Hinduism

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Book Review : Monkeys, Motorcycles and Misadventures

Published January 31, 2016 by vishalvkale

Some books are meant to be read {your average fiction stuff}; some others are meant to be studied and analysed, learnt from {my upcoming review : Untold Stories of 20 Brands}; yet others are informative {India, Uninc, as an example}; and then are those which leave a deep impression, and provoke thought and discussion {Reforming Institutions, for example}… rare is the book that combines one or more of all of the above. The current book is one such.
This is a book which frankly defies description and categorisation. I cant call it Fiction, since the auther states it an non-fiction, and concerns a real event in the life of the author. I cant call it a travelogue, for it is far more than a travelogue. I cant call it just thought provoking, for it is full of rib-tickling ROFL anecdotes; what I can and will call it is : a complete entertainer from the first page, right from the very first page.

THE PLOT
Image result for monkeys motorcycles and misadventures reviewThe book is ostensibly about three friends who decide, once upon a sweet sweet time, to follow the path of Lord Hanuman to Lanka. These same three geniuses decide to – hold your breath – walk. Yes, walk. A small matter of 1200 Kilometers. Saw it on a map, it isn’t much really. It was 6 centimeters on that map, so it is a rather simple affair, really. I mean, it isn’t like you have to walk to the Railway Station, is it? Just a small matter of a – {shudder} – walkto Sri Lanka. Right next door on the map. Look it up on any map if you think I am joking.
Anyways, these three – aah – geniuses – then proceed to actually execute the thought or decision. {I mean, seriously, how many of us actually, truly, really execute all of our decisions and plans? Unreal! Fiction Book, I would have thought : sad they took photographs as proof!}. To top it all, they actually do complete the plan, you know. And we, the smart people, are still at our home / office {hope you are at home reading this, you shouldn’t read personal stuff in the office} [PS : It is a Sunday and I am very much at home]. How they do it forms the rest of the book.
THE AUTHOR {AND THE AMIGOS WITH HIM}
The book is written by someone only identifiable as “Harsha” {I wonder why? Why not give precise details?}, a person who is a freelance writer and the author of ‘Monkeys, Motorcycles, and Misadventures’. After graduating with a Master’s in Business Administration, he worked with a large IT company for a few years, before taking a sabbatical to trek the Hanuman route. In 2013, he moved to a beach town, where he spent a year beach bumming, mooching off family, and writing the current book. The others are Sri {whom I kind of liked} and the one and only Sam – two friends with whom the author has done some trekking before…
THE ANALYSIS
The author has the choice of making it like a recipe book, or a visitor’s travelogue by giving precise details and routes visited; full marks for avoiding that temptation and taking recourse to a free-wheeling style of writing, which is in keeping with the plot and the book. While they do have a broad plan, they decide to take it as it comes; this is the way the author has written the book as well. A free-wheeling, rambunctious style which makes for absorbing reading.
The book is freely littered with anecdotes, observations, fights {sorry guys, I found your fights entertaining at times. Sach hai, dunia hansti hai jab khud rote ho} that have you laughing at the situation, or the ready wit of the author, or of the comments and the observations of the three amigos, as the author likes to call himself and his friends. {Harsh : you did, too. All of once in the book. So there!}. That adds spice to this highly interesting book, making it a riveting read.
The icing on the cake is the thought provoking and deep insights, observations, experiences that occur to our three amigos along their path. These are found throughout the book, and leave you in quiet contemplation, stunned at times, just thoughtful at others, at the penetrating observation or the essential truth they contain. These span the most trivial to the most profound. Sample this little beauty when a kid walked up with Prasad :
I wanted to scream at the little girl, tell her the world wasn’t a safe place; .. but I didn’t… after receiving her kindness, who was I to destroy her innocence, her unquestioning belief in goodness? Was I a guardian, and of what? If anything, I had to guard that, the part of humanity’s divinity that I had just experienced… I wanted to see than innocence for longer, that faith in humanity; It made me forget my problems and my fears; It was something that I had lost a long time back, and the loss had left me jaded…”
These little gems are what elevate this book from the mundane to the level of a collector’s item, a book to be savoured as special, a book to be kept aside and read again and again when you have free time…

The writing is fluid, effortless and entertaining; the freewheeling style makes it a rapid and fast read, This is an ideal book for a journey for casual readers who have begun to experiment with other genres and styles, as it is a fast read and can be easily tackled in the free time you have; that is critical as the book literally flows from start to finish, and it is better if you read it through the first time.  For passionate bookaholics of the serious genre, people who have progressed beyond fiction – this is a must read title. All in all, I rate it 4 stars out of 5. 



