The Golden Age of Greece!
Some contemporary parallels!

Near Parthenon

Near Parthenon

As I finished this column, a thought flashed through mind like a lightning! It was Tagore, Gandhi and even Pandit Nehru and such great Indian leaders, as far as we can see, didn’t travel through Greece and Rome or studied or quoted from these two great civilisations, right? India as an independent country has much to learn and draw lessons for its very many new policies, education, culture and else. Greece has no parallel in these areas to teach the world. But this generation has much to learn from the past histories and draw lessons for the current times.

Greece gave the world democracy, citizen’s freedoms and liberty, ideas of republic and rule of law, besides much else. One Pericles speech is enough for the entire world, even for today in the fields of education, philosophy, logic, sports etc. Also in art and culture we can find much enduring values and beauty. Here is a brief account, though there is much else to study and learn lessons for our times.

Greek history is very long and in each age it impacted the world in some deep ways. First, the geography! If you look at the atlas you will see Greece is located at the end of the European geography, at the bottom of the Southern Europe, just below Yugoslavia. In fact, there was time when visitors to Greece used to take journeys overland. This has now become out of tune with the modern airlines competing for new air routes.

We travelled to Greece by the Gulf airline- Qatar airways. It took four hours to land in Doha, the Qatar capital, the most prosperous oil kingdom in the Gulf today. And after a small wait we caught another airline of the same company, the Qatar Airlines and reached Athens in another four hours. It was such a joy to travel by the latest aircraft A 320 class of the same airline. Once landed in Athens we caught the taxi – Mercedes Benz, a gift from perhaps the German -a part of the foreign aid that had lifted the debt-ridden economy from collapse. Once we reached the city, the driver of the taxi pointed out at a distance and said:”See the famous Acropolis and the Parthenon blazing already in the evening daylight and that was soon to be further lighted by the artistic way in which the entire city of Athens in night keeps the world-famous heritage sites in such splendorous brightness.

Once you are in Athens the Acropolis, the one historic hill never is far from you. Where ever you turn, your eyes are likely to be caught by this historic monument. In fact, the next morning, we planned to stay in Athens for some 10 days and so we were planned to see each and every notable monument. Our hotel, Melia, was situated not far from the Acropolis site and so the next day we started to walk towards the hill. We didn’t realize that the road we walked was in fact the modern road that was laid on the ancient sites. So, at some places they have left the old sites covered with a glass roof and so we can see down our feet that old sites, the walls and other structures covered with glass roofs. Very soon we reached the hill site and the road was rising as we walked and soon we were left with no further path and so we sat on a stone bench.

I told my granddaughter to touch the soil telling her that she was now on the sacred ground of a great civilization where such venerable figures like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle walked. On the first day in fact, we didn’t realize that the spot where Socrates actually lived and walked was not very far from us! In fact, we were now sitting on the outer walls of the Roman Agora. Agora in Greek means the public place where the city people gathered to transact business and spend time and conduct their government. Next to the Roman Agora was the Ancient Agro where Socrates lived. This was the first market place and this space needs to be written in much more detail and devotion.

It was sacred soil for me and as such I was emotionally agitated greatly touched by the historic moment and the historic points. Now, Athens history! Let us leave details. Athens became a powerful country only in the BC after finally defeating the powerful Persian Empire in 480 BC. Athens was first a confederacy with its headquarters in the island of Delos, far from Athens. It was in 461 BC, the treasury was transferred to Athens and then under the rule of Pericles from 461 BC to 429 BC Athens emerged as the most powerful and also the most artistic city in the world. Though Athens had this gift, it was militarily defeated by Sparta.

Sir infront of Athens Uni statues Plato n Socrates

Sir infront of Athens Uni statues Plato n Socrates

Sparta and Athens are studies in contrast, the school of the Spartan people gave to the world the concept of public schools which Plato advocated and yet in Athens is not practiced. Most of the monuments on the Acropolis mountain date from the period of Pericles. Pericles is another notable figure from the ancient Greece, and he gave a great speech after the defeat of the Athenian people at the hands of Spartans in the famed or ill-fated Peloponnesian Wars that lasted from 431 BC to 404 BC. The history of the War was written in a style that is still read in all public schools. The book was written in Greek by Thucydides.

