Being Indian

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Snehwan – Placing Community Above Self

Published October 9, 2017 by vishalvkale

The location was not a place where you expect to learn a life lesson – it was the SILC Center in Pune, at the Learning & Development Rendezvous, an event of the L&D Global Pune Chapter, on the 8thof October; on the menu was an eclectic mix of a Power Negotiation Panel Discussion and a Leadership Masterclass; these are not things that lead to such esoteric things as Life Lessons – nonetheless, the surprise item floored me, and touched my heart… The Meeting With the founder of Snehvan

What do you do when you are a software engineer? Especially if you are from village? You go to the rarified environs of a Software company, and earn money and create a better material future for yourself and your family; even going abroad in a few cases, perhaps leaving India for good in some cases. These are stories you have read ad-nauseum in the news; you have read of the CEOs of American companies who left India, plastered all over the media, almost daily. Well, above them all, ahead of all us, stands tall and proud one man I met, or rather, I had the fortune of meeting – Mr Ashok Deshmane, who happens to be the founder of Snehvan

On a routine visit to his village, he saw something that changed his life… in his own words as reported in Sakal Times, “I visited the village for celebrating Diwali. The drought situation was at its peak, and many peope didn’t have any reason for celebration. I visited the places of farmers who commit suicide. Children of farmers had to leave their education due to extreme poverty. Some people were leaving villages and going to big cities in search of livelihood. In that process the children had to quit their education”
Now this is something some of us do note – But do nothing about it. The difference is that Mr Deshmane, and his friend Anil Kothe, decided to do something about it. Not meaningless words – and not just the sporadic donation; they decided to start a project called Snehvan. Again, going back to his reported words, “We decided to bring home the children from the families of farmers as well as labourers who were forced to migrate and children forced to leave education. Kothe has provided a 5-room house without rent for the project

Their website – I strongly suggest you visit and spend some time on it, and introspect – also forcefully makes this point; Scorching heat, lack of rain, drought is eating up the land and the result, giver of food, health and nutrition are giving up their lives. Hope against hope has given way to dire desperation. These are our farmers and their families, who have been plunged into a darkness and lack the basic needs of life. Nobody extends any respite for the poor families who are fighting a losing battle against the whim of nature. But what about their kids? Do they really deserve to be a part of this tragedy? Aren’t we able to give them a hand of care, love, safety, education and everything they deserve?     
Snehwan not just an initiation but a hand of स्नेह, Love and care for these destitute children. Its an oath which is taken to give a new ray of hope to those kids who belong from poor family or lost their parents in this drought. These kids are at a risk of being exposed to many threats and dangers like child labour, child trafficking, sexual abuse, extreme poverty, physical & mental abuse and homelessness. Its an initiative for those children who are not getting the light of learning due to growing turbulence in the surrounding environment. Snehwan endeavours to bring into the consciousness of the children their hidden potential and seeks deeper level of social transformation in them.
He himself experienced the hardships as a child, faced due to the poor economic conditions of family. He knows how it feels to live with the fear of losing his family, not having food for a day and selling off books for just few meals. He started working night shifts at his company so that he can dedicate his day time to work for the drought affected kids. He rescued 20 kids and given them shelter in Pune, but he realised just rescuing them is not enough. They deserve a better- life of dignity, a home filled with care and love, along with health, nutrition, education and vocational training facilities to fulfil their dreams.
There are some people in this world still present, who place community above self; Mr Ashok Deshmane, who is one such, actually quit his job and has dedicated his entire life to taking care of the education of the children of farmers who have been hit by tragedy; he is supported wholeheartedly in this life project by his wife and his parents, and his friend. I had the great fortune of spending some time with Mr Deshmane, and intend to visit his place, where he now takes care of 25 children. This software engineer, who could have had the material world at his feet – decided to do something about an issue  rather than watch from afar.
His current dream is to take this project even further… if you, the reader,  are interested, you can donate – links are present on the site {Disclaimer – I am not connected in any way to Snehwan, neither have they asked me to advertise, this is done just on the basis of the deep impression this man’s sacrifice has left on me. I have done what due diligence is feasible for me as of now, and am giving the results of my due diligence below, in the Bibliography}
In conclusion – I can only say here is a man who is actually contributing to the society in a practical way, sacrificing his time – or should I say, gifting them his and his family’s time, and is actually enjoying himself. In the process, he is also gifting back to society, and in a small way, is helping to make it a better place – especially the farmering segment, which – as my previous and ongoing series on profitability in agriculture reveals, needs all the help it can get. Finally, Mr Media, we read regularly of the people who have left India – how about treating us to such real stories of people in India who are helping to make India a much better place? Don’t they deserve much higher Media presence?  



Published January 4, 2017 by vishalvkale

One of the most surprising aspects of our collective behavior, as collectively expressed through the organized as well as social media, is the ever-present phenomenon of the Abroad Dream… the dream of at least some Indian parents and children alike, to go and settle abroad, or work abroad. Another aspect of this is the penchant to give undue importance to NRIs / PIOs in our media; a third aspect is the near-devoted tracking of PIOs success-stories, especially in the realm of politics… the fact that the Media gives prominence to these is mute evidence of the fact that we, the people, give importance to them

Let us consider the third case, and examine it a little more clearly. It is near-certain that having a number of prominent PIOs in positions of power has been of benefit to us in the realm of Business, wherein it is a win-win situation… the PIO is better aware of how to do business in India, and can thus act as a bridge between two cultures. However, extending that to dream of improved influence politically in strategic matters is stretching things too far; Geopolitics is frankly not something that can be impacted by overmuch by such things.
Geopolitical decisions are taken on realpolitic, national aims, threats, plans etc– and are not so  very easily influenced by matters of culture. Sure, it  can get you increased approach to corridors of decisions makers {lobbying}, but that is about it. The decision wont be altered by mere lobbying; Strategic Decisions are born out of an entirely different set of parameters. That means that these PIOs in such places cannot be as critical as we may think them to be. Their increased presence in parliaments in the world is important fundamentally to the resident Ex-Indian population, who have their own issues, and are not Indian anymore…
It is a baffling scenario, when you consider it coldly – the undue and totally unwarranted focus on PIO and NRI population, whichever way you look at it. We are so blind to our own good stories and successes, that we notice them only when these people get an international recognition! I am yet to read many news articles on local success stories; and on the odd occasion they do appear – like as not they are buried somewhere; whereas the NRI – PIO story invariably finds its appearance on the first page, or the landing page of the website, prominently displayed!
We are a nation that wants to be a superpower; we are a nation that places due and correct emphasis on our glorious past and history; we are a nation that proudly lists achievements that are the stuff of envy; so how does the above behavior gel in with the above sorry scenario? In fact, we are delaying our own success by avidly following those who left us for other lands, we are setting the wrong example to our younger generation.
We should place far greater emphasis on Local Flavor successes, those that made it locally, by a local education, and succeeded. Doing so will give exemplars to the general society, and act slowly but surely to build a base that will act as drivers to the younger generation to follow- much as people follow IITs, NRIs, even IASs… the need of the hour for a strong, developed India simply has to be the encouragement of the local people, that it is eminently feasible to do it in India, that the rewards are far more encouraging here. This is currently absent in the present atmosphere, where there is a clear absence of attractive aspirational aura around the local story
Sure, Make In India, Developed India etc are great slogans – but they wont happen fast enough unless there is an aspirational halo around working in India, living your life in India. It should be a dream, a pull and an aspiration – landing a good job in India after studying here for the large part, if not all. Currently, there is no mention of it in a cultural sense; we ought to encourage and make being a resident Indian a matter of not just pride – but an aspiration, something to be vied for, something to be struggled for, something to chase with single-minded devotion!

