Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hopeless Lokpal Bill 2011

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Welcome, THiNK!

"With THiNK, TEHELKA hopes to bat for the joys universally inherent in the ideas of plurality, creativity, intelligence, justice and beauty. To remind us the world is not there to be quartered and possessed but to be illuminated and expanded."

Sunday, October 30, 2011

1Q84: dizzy labyrinth of a novel

"1Q84 is a dizzy labyrinth of a novel, and is well worth reading not only if you’re a fan of Murakami’s books, but if you’re the type that likes to get lost in a deftly constructed maze of a narrative.

Reading a Murakami book is akin to eating a box of sweet and gooey chocolates: the writing is so precise and colourful that you want to stop at certain points and just savour the richness. The same is somewhat true for 1Q84, even though you have the distinct sensation that you’re eating a Hersey bar this time out – just something pop-culture infused that’s not nutritious in the least bit."

Friday, October 07, 2011

On Bangalore without any malice

I'm on a 5-day-tour to Bangalore where my daughter, a software engineer, works with an MNC. The city is sprawling, chok-a-bloc with traffic, and like our own Kolkata, is through the process of various developing projects like metro rail. What daunts me here however is its transport system. The auto-rickshaw, which dominates the roads plies on meter, but it charges you 17 rupees for a minimum. But the odd thing is, its drivers mostly don't know about any destination, and they leave you at their choice of place most unscrupulously. On the Dashami day, we boarded an auto, and asked the driver to take us to Banglaore Palace, but he left us at Bangalore Palace ground.The palace was a long way from there, and we had to walk at first for a while and then take another auto for twenty rupees (the earlier auto driver had already taken forty two rupees from us) to reach the Palace.

If I hate seeing anything during a tour, it is the palace of our kings and emperors, besides of course the crumbling temples and God's abodes on different hill tops. But then you hardly have other options if you go on a tour in India. India will force-feed you the myths and exploits of its kings and gods, and if you are like me, you would be lethally bored in a short time.

So in Bangalore palace - and later in Mysore palace on our itinerary - I had the same fare I expected: kings' fascination for elephants, hunting spree, horse race, and so on and so forth. Of course, they lived in great buildings - Goethic architecture, majestic designs, fabulous paintings on the wall ( I liked luscious portraits of female anatomies in different postures, of course). But what is there to learn from them anyway? How do you justify this time sink for such trivial peeks into some grandee's perversions and depravities?

But I felt most cheated at Brindavan Gardens which we visited on our way back from Mysore. Thousands of people - and private cars and transports - had already occupied the spot when we reached in late evening. We had to push through the milling crowds for over half an hour under choking conditions over a bridge to reach the ultimate destination. It was a show of water dancing to the tune of popular music with different sheds of light thrown in every now and then.  The audience shouted with glee each time the sprinkle of water reached its summit.The show lasted three minutes or so, and ended each time with "Sara Jahase achha.." refrain, giving the signal for the crowds to disperse. But another huge crowd surges now, and is all agog for its turn. Nobody complains.So, this is the aam admi Indians - our masses -unchanged, unevolved, who our smug and crrupt politicians nurture them to remain exactly as they are. On our way back, I saw the Cauvery river in its most pathetic state: dried up in  various places, foul smell emerging from its bed, contaminated with plastic, household things, even sanitary napkins. Who cares to dredge up it anyway?

But I have loved Bangalore's weather. When I walk down the road, I feel a breeze rustling my clothes, and it's so caressing. Another thing I've loved really about Bangalore is The Deccan Herald, which I've been  reading just for the third day today, but I'm already addicted to it. It's more substance, and less fluff, but very modern, not in its first page layout, though. Much better than any of our Kolkata newspapers/editions. Yesterday its lead news had this headline: "World without Jobs."

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Pritish Nandy's reaction to 7/9 Delhi terror attack

"Now blame game begins. Home ministry says it had warned the Delhi police in July. NIA to step in(why can't wisdom step in, instead?)"

