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Monday, January 31, 2011

Liberated women?

One of my older ex-students was telling me, with shock and disgust in her voice, that she had encountered a married woman of 22 who died in a government hospital in Kolkata recently. She had been burnt alive by her husband and mother-in-law, and lived only long enough to accuse them of murder. I hope the law will exercise its full majesty and wrath in punishing the criminals in this instance, but that is not what I wanted to say here.

We know that the law now tilts heavily in favour of the wife and her folks when it comes to cases like this; in fact, it is no joke that a lot of in-laws actually live in terror of their sons’ wives, and we even hear now and then about women who are taking unfair advantage of the law to lord it over their husbands and in-laws in a way that even other women find objectionable.

How then, in the same social landscape, do atrocities against married women still occur with such disturbing frequency? We can’t even blame illiteracy and poverty here, because such things keep happening to urban, educated women with well-off parents, too, and, though it takes some believing, even to women who earn their own (and quite adequate-) incomes! Doesn’t it all boil down, however politically incorrect it sounds, to the fact that even in supposedly enlightened families, most parents of daughters are still not only desperate to get their daughters married off to ‘suitable’ grooms (and suitable always refers to age, caste, looks and pay, never character), but equally desperate to keep those marriages from failing in the eyes of society – no matter how horrid the in-laws make life for the girl at home? And isn’t it true that most girls are so brainwashed and terrorized that they keep trying to ‘adjust’, and thus encourage growing atrocities – it being one of the most rigorous laws of human nature that the docile are always abused by the powerful – until it sometimes ends up in murder?

Let’s face it; murder outright shocks enough sensibilities to have become newsworthy, and to draw the might of the law upon the perpetrators, but don’t many women who have not been and are not likely to be killed by their in-laws/husbands actually live lives so miserable that death would be a welcome release (tragically, even women who married for love, pretty often, as I happen to know)? Isn’t it a fact that a ‘moderate’ amount of wife-beating is, if not openly condoned, at least winked at and ignored by ‘society’ which prides itself on an enlightened Constitution that guarantees basic human rights for all? Isn’t demanding dowry just short of universal (I have actually heard a girl student saying her father would get back twice what he would give for her when he married off her two elder brothers)? Isn’t it a fact that a lot of women are taught to be happy if only their husbands don’t beat them, and give them money for shopping now and then, and restrict them to obsessing over their looks and kitty parties and children’s examination scores – no greater independence is either sought or granted (my wife has been told by jealous friends that they cannot dream of their husbands allowing them control over money, so that they pick their husbands’ pockets routinely and without shame)? Two decades after Paroma  and eight decades after Tagore’s most ‘daring’ works, don’t the vast majority of our educated males and females alike accept it that married men flirting or even having an affair now and then can be tolerated with a bit of regretful clucking, but for ‘good’ women it must be an absolute no-no? Except when they are dolling up for parties and feasts, aren’t most married women simply living lives of unpaid sex-slaves-cum-domestic helps: and not only okay with it, but insisting that their daughters become exactly like them, so as to uphold ‘family honour’ and ‘respectability’?

For whom did women’s liberation occur in this country, and how far has it really gone? Leave alone men (most of whom are understandably scared witless by the prospect), how many of our ‘cultured’ women can think of liberation in all its dimensions without a shudder?

And if they cannot, what is wrong with things as they are – just so long as husbands don’t actually kill their wives?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Odd jobs...

I have been trying to remember some of the very many things I have done ever since I started, in a very small way, to fend for myself in mid-teenage. It’s because I worry these days that I might be beginning to forget, so it would be a good idea to write them down, if only for the sake of my grandchildren.

I have been tutoring school- and college kids all through,
I helped a teacher of mine to prepare her notes for a B.Ed. degree when I was myself in high school,
In college, I once helped a judge to pass his Master of Law examination (which he had been failing repeatedly and so couldn’t get promoted to first-class magistrate) by summarizing an entire thousand-page book on jurisprudence into one sheaf of foolscap handwritten paper in simple Bengali,
I wrote articles, reviews, news and stories for numerous magazines in both English and Bengali, and a few daily papers,
I designed a greeting card for a major public sector firm once, and a publicity brochure for a diamond merchant,
I translated a famous author’s novel from Bengali to English at very short notice so that he could read it out before a panel of fellow authors at the American Center in Calcutta,
I have edited, at various levels of detail, many people’s PhD theses on very diverse topics,
I have traded in encyclopedias on commission,
I have been paid by hundreds of people for counselling them and/or their children,
I have ghost-written speeches for a lot of bigshots,
I have hosted quiz contests,
I have conducted ‘grooming’ classes for college graduates about to appear for job interviews,
I have contributed ‘lessons’ to textbooks,

Some of that work has gone unpaid, or paid what I would call beggarly rates now. And despite making money in so many different ways, I have still jealousy guarded some time and leisure for fun, as well as for work of a purely charitable nature.