I hold no grudge against those who left – God Bless Them, make them happy. There are manifest advantages to having a large expatriate population, and people of your culture. It will help build an aura around Indian Culture, much the same way that the West now enjoys a halo around it, an aspirational pull. That is the ultimate limit for the aspirational pull I referred to above. But, placing them on a pedestal is just plain inaccurate – they are the ones who left our lovely nation. Nations are not built by those who leave; they are built by those who have the courage, the guts to stand and fight, building a great legacy and country for all who follow!

Re-Examining Indian History

Published May 1, 2016 by vishalvkale

There is an urgent need for history to be re-written, at least in India, and the real story to be told of India and its past – glorious as well as otherwise, one that so-called educated Indians call Fiction, which is in reality pure fact. The deleterious impact of the bullshit being absorbed by our citizens is there for all to see, and needs an entirely independent discussion. But the need for a retelling is now more acute than ever, given the half-informed trends in evidence regarding partition as well as our Vedic Past.
Furthermore, the completely jaundiced and ridiculously one-sided view of India from the West { as well as our religious and political internalities} which tends to propagate  stereotypes and incorrect views and fears needs to be met head; firstly these have manifest real world problems that arise from them. Secondly, this one sided view going unchallenged in Academia as well as popular discourse gives an incorrect impression of us as a people, as well as potraying our approach in a very poor light. If we know it is inaccurate, why is there o attempt to meet it head on?
Large parts of our history is pure, unadulterated fiction. I can and have written articles on it; having studied more than 3 dozen authentic books on Indian History. Suffice it to say that large parts of what we call fact is nothing but fiction. A couple of examples to start the discussion going; one controversial, the other absolute.
1) When was Ashok Born : 300-400BC, or more than a thousand years earlier?{Controversial; but interesting nonetheless}
2) The British Eradicated Sati? {Pure, simple fiction and utter bullshit, provable fact}
Yes, in the process of this re-examination and retelling – there will be tall claims, or rather, to be more specific : seemingly tall claims, as for example, from the Hindutva Brigade; but these are vitally needed interventions, bringing our ancient literature into focus, leading to heightened interest. You have to churn the milk to get cream.
Further, how many of those who reject these tall claims have actually perused the scriptures? I too used to be highly skeptical; but after reading our scriptures, while I still dont entirely accept the Hindutva claims. I do now realise the prevalent western versions are nothing but nonsense; pure and unadulterated nonsense. Similar is the case with Independence, wherein the full reality, basis a deep 7-year research of my own, has taught me that the reality is simply too complicated to understand, and that the prevalent version is close on incomplete, with some versions being inaccurate
I am not talking about bias, or about personal impressions emanating from a retelling of history from a person’s viewpoint; I am specifically stating a word – Bullshit, and equally specifically underlining another – fiction. Let me prove it with an example :
The British outlawed Sati, and were responsible for its eradication – law of 1829. Why doesnt the same history talk of the law of 1813, which clearly legalised Sati? That made the British the only rulers in the past 400+ years to have legalised it. Why doesnt the history talk of this significant factor? This is deliberate suppression of facts by the British.
Furthermore, the official record does not state that Raja Roy initially was against official intervention – even while vociferously campaigning against the barbarity. Neither does the record state the legalisation of sati in 1813. I wonder why? The official record makes no mention of a long list of anti-sati campaigners. Neither does it recognise that virtually every Mughal ruler had made strict laws against sati: including Aurangzeb. The first recorded law against this is by Humayun. That effectively puts paid to the “British ercadicated sati” claim. They didnt; it was the result of a centuries-long battle against this social evil directed and campaigned purely by Indians. That is what the entire record shows. So much for the much tom-tommed british claim of sati eradication!
The proof? Simple. These are the precise numbers – documented numbers – of sati cases around 1810-1840. These records very effectively destroy any such claim even without the lecture above. Between 1815 and 1828, 63% of all recorded acts of sati took place in CalcuttaIn 1824, of the 250000 women who became widows, 600 underwent sati.  In Varanasi, there were only 125 cases in 9 years from 1820.
The British exaggerated it enormously; there is evidence of this. This was since it could be used to justify their rule over us “heathens”. William Carey, the great reformer, wrote : “For the first time during 20 centuries… the waters of the Ganges flowed unblooded to the seas”. It is impossible that the British were not aware of the precise numbers: these figures are from their own records!
The controversial point – The Pauranic records list an entire 150 generation of kingsm which includes Devanampiya Piyadassi – or Ashok. A tracing of this lineage is at clear variance with the western dating 300-400 BC. Further, ancient historical records also do not agree, with one giving no mention of Kaling War as reason for conversion. Why is this never researched? Why are we dismissing this as myth? Who writes 150 generations of fictional kings, which happen to include several historically acknowledged characters?
More provable : Partition. Plenty of provable evidence now available of the reality, which is at complete variance with the stated record. Similarly 1857, Original records and eye witness account give a diametrically opposite story, that of a planned war. Why arent we told this? Why the silence on the 4 terrible British laws that lead to the worst known genocide in Human History, which we know nothing of? Those laws are on record in England! Why do we know nothing of what I call the Bengal Holocaust and its causes?
There is even evidence available that Babur may have been invited to India! There is evidence present of the internal economic structure and honesty of the people, and the overall atmosphere – which never reaches us, despite authentic proof being present of the wonder that was India. None of it reaches the Western books, which we all ape, through our own internal Macaulay’s Children here in India.I am not talking opinions, but authentic period evidence and writings and other proof.
We still believe in several fictional statements, and hang onto the belief instilled in us by The West and our own Macaulay’s Children; what is worse is that there is no attempt to start a genuine research of our own past. What if I make a statement that the pulsating universe theory is accurately told in our scriptures? I will be branded a fool, or a fundamentalist, or both.
My humble submission – there is actually a specific reference to the origins of the universe in the Upanishads that has uncanny resemblance with the Pulsating Universe Theory, which took the so-called great West umtpy ump billions of dollars investment. Sounds fantastic, doesnt it?
The problem is if we extrapolate the above to state that our ancestors knew the science behind it; there is no evidence that they either did, or didnt. That also does not mean you can deny the existence of the uncanny resemblance of the scriptural verses to the modern theories. Fact of the matter is that it is {they are} present, and was {were} penned several millennia ago.
This requires explanation, reasoned discourse and research, patience, a questioning attitude. What we get is a querulous attitude; impatience, either blind following and mirth-invoking claims or complete denial +superiority complex + taunts + disbelief. We need neither.
This refers not just to the Vedic example above, but to each and every point raised above. The Macaulays in India are currently in denial and mirth, when they should be researching, questionning and patient; the fans and followers are ballistic in their statements, when they should be mature, reasoned and patient. India needs a more reasoned and mature approach to the question of her own past, one that is based not on fiction and bullshit, but a reasoned argument, theory basis all known facts ,devoid of political intervention.

This post is a prelude to my next book review : Rearming Hinduism by Vamsee Juluri, wherein I will try and answer many questions raised above, namely – why don’t we try to meet these issues head on? Why do we accept the status quo as gospel? 