NIA stands for National Investigation Agency.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Amitav Ghosh on Anna Hazare movement

"In India, the events of the last couple of years have unmasked, as never before, our own 'deep state'. As scandal after scandal has unfolded, it has become evident that the collusion between politicians, corporations and the media, is of a staggering magnitude, and that it operates on a scale that far exceeds anything that most could imagine. Indeed, it has become apparent that the locus of power in the country has largely shifted from New Delhi to corporate towers of Mumbai; it is apparent also that the political class is unable to rectify this.

Something clearly had to be done: it was clear also that the formal institutios of our democracy were not going to do it. The movement that has filled the gap offers cause for both hope and misgivings. In its insistence on bringing political processes in the open, it is trying to restore of the content that has leached out of governance in India. In failing to address the role of the pivate sector in corruption it is itself ignoring the elephants in the room. What is undeniable is tht its development is a development of enormous significance."

Courtesy: The Hindustan Times, August 29, 2011

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Anna wins at last, and makes history.

So, Anna Hazare wins at last. Though there's still some room for doubt - given the Congress leaders' track record - whether the resolution passed by the Parliament under pressure from people all across the country would be translated into a bill in to to, and not without any more flip-flop, the good news is, the govt has bowed down to Anna Hazare. It's a big achievement for Anna as well as for us Indians.

As we see now, Parliament is neither supreme nor sacrosanct. The political parties and elected MPs would make us think so, but in reality, it is their family property on which they live. Much in the fashion of our religious leaders treating the Ganges. The gospel takes a beating now, and we have now reason for cheers.

Manmohan Singh and Co is visibly smarting from this defeat( God bless them), The lesson they should take from this upsurge is that the people power can be lethal at times. And the shape of democracy is not something constant, and it would evolve very fast in the days to come.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Anna's politics of anti-politics

This is ninth day of Anna's fast. There have been several talks between the Govt and Anna team. The Govt is adamant not to set its Lokpal Bill aside. Manmohan Singh seems insincere and cold-blooded, and talks in vague, ambiguous and rhetoric lingo.

The Govt practically shows no concern for Anna's declining health.

Anna team is of course disappointed, and back to square one. Anna once again tells his supporters that he would continue his fast until his Jan Lokpal Bill is passed in the parliament by the 30th of August.

Both sides now harden their stance. What now?

Mercifully, the movement is still peaceful and non-violent, and holds its ground.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Anna aesthetics

Sixth day of Anna Hazare movement.

Crowds swell even more. Tens of thousands of people throng Ramlila Maidan and elsewhere.

Team Anna makes the first move for dialogue with the govt, based on PM's statement yesterday that there is scope for give and take. But the govt seems inflexible, and does not respond to Team Anna's gesture.

It has been a peaceful movement so far. Not the slightest sign of any anarchy or violence anywhere any time. The huge swathe of Anna supporters show a remarkable discipline and patience during these six days.

"Pass the Jan Lokepal Bill or leave," Anna has said today. This might provoke the crowd, and the movement could shed its non-violence character anytime.

Is the govt waiting for the Anna supporters to explode?

I'm afraid things would get worse in coming days.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Anna momentum

This is fifth day of Anna's fast.

Anna momentum surges ahead. The supporters swell further. Not only in Delhi, but across all cities. Unprecedented, say the TV channels. The govt has started playing diversionary tactics. Manmohan Singh, for example, states that he's also in favour of a strong Lokpal Bill, but it should be on a political consensus, and that it needs time to pass such a bill. Chidambaram-Kapil-Pranab trio has slipped out from the scene.

Aruna Roy, the well-known social activist, seems to be playing a dubious role. How can she say,"Anna is ill-advised"?

I'm glad the movement is spreading everyday like wild fire. But how long can it hold this momentum? With time, it must diminish in strength. Will it fizzle out before it gets at its goal? The govt is no doubt waiting for that opportune moment.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

India is now Anna Hazare!