Now, if I am growing lazy and unwilling to work unless I am paid the kind of money that I want, I wouldn’t like people to hold that against me.

I wrote this just as an explanation for why I seem to be so unhelpful these days to a lot of people who come to ask me to do them all kinds of favours and go away disappointed (only last week I shooed away two profs from a local engineering college who had come to importune me to host a quiz show for them. As always, the only thing they refused to mention was payment). I think I have earned the right to have grown allergic to work that brings me neither love nor money! Salaried people will never understand the sentiment, whereas I trust that any businessman or self-employed person would go to the other extreme and call me a fool for having allowed myself to be exploited for so long. When I think of the countless ingrates for whom I did work for which I could have charged hefty sums but didn’t and who have long forgotten me, I keep telling myself I shall never let my daughter be suckered like that if I can help it.

If you are reading this, Tanmoy, that might be one way in which I have changed over the years...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pages from a travel diary

[The following is a twenty-year old excerpt from my diary. Some of you might reflect that you were in my class then, and some that this happened before you were born. By the way, I was a poor man then, and it happened before the era of the internet and cellphones, if you can believe there was ever such a time…]

Friday night: The last month passed in the twinkling of an eye marking school examination papers. In the midst of it I did something upon a whim, in consequence of which I have suddenly leaped to one corner of this vast country immediately upon the end of that ordeal. After school yesterday I caught the evening train to Calcutta, snatched a few hours of sleep, then took the early morning flight to Jorhat, Assam. After checking into this hotel, a bath and a quick lunch, I loitered about aimlessly in the streets through the afternoon, taking care of a few chores, then, once dusk fell, I crawled wearily back to my room, locked the door, shoved my legs deep into the thick blanket, leaned back on a pile of pillows and settled down to savour as deeply as I could this delicious little bit of unexpected leisure after a long time.
            You really can make things happen very fast in this scientific age when you have a mind to, fast enough for any ease-loving, contemplative person to lose his breath, so that one marvels at one’s own antics. I can hardly believe I have so abruptly moved so far away from my usual routine and usual haunts, and that too, to such a very unlikely place. Let me try calmly to arrange the pictures and look them over. Mental pictures are quite like pictures on paper – a single browse gives you neither full understanding nor satisfaction.
            A senior friend in Durgapur had asked me conversationally one day about a month ago whether I might be interested in Rotary Club’s Group Study Exchange program. Some ‘smart’ people of my age would be taken to the USA for six weeks or so as ‘cultural ambassadors’ for our country. Well, it sounded like fun – I hadn’t thought of such things for ages; rather, only last year I had gone to a great deal of trouble to send a young pupil of mine to an International Children’s Conference, and now this invitation all of a sudden for me! I felt a sudden urge; yet such was the pressure of work that I had little time to spare for it, so I filled in and sent off an application form in an absent-minded hurry. Then in good time the local club filed nomination papers for me – after which the next thing I heard was that I was to appear for final selections in Jorhat, of all places. It is so located that it could take ages to reach by road or rail, and those who should know warned that the journey would be gruelling, so there was no choice but to take a flight. Hence a luxurious and expensive self-indulgence, almost twenty years since I last flew.
            Flying is a rich man’s sport, so everything has to be done in style. There were umpteen extravagant expenses ever since I took a cab at daybreak. If only there were some compensations… but alas, the airport at Dumdum was hot and crowded, and the flight was delayed by a whole hour – think of how cheaply thousands of commoners enjoy such pleasures at Howrah or Sealdah railway station daily! Since I hadn’t lost all the anticipatory exuberance of childhood, the flight itself was not bad, despite the lack of leg room, cramped seats and incessant noise of the engines. And I could have done without the excitement at the time of takeoff and landing; not a massage for the heart or nerves. At Tezpur I had sent a message to an air force officer friend stationed there to come and see me inside the airport, at which the captain laughingly assumed I was after cheap liquor, while the mustachioed security man patted me all over, and apparently disappointed at not having been able to discover something seriously incriminating, contented himself with confiscating a box of matches – luckily there were only two matches left in it. The other, full box came back safely with me: a government functionary is too lazy to  pat all one’s pockets conscientiously. God works everything for the best. The trip would have been a complete write-off but for a very sweet stewardess who charmed me with a winning smile: not the kind of dry, mechanical, official smile that they normally greet you with, but the real thing. I must have earned it by thanking her very earnestly for a small favour, because she looked pleasantly embarrassed. Later, when I was watching the clouds from my window, she called me again and again when she came round to serve breakfast, but I couldn’t hear her. When she finally tapped me on the shoulder I pulled out the cotton wool earplugs and grinned broadly, at which she too couldn’t help smiling back in a most unofficial way. Nothing more happened, but I did get one last dazzling smile while getting off which made my day.
            This town is nothing to write home about – there are thousands of identical towns all over India, the same drab, dusty dinginess, the same mindless immemorial workaday routine. Most of the better hotels have been commandeered by government officials on one pretext or another. I found this one almost at the end of a seedy by-lane. There are three hotels in a row, mine being the newest – one wing is still under construction, in fact, which is why I got a decent room on the cheap, considering all the dust and noise around. There’s a huge pond clogged with green algae just outside my window and a slum beyond it, and a few scattered shanty shops; it gets very quiet after seven in the evening, barring the music from a transistor radio blaring somewhere. The power goes off every now and then, and the mosquitoes are terrific. The food is just about okay, and cheap if you stick to a vegetarian menu.
            You step out of the lane and there’s the main bus terminus. The bazaar stretches for a mile or so along the main road, pouring into side streets wherever it can. A special kind of relaxation is possible when you have ample time on your hands, so I sat on a bench in a roadside cobbler’s shop on the pretext of getting my shoes shined and whiled away half an hour in the afternoon, chatting with him and other customers and watching passers-by. Then I ferreted out the local Rotary Club district governor’s house and presented myself: here I am, so is the interview going to be held on schedule? He is an amiable wealthy elderly Marwari who has built a very nice, sprawling garden villa for himself; I made friends with both him and his son quickly. The son is about my age, and has his own business in Jaipur; he has a pretty wife and an equally pretty sister.
            I am well set-up for the night now. It’s been a long day. Getting very sleepy, too: had better stop scribbling for now.