Athens was an independent kingdom and an empire. But in 338 BC it was conquered by Philip II of Macedon and his son, the famous Alexander the Great favoured Athens over other city states.
In 186 BC the Romans defeated the Macedonians and Athens became a province of Roman empire and the Roman rule of Greece lasted to an unbroken period of three centuries. But Romans became very much impacted by the Athenian culture and though Romans took away the sculptures to Rome the Roman aristocratic class sent their sons to Greece for learning Greek philosophy, law and sports etc. Hellas, the way the ancient Greeks were called became an intellectual, cultural and political students of Greek institutions.

Ancient Greece had many glories but not the modern day history. Roman empire lasted some 2,000 years. That was also a remarkable history. Rome learnt many things from Greece. Of course not their political ideas and ideals of democracy. But the Roman Republic is also an evolution of the Greek ideals of government. There were slaves in large number in Greece and Rome. Citizenship is another concept we learnt only from Greece and Rome. For any modern day visitor to Greece and Rome, the ancient agora and in Rome the Roman Forum are physical monuments that inspires us to stand and reflect and ponder over for a long time to how man had lived and evolved into a modern and civilized citizen of the world! It was the Roman emperor; Justinian who closed the philosophy in AD 529.Then was a period of decline. Every country of any consequence tried to occupy the Greek people and in this Britain was not alone!

The most famous monument is of course the incomparable Parthenon. They charge every adult an entry fee of 12 Euros. Its monuments and sanctuaries are built in a special marble stone, called Pentelic marble, quarried from a special mountain outside Athens some few miles away. The Pentelic marble stone of such huge proportions must have been quarried by some huge effort and how they transported in the BC? The Parthenon marble structure, so huge and so artistic, gleam white in the midday sun and gradually as the sun fades, the stones assume a honey hue while at night the lights are on and brilliantly illuminate the whole night!

As the travel guide writes “a glimpse of this magnificent sight can’t fail to exalt your spirit. Yes, it is so right; this goes and man-jointly created artistic achievement. It’s hard to believe that such a grand monument was created in such an ancient time and all through the 2500 years the monument glowed and also faced so many assaults by invaders and ignoramuses.

Pericles-OrationThere are other two equally beautiful structures, temples to five beautiful maidens, called Caryatids, the maidens holding their falling saris is so beautifully carved as if they were not carved in stones! They, the beautiful maidens seem to be so alive! So natural, so beautiful and so incomparable all through the years afterwards. What we see on the mountain today are not the originals. The originals are now displayed in the Acropolis museum. Also one on those was transported by Lord Irwin to the British museum. These marble maidens were created in 415 BC. Can we believe the dates? Yes, they are so ancient and yet so modern! The mountain part is planted by Olive trees and Greece is a country of vast Olive tree cultivation and olive oil extraction. Olive oil export is a great Greek export industry.

Much has been written about the unique artistic aspects of the Parthenon’s columns and the foundations. Convex and concave carving is said to make the Parthenon structure very unique in the history of art. Readers can read so many detailed writings and they must at least once in their lifetime to fulfill their own quest for knowledge and wisdom! Also, the names of the sculptors who carved these columns and the pediments, most of which have been now removed and displayed in a latest Acropolis Museum. This museum is worth roaming about and once you come out you are a different sort of a refined person, indeed!

There are modern cafeterias and also places to sit and look around the Acropolis hill and the walls that surround the old hill. It was a great day for us to have spent such a long and learning experience, a full day is worth spending in such surroundings.

By-election setbacks, allies rebellion and the banking and other scandals!

Yogi Adithyanath

Yogi Adithyanath

Indian politics is maturing. After a long time we saw the 2014 elections set a new evolution path. Once, the only party, the Congress-led government was the one and only way of political life. Yes, the regional parties like the Dravidian and other parties came along. But at the Centre the Congress seemed unshakable.

This trend was broken by the dare-devil like operation by the BJP; a new revamped BJP did wonders at the polls. We saw an absolute majority for the BJP and a humiliating defeat for the Congress.

Now, it is nearly four years of the present government is left and the last year seems to have become a bit shaky for the otherwise well-placed ruling regime.

The by-election setbacks inks a reminder that in a popular and large and diverse democracy like India, the first big one in history, the Indian people, with all their backwardness, have learnt and also taught some lessons for rulers.
Nothing in excess, said the Greek wise sage.

So too we in India seems to be following the hollowed wisdom.  The BJP in its unstoppable strategy or sheer bragging has carried things too far. The UP CM, Yogi Adithyanath carried his saffron agenda to ridiculous limits. The largest number of communal violence, data shows, is in the UP.

Will the statistics tell lies? No!