It's really an exhilarating experience when you see a mighty government bending to a 73-year old man's steely character.

India is now Anna Hazare. It's amazing how a septuagenarian so easily strikes chord with people cutting across caste, class and age-groups.

Manmohon Singh, P.Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and Pranab Mukherjee have all made themselves asses in fighting with this simple, unassuming and spirited man.

The swell of crowds in cities across India and beyond rallying behind Anna is an eloquent testimony to the fact that the current UPA rulers are just dud, and they don't enjoy any trust from the people.

We need to redefine democracy at this juncture of history. Should it be it a participative one in stead of parliamentary? Should we continue with the kind that has been fucked by our rulers, and a fake one? Or should we opt for the new version being ushered in by Anna Hazare and his very dedicated team?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Whither public education?

Noam Chomsky, the iconic intellectual and thinker, recently delivered a speech on public education in US, with insights and wisdom expected of him.

What they are doing to the public education system is going to undermine the economy that relies on a skilled work force and creative innovation, Silicon Valley and so on. Well, apart from the enormous human cost of depriving most people of decent educational opportunities, these policies undermine the U.S. competitive capacity. That’s very harmful to the mass of the population, but it doesn’t matter to the tiny percent of concentrated wealth and power. In fact, in the years since the Pell Memorandum, we’ve entered into a new stage in state capitalism in which the future just doesn’t amount to much. Profit comes increasingly from financial manipulations. The corporate policies are geared toward the short-term profit, and that reduces the concern for loyalty to a firm over a longer stretch.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The horror of attacking the Supreme Court wisdom

Read two pieces(no link available) by two columnists in the Hindustan Times dated jJuly 9 &10, both - interestingly - criticizing the role of the Supreme Court in the same fashion. I wonder if the editor by any chance briefed them to cover the same topic, or it happened just coincidentally.

So what is wrong with the the Supreme Court? Chanakya says it's overreaching, and that the Court can't act as an ideologue. Anil Dharker in his piece asks rather insolently :Does the Supreme Court want to be the Government of India?

As you see, both Mr Dharker and Chanakya talk like they are the spokesperson of the Government, or more than that. Some time ago, if my memory serves me right, our lameduck PM spoke out against the judiciary in the similar fashion, but not in this buttoned-down manner.

When the Government can't address the problems of the common man, what step can you take against it? Nothing really. And if the judiciary - in this case Supreme Court - slams the government and alongside mouths some wisdom, what's wrong with it? Did you expect it to endorse Salwa Judum, the black,repressive act? Did you expect it to approve the forcible land acquisition of the Mayabati Government from the poor?

The Supreme Court, not the Government, now proves to be a care-giver to the poor. No political party, not even the leftists, has any real agenda for the poor. Why do you react when the SC says that the poor should not be marginalised ? Is it because it bothers your mindset, and pushes you into thinking about the awful realities India is embedded in?

To the cursed life of ordinary and honest citizens, the Supreme Court brings cheers every time it pronounces some statement.

The majority would not lose out on anything if the SC acts as an ideologue or really gets to be the Government of India in the process. Let be it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Binayak Sen quote

"We are at a particular historical juncture. and large populations are involved in that - individuals do not make history."

Courtesy: A Doctor to Defend - The Binayak Sen Story by Minni Vaid

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Thursday, June 09, 2011

A requiem for M.F. Hossain

"I know no one more genuinely and deeply committed to the composite, multi-religious and secular values of Indian civilization than M.F Hussain. He breathed the spirit of modrnity, progress and tolerance. the whole narrative of what forced him into exile, including the failure of the executive and the legal system to enable his safe return, revolves round the issues of freedom of expression and creativity and what secular nationhood is all about"
- N.Ram in The Hindu dated 10.6.11

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Arvind Kejriwal On current UPA government

"I was not wrong when I called them liars, cheats and conspirators. they released a fake CD, want to keep the Prime Minister out of the purview of the Lokpal and are taking the people for a ride committing one scam after another."