Developing A National Narrative – 1 : Self-Belief and National Dreams in Foreign Policy

Published September 17, 2015 by vishalvkale

Why cant we, as a nation, develop a self-confidence in our own ability, back ourselves, realize our own power and back it to the hilt? In recent times, there has been one indication – when in the negotiations on trade when India stood firm over food security, against the entire world – which was an indication of our power and the strength of our resolve as well as our reputation. And yet, this confidence is at times absent in our strategic and economic thinking at an individual level, when we tend to idolize over relations and closeness to one nation or the other, usually the USA.
Let us study this in the context of and  the example of the USA, for the simple reason that it is the most powerful pull for some Indians. The increasing tendency of us Indians to go ballistic over  the USA, and our relationship with them needs highlighting; there is no need whatsoever to treat the USA with kid gloves; high time we took it on head-on; the structure of the Global Economy will ensure that the business comes to us, provided we manage our own economy well enough. If we just strengthen ourselves, just focus on that point : nothing else is required vis-a-vis the USA
The main problem with the USA is that there is a manifest tendency, overt and in-your-face, of mixing stragegic considerations with Business; and a complete abhorance of sharing technology, or partaking in investing locally. It might be, in fact, harmful if we were to come too close. They use business as a tool for strategic considerations, and cruelly, This is what an unbiased study of contemporay post-WW2 Indian History teaches us. History leaves no room for doubt; the USA has always used business as a strategic tool, in addition to caring little for mutual development.
I dont hate them, or get angry at them. The act of hating them or being angry at them reduces me to their level of childishness, churlishness, contemptible stupidity, and unconscionable acts of cruelty, selfishness and brutality. We have grown beyond that centuries ago as a people. India is the land where every religion was welcomed, no one was persecuted; we are the land that taught the world non-violence.
How can we go away from it? We are the ones who taught Vasudev Kutumbakam, dont forget that. Hating them {angry at them as well} as a people or as individuals implies my own inability to deal my emotions, control my thoughts for my own good; nothing good ever came of hate or anger. That is an established fact.
Coming back to the main point, that is why we should keep our distance from them, while simultaneously interacting with them, trading with then, cooperating with them for overall good of both sides. But at no point should we align with them : protection of our fierce independent spirit is and should be paramount. Even at the cost of GDP Growth and Strategic Considerations.
There can be no answer to the manifest truth that there are a veritable list of nations that have paid a heavy, heavy price for proximity with the USA in particular. Furthermore, there can be no doubt of the one-sided nature of their economic policies, be it Solar issues, Agriculture {AMS, as an example}, Climate, Carbon and many many other deep penetrating questions and issues that can be raised with oodles of proof.
Why are we dreaming of getting close to a people and a nation steeped in blood, with one-sided policies, which uses nations for own means, and has no qualms of openly lying? Why did they look the other way when Pakistan was going Nuclear? There is evidence that they may have started so before India. Why did the USA look the other way when Kashmir was flooded with Pakistani Arms and people? I could go on and on… but that would be over-kill
It isnt a question of trusting blindly; it is a hard-core question of dealing with the public perception and craze for an overt pro-USA stance, despite there being a veritable encyclopaedia of questions, hindering factors and objections to a closer relationship with the USA. None of us here is in a position to impact policy {thankfully! speaking for self, at least}; but we are in a position to influence readers. Therefore, it is essential that we anaylse fully and properly, so that the public realises the major downsides of an overt shift towards the USA.
There is an increasing tendency to gloss over the negative in the Media on some of the more significant problem areas in this relationship, which is in fact neither strategic nor a partnership – when analysed fully along Strategic, Economic, Political, Cultural, Social and People-to-People parameters. The last factor aside, we have nothing in common. The need of the hour is a change in narrative in our Media {which admittedly does highlight the problems fully, to its credit} – to a more independent, analytical and developmental tone, rather than reportage. But that is another story.
Even on the Economic front, the indispensability of the USA is a highly debatable assumption; with the strong emergence of EU as a trade block, the emergence of strong relationships in trade in ASEAN, SAARC, Pacific Rim etc are opening avenues of trade that have yet to by fully exploited. By our manic chasing of the mirage of a good relationship with the USA, we might just be ignoring other more promising areas and relationships, as well as screwing up current and existing relationships.
There is no sense in getting into a relationship with a new partner if it destroys or threatens your existing relationships. It is also a mirage, as we do not possess the needed clout to be more relevant to the USA than China, Pakistan and Russia. Strategic, Economic and Trade factors preclude that assumption and possibility. We are chasing a mirage, and probably getting used in the bargain. Rather than go ballistic on pro-USA, it would be far better for us to build a working relationship with China, and take the Russian partnership deeper. My fear : we are being used, just like a whole list of other nations. Note the deeds of our so-called friend the USA, not its words, Words are cheap, and a dime-a-dozen.
And their deeds consistently speak only one language, and it isnt the language of a strategic partnership. That is a fact, and any number of irrefutable supporting evidences of this can be produced, at length, and in detail. Get access to the full reports, and you can write a book on the areas of concern.
Read the signs : The world is moving AWAY from the USA in Trade and Economics at least. The emergence of regional trade blocks, regional power centers, regional agreements, bilateral relationships and agreement, consolidation of some major markets into one bloc and their consequent re-emergence are all the lead indicators that the era of the USA is over. Why are we chasing a has been? Because it is a military might?
The movements in the money markets on the global scenario, especially in the the background of then QE steps, and the consequent clarion calls by bankers from emerging markets for the USA to show caution and concern for other nations’ issues is yet another lead indicator of the collapse of the henemonistic rule of the USA. It is being openly challenged in each and every forum of international discourse, and rightfully so.
The rule of the Dollar is now being openly challenged; the development of the ADB is yet another factor that is pointing to the demise of the hegemonistic pro-western rule. The world order is changing, and rapidly. And to be a leader, the only way forward is to read the signs, take the mantle of leadership into unknown areas and regions, rather than follow the beaten patth – one that has always led to problems for us.
Militarily, its power is a factor – yes; but even there, it is highly debatable whether they will get support from anyone except is Parent the UK. Separate issue that the UK is itself collapsing. Especially so after Iraq; it will never get support in anything for some time to come, if ever. Why are we saluting a power that is falling – especially since it has never done anything in India’s favour?
We arent just anyone; we are India. The oldest living civilization, the cradle of society and life for 9500 years of uninterrupted societal and stable life as per documented scientific evidence; A nation of 1.27 Billion; One of the largest economies in the world; a record of stable political and economic performance, the many challenges notwithstanding; A fast growing military clout with a well-deserved reputation of balanced non-interfering use of power; an acknowledged soft power; a scientific establishment that has won the world’s respect – its shortcomings notwithstanding; a reputation for peace and stability internally and externally; a reputation for complete dependability;
Few nations, IMHO, can match this. The first point alone is enough; nothing more needs be said. We taught the world how to live; this may sound emotional drivel – but is completely practical, if properly used. And, in the modern world, it is yet again India which has proven its stability and advancement, even as large sections of the planet implode.
If you add all the other points, it makes for an irrefutable case : let us start a new narrative, a narrative of an India that is very different from the narrative in the people’s minds. The lead developments indicated above have extensive Indian steps and policies in place in most cases; the need of the hour is a re-calibration of our internal responses and thought processes – a change to one of self-confidence. Not for us the ballistic response when any US President visits; can we dream of a day when that will be a non-event? A day when Indians don’t place inordinate emphasis on one dream, and calibrate their responses basis facts and not dreams?
Let us hope so…

Make My Blog WIN for BlogAdda Awards

My blog has made it to the Top-5 in the political blogs in India on Blogadda; thanks for the support everyeone!

