Monday, July 29, 2013

Congress, Dirty Minds and Hangdogs

As the story goes, an anatomy professor once asked his class to ‘name the part of the human anatomy that can expand to eight times its normal size’. A student in the first row blushed and protested at such a question being asked in a mixed class. The professor reprimanded the student for not properly studying anatomy lessons. He added that the student not only had a dirty mind but was going to be terribly disappointed in life. He explained, ‘the part of the human anatomy that expands to eight times its normal size’ was not what the student assumed but the eye ball. A parenthetical note: whether this is a true or an apocryphal anecdote, there is no insensitivity about asking such questions in medical schools as students of both sexes should familiarize themselves with all parts of human anatomy.

The reason for recounting the medical school anecdote is to put the brouhaha over Narendra Modi’s remark about a puppy run over by a car in its proper context. Asked in an interview with Reuters, how he felt about the tragic loss of human lives in the Gujarat 2002 riots, he replied that ‘if a puppy were to come under the wheels of his car, even if someone else was driving it, he would be pained’. This innocuous remark sent our commentariat into delirium. They analysed each word, comma and pause. They analysed his tone, pitch and inflexion. They did not stop there. They began looking for hidden meanings and concealed metaphors.

It is quite common for literary commentators to look for hidden meanings in the works they are panning and not uncommon for them to read their own meanings into a given context. As an example take a look at Shakespeare’s works and their criticism. All his plays and all his sonnets might be accommodated in one shelf but the criticism of his works fills a whole library.

The army of Congress spokespersons and their fellow travellers in the media wanted to find out if the ‘P’ word was an indirect reference to the ‘M’ word. Like literary critics they would find out if it did. Like literary critics they would read it into it even if it didn’t. Congress selects its spokespersons based on their ability to turn on verbal diarrhoea at will. An important, common trait both the Congress spokespersons and their fellow travellers in the media share is a visceral hatred for Narendra Modi.

One of those Congress spokespersons who is given to letting his tongue loose to the extent of indecency in television debates, has a dubious history. His family came to India as refugees at the time of India’s partition. As he had high political connections this side of the border too, he was able to go to premium schools in India and college in England. While being there, he did something odd. In 1962 when India was forced into a war with China, he organized a fund-collection not for India but for funding the Chinese onslaught. In a saying it is called biting the hand that feeds; in plain English it is called treason. After returning to India he applied for the civil services examination. There is usually a police check for recruitment into such services. His conduct in England would have disqualified him in any other democratic country. In his favourite China it would have earned him death penalty. However his high political connections came to his rescue, again. He rose to the highest levels in the service and after retirement joined the Congress party. His lifelong loyalty to the dynasty (despite pretensions to being an intellectual) earned him many coveted positions. He used to write a column in a (now defunct) magazine edited at one time by a chaprasi of Nira Radia. A literary critic panning his work would have summed it up as graffiti written in elegant prose! Now he writes for another magazine in which he panned Narendra Modi’s puppy remark. True to his ‘graffiti reputation’, the piece was titled ‘Shame Shame Puppy Shame’. The group of four words (it is not even a phrase) is not to be found in any English dictionary. It is not even found in what is pejoratively referred to as Indian English. It is a school-boy taunt of the pre-English-medium-school days. See to what level the national political debate is lowered!

Here is a real English saying that sums up the attributes, which a human being wishes to be known for: ‘a good man, kind to animals and respected by all’. If one were to objectively analyse Modi’s answer, one would have understood that he tried to convey the anguish that a man feels when human lives are lost.

Modi tried to put the secularism – pseudo-secularism debate in its proper context. It was ignored. It is the character of a political ambience that calls a riot in which 32% of the lives lost were of Hindus (254 Hindus as against 790 Muslims), ‘a pogrom’ and ‘a genocide’; while willfully ignoring the reduction of 400,000 Hindu Kashmiri Pandits to the status of refugees in their own country. 

Modi’s development agenda was scoffed at. But they latched on to his assertion that there is no contradiction between Hinduism and nationalism. A few years ago, a secular icon, Omar Abdullah said virtually the same thing: ‘I am a Muslim and I am an Indian. There is no contradiction between the two.’ We are a strange nation in which the constitutional amendment that inserted the word secularism in the pre-amble can’t even be applied to Omar Abdullah’s state. Yet anything Omar Abdullah says is unreservedly believed. Every word Narendra Modi utters is dissected.

It is the India versus Bharat debate!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

An Agenda For Cleansing Our Political System

Here is an e-mail I have received from Mr. K. Gopal, a former colleague. (To be frank, he did not claim authorship. He has probably received it in what the mainstream media pejoratively likes to call a 'chain-mail'.) I have tweeted the points mentioned in it twice, the whole message in the Twitlonger format a few days ago and as individual tweets yesterday. Mr. Rajendra Shukla, a friend on Twitter, suggested that it is worth sharing with all. I am therefore reproducing it here with slight editing.

Winds of Change.... 

If you agree with this please pass it on. If you are RIGHT don't GIVE Up... 

Please share it with a minimum of twenty people among your contacts and in turn request each of them to do likewise.

In three days, most people in India will have this message. 

This is one idea that really should be passed on.


NO TENURE / NO PENSION Parliamentarians collect a salary while in office but should not receive any pay when they're out of office.

NO RETIREMENT PLAN Parliamentarians should purchase their own retirement plans, just as all Indians do.

NO RIGHT TO VOTE PAY RAISE Parliamentarians should no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Their pay should be linked to the CPI or 3%, whichever is lower.

NO SPECIAL HEALTHCARE Parliamentarians should lose their current health care system and participate in the same health care system as the Indian people.

NO LEGAL IMMUNITY Parliamentarians MUST also abide by all laws they impose on the Indian people.

ANNUL CONTRACTS All contracts with past and present Parliamentarians should be void effective 1/1/13. 

NO DYNASTIC / FAMILIAL SUCCESSION Total ban for five years of any family members of elected members of Parliament / Legislature becoming members of Parliament and state Legislature during and for 3 years after cessation of membership. Any violation will attract penalty of withdrawal of recognition of party / right to stand for election of the individuals!

The Indian people did not make this contract with them.  Parliamentarians made all these contracts for themselves. 

Serving in Parliament is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

If each person who receives this message contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will only take three days for most people in India to receive the message. Don't you think it's time?

If you agree with this, please pass it on.