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

My life is so crazy: Arundhati Roy

"My life is so crazy. There's so much pressure and idiosyncrasy. I don't have any establishment. I don't have anyone to mediate between me and the world. It's just based on instinct."

Friday, May 13, 2011

The rise and fall of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee

Gone! The thirty four years of monolithic 'Marxist' regime in Bengal.

People, tired of and fed up with the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and his pro-corporate policy, defeats him and his powerful colleagues in an unprecedented way in this year's Assembly election and brings down his Front strength to mere 62 seats from 235 seats in a 294-seat Assembly.

The party had long stripped its ideology of Marxism, and got detached from its workers-and-peasants base. It just became another right-wing party toeing the line of neo-liberals headed by Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India.

The process actually started with Jyoti Basu, the first Chief Minister of the regime, who lived life like a Czar, and ruled the state in an authoritarian manner. Among the many atrocities he committed were Marichjhapi refugee killings, burning of 17 Anandamargis alive, Bantala slaughter, to name just a few.

His party removed him just at a time when people began to loathe him. Buddhadeb Bhattachary took over in 2001 as chief minister. Once a radical student leader, he played the first term as a cool and cultured administrator, devoting much of his attention to cultural affairs including his own created culural hub Nandan.

But the problem arose during her second term in 2006. He was seen to get into a liaison with the industrialists, ostensibly for the industrialisation of the state. The industry sucked him in, and he was soon morphed into the industry's blue-eyed boy. Then he began to acquire land - fertile land - for the cause of Tata's Nano project, but faced stiff opposition from the farmers and dealt with them with police brutalities, though unsuccessfully. Once again he incurred the people's wrath when he ordered the police to fire a protesting mob in Nandigram (it was opposing the Govt's attempt to acquire land for a chemical hub)and killed 16 persons. Aside from these killings, many women were raped and brutally assaulted.

Buddhadeb's image had taken a heavy beating since. In his last days he made himself a laughing stock in his public speeches where he, by turns, admitted to his mistakes, apologised for them, and then all on a sudden shrieked,"We've not done anything wrong" or "what we did, we did it right". He turned crazy and openly threatened the opposition.

But what is unforgivable about him is that he got his comrades and hired goons ('harmads') to terrorise and brutalise ordinary people in the rural areas for his party's gain.

Personally, I never believed he could be defeated in such an abominable way by a margin of 16,000 votes. But it was a free and fearless poll this year - without any kind of rigging. And the people had the right snub for him. No doubt he's the most hated chief minister today since independence.

Buddhadeb's career as a public figure is more or less finished. He deserves no sympathy. Rather he should be booked for his wrong doings, especially for the genocide in Nandigram.

Would Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister-in-waiting, ever try to try him, I wonder.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Vinod Mehta on Shanti-Prasanta Bhusan CD affair

"...without having sent the CD to any Indian or foreign forensic lab, I am confident the father and son duo will come out clean. The vilification campaign against them seems so crude, so clumsy, its timing so suspect that I can hardly believe the stitch-up is a professional job."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

University of Nevada eliminates philosophy from its curriculum

Philosophy has prompted confusion and anger ever since Socrates, one of the first practitioners of the discipline, was sentenced to death in 399 B.C.E. for “corrupting the youth.” Puzzlement over why people study philosophy has only grown since Socrates’ era. It is not surprising that in hard economic times, when young people are figuring out how best to prepare themselves for the world, many state college administrators and the taxpayers they serve believe that offering classes in philosophy is a luxury they can’t afford.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lyudmila Ulitskaya on Vladimir Putin

"My perception of Putin as an individual is that he is quite juvenile, not very mature, and all the pictures we have of him from state television are of Putin climbing Everest or fighting a tiger or extinguishing a fire. It's just a kind of joke, these macho games."