Being Indian – 5 : National Narrative Versus National Ethos

Published August 1, 2015 by vishalvkale

Concluding part of the series “Being Indian” – previous part found here : Being Indian – 4 : The Ultimate Triumph Of The West

India is a land that, as all of like to repeat ad-nauseum, is known for its diversity as well as its unity both; in fact, Unity in Diversity is the justified by-line for our Nation, our national ethos,  that is what, essentially, India stands for, and our ethos, our culture is what we are exceedingly proud of. This unity rests on the unique Socio-Cultural fabric of our nation, which has been crafted out of several Millennia of inter-mingling, living together, interacting and even fighting together. While India the nation, the political unit, may be a relatively new construct – Hindustan, or Bharat or Hind is a concept as old as this land itself, as is borne out by the scores of period documents as well as in the writings of the visitors to this holy and blessed land.

But, if you dig deeper, one can easily spot a narrative that is at complete variance with this stated ethos, and many contradictory themes emanating from within this unified cultural milieu, many inconsistencies that critics use to label us as being not quite so unified – namely, the fervent desire of a small section of our society to become a Hindu Rashtra, or the entire language debate {to be taken up in an independent article}, or the imaginary oppression during the Muslim rule from around 1150AD, or the politically charged debate around Casteism.

It isn’t my objective to defend “Unity In Diversity”; I see no reason to be defensive about my lovely nation to anyone. If the non-Indian thinks otherwise, he or she is welcome to his or her several impressions. I think all of us know what India is, at the core – so why be defensive? It is far better to ensure that we make this holy land where we have been blessed with a human birth an even better and even more strong place than it was before. And doing that requires tackling the present inconsistencies, challenging them, setting the narrative right – and taking corrective action.

That we are defensive on the topic of India and Being Indian is easily seen and can be readily observed everywhere: from our unhealthy penchant of following NRI-PIOs abroad, highlighting their achievements. This can be seen in our pandering to Western standards, rather than setting our own cultural standards based on our culture; this can be seen in our sheepishness on seeing songs in Movies,  or even in our going gaga over Indian cultural fests abroad or in the ardent following of Temples and their events abroad.

At the core of this defensiveness lies a deep-seated inferiority complex, the roots of which lie deep in our past, and are now firmly entrenched in most people, which is a real tragedy. Why should we go gaga over the achievements of people living abroad, as a small example? These are people who chose another nation over India for their life; what is the message we are giving people? Why should we care overmuch if some Tom, Dick Or Harry makes it big in The UK or The USA? Don’t we have enough success stories in India? Cant a nation find success stories locally? Why is it that NRI-PIOs routinely make front page, whereas the local successes almost never feature in any news? If you cover both with equal vigour – that is fair; but if only is found newsworthy, then this is a manifest inferiority complex.

Similarly, why should we, as Indian Citizens, care about Temples and Hindus in The USA or The UK? Of what concern is it to us? Why should a Barack Obama Diwali party hold relevance for us? Why should we follow the growth of Sanaatan Dharm worldwide? Is our religion a proselytizing faith? If it isn’t – then why can’t we leave well enough alone? And why focus exclusively on The USA, The UK and developed countries? Why not trace the growth in outlying countries, Eastern countries, or African countries? Come to think of it, why don’t the success stories of the Indian Diaspora in other parts of the World become headline news, like the cases in the USA or the UK? Is this what Sanaatan Dharm teaches us? Or does it teach us something different? Is it the contention that only PIOs in the Developed World are successful? What are we displaying by this frankly idiotic behaviour?

On an equal note is the most disturbing trend of the slowly rising – but thankfully currently minor – scenario of the Hindu Rashtra; or the habit of some among us to regard Muslim rule as being worse than British Rule. I have dealt with this extensively earlier here : Being Indian – 3 : The 1000 Year Slavery ; so shall not elaborate. The sad disregard for and ignorance of the evil that happened during British Rule, and the complete inability of even our Media to tell the full story is the most enduring tragedy of Modern India. What is needed is a balance, a complete and truthful exposition of all that happened during both the periods – Muslims and British; such an examination is certain to knock the sails out of the 1000-year slavery myth.

This is what this Being Indian mini-series has been about, focusing on the present inconsistencies, trying to make the reader ask himself or herself some hard questions about what it means to Be Indian. Does Being Indian mean that you have to settle abroad? Does Being Indian mean you have to study and live here just to go away? Does Being Indian mean that you are a Sanaatan Dharmi? Then what about Dr Kalam, or Paramveer Abdul Hamid, or any number of other Muslims, Christians and Sikhs? Does Being Indian mean that you have to follow Western norms? Does Being Indian mean that, by contrast, perforce have to follow Indian norms? What does it mean to “Be Indian”? What is our national story, our national narrative, above and beyond the clichéd term “Unity in Diversity”? And do we, all of us, understand, display and believe in this narrative?

How many of us can identify a snap of Kalpana Chawla – and how many of us can recognize a snap of Paramveer Nirmaljeet Singh Sikhon?  I cant recognize the latter – and that is, perhaps, the worst possible comment on us as a people, and what we value. One person, {if some records and wikiis correct} quit Indian Citizenship for the US, and the other gave his life fighting to protect us. The US citizen’s face is plastered all over our Media, which doesn’t even care to look at Kailash Satyarthi {let alone someone from the past like The Great Nirmaljeet} till The Great West awards a prize, when we suddenly discover him! {God Bless Her, her achievements were tremendous indeed – but she wasn’t Indian, and I therefore take no pride or otherwise in her achievements. And not just for her : the same applies to any PIO. They aren’t Indians}

How many among us quote the ills of The Muslim Rule and the raids of Chengez Khan and Mahmud of Ghazni? And how many of among those know and quote of the 1857 Genocide, or the Bengal Holocaust, or the Famine of the 1760s which killed an estimated 30% of the population of Bengal? How many of us quote the Industrialised India of the 1600s and the 1700s? And how many among us quote and send messages on social media and whatsapp on the ills of that period? And how many of us quote the stories of the weavers, the potters and other products of India, and of the Merchant trade – and how many just reproduce verbatim the sporadic killings of that period?

What is the actual national narrative that we are displaying by such behaviour? Is it in keeping with what we perceive as our national ethos? Why do we ignore the real heroes of our nation – those who stay in India work in India, give their lives for India? And why do we ignore the full story of the past, and concentrate instead on one part story, which is by definition a biased approach? Why do we idolize ex-Indians or even NRIs who quit India, and ignore our heroes at home? Why do we chase after stories of Temples abroad – how is it important to us as Indians? Why do we place Western Culture on a pedestal – when our oft-quoted assimilative culture specifically equates all cultures as one? Why then cant we be accepting of our own identity, and be confident of our own selves? Why this manifest effort to be someone and something that is at complete variance with what we profess to be?

Therein lies the key – our professing to be one identity, and then belying it by displaying behavior that is the complete opposite. Unless we develop a national narrative that is in keeping with our national ethos, this dichotomous behavior will remain. Ethos means “the characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its attitudes and aspirations”; while narrative means “A representation of a particular situation or process in such a way as to reflect or conform to an overarching set of aims or values”, or in short – A spoken or written account of connected events; a story.