So, the UP CM had to pay a heavy price for his credibility.
At least from onwards other hotheads in the party and outside should take a leaf out of this humiliation when the PM seems to be also faced with newer uncertainties.

Also, the Opposition too has to learn some hard lessons. The Congress, the major historic party too seems can’t carry on in the old dynastic and family owned ways and manners.
The crowd surrounding Sonia around the AICC must give way to some real sense and sacrifice.

You can’t be a Congressman in Delhi all through your life and age. Some of the really doddering figures must retire to their home states.They must be available at the state level and do some public service.

See the case of one such leader, Veerappa Moily. He is caught with his own troubles, a seat for his son. So too many sons and daughters are knocking at the 10 Janpath doors!
Also, other oligarchs, high-earning lawyers and others, feudal lords or corporate names and others.

Please realise that a party like the Congress must be built on high principles, we must draw from the past heritage, a great deal of public spirit and commitment, selflessness, great democratic instinct must inform the Working Committee and  the AIVCC and also the most  condemnable blight, the Rajya Sabha nomination culture practiced by Sonia.

You can’t nominate every one! Please see you invite the really competent persons with a track record and award the Rajya Sabha nomination by invitation.

Also please retire on time!
How long one person or one family can own a political parties. May be small caste parties can do this. Not the All Indian Congress organisation.

There must be a well-defined political ideology. Every week, an evening debate or a lecture must be delivered by invited intellectuals or activists on ideological issues. Liberalisms or its variants, lessons from Europe and such issues must grip and inspire the workers.

As for Modi and his Hindutva, yes, we need debate. Opposition unit, the very present disarray would impose on the Opposition.
Finally, leadership. Leadership would shape up India.

Unless one is so incompetent, everyone can aspire. But only the best and the brightest can survive.

Politics is a serious businessman we say.

So, be optimists, countrymen! India will win the world! Win a place in the sun!

exam_inside_032918013131A new committee?

Waste, waste, sheer waste! Of time and money and energies and our own imagination!

Government sets up a committee to probe the leaks! Yes, this is done. It is in our view a big waste! Waste of precious time, energy and our own imagination!  The very structure of the highly centralized CBSE itself is the reason for this mistake. The only time we read about the HRD Minister and the School Secretary is only now after this leak has been blown up as if a big tragedy had hit the country. One of the most sober daily newspapers has reported the constitution of this committee as the front page Headlines news! A pity!

We have converted schools education into a highly priced commodity; the very commercialization process had reached unacceptable proportions. All the major daily newspaper now carries, almost routinely, full-page ads of the top tuition industry bodies. We restrain naming them for they are so harmful for the society to pronounce and repeat and recognize them.
In this mindless tuition industry, business has reached billion dollar valuations. This is not education, this is day time cheating, some of the best minds in education have become powerless. No one has enough courage to call this as a big cheat. This is not education; this is commerce of the worst kind, the debasement of the young minds.

The destruction of the teenage dreams and an idealism that must impart a new energy and a new sense of adventure, adventure of the young minds only can give a nation, the best that would transform our lives and inject the best of man’s history and human evolution. Now, to come to this very listless endeavour to reform our education, we suggest the following: Revamp our education system based on some historic basis.

What should constitute an ideal education? Idealism of the mind and its imaginative power. Take some of the great education systems. The Greek education, its public school system originates from Sparta and we generally associate such a system with Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s ‘The Ethics and Politics’. Of course Socrates’ questions as to what makes for good life are the starting point. So too the others, Plato and Aristotle. Then comes the Roman law and government and the idea of Republic and governance by Senate and Council, the other office bearers. The rule of the people, rule by consensus, the idea of democracy and rule of law are all the origins we inherit in our own modern times.

The British (public schools), French (lycee) and in a way, the German (gymnasium) school system has much to teach us.
Of course there were other streams. We have to have freedoms to experiment and introduce innovations. The many educators whose individual visions are all to be studied! In India, we inherited the British, Macaulay system blindly, even after the independence. It is time, we recognize the historical inheritance. Let there be the old system. But we can distinguish the best from the ordinary, from the classs (though we might deny theoretically) and the mass basis of education.

Now, there are so many new schools, highly expensive and also introducing new innovations. The Baccalaureate is now fancied much. May be, we can introduce languages, other than English too to lessen the vernacular, mother tongue-based education that is much talked about but quietly given a burial! We are a nation of hypocritical people, right?