Saturday: If there’s nothing else to be said for working hard over long stretches, one must admit that it makes the occasional idling truly a treat to cherish. This is the profound truth I have been happily reflecting upon the whole day today. I do hope there won’t be a price to pay later on! I lazed in bed till eight in the morning, got up for two leisurely cups of tea, paced about in the sun on the roof for a while, then shaved, exercised, ploughed through a hearty breakfast, bathed and went out for another stroll. The walk put a keen edge to my hunger again soon enough, and I satisfied it like a good boy, put some sounff in my mouth, came back to my room and got into bed – next time I looked at my watch it was four in the afternoon. I went out for yet another walk around, what else? – exploring the town until the sun set. Schools, hostels and government offices are a dime a dozen here. I took a good look at everything from the deputy commissioner’s bungalow to the workplaces of the census taker and the ‘malaria officer’ – heaven knows what the last mentioned functionary does! I watched with the delightful ease of someone who doesn’t have anything to do a snub-nosed traffic policeman busily earning his daily bread. I read signboards for a long time until it became clear to me what they meant, because the Assamese use the Bengali script with innovative touches of their own. As dusk began to settle I timidly crawled back to the hotel, since the streets are rather dark, everyone is a stranger, terrorists often go on the rampage without warning, and the truckloads of soldiers swarming all over the place are on a hair-trigger alert, with a tendency, apparently, to look askance at bearded youths like me: why ask for trouble? I sat doing nothing by candle light in my room for an hour, there being a power cut again, then wrote a little, and listened to some music. Wrapped heavily in blankets, I reflected on this chance to enjoy an extended winter: back at home, seven long months of blazing summer were waiting for me. The interview is due tomorrow, the thing that I have come all this way for; I wonder what fate has in store. I put on the blazer and knotted my tie before the mirror and took a good look at myself. It’s been ages, so I have gotten out of practice, but I don’t look too bad, really.
            It’s eleven in the night now. I had better pull down the mosquito net and call it a day.