In this series – Being Indian – I have attempted to look at some disturbing aspects of our national narrative that are not in consonance with our National Ethos – In simple terms, our behavior vis-à-vis our words at what we profess to value.  I have attempted to lay bare the inconsistencies; areas where we need to bring our narrative and our ethos into one… That is the subject of the next mini-series ; Developing a National Narrative


Being Indian – 4 : The Ultimate Triumph Of The West

Published July 23, 2015 by vishalvkale

This is the 4th article in the Being Indian Series : carrying on from the previous one – Being Indian – 3 : The 1000 Year Slavery, where I examined our so-called slavery of a 1000 years.
The impact of Colonialism on the psyche of a people and a society is a tale that needs to be told, highlighted so that firstly, healing can start; and secondly, harmful and at times divisive ideas and ideologies can be nipped in the bud. The rising feeling of a so-called ‘Hindu’ resurgence /  freedom for 1000 years of slavery / rising sectarianism / other factors, has its roots in the colonial experience, the true extent of which is not known to Indians even in the modern day; if they do know, the realization of its import is sadly absent, as shown by current events.

The assumption, gaining popular ground increasingly in a currently niche segment of our population, that we have been slaves for a 1000 years, is sadly not based on facts; this is a telling failure of our education system, which has done an admittedly laudable job of not feeding hatred against anyone; the unfortunate result of this has been an incomplete understanding of our history, particularly the history of the British rule. Further, the education system has also not been able to keep track of the socio-political changes that are being wrought  by the rise of various forces. But that is another story, to be taken up in another series. Let us leave this thought here for the time being.

Before we move into Colonialism, let us ask ourselves one question: was so-called Muslim rule, or were the Muslim dynasties really as harmful as the British? Second, why did the Muslim rulers gain a footage in this land? What did they cart away, and what did they give back to society? And what is the comparison with the British period? The hard reality is that for most of our history, it has always been the internal traitor – who was like as not a “Hindu”, who was also responsible somewhere along the line! Remember Jaichand? Hasn’t it always been our penchant to call the outsider? Furthermore, we were always divided as a people – can we run away from that? Why did we not wake up and build defences – it took 17 attacks by one particular Gentleman from the Middle East to awaken us – ­­several hundred years later? Even after innumerable attacks – Greeks, Huns, etc : we were still asleep and mindless of our own vulnerability? What were we doing all these years? Sleeping?

Not only that, Muslim rule was built upon alliances and relationships with Non-Muslim rulers as well; and large tracts of India were consistently out of Muslim yoke. I am not denying the excesses that took place; I am only saying while acknowledging the excesses, also acknowledge that good that happened; that will put the entire matter in the proper perspective. In the case of The British period, we are quick to point out the good  – democracy, unity, railways, administration etc, without conceding the bad, or analyzing the extent of the good and the bad, and the intent behind the good. By contrast, nothing good apparently happened in Muslim ruled areas, if you believe some people. Is that a fair assessment?

It is a known historical fact that in the lead-up to British rule, our international trade relationships were strong; be it spices, or be it textiles. In fact, Shivaji Maharaj actually started building a strong navy for the express purpose of defending traders from British and European piracy on the high seas. Keep in mind that the British came to India for trade, or to put it more accurately, under the guise of trade. We were known exporters with a large share of world trade and GDP; these profits from this trade stayed within India, and were not drained out to alien lands.

There was no attempt to play with the socio-cultural fabric of the society; which, given the collusion of Islamic rules with local chieftains, kings and nobility, was a given. Politically there were issues, true; there were instances of persecution, and sad happenings like Jizyaa tax, and the sporadic odd ruler who was a fanatic, like Aurangzeb. Granted. But the people were, by and large, much better off under the previous political setup than in the later British period. And that is the key to the matter! Local industries thrived; agriculture was productive, and taxation which varied from mild to slightly excessive, was not even a patch on that exploitation under British rule. There was no attempt to divide the people, or to create religious and caste tensions.

But what happened in British rule? The Bengal experience and example shows in vivid detail the pillage that occurred in economic terms, leading to a massive famine, and the ruin of a once-rich land to a condition of penury. A land where famine was sporadic, now was jolted by famine after famine every few years, as documented history tells. An estimated 40-60 Million Indians are supposed to have died due to famines alone.  These weren’t just Hindus – they were Indians of all castes, religions. Taxation increased to  50-80% of the produce; farmers were not free to grow what they wanted- cropping changes were forced; these are just 2 examples of the interference that happened. This did not happen during Muslim rule, and that is a fact.

Local Industries were destroyed; business profits plunged to a fraction of the old within a few years of the onset of British rule; weavers – for example – reduced to beggars, creating the begging problem in a land where no beggars were known on so wide a scale; landless labour class expanded dramatically as profits from agriculture dipped, creating a massive nationwide class of landless labour; Zamindari strengthened through direct intervention; industry after industry collapsed, as the inverted duty structures made imports cheaper than home-grown products for the first time in our history; new technology inflow reduced to zero; education losing steam and focus…

Next came the interventions in Religion, and the targeted conversions that started to happen on a scale not seen before – targeting all religions; and on top of all this, was the denigration and destruction of the local arts and culture scene, with Indian habits, cultural occasions and arts being targeted and derided; the advent of cultural imperialism, and the way it interrupted the development of our arts and culture; the way an ugly combination of livelihood dependency on knowledge of the English Language, and constant debasement of everything Indian by the British became associated in the minds of the people with western superiority, giving rise to a  plethora of modern issues…

But worst of all was the destruction of the socio-political fabric of this lovely nation, a fabric that had ensured its continued dominance and survival for millennia, despite its many faults and flaws. This is to be taken up in the concluding 5th part of the Being Indian Series, so let us leave this thought here. Point to be noted here is that in Trade, Industry, Arts, Culture, Economics, Religion – in just about each and every sphere of societal and political mileu in India, it is the British Rule which stands out as being the most harmful and divisive in our long history.

No period of our history has had as many tragic stories happening simultaneously on so large a scale, as under British Rule. The period prior to British rule, while not without its issues and problems, was a period of relative prosperity and growth, the many problems notwithstanding. Merchant guilds, industries, factories, agriculture scenario, trade routes and nationwide trade networks were all vital and strong just prior to the British, that is  a fact. By contrast, under British rule, wealth- which previously stayed within India, not started going out of India…

This was both through sanctioned as well as unofficial loot. Unbelievably high taxation, paying for the enite edifice of colonialism alongwith its massive perks and high expenses through internal money, the repatriation of around a full 50% of the annual budget to England; the taxation outflows, with Indian goods taxed at 80% and imports at 20%, unpaid war debts, which were as high as 40% approximately of total British war debts {as per some estimates}; complete destruction of both agriculture as well as industry as viable professions for Indians; destructions of trade routes and networks are all of British origin, and none from so-called Muslim rule.

Add to this the slaughter : the genocide of 1857, the innumerable famines, the brutal suppression of uprisings and freedom movements across India – and you have a tale of disaster that is unparalleled anywhere. The British denuded us of our wealth, and built their own developed World on our money; not only that, they also got us to believe in our own inferiority in military, economic as well as cultural terms; this was not present earlier. This is the true victory of the British Empire : getting the strongest, most resilient and innovative people on the planet to believe they are backward, decadent, weak and defenseless, and that Western culture is superior. This continuing belief in the superiority of Western Culture is the ultimate and lasting triumph of The British Raj, alongside the absolute, complete and total success of the policy of divide and rule, getting brother to question brother, getting us to question our selves, rather than our rapists…


Being Indian – 3 : The 1000 Year Slavery

Published July 8, 2015 by vishalvkale

A cursory glance at Modern India will reveal a deepening line of historical misinterpretation in some fringe segments of our society which tends to place inordinate emphasis on the myth of Free Rule after 800 or 1000 years of slavery or foreign rule; the same fringe tends to place a huge emphasis on the mythical relatively heavier persecution during the Muslim Dynasties that ruled various parts of India from around 1150-1200 AD onwards  till around 1675-1700 AD. These people make the first and most glaring error when they claim Muslim Rule was till 1850AD or thereabouts, which is a sad comment on the state of our history education, which needs revamping in totality in my opinion.