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Supreme Court Bench on Binayak Sen case before granting him bail

Is the nature of evidence such that it could attract a conviction and life sentence? We are a democratic country. We must draw a line. He might be a sympathizer. But it does not amount to sedition.We are going on admitted facts as per prosecution case. Does it connect him with Naxalite violence? Does it mean he has committed sedition?

These documents are available widely. These are general documents and could be available with anyone. How do you fasten sedition charge for this? If Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography is found in the house of a person, it will not make him a Gandhian.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Anna Hazare's revolution

Should I call it a revolution? Sort of. Anna goes on fast for fighting against corruption, and people - from all walks of like - rally around him in Delhi. The other cities start protests automatically. Soon it's a nationwide movement: everyone crying against corruption. It gets to be phenomenal. Manmohan's government dillydallies at first with Hazare's demands for a while, but gets scared when it sees the public outcry going stronger and shriller each day. And before you know it, it surrenders. It concedes to all of its demands with regard to Lokpal Bill. It's really hyper-real.

The most interesting thing about the new bill is that the committee attached to it would now comprise members of civil society on 50-50 basis. And it would not merely be a body with recommendation, but would also have power to punish anybody from Prime Minister to judges to defence personnel for acts of corruption.

Of course, there is a funny side to this committee. Pranab Mukherjee, the Finance minister, is its Chairman, and Shanti Bhusan, its co-chairman. Two diagonally opposite personalities in terms of integrity and whaever. Just think they're debating an issue and presenting their own point of view with Mr Mukherjee endlessly blinking!

Monday, April 04, 2011

Arundhati Roy's Life Inspires an Upcoming Film

Can you imagine, in these times, a film inspired by life of Arundhati Roy, the well-known writer and social activist? The film has reportedly other characters inspired by jailed human rights activist Binayak Sen, and the rare, honest policeman Promod Muthalik.

If you revel in this news, wait. There is a catch. The film-maker,Vivek Agnihotri, who dared to get together all these charcters in his upcoming film Buddha in a Traffic Jam, may not trot it out along your line of thought. He seems to have other things on his mind. "Arundhati Roy has been called many things, including a terrorist," says Vivek. "While some think she was only exercising her right to free speech, my film indeed is about intellectual terrorism".

So, what is intellectual terrorism anyway? Of course, a new idea, though funny one. Since when intellectuals like Arundhati Roy got to be terrorists? Words are weapons, right, but are they any match for the lethal things the real terrorists use to damage human corpus and property?

India may not have many intellectuals Like Roy, but Europe had and still has intellectuals who were/are pro-active against the establishment and the Government. Three names immediately come to mind: Jean Paul Sartre, Michel Foucault, Elfriede Jelinek.Sartre and Foucault participated in demonstrations against the Government quite often, and had offered resistance in person whenever they felt like it. Foucault was roughed by the police a number of times, and mind you he was quite famous internationally. Jelinek, for her activism, was hounded,pounded, and even sent to mental asylum by the socialist rulers.

Arundhati's participation in movements would never measure up to the level of Sartre and Foucault. And she did never suffer as much as them,let alone Jelinek.

Has anybody ever called Sartre and Foucault intellectual terrorist? Can you accuse Jelinek of intellectual terrorism?

And to label Arundhati Roy an intellectual terrorist ..Ha! Ha!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Orhan Pamuk fined for uttering a historical truth

“Thirty-thousand Kurds and one million Armenians were killed in these lands, and nobody but me dares to talk about it.” so said Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel Prize-winning author in 2005.

Now a Turkish Court orders him to pay 6,000 liras (about 4,000 USD) to six individuals—1,000 liras each—in compensation for insulting their “Turkishness”.

Monday, March 07, 2011

In terms of information

The history of humanity can be told in terms of wars, in terms of kings, of money — you can look at it from lots of different perspectives — but I believe that the perspective that’s most useful is in terms of information, and of changes in the way people communicate with one another. That’s what transforms human societies more profoundly than anything else.