The point is there must be much freedom in education choices. Let us revive and strengthen the Indian Public Schools Conference and also introduce new subjects like sports and arts in their curriculum. So that this stream is there and valued for producing a leadership style education. Let there be a separate stream of experimental schools, if there are demands. The CBSE must be broken up into, say, four regional autonomous boards; some competition is good in ensuring best practices in school management and curriculum development. Each zone must be managed by a board of governors nominated by the HRD ministry. These are some of our suggestions.

We have to search for historic sources

In India today, there is almost a mad rush to make money in education. Almost all the schools and colleges, lately, even the private universities are concentrating on big investments in this line.

While the quantitative expansion of education is welcome, considering the very backward nature of our education content at all levels, it is always good to find out some firm foundations of an education system based on sound ideas and history. We in India just imitate and carry out the long tradition of what the British Empire left behind in the name of education. It is, as I always say, is the Macaulay system of clerical education, learn English and become a pen-pusher. Indian in colour and white man in speaking and writing English!

Now, we have to see how the very same British model of education came about. It was in Britain when the British Empire was at its zenith, around the early twentieth century, there was a realization that Britain had come to acquire an empire almost on the lines of the Roman Empire.

On May 11, 1911, one Francis Haverfield (Camden Professor of Ancient history in the University of Oxford) delivered his inaugural address as President of the newly founded Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies. Those who know Oxford traditions know well that in Oxford there are many similar learned societies, in philosophy there is one Aristotelian Society, Mind Society and so too many other classical studies societies.

It all started from then on, an imaginary comparison of the British empire and the Indian empire! The British are very shrewd people and even today at Oxford they try to teach (or brainwash?) the Indian students who go there for research etc., that the British empire was good for the Indians even today!

That is why you can notice (I don’t know how many have noticed) that even the most learned and most accomplished Indian academics, from Prof.Amartya Sen to Dr.Manmohan Singh and others) that won’t say one adverse view of the British! Unlike the British themselves! For there is one monument on the river bank of the Thames in London, the statue in Bronze, a lady (Boudica) riding on the galloping horses symbolizing that it is the British resistance to the conquering Romans!

On December 22, 1901, Rabindranath Tagore established an experimental school at Santiniketan with five students (including his eldest son) and an equal number of teachers. He originally named it Brahmacharya Ashram, in the tradition of ancient forest hermitages called tapoban.

On December 22, 1901, Rabindranath Tagore established an experimental school at Santiniketan with five students (including his eldest son) and an equal number of teachers. He originally named it Brahmacharya Ashram, in the tradition of ancient forest hermitages called tapoban.

Readers must know that once England, not Scotland or Wales, was after all a province of a conquering power, namely, the Romans! In BC 42 Roman emperor, Claudius invaded Britain. Why, even later emperor, Hadrian invaded Britain again and built the currently standing, meandering long wall across England! Even otherwise Julius Caesar too conquered the Gaul, the part of Britain and France and Ireland too.

The point here is that even now the British scholars can’t but continue to compare and contrast with the two empires, Roman Empire and the British Empire in India. The 1857 Sepoy Revolt also rankles in their minds for it was the Revolt that almost succeeded in destroying the confidence of Britain about their mighty empire in India.

Now, coming to education, culture and modernity Indians have to realize, rather widely at all levels of society and classes that we can safeguard our freedoms only when we have a strong foundation, a belief system based on some strong historical and civilisational basis. One thing we have to recall is that our current education system is bogus, it stands on some surface imitation, get a degree, mostly worthless, no inherent learning input there and seeking jobs, here too often in some namely government jobs. And who are the employers?

Some illiterate, may be some MP or MLA with a bad past, the current statistics show that about 30 per cent of our legislators have a criminal background. Most of our policy makers and policy implementers are again zero characters!

In short, we need a strong foundation in classical studies, Greek and Latin studies, some classical texts, say Cicero or Plato or Aristotle. Then, we have to have an ordered society, law and order-based society, good governance, democratic ethics, democratic spirit must imbue our public life and culture and social behavior. We have to remove fear and subservience from the Indian character. A sense of genuine freedom and a sense of independence of spirit must pervade our education campuses.  A modern, Westernised spirit of liberalism, we have to practice.

One positive outcome could be, let us at least desire, the sort of a class system of education. Now, we have the rigid Indian social hierarchy. In its place we have to evolve a new cultivated genuine aristocratic civil society. A refined culture would prevail in our society only when we abolish the current social evils and the widespread corruption at all levels. See our rulers are themselves compromising, truth is at a severe discount and media is also vulnerable, judiciary at a distance from the people. The suffering of the common man is a visible sign.