The record shows that throughout the 18th century, from around 1700 AD or a few years before that, the pre-eminent rising power in India was the Maratha Empire, which by the mid-18th century was the most powerful ruler in India, and continued in that status till the Anglo-Maratha wars and their ultimate vanquishment, but that is another story to be told later. The same record also shows the rise of the Sikh power to the North of India, and their rising pre-eminence and importance in the equation. There may have been other powers of which I am not aware. Thus, one part of the narrative is demonstrably false; high time we examined this narrative in a little more detail to get a better perspective.

A slightly more detailed examination throws up many more spanners in the theory of 800 or 1000 years of alien domination, without even touching upon the fact that the invaders from outside made India their home, and all the wealth of India remained inside India. This examination will reveal the might of the Rajputs and their valiant defiance and indomitable spirit; it will reveal the story of Hukka and Bukka who formed the resplendent Vijaynagar Empire in the Deccan, and its unbelievable power.  It will reveal the co-habitation and increasing cooperation between Sanataanis {the actual term for Hindus} and Musliims, and the political alliances that were struck; it will also expose how rise to the uppermost echelons of power in the medieval nation was not dependent on religion, and that many a Muslim ruler had scores of Sanaatani Generals and Nobles, and vice-versa

But beyond all of this, and far more serious and worrying is the rhetoric, currently in the fringes and completely unimportant, is the myth that Sanaatanis were persecuted most heavily during Muslim rule, or should I say so-called Muslim Rule. Firstly, it is a fact that Muslim Rule was dependent in large part and was supported and set up by the unwavering loyalty and support of powerful feudal and noble leaders of all religious persuasions, as well as deep and highly successful political alliances with non-Muslim rulers in Medieval India.

While the above  may be argued, and quite convincingly at that, that there were vast differences between dynasties in this matter, the attendant rising rhetoric of the heaviest persecution of Sanaatan Dharm followers is pure nonsense, and has no basis in fact. While there were undoubtedly persecution examples that occurred in that era, the fact remains that this wasn’t even a patch on what all of India went through under British rule, which makes Muslim rule a Golden Period in comparison – which it was in many, many ways, while also being indirectly responsible for our fall from grace.  But, are the Muslim Rulers alone to blame for that? That is the topic of the next article; let us leave this line of thought here for the time being.

Even if we accept that some persecution happened in some periods of Muslim rule { Which we have to, given that some persecution undoubtedly did happen}, how is it a smart or even an acceptable retelling to exclusively focus on these sins that happened against Sanaatan Dharm followers, completely omitting the far more serious attacks on our culture, religion and way of life that happened between 1757 and 1947? Why this completely one-sided narrative? That itself is enough to raise deep questions, and convincing ones, on the accuracy of the rhetorical narrative that is gaining currency. A fair retelling would also acknowledge the extensive damage of the more recent period!

But the rhetoric focuses on only  the damage during one specific period of our history, without an attendant acknowledgement of the many documented benefits that accrued from the same period, or the continuous growth of the economic engine, or the continued performance of our many trade routes with Central Asia; or indeed the fact that the money remained within India, and was not bled away, or the performance of agriculture and the growth of the Merchants and Industrialists. Neither does this rhetoric acknowledge the control of Non-Muslims over vast swathes of India, or that Non-Muslims were an essential cog in the ruling Muslim rulers administrative as well as Armed Forces machinery! No attempt is made to examine the lives of the common folk even.

 Moving on, let us look at British rule and lay the facts of the persecution, and how it was much more severe than anything during the previous era.  British rule destroyed the core and the bedrock of every single aspect of our wonderful society: each-and-every-single-facet. Arts, culture, religion, society, caste, everything, Documented fact. There was a plan to make India 100% Christian : fact. There was a plan to Europeanise India {specific words : they will remain burned into my conscience for as long as I live : raise a European Element in the population}. {{USA / Australia / South Africa Anyone?}}

Arts were destroyed – repeat, destroyed. Or attempted to. Fact. Casteism hardened : fact. Religious equiilibrium destroyed : Fact. A land where corruption was not known, became corrupt as there was no other way to survive. Fact. Indianism denigrated at every level : fact. Education taken apart {oh yes, medieval India had Excellent schooling} : fact. Manufacturing base destroyed : fact. Agriculture productivity, earlier among the finest anywhere : destroyed : fact. :Landless labour created from nothing : fact. Crafts wrecked : fact.

No such dire poverty over so large an area was ever before known on the planet.” : A report from a European on India, 1907. “. Making every possible allowance, it is clearly established that, comparing the Indian Exports and the Indian Imports, the overplus of Exports for which there is no commercial return now amounts to more than £35,000,000 a year, or considerably in excess of fifty per cent more than the total Land Revenue obtained from all British India[2] This drain has been going on in an increasing ratio, and necessarily with deepening effect, ever since the British occupation. It means that India, naturally a country with the greatest possibilities for wealth-production in every department, is being steadily bled to death” {Ruin of India by British Rule – Hyndman, Stuttgart, 1907. I have read reports from as far back as 1757 as well that provide corroboration – Durant, 1930; RC Dutt, 1906; as well as several contemporary books, which give detailed numbers with original period evidence as proof of the loot that happened yearwise}

That is nearly 4 Billion Dollars per years surplus in today’s money, or 25,266 Crores in Rupees. That is for JUST ONE YEAR. This had happened for 190 years. One hundred and ninety years! By the way. and by the by, that calculation above was an internet finance site that takes into consideration inflation rates only, which is neither here nor there. If we consider that the surplus went into building factories, amenities, funding research and development…. IMHO we can compound at an assumed arbitrary rate of 8%. That makes 11.4 BILLION Dollars for one year alone. Or 72464Crores rupees for ONE YEAR. This wealth stayed within India during the so-called bad Muslim Rule! Modern India’s current external debt interest payments are in the region of 9-10 Billion yearly. That puts the matter in the right perspective!

Neither is the contention of deaths maintainable in the light of documented facts; the famine record of British India alone would put the entire 9000-year history to shame shadow in the mortality rate. The number of deaths is thought to be in the region of 50-68 Million deaths attributable to the British policies – and this is just due to the famines. There was a massive famine in Bengal within a few years of British Rule that is known to have wiped out large parts of the entire population, accounting for well over 10 Million Deaths. The Famine of 1942-44, proven to be due to British rule, also was as bad, accounting for more than 5 Million deaths. Such things were not known in Muslim Rule.

