Explore this blog by clicking on the labels listed along the right-hand sidebar. There are lots of interesting stuff which you won't find on the home page
Seriously curious about me? Click on ' What sort of person am I?'

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

National treasures?

This editorial in today’s edition of The Telegraph gladdened my heart as few things do these days. I have immediately shot off the following congratulatory email to them:


I have been reading The Telegraph since the day it was born, and no editorial ever made me so happy as today's first - Icon Fever (TT, Wednesday, March 31). It so happens that I have been harping on the selfsame theme for more than a quarter century in my humble capacity as a teacher, to no avail. Judging by their icons, Indians have grown immensely smaller indeed. They don't seem to be even aware of it, leave alone feel ashamed, more's the pity. And it all stems not only from a total confusion between ideas of greatness, excellence and mere popularity, as you quite rightly say, but the fact that we can no longer imagine that without material success of a large sort, anybody can deserve respect or emulation. The lot of the Satyen Bose, Ramkinkar Baij and Bibhuti Banerjee types was bad enough in their own time, but it would have been far worse today, because to the hardship of penury would have been added the humiliation of near-universal contempt and ridicule. And that speaks volumes about how much this country has 'progressed' in the last half century, culturally and morally speaking. Good to see that your editorial writer takes the role of conscience keeper seriously sometimes. More power to your elbow.

Yours truly,

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A book worth reading (I think)

Pawan Varma, IFS, a most erudite man and a felicitous writer, has become one of my favourite commentators on the way the Indian cultural scenario has been evolving. I thoroughly enjoyed his sympathetic yet scathing analysis of the ways and mores of The Great Indian Middle Class, and his second book, Being Indian (published in 2004) was just as interesting to read, and thought-provoking. So much so that these days, when anybody wants to discuss matters cultural in the Indian context, I ask her whether she has read Nirad Chaudhuri, Khushwant Singh, V. S. Naipaul, Mark Tully and Varma, at least; otherwise it's likely to be an idle and pointless conversation.

Varma has now authored yet another book, Becoming Indian: the unfinished revolution of culture and identity. I have just read Kanchan Gupta’s interview with Varma about this book, and I am looking forward to reading it myself.

To my mind, Pawan Varma belongs to that old tradition which has been coming down from the likes of Rammohun Roy: close observers, vigorous thinkers, who want India to become a truly great country, who can see her great potential, who are also aware that a lot of cultural baggage is holding her back, and who can criticize all our faults (not even sparing icons like Rammohun himself!) unsparingly though not cruelly, and always with constructive ends in view. In short, a man after my own heart. Do read his books, all, and get back to me about them. I like to think that I too am an argumentative Indian in the sense conveyed by Amartya Sen, and that there are still some such people around…

Sunday, March 21, 2010

'Very serious' issues

A young man was chatting with me and mentioned how terrorism, he thinks, is a 'very serious' problem facing India. I fell a-musing about this... how the mass media decide which issues will be uppermost on people's minds, and which will permanently stay in obscurity. A few hundred people killed yearly by terrorists is a 'very serious' issue; several hundred thousand killed or crippled by reckless or drunk drivers is not! IPL cheerleaders are an item, good teachers and doctors who work quietly, day and night, for the common good are not. A new BMW model introduced in the country is hot news, millions permanently malnourished is not. More shopping malls is development, more people who can spell correctly (with or without college degrees) is not. Millionaire footballers are heroes, highly-decorated soldiers are not (be honest - how many Param Veer Chakra winners can you name?)

Funny country, India.

Or is it like that with all humankind, more or less?

Monday, March 15, 2010

A good campaign

"Earth Hour is a WWF initiative which sends across an inspiring message of hope and action for Climate Change. At 8.30pm on 27th March 2010, cities, towns and municipalities across the world will turn off their lights for one hour – Earth Hour – sending a powerful global message that it’s possible to take action on global warming. "

So started the email from campaigner Poulomi, urging me to talk about the coming event (which they want to make the largest mass-participation event in history) on my blog.

What they are essentially doing is to create mass awareness about the need to be less wasteful in our use of energy – and thereby cause less pollution. An initiative like this deserves everyone’s support, I think. It doesn’t cost anybody much to switch off all gadgets for just an hour on just one particular day. While the energy-saving from that might be minuscule compared to the amount we consume annually planet-wide, I believe that a) every little bit counts, and b) the real benefits will start pouring in when people in the hundreds of millions (including people like teachers, judges, journalists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and all our educated youth) start thinking seriously about not only energy conservation but also taking really serious steps towards harnessing alternative, less-polluting, renewable sources of energy on a scale large enough to say goodbye to coal and oil within a few decades…

Go ahead and do your mite: not just by switching off the lights at your own house on March 27 at the scheduled hour, but persuading at least five other people to do the same.

And I hope they will do likewise in Las Vegas!

You can find more details about this effort on the official Earth Hour website. Also look up their campaign on Facebook, or even follow them on twitter here.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Join this debate!

My readers are the young educated elite of India, largely in the age group of 15 to 40. I am sure they have a lot of complaints as well as aspirations about their country. I would like many of them to write in on the theme of Emerging India: failures, problems and hopes’.
Which way do you see this country going? What are the good signs, and which signs bode ill? Restrict your comments to 500 words, and avoid putting all the blame on the usual whipping boys, such as corrupt politicians. Try to be as personal and specific as possible about what ‘development’ or ‘progress’ means to you. Compare with other countries/cultures you have seen.
And in this connection, take a look at this article and this one to give you some ideas…
P.S., March 11: Must admit to a feeling of disappointment. Here I had offered a chance to my readers to vent their opinions, without me imposing anything on them, and it's such a perennially interesting issue too, so naturally I had expected a deluge of comments to pour in. You visitors are really funny...
P.P.S., March 22: Good to see that more responses have been coming in since that last prodding. But I want many more, knowing that so many other people are reading without commenting. Indeed, I think that this mental lethargy (or simply not having anything worthwhile to say on any serious issue) among our so-called educated young is one of the worst things about contemporary India...