After all what is education? It is a citizen-centric confidence in truth and ethics, right? This would come only when we have a sound study of history and the modern times. After all, why we revere Greek and Roman civilizations? They emphasized truth, rule of behavior, rule of law and Constitution and Republican values etc. How far our own Constitution is serving our citizens? How far the Constitutional governance ensures and protects the citizens’ freedoms and their rights?

The time has come to teach the social sciences and humanities from newer perspectives.

The modern world, the new globalization and the new sense of right and wrong, the functioning of many institutions, the various Commissions, from Human Rights Commission to the Right to Education and Information, why, even the Lok Pal and Lokayuktas are now becoming urgent issues of high priority.

A series of reforms from Election Commission to Parties Funding to tackling judicial delays, leaving the voiceless, the under trial prisoners languishing in jails for long are all citizen concerns. So, education must be at the hands of genuine minds and courageous spirits. Success, as they say, comes to those who dare and fight, it seldom comes to the timid and cowardly!

Or, who knows today’s villages better?

rural-india22It is our firm belief that only those who live in the villages or those who have links with the rural India as landowners, traditional owners of agricultural lands, are those with much stake and can speak for the villagers’ points of view.

Unfortunately the Indian media industry, both the print and the new style TV news channels like to print or present the rural India still in standard old-fashioned ways.

Villagers  are still, after 70 years of Independence  and also a great deal of economic development where you see almost every village has changed, why transformed  into sort of well-connected roads and telecommunications, the Internet and the mobile phones have really put even the illiterate people in the know of things.

In states like Tamil Nadu, to cite one example, rural roads are such an advanced development while in the nearby AP, in the border district of Chittoor which was once the constituency of Chandrababu Naidu where once we missed one rural route and the struggle and the fear we went through till we reached the Bangalore highway, it was a nightmare. The AP rural roads is a hell even now. This is one instance again.

The point is that rural India is still neglected in the over-all development perspective of the governments.

Also, for the rural distress we have to add the related political culture, the parties, more so the regional parties have added the multiple issues of widespread corruption, poor media reporting, the corruption-ridden administration means the many government services are not reaching the people, pensions are not paid and the 100-days work schemes don’t pay the wages and so on.

Again, taking TN as a state for reference, the TN state was once well-administered but not anymore.

The two regional parties, DMK and now the AIADMK have played extreme populist policies that   there is a breakdown of the state machinery. The police is at the beck and call of the local village party functionary and the rural issues, a combination of social, caste and other issues, too many to describe here, have led to, as we have seen right now in the state a series of suicides by the very poor people who have been caught in the web of usury.

Just as we write a series of suicides, from the Southern state to the capital where people have borrowed at very high rates of interests.
So the spread of usury means what?

It means that banks are not lending money to the very many segments.
So, what reforms needed?

A whole range of administrative reforms!

How to ensure the future of the villages would be set on some rational grounds?

We need to recognise the rural realities as they are emerging.We need to recognise, we say, by recognising the existing traditional social and economic hierarchies, right.

There will be social and economic inequalities, right?
Inequities right?
How to deal with inequities right?

As of now there is no such rational approach. The current chaotic political culture is one party when captures power dominates the entire society. From universities to the village panchayat, the local party functionaries dictate terms to even the Vice-Chancellor!

The District Collect, Superintendent of Police and even others, we restrain ourselves from mentioning the other branches of the government, these government agencies instead of operating in some independence depends upon the almost whimsical powers exercised by the incumbent Chief Ministers.

So, we are now living in a democracy which is becoming more and more authoritarian. So, the time has come to study the rural issues in some new objective manner.

So, please appoint a high-power commission to suggest the new rural institutions and thereby giving some new freedoms to citizens to become farmers, to buy lands and rent lands and cultivate crops and invest in rural professions and services.

We have to generate employment. One sure way of generating employment is to give freedoms to people, farmers to invest funds in farming.
Today, we have to resort to much illegal means to get things done in the rural areas.

We know much of the same corruption on a larger scale is indulged by the persons in cities.

Corporate corruption we all know. Some of the more powerful politicians have been punished and some are inside jail. Still many are outside the jails and are awaiting sentencing!

All this is now reported in the media for fear of the authorities only.
So, what to be done?

We have to debate. Teach rural sociology in all colleges in the first degrees like B.A. Teach rural sociology and conduct department-led research in all universities.

Let the Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers talk on the great rural issues of the day.