Monday evening: This is the way things go: easeful idling doesn’t last long! The laziness of the first two days has been more than compensated over the next two. Ever since I walked out of the hotel in the morning yesterday, nattily attired for the interview, it’s been one hectic roller-coaster ride, until now, past eight in the evening today.
            The ‘Garh-Ali’ neighbourhood is the Chowringhee of Jorhat; the venue of the interview was the upmarket Eastern Hotel there. It being a Sunday, and having arrived early, I found most shops still closed, and had some difficulty finding a packet of cigarettes. Diverse kinds of candidates had appeared for the interview – from a humble government engineer to a noisily garrulous journalist from Manipur with an uncanny resemblance to Ho Chi Minh. Sitting around for four hours, we were virtually forced to make each others’ acquaintances to while away the time, so we were all pretty much relaxed and the conversation was flowing freely when I was called up at last. The bar had been modestly re-decorated for the day to serve as the interview room. A panel of five gently smiling middle-aged gentlemen asked all kinds of non-too-serious questions for a space about fifteen minutes, to which I gave prompt and rather bland replies. They seemed in a bigger hurry to get through it than I was, which was most convenient for me. When the question of my knowing French arose, someone mumbled ‘Comment allez vous?’ apropos of nothing – probably the only bit of French he knew, poor chap – and I shot back ‘On va bien, merci’ in the best Parisian style out of pure reflex, which seemed to satisfy their curiosity entirely. After two or three more questions they sent me away saying ‘You have to wait some more, please don’t mind’. Two more candidates were checked out, after which they conferred among themselves for an hour before reading out the list of selected candidates – and lo! yours truly had found a place in it, as had Laba from Manipur, Goutam who runs a toy shop in Guwahati, Langba who heads a watchmaking factory in Shillong, computer scientist Ojha from Vishwa Bharati and civil engineer Mukul from IISCO, Burnpur. By the time we parted company after heartily patting one another on the back, it was past three. I didn’t like the prospect of spending yet another fruitless day in Jorhat. Mukul and his wife had put up in the hotel adjacent to mine: after a very hurried lunch there we piled into a minibus upon a sudden decision to visit the Kaziranga wildlife sanctuary. The road was good; the trip took us a mere two hours.
            A straight tree-lined path off the main road leads to the neat tourist lodge with several wings, spread over a huge campus. The place is lush and very tranquil, and we took up rooms for the night. My friend’s wife Usha had evidently fallen in love at first sight with the place – I heard her saying at least five times within an hour of arrival that she would have loved to spend a few days here if our flight tickets had not been booked in advance. After dark, the starlit sky seen from the verdant garden was a treat for the senses. I have a snug little room to myself in the outer wing; after a heavy dinner I soon fell fast asleep.

Tuesday: I was afraid that the siren nearby would scream us all into sudden terrified wakefulness at an ungodly hour – but nothing so unpleasant happened; I woke up very normally at around six. We took a jeep into the jungle on the other side of the main road, then wandered about the baada (tall grass on soft ground) on elephant back for about an hour, feasting our eyes on one-horned rhino, wild buffalo, wild boar, lots of deer and antelope, baby elephants frolicking around their mothers, pelicans and mist-shrouded, heavily wooded hills in the far distance. Of course the men who had hired out the elephant fleeced us well and proper, but it couldn’t be helped. We strolled on and off-campus till lunchtime, saw tea and coffee plantations side by side, lugged our luggage down to the bus stop, had a hearty lunch, got scared by the rumour that traffic on the highway had been held up by a murder somewhere nearby, then somehow got back to Jorhat well in time. On the way a young lady virtually sat on my lap in the overcrowded bus, and an old gentleman complained that the music system had been turned off: ‘Aren’t we paying full fares or what, son?’
            I have had dinner a while ago. It was cloudy all day, and there was a gentle shower in the evening. Now I am sitting back to reflect wonderingly upon everything that has happened over these last five days. At the age of twenty seven, an opportunity like this has fallen into my lap out of the blue in the course of a little adventure. Whether I want to go, whether I can get leave, whether I will have time to make all preparations, I don’t know – but this much is certain, I can set off on a trip halfway across the world in April if I like, almost everything paid for. Imagine! – I am feeling both restless and very apprehensive. Anyway, I had better stop brooding for the present; let me get back to familiar surroundings and then I can take up the threads again. Meanwhile I hope I can get back safely and without hassles. Will the same stewardess accompany me on the flight back?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Oh, India!

