world.

What should be India’s foreign policy today?
India should stand up and compete with China, right?
Not a word from Modi from challenges from USA and China!

Now, what I want to convey herein this brief essay is that India must get back to its traditional values. India must speak truth on the international stage. There are so many instances in recent years that India had failed in the test of truth and ethics in national and international fields.
Two recent events are: One, the flight of Edward Snowden, the young American whistle blower.
He sought asylum from many countries. One is India.

What an answer our foreign minister, Mr.Salman Kurshid gave?
Everyone, every friend of India was shocked.
Such a curt and impolite language is not diplomacy!
We should have coached our reply in much more sympathetic and much more pro-democratic, pro-freedom-loving nation.
Are not freedoms and democracy our trump cards?

What else our much-travelling Prime Minister articulates in his encounters with the high and mighty? We have a poor reservoir of talents. Almost our national character is getting diminished by the poor men and women we have chosen to project, here and abroad. When our leaders travel abroad, we associate with their names the recent accumulated baggage of scandals and scams, right?

So, the readers can collect their own list with every travelling ministers and officials alike.
Now, there is a frenzy of sorts.

There are now only two or three faces that are projected everywhere. On every newspaper pages and TV screens. One Sonia Gandhi. Two, Rahul Gandhi. Third Manmohan Singh.
What a pathetic picture!

There are simply no larger arguments in India. There are no thinkers, philosophers and argumentative Indian faces. If we mention some names people would laugh! And ridicule!
Who are the receipts of Padma Sri and Padma Bhushans?
Why don’t they talk?
What are the challenges? What should be our responses?
This is the land of Buddha and Ashoka. They preached all over the world.
What to preach now?

I say we have enough to speak out. Of course, we have fight corruption. We have to each Lokpal Bill. We have to appoint LokAyuktas in states. We have to give the youth a clean, modern, secular and competitive work ethic. We travelled in China not long ago. What a work ethic! What a drive!

China is easily one/two decades ahead of India. They work hard. Their railways, civil aviation, airports are all first class, world class, planned and executed keeping in mind the needs of a next one century in mind. China is a friendly country. This is the impression we got. They, in spite of their Communist party apparatus, have a system, 10 year regime, they change, they convene their Parliament, they have internal dissensions, there is of course internal tensions. They also fight corruption.

The entire world is watching China’s growth. In fact, I would like to quote here a recent write-up in The Hindu, on China by a retired Naval chief (Admiral (retired) Arun Prakash on his recent China visit. The admiral does fail to mention China’s socio-economic and ethnic weaknesses. At the same time he says with candour:””Instead let me speak of the overpowering emotions on Indian experiences on a visit to China: salient rage against India’s rulers for having failed the nation so badly”(Read his article).

Japan is another country on the rise.The Japanese PM is a veteran. He raises great hopes in the world capitals. Barack Obama also raises hopes for a more peaceful world order.
His second term might prove decisive.

The world is without any world war for the past sixty years and more. We, in India, must study European history very carefully. I had an Oxford tutor. His name: James Joll. He taught me European history. Even fifty years ago, in the late 1950, early sixties he forewarned us, me in his history tutorials, the “Fall of Europe and the Decline of the European influence in world affairs”.
I often wonder now. If only Gandhi had read European history, who knows, he would have worked differently.  May be, we would have got freedom without such hard and harsh struggle and for long. May be would have emerged as a united India without the painful partition and such large-scale killings and bloodshed.

History is a fascinating subject. I often read old history to draw some new lessons! Let we, Indians, learn to think, think anew and in innovative directions! That would serve India of today well.
This is my firm conviction.

There was this caption in a news column with a photo of Pandit Nehru and John F.Kennedy walking in the garden of White House in 1962.
The caption: “Cowardly servility!”

It must have hurt millions of Indians, nay all Indians!
But it didn’t hurt some at the top.

Why? We failed to speak for Edward Snowden, the American whistle blower. When he asked for political asylum from 21 countries including India. India not only didn’t response. Its response was rude and curt, to say the least. Is this the response from world ‘biggest democracy? Asked many.
So, it is time when we decide the future of India, Indian politics, there must be a few intellectuals to articulate India and what it stands for. What are our values? How to promote patriotism, nationalism, freedoms and democracy?

It can’t be by scheming by run of the mill politicians and time-servers. The search for fundamental values must be ideological, historical and must jell with the common people, their sentiments.

 

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