The genocide of 1857, carried out against civilians, is well studied and documented, with an untold number of civilian deaths, with some records putting the toll at 10 Million! This genocide was carried out against an entire people, across large parts of India in a targeted strategy. The brutal suppression of revolt after revolt, and numerous freedom attempts is also a matter of record. Not one word of this reaches the fringe rhetoric, that is also a fact. But far more than these is the targeted destruction of the entire way of life that we used to live, our crafts, arts, religion, as well as our pride in our way  of life. That is what I take up in detail in the next part of this 5-part mini-series…

High time we Indians recognized that this is just a colonial hangover, and a direct gift of British Rule, and has no basis in reality. In order that India moves forward and stakes a claim at its rightful place at the top of the world, we need to overcome these insecurities as a people, recognize the rhetoric for what it is, and move on in time-honoured Indian style and tradition. High time we started to apportion the blame to the place they actually belong : the brutal colonial rape, and recognize and accept that the only slavery we had was from 1757-1947, and that we never were slaves for 800 or 1000 years…

Being Indian 2 : The Line Of Citizenship

Published July 6, 2015 by vishalvkale

In the previous article, the theme was of inclusiveness and openness in the internal and external context, and how India has always been a land where everyone has found a home. In that article, I emphasized a differential approach, recommending a differentiation between us and the rest of the World; wherein I advocated being closed in the external cultural sphere, while being completely open in the internal cultural milieu.
I am saying be open; I am also saying be closed. One can be both at the same time. How do you define being open? Open to all – to what extent? There has to be a line. I draw that line – Black, Thick and Hard: The Line Of Citizenship. Externally, on politics and economics, I am defensive; true – but that is because the situation dictates defensiveness, – but more of that later in the series. Externally, on culture : I am completely open, and for the reasons listed out in at least 17 full articles, maybe several more. {}
I state this because of our increasing penchant of idolizing and highlighting the achievements of Sanaatan Dharm followers the world over, as well as People Of Indian Origin; innumerable news articles and oodles of Media space and time is devoted to these aliens. For that is what these people are : Aliens. Had these people loved India, or looked upon India as a home, they would not have left permanently. The act of surrendering citizenship is indicative of their attitudes, their opinions and their priorities.
I don’t grudge them their choices; why should I? Just the same as they don’t have the right to intervene in my nation, or indeed my individual choices, I don’t have the right to intervene in what is essentially their individual choice. They may have been Indians at some point in time, now they aren’t – period. Now they are as alien to me as a Britisher, a Portuguese, A South African, or an Australian. The choice to cut the umbilical chord has created a divide that cannot be bridged…

Internally, I am stating complete openness, inclusiveness and confidence;. I am also emphasising unity, just the same as anyone else; I am only demarcating a line dictated by the world we live in. By drawing this line, I am clearly stating, that first we need to sort out our own problems before we set out to include the world… otherwise where is the difference between us and the West? They pontificate to everyone forgetting their own internal fissures. Remember the recent past in the USA?

By drawing this line, I am actually supporting universality and openness, since I am in effect saying that I can accept you as you are; we can live together. I will not dictate how to live to you; let us have a symbiotic relationship for mutual economic benefit given your past links to India. That, I think, exhudes confidence, practicality, and a rock-hard constitution. And an eminently workable, although exceptionally tough a path to walk. It also sets a red line : the relationship is mutual economic benefit – meaning you don’t have the right to intervene in our affairs- you are not repeat not an Indian Citizen anymore,
I find this amazing penchant of ours to highlight any headway in Sanaatani and NRI developments abroad to be both intrusive as well as strange; equally, this irritating penchant to not highlight achievements of Indians in India. Why should that be so? Why cant we highlight the achievements and success stories of the countless Indians who make it in India, who study and choose to stay in India? Why should I care if someone – even an NRI – achieves something abroad? The value that person is adding is to an alien society! Cant we think of Indian achievements – and there are hundred to go around?
It is this defensive behavior that manifests itself time and again : indicating that we have not gotten over our inferiority complexes regarding Western Culture, and its supposed superiority, which is a highly debatable and in some ways incorrect assumption, basis hard documented facts of the ugly side of their culture, just the same as every culture has bad points, including ours! Why should we, as a nation, care that some former Indian, who left India, made it big elsewhere? We should actually be devoting that time and space to Indians. If at all non-Indians, then focus on outsiders who came to India!
We have been here for 9000 years. We have seen the rise of empires; we have seen them fall and get razed to the dust. We have seen people lose their identities, their culture and get subsumed – of which there are even Modern Examples aplenty; we have seen cultures crumble; we have seen cultures and nations get destroyed by invaders -we have seen it all. And throughout this, we have remained unchanged.

We have seen the rise of might, and we have seen its crashing fall to the nadir of non-relevance. We have seen, felt and suffered the arrogance and the exuberance of might, and we are now seeing its whimper as it crumbles to dust, in the time-tested nature of this lovely existence. And through it all, we have been resolute, withstanding the strong gale-winds of forced change rip through our land and our people…

And yet, despite the force of the change, despite the insidious internal interactions wrecked upon our culture by the internal interaction with alien cultures, our culture has withstood it and stands tall and hard, as hard as it ever was. Indeed, instead of uprooting the old, what we are seeing is a repetition of the past, as this Holy Land choreographs its magic once again, assimilating the good from the other culture, eradicating the ills in the home culture, and further strengthening the bonds of the mother culture.

We have done it several times in the past; most recently in our interaction with the Arab World, where we assimilated the new culture effortlessly into our own until the sceptre of Western Interference tore apart the foundation of the adjustment before it could get cemented into stone. The manifest failure of Western Style Universalism and Culture to respect, accept, honour and integrate itself with Indian Culture is a clear failure of the Western Concepts, as on our side we have, yet again, managed to integrate the alien culture into our own culture. 
In doing so, churn has happened, tearing apart adjustments, understandings, bringing past deeds to the fore, destroying equilibrium, enhancing both perceived and real ills from a portion of the past and suppressing real ills of the immediate past, curdling perspective, and stoking sectarianism. Never has our culture faced such a brutal assault as it faced during 1757-1947, and yet it stood tall and resolute. As I observed in my previous articles, it drove a schism into our society and alienated a part of our heart from us.

And yet, despite the strongest and most vicious attack on our being, our soul and body, our Holy Land ensured that we withstood it. Sure, this has created several current and felt problems, but we are sorting them out in our own time-honoured traditions. Sure, it has created, or further enhanced, or exacerbate some social evils: but at the same time it has absorbed the good points from the attacking culture, effortlessly and seamlessly integrated them into our own cultural fabric for our own benefit.

Such is our Holy Land. And that is something special : very special indeed.
I would respectfully submit to all Indian readers here : please trust your mother a little bit more; as a people, she hasnt failed us yet. Maa to phir Maa hi reheti hai. Please have more pride and confidence in your Mom : and the blood that flows through our veins. {And if you do have the trust, forgive these words, please!}  Khoon Apnaa Rang Dikhaa Kar Rahegaa; Mehendi Toh Mehendi Hai Rang Laayegi! We have always been open, welcoming, non-judgemental, and progressive. A slide from that led to disaster, as history bears mute testimony. Let us not forget the lessons of history. But, at the same time, as I said, Khoon Apnaa Rang Dikhaa Kar Rahegaa; Mehendi Toh Mehendi Hai Rang Laayegi!

Let us look around and try and see myriad examples of positive impetus to Indian Values that can be seen everywhere we turn around and look; the rising small wave of a backlash is now evident in my reading, across the land in every aspect from tolerance to culture. In its worst form, it takes the shape of the extreme reactions like the furore over  of Valentine’s Day. These reactions, though extreme, are completely in line with the expected reactions that are bound to happen as cultures collide. How anyone expects anything else is beyond me.