As this editorial in The Telegraph takes note, the National Advisory Council headed by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi has pointed out with concern that the proposed new law against sexual harassment of women in the workplace has left out of its purview a very large number of girls and women workers, indeed the worst paid, most abused (not just sexually) and most insecure among women workers – to wit, the several tens of millions who work as domestic helps for all of us, middle and upper class India (which has been ‘shining’ for some time now). In this context, the paper sarcastically observes that ‘any sign that this country is actually growing civilized must be celebrated’ – a vindication, if I may so claim, of something I have been insisting upon for a very long time, namely that far more than seven star hotels and fancy cars and IT jobs and number of 3G mobiles and ‘successful’ NRIs, it is how we behave with the least privileged among us that is a true sign of civilization, and by this index, as by many others, India is still far short of the mark.
            Indeed, the editorial goes on to remark upon ‘the fathomless hypocrisy of middle class India’, which allows us to feel no shame about pretending that this entire class does not exist except to supply us with drudges – they are not to be counted among the human beings for whom all the glorious rights are guraranteed in our Constitution, so what does their happiness and dignity and freedom and standard of living matter? Their condition has nothing to do with all our ideas about progress! The editorial writer also expresses doubt about how soon such protective legislation is likely to be passed (and even more to the point, implemented), because, it wisely observes, the officials involved are hardly likely to be very interested, since ‘officials… employ domestic workers too’, and they are very likely to obstruct, or drag their feet over, any measure designed to make it harder for them to live easy-going lives on the cheap (two thousand for the part-time bai every month, and PF contributions, and medical insurance and one paid holiday every week? Can there be a more terrible vision of hell?). How true. Only, I should like to spread the net wider. Don’t our netas employ domestic workers, and won’t they (or their wives) have strong objections too? Indeed, doesn’t this apply to our whole burgeoning middle class, comprising doctors, engineers, teachers, and journalists? To the best of my knowledge, few of their counterparts in the really ‘advanced’ countries can afford the luxury of domestic help on a daily basis – simply because those countries, though they too are democratic and not all of them style themselves socialist, have actually managed to give the poorest of workers the kind of dignity and wages and security that our miserables can only dream of… and that, rather than the number of IT-workers and Facebook users and millionaires, is what justifies their claim to be advanced!
            Coincidentally or otherwise, in the op-ed article titled Dangerous Mission on the same page, the noted economist Prabhat Patnaik has mused on the very disturbing mindset currently in vogue among our ruling classes, as recently voiced by none less than the prime minister himself, to the effect that a high growth rate of gross national income should be the paramount – if not the only – national goal for any decent and sensible Indian: indeed, anyone who thinks otherwise may soon find himself socially outcast, if not liable to be thrown in jail! As any economist of a far lesser stature than Dr. Manmohan Singh should know, the mere crude growth rate indicates very little about what is happening to the country, in terms of real progress, as measured by improvements in the overall standard of living as well as the safety, security, longevity, health, education and happiness of the total population. More drugs, more lethal weapons, more lunatic asylums, more fancy junk food outlets, more fairness creams, more movies of the trashiest kind – the increase of the output of just about anything figures as growth in the national accounts (and I am reminded of the joke that if a man marries his cook the national income goes down, since he is no longer paying her for her services). Besides, the growth figure by itself says nothing at all about who gets what, and how much: which is the question of overwhelming importance to all but the richest (and/or most ignorant - there is a surprising degree of overlap!) five per cent of the population.
Indeed, it is an oft-repeated and very thoroughly documented fact of economic history that unless wisely controlled and guided (by society as a whole and most directly by government working in the larger interest), a high overall growth rate, while ensuring the flooding of urban areas with luxury goods and a few thousand suddenly-very-rich customers for those goods (most of them quite unnecessary for a good life, like Louis Vuitton bags, and often very harmful to the environment and a drag upon natural resources, like golf courses and SUVs), either does little to ameliorate the lot of the really poor and most needy (in whose name all 'development' projects are still justified!), or even actually worsens it. And indeed, though the jury is still out, there are already enough hard data from many impeccable sources (as Patnaik has pointed out here, and has elsewhere been variously done by stalwarts like P. Sainath and Amartya Sen) to indicate that not only have things not improved for a very large number of Indians after two decades of near-dazzling economic growth (India still has the largest number of absolute poor in the world, defined as those who survive on less than US $1 a day, and greater incidence of poverty than even sub-Saharan Africa!) but that things have actually grown worse for many of them (our per capita foodgrain consumption, which rose from less than 150 kg per year at the time of independence to nearly 180 kg in the late 1980s, fell again to around 156 kg in 2008, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN – and this in a country where obesity among the idle rich has already acquired clinically menacing proportions; so if the latter are eating like pigs, what are the very poor eating at all – given that the cheapest rice is going at Rs. 17-20 a kilo, onions at Rs. 60-70, the cheapest unbranded cooking oil Rs 60-plus, sugar Rs. 35 and lentils Rs. 80-100?).
 Dr. Patnaik quotes not only his personal god, Karl Marx, but also that greatest of the 19th-century English liberals, John Stuart Mill, to argue that this is not a happy state of affairs; I have not only abetted him by referring to Sainath and Amartya Sen, but could go on to reel out the names of all the greatest and best human beings through history in support, from Buddha and Hazrat Muinuddin Chisti to Vivekananda and Tagore and Gandhi and Satyajit Ray… but what more could you expect in a country where the likes of the low-end-software peddler-cum-body shopper Nandan Nilekani now presume to show us visions of national greatness?  There is a saying in Bengali, haati ghora gyalo tol/ mosha bole koto jol (the mosquito scoffs at the depths in which elephants and horses have sunk). Even a great tycoon like JRD Tata had once said 'I'd not so much want India to become a superpower as a country where everyone was happy'! My hero John Kenneth Galbraith, lifelong professor of economics at Harvard, used to laugh that in the 1950s and 60s, the American obsession with a high growth rate was such as if they all expected to be asked by St. Peter at the gateway of heaven only how much they had contributed to that growth. Fifty years down the line, we have caught up (just as we are planning to send a man to the moon, too). Aren’t we progressing, doing everything stupid now, at last, that the Americans were doing half a century ago?