Friday, February 25, 2011

"I feel as though I lack a skin" Arundhati Roy

"I feel as though I lack a skin—something that separates me from the world I live in. That absence of skin is dangerous. It invites trouble into every part of your life. It makes what is public private and what is private public. It can sometimes become very traumatic, not just for me but for those who are close to me."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Can we disavow Marx?

Well, these days I've been reading a lot of Jacques Derrida, the deconstructionist philosopher. One of his major works is Specters of Marx. What exactly is his reading of Karl Marx and Marxism? Derrida is not only a fine incisive analyst, he is also a brilliant writer - with great imagination and moral vision.

"Our hypothesis is that the same is true for Marx's spectrology. Is this not our own great problematic constellation of haunting? It has no certain border, but it blinks and sparkles behind the proper names of Marx, Freud, and Heidegger: Heidegger who misjudged Freud who misjudged Marx. This is no doubt not aleatory. Marx has not been received...Marx remains an immigrant chrez nous, a glorious, sacred, accursed but still a clandestine immigrant as he was all his life. He belongs to a time of disjunction, to that "time out of joint" in which is augerated, laboriously, painfully, tragically,a new thinking of borders, a new experience of the house, the home,and the economy. Between earth and sky. One should not rush to make of the clandestine an illegal alien or, what risks coming down to the same thing,to domesticate him. To neutralize him through naturalization.To assimilate him so as to stop frightening himself (making oneself fear) with him. He is not part of the family, but one should not send him back, once again, him too, to the border."
page 174.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Arundhaati Roy interview

"I didn't want to be like some factory producing novels, and I don't want to live my life as a project – in some ways I want to do as little as possible. I didn't mean to write my other books [her essay anthologies] either. There's so much noise in the world, so why add to it? In my case, I only write when I can't not."

Friday, January 28, 2011

Political witch-hunt

These days, I've started reading editorials once again. And believe it or not, some pieces get to be so fine and balanced, even responsible by any standard. Seems like good old days of journalism are back. Here's an example:

With age comes maturity. India is not exactly greenhorn as far as democracy goes. Then why does the Indian State throw irrational tantrums every time someone disagrees with its policies? Take the example of doctor-activist Binayak Sen. While the State has the right to investigate the links that might exist between some of its citizens and the Maoists, the way things are moving for Dr Sen and his family looks more like a witch-hunt than any serious probe. It has almost made Dr Sen a 'trophy' accused - a lesson and a warning for many others who deviate from the 'Stateline".
-- Hindustan Times, January 28, 2011 Pic: Basudev Ghosh

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Wikipedia comes to India

I’m focused increasingly on the growth of Wikipedia in the developing world. We are experiencing a lot of growth in a lot of different places, and at the Wikimedia Foundation it is a part of our five-year strategic vision to put resources behind assisting local communities grow and flourish in languages where we are currently small. We’re opening our first office outside the U.S. this year, in India, and I’m super excited about that.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Is this genocide? Ha!

Only eight ordinary men killed in a remote place called Netai and you call it genocide!
A genocide is a far bigger deal, man.
Hitler did it ;
Bush, yes,
Stalin, oh!
And our Narendra Modi, the little master.(I salute him)

But I’ve a far greater design in mind:
A big-time genocide that would speak for itself.
That would claim thousands of fucking ordinary persons
That would give the humanity its biggest shock ever.
That would wipe out people's memory for ever

Imagine a huge pool of blood inundating the whole of Bengal
A lady swimming through it, and finally sinking down tired and limp.
I would celebrate it.

Nandigram, Netai are my small pieces
Little experiments I fiddle with.
You might see a few more
Until the real big thing happens.

A huge genocide is what this time demands.
I bet you would appreciate it, love it.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mobile phone novels

"Mobile reading is now creating a new literature model – it should not make people feel tired to read, each episode should not surpass four lines, and each episode has to contain a funny sentence or joke to inspire the readers not to give up, not to stop reading. This means love stories, historical stories and horror stories, as well as novelty books are the main categories of mobile phone books now.


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