Rather than cry foul over these reactions, we should welcome them; they are a sign that all is not lost; they are a sign that the Indian is beginning to re-assert. The need of the hour is not condemnation of such reactionary forces- this will only feed the fire; the need of the hour is toning down their reactions, being mature, and working around them. This is the theme of the third article; our contemporary problems arising out of our past, and our current response

Being Indian – 1 : Cultural Invasion

Published July 3, 2015 by vishalvkale

One of the common themes in these times is the oft-heard erosion of values in India and the threat to our way of life; that Indian values are under threat… What does Being Indian mean, devoid of any religious connotations? In the following mini-series, I have tried to place what is essentially my opinion on Being Indian, and what are its ramifications… and present my views on Indian Culture’s well known inclusiveness – which is as per me the defining characteristic of being Indian –  as well as try and meet allegations of the spectre of cultural invasion, or the erosion of Indian Values

To me, Being Indian :
v Gives me an ability to think, read and write in 3 Languages with consummate ease and complete confidence…
v Gives me an edge as I can live my life in a truly free democracy, where the colour of skin doesnt matter, where my name doesnt matter
v Gives me an edge {form 1 above} because I can access the best of Western Literature as well as Eastern Literature, in addition to Indian Literature without having to go the additional mile to learn new languages or cultures
v Gives me an edge because I can communicate with someone in South Korea or Singapore or Philippines or Indonesia or USA or Germany or anywhere else; I can do business with them while not having to go the additional mile to learn a new language; at the same time, it allows me to stay very close and combined with my culture, as I converse in 3 languages with total ease
v Gives the confidence of the backing of an inclusive and open culture that has survived severe onslaughts, more than any other culture almost, and has not only flourished – but has taken the best from every culture to come into contact with it – the uniquely Indian power of assimilation
v Gives me an edge as I have to deal with stunning diversity on a daily basis – I interact daily with Muslims, Christians, Sanaatan Dharmis, SIkhs or North Indians, South Indians, East Indians, and so on including all types of skin colours; and it allows me to deal with them, befriend them and do business with them without any cultural connotations or limitations or biases…
Openness and Inclusiveness means that you are welcome to trade with India, tour India, have mutually – underline that – beneficial relations with India. That is it; dont interfere, and stay the hell out of our affairs. Intermix with us, associate with us, – but do not interfere. The fact of the matter is that the West does interfere and poke their unwanted nose everywhere; that is where we Indians draw the line.

One can be open and inclusive while simultaneously drawing the line; it is eminently feasible to do so. Openness and Inclusiveness are typically internal terms, internal realities referring to the internal cultural reaction and their socio-political effects; external interactions are governed by a different set of factors, which do not include openness and inclusiveness in the cultural context.
In the external context, being open and inclusive means not having territorial designs, not being judgemental of other cultural or having a supermacist self-image, being accepting of other realities and cultural contexts {as different from political realities and context}, accepting those differences and working around those differences without offending the other party / culture, and without being judgemental , holier-than-thou and moralistic.

Morals, while absolute, have widely divergent yardstick and norms in other cultures; ditto social norms. We cannot and should not dictate our cultural view to other cultures – it is their culture, their problems are theirs to solve, not ours. We have no conceptualisation of their internal realities and factors, and our opinion or interference is thus not required.

We can easily see that externally we have been very careful, as a nation, to be non-judgemental and inclusive, accepting of other nations and cultures. Unlike The Great West, we dont chastise USA on their racism problems, or dictate to other cultures {as a small example}. We dont bring out insulting reports on internal factors of other nations – unlike the holier-than-thou USA which does it all the time, as an example. We are very internally focused as a nation and as a people, with the only exception being our penchant for following Sanaatan Dharm and its followers everywhere. But point to be noted : even there, we have never intervened or interfered to the best of my knowledge; which is more than can be said of the developed world, with its myriad cultural and political means of subvention as well as intervention

That is why we cannot drop our guard : their problems are theirs only so far as they dont impact us or our nation’s internal security paradigms. You may have business relations in India, you may have business contacts, you may have the same roots & origins – like PIOs, or the same religion; you may be our security or strategic partner and/or well-wisher – that does not give you the right to pontificate. We can manage our own problems; we don’t pontificate to you; and the least we expect is that you reciprocate…

That is truly walking the talk; that is truly inclusive and mature…

I live my way, you live yours. I accept your way – and the least I expect is that you accept my path. If you dont, then there is going to be a clash. Openness and Inclusiveness between cultures works only when both are the same; when only one is Open and Inclusive, you cannot have Openness and Inclusiveness without clashes, which is what we see in the international context as cultures collide. And when the collision is in both the cultural as well as the political sphere, problems get intertwined and exacerbated.
Politically, one can easily see a myriad attempts at interference : crass and in-your-face – like building up Pakistan; Trade and Economic Issues – Solar Power, AMS, Climate Change, Tech Transfer, UNO; Myriad targeted reports on various internal issues, and so on and so forth. These are real problems, and cannot be wished away. Neither can the reality of the connected world : I refer you to the seminal book by Dr Raghuram Rajan {} , as well as the book by Michael W Hudson {} ; the impact of the globally connected economy on unrelated markets is now a fundamental truth and cannot be wished away.

Culturally too, one can easily spot a variety of attempts at intervention through various quasi-cultural methods, as well as outright political methods; but these pale into insignificance in the light of the other challenge to the culture,  it is also true that it is culture that is at the foreground in the connected world with its exposure to other cultural ideas, mores, norms, modes, practices and realities through the increasingly aggressive media and its exposure to people

In such an atmosphere, while it is absolutely vital that a defensive mechanism be in place in every way in the political sphere, I am not too concerned about the impact on culture; which is why I am not at all defensive on both the overt cultural aspects like Movies and Music, as well as the less apparent cultural aspects like tolerance, respect of elders, open world view, inclusiveness, When it comes to realpolitic, it is important that we build strong defenses; that is where the focus needs to be – not on building defences and angry reactions to an imagined cultural invasion which may not be as serious as we think it to be!
Nothing stated above means we forget the past; which is the single biggest reason for some people to mount a defend Indian Culture action sequence. These reactions we shall look at later; As regards bitterness and history, when a people have bled as much as we have, it will take a long time, a very, very long time to forget. But what past to remember – only a partial recollection, or the full story? Why not remember the full story, especially since the developed world is developed only on the stolen wealth from the colonies? Why only a partial recollection of history? Further, contemporary history has proven that it would be naive to forget the relevant past, which we do tend to ignore : witness the US-Pakistan duo, and how it is consistently supporting Pakistan to our detriment. Witness the Economic and Trade negotiations in everything from Agriculture to Climate, and witness the western onesided selfishness.

Let us look at what happened in 1947, which was enough to tear apart the core, the base, the bedrock and the entire edifice of Aryavarta, the Golden Land {of which India is a larger version, having expanded in some regions, while contracting elsewhere}; it was enough to rip out its entails. It was a brutal jolt, a shock to the core of our being, our raison-de-etre. A land where everyone was at home was no longer home to some people… and yet…
In the midst of this disaster, from the ashes of ruin, rose Modern India – the living image of Ancient Aryavarta, a land where everyone is welcome regardless of anything, so long as you are an Indian Citizen. Yet again, all religions, colours and cultural realities found a means of peaceful co-existence. Sure, problems remain – but how many of those problems are due to the colonial experience? Have we had enough time to eradicate that memory and that damage?
This is a theme we will examine in later articles, for now, the learning from the above example for us is that if such  a brutal jolt could not destroy the core of our ethos as a civilization, it is being pessimistic in the extreme to believe minor cultural factors will succeed in overcoming us; this is a time for us Indians to look at the entire past, and draw confidence from it; and look at our contemporary approach  and culture, and draw pride for it – not defensiveness.