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Change resistant, am I?

Quite a few people have told me that they have been reading this blog all through last year. I should like them to let me know which posts they found most interesting/touching/informative or thought-provoking.

Some people are born conservative-minded, and most people grow more resistant to change as they grow old. Someone reminded me of this recently, probably hinting that I had better watch out if I didn’t want my public image to get cemented as a stick-in-the-mud, who hates all kinds of change and wants desperately to hang on to old-fashioned ways.

Well, indeed, I have never been excited by change for the sake of change (so I’ve always laughed at fashion trends, and I’d go on wearing the same old jacket as long as it doesn’t look shabby). I also ignore a lot of change around me as essentially trivial (as I have done with Facebook and twitter after giving them a year’s trial) no matter how big a noise they make, and I do believe that a lot of things about old-fashioned ways are worth conserving (like good manners and museums, and teachers taking pains to drill their pupils in math or grammar, and giving marriage a very long trial before breaking up…). But I think those who imagine me to be an inveterate change-resister simply don’t know me, and if I make out a very short list of changes that I wish to see in my lifetime, many of them, supposedly eager votaries of change, may quickly and quietly decide that they cannot stomach so much drastic change after all. So here’s a tentative wish-list at the start of a new year. I’d like to see

1.      that war is officially banned everywhere, and only the UN is allowed to keep a standing army;
2.      that in no country (especially where there are large numbers of poor people still) are multi-million dollar incomes allowed by law, nor giant inheritances;
3.      that no one, not even the most competent technician (by which I mean everyone from doctors, accountants, engineers and managers to plumbers and carpenters) is allowed to call himself educated unless duly authorized colleges certify that s/he has also had a thorough grounding in the humanities (which would include compulsory reading and assignments on a very considerable amount of literature in at least two languages);
4.      that in no society are parents any longer allowed to drill it into the minds of children that monogamous one-time marriage between two members of the opposite sexes is the only ‘nice and normal’ thing to go for once one grows up;
5.      that mandatory speed governors be installed on all motor vehicles which ply on municipal roads and busy highways;
6.      that worship of money (rather than achievement or accomplishment of any significant kind) would automatically brand every man and woman as uncivilized;
7.      that conversely, everyone who puts ideals like beauty and justice and freedom far above money and machines be automatically accorded the tag of civilized – as indeed every ‘great’ society from Periclean Athens to Gupta-era India to the Tang era in China to 18th century France has actually done;
8.      that the pursuit of science and art and teaching are again accorded the status they deserve, which is that they are the pursuits of the best of men for the highest social good, and not merely ways of making a living;
9.      that Singapore- and Switzerland-style laws against littering and noise and vandalism be enacted and enforced in every city in the world;
10.  that every able-bodied man and woman give mandatory national social service for at least two years of his or her life within the first thirty years (the kind of thing they do in Israel, and the kind of thing the NCC and NSS were started in India for).

… and that is only a small part of all the changes I should like to see. Now then, change, anybody?