Monday, August 18, 2008

Close to my heart - Madras

Read something which I've been feeling a lot.Felt couldn't put it better myself, so here it is,


"We don’t want any of those integrated townships. We don’t need no DLF. Nor a Mantri. Nor a Hiranandani. One thing that all these new age builders coming into the city has done is made this beautiful city of Madras completely unlivable. Land prices have shot up the roof. Rs. 4500 per sq. ft. in Siruseri. Rs. 10,000 per sq. ft in T Nagar. Come of it. This is Madras and the beauty of the city lied in its quaint colonies and the mada streets. Where are those now. Today when I drive past CIT colony in Mylapore it is difficult to see a single independent house. Only apartments. It is really sad. Look at SS Vasan’s House on Radhakrishnan Salai. It is a piece of disaster today. An ugly looking building which calls itself Acropolis. To people living in the city like me since birth we are quite happy to be wear the conservative hat. Of being a city with enduring values and new age thinking. Of being a city with a higher state of mind. I clearly see Madras going the Bangalore route and it is time to wake up."

I found it on Metblogs, a very interesting site.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

India After Gandhi - Axes Of Conflict

In his book, India After Gandhi , Ramachandra Guha broadly speaks about four axes of conflicts which are pre-eminent in India.
He further says,his book is nothing but "a story,above all, of social conflicts, of how these arise, how they are expressed, and how their resolution is sought." .

First up, there is the issue of caste - whom we fight,whom we fight against,whom we vote for and a whole array of other decisions are often taken based on caste in our society. Caste conflates into two Indian words: jati, the endogamous group one is born into, and varna, the place that group occupies in the system of social stratification mandated by Hindu scripture. There are four original varnas, with the former 'Untouchables' constituting the fifth and the lowest strata. Into these varnas fit the 3,000 and more jatis, each challenging those in the same region,that are ranked above it, and being in turn challenged by those below.

Second comes language. The Constitution of India recognizes twenty-two languages as 'official'. The most important of these is Hindi, which in one form or another is spoken by upwards of 400 million people.Naturally, national unity and linguistic diversity have not always been seen to be compatible. Indians speaking one tongue have often fought with Indians who speak another and the practice continues to exist.

Then there is religion. Though the vast majority is Hindus, India also has the second largest population of Muslims in the world(about 140 million; only Indonesia has more). Substantial communities of Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains exist too and it should hardly be a surprise that Indians of one religion have many a times quarreled with Indians worshipping another God.

The fourth and final major axis of conflict is class. India is a land of massive economic polarization.While a sizable number of the world's billionaires are Indians, fully 26 per cent of our population, about 300 million individuals, are said to live below the official poverty line. While the disparity is in the form of landholding in the countryside, huge gaps between incomes is a common sight in the cities.And of course, these asymmetries have fuelled many a movement of opposition.

P.S. A minor axis of conflict to be noted, I feel, is sex. With growing protests on gender equality and any expression of male domination coming under national scrutiny, sex might turn out to become the fifth major axis of conflict someday.

Friday, August 1, 2008

India After Gandhi

The most interesting,intriguing,inspiring,exasperating,shocking,stunning,-and a whole lot of other adjectives-,diverse,difficult country.
The one and only India .

Everyone says they've read about the history of India,in the process completely forgetting that an India came into existence only on 15th August 1947. What they do know is about the pre-independence struggles over-glorified in our pathetic history text-books, peppered with a hundred and one misconceptions and more.For all practical purposes (and a few not so practical) , history has become synonymous with one date : 15th August 1947. History ended for most people on this day with a few exceptions, the Gandhian fanatics , for whom the date was extended to Jan 30, 1948 .

To know about the history of Independent India (India after Gandhi??) , read India after Gandhi by Ramachandra Guha .

200 pages into the book , and after many a revelation came to light, I felt it would be a good exercise to jot down some stuff here,and sincerely hope I manage to do so without falling into the pitfalls of procrastination.

I shall speak on specific topics later on, while this post shall serve as a general one.This series of posts will contain quotes, taken from Guha's epic work .

Ever since I started reading this book, one constant feeling which has been growing in my mind is awe. Of two different subjects- the author , who must have gone through tons of reading material , literally speaking ; and of the fact that 60 odd years after Independence , India is still existing as a single entity.

Alongside, an exponentially growing fear also came into existence - how long is it going to be before India breaks up due to internal strife ???

"There was no Indian nation or country in the past;nor would there be one in the future"

"Unlike France,or Germany or Italy, there was here no national essence,no glue to bind the people and take them purposively forward."

I look around myself-

  • the mumbai-marathi problem
  • the hindu-muslim problem
  • the sikh nation (khalistan) problem
  • the communist problems
  • the anti-hindi and likewise , anti-regional languages problem
  • northie vs southie issue
  • naxalites and internal terrorism
  • blah blah blah ....

"The heart hoped that India would survive,but the head worried that it wouldn't."