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Book Review : Ramayan – Stolen Hope

Published January 24, 2016 by vishalvkale

||Shri||


RAMAYAN : STOLEN HOPE
RAMAYAN – STOLEN HOPE by SHUBH VILAS
{Book 3, after The Rise Of The Sun Prince and Shattered Dreams}

THE AUTHOR
Shubh Vilas is a spiritual seeker and a motivational speaker, with a degree in Engineering and Law, specialised in Patent Law. Prominent among his teachers are H.D.G. A.C. Bhaktivedant Swami Srila Prabhuda {Founder Hare Krshna Movement} and H.H. Radhanath Swami



STOLEN HOPE
This is a book that is completely different from the previous book/s in narrative, content and flow; those of us who are aware of the story of the life of the Lord Ram will find this in keeping with the story of his life. In the previous book, we studied {I cannot use the word “read” for the story of our Lord} his life till the Vanvaasperiod starting; far too obviously, the story takes a turn from that point.
The current book traces the life of Lord Ram from the beginning of the Vanvaas going right till the sad episode of Sita Haran by Ravan, and the start of the hunt till the meeting of Lord Rama with Shabari. Along the way, we are treated to a series of episodes from the Vanvaas Period which make for enthralling reading for those of us {like self} who were unaware of the full details of the complete Ramayan. To me, The Ramayan moves from Vanvaas straight till Sita Haran; this book has enabled me to get a hand on the full story of our Lord.
Here you will find a multitude of episodes with enchantingly exhausting details which enrich your understanding of The Ramayan – from the full story of Rishi Agastya who tamed the Vindhya Mountain Range, to the story of Jatayu, to the story of Dandakaranya and many other interesting parts, like the story of Khara & Dushan; the palace of Ravan, the story of Mandodari and many others that make this a highly engaging read!


THE ANALYSIS
But far more than the story itself, for me personally the biggest takeaway from this part of His life is the description of the lifestyle, environment, their daily activities, their simplicity, their surrender to their current situation and the way they conduct themselves. That left me spellbound, as I was able to visualise how tough it must have been for a Prince, a man who was brought up for kingship to go through these rigours.
The other part of this part of the book is the continuing delicate interplay between The Lord and Sita Ma; this is truly the stuff of legend. The author has reproduced their relationship in such a sublime fashion, with their conversations, episodes and communications leaving a deep impression on your mind. Add to this the absolutely wondrous devotion of Lord  Lakshman, and you have a retelling of The Ramayan that is beyond description almost
In Lakshman one sees devotion to one’s loved ones; sacrifice for the sake of the elders; total obedience – and yet an ability to respectfully convey one’s disagreement with the elder; complete surrender to one’s duties and responsibilities; this is a sacrifice that is unparalleled in my experience at least. This is one of the biggest plus points of this series, the way Lakshman’s role has been given due attention and portrayed properly.

Such is the style of the presentation & so powerful the connect of The Ramayan with us that you smile with delight with each smile of Devi Sita, and get tears in your eyes on more than one occasion in the scenes of The Lord and The Devi, in the devotion of Lakshman, in the tragic Sita Haran. The author has done full justice to The Ramayan, and has made it far more than a mere book or a retelling…
Best of all is the Lord Ram and the way his full character is brought out in front of our eyes; one can see the loving husband, the caring brother, the compassionate man, as well as the tough warrior and hard punisher all in one complete package, enabling you to understand why he is the ideal man : Maryada Purushottam! The transformation of the Lord from loving man to determined warrior, from compassionate human to crusading punisher has been flawlessly achieved, and enriches your understanding of The Lord.


THE LESSONS
Where this series makes its most powerful mark is the series of short annotations, text boxes and comments that drive home powerfully the lessons of The Ramayan; and its contemporary relevance. This places the current retelling in  a league of its own, and makes for a deeply engaging, immensely enriching and deeply thought-provoking study. That is also another reason why I refer to this series not as a reading material – but a study to be undertaken and a path to be followed.

The way the material has been presented, it ceases to be just a Holy Book, or a retelling of the known story of The Lord Ram and Devi Sita; it transposes into a potentially life-changing or life-enriching experience as you are taken deep into human psychology, human reactions & life lessons. This is not done  through long lectures or allegories but rather through short end-notes of a few words each, leaving deep learnings. This is series to be read again and again until the message sinks in and changes you for the better.

Furthermore, another fantastic part of this series is the text boxes which contain analyses of some episodes and the reasons why each person behaved as he or she did in that scenario; this enables a deeper understanding of the story, as well as a deeper connect with these historical characters. These text boxes are also used to drive home lessons from key episodes of The Ramayan; making this book far more than just a mere retelling!


THE CONCLUSION
This is a labour of love, of a learned man’s deep passion for The Ramayan; it is not just a mere book series or a retelling. It can be best described as the effort of a Guru; you become a pupil in his class of life, as the Guru takes you through the story, with the attendant hard-hitting, or thought-provoking comments which I now like to call Guides to Life. This is a guide to the reader, an aid even to a brutal self-examination with potentially far reaching effects and learnings, if studied with attention.


{Have I, who am writing these tall words, studied it with the requisite attention? I didn’t the first book; that was just a deeply engaging book. But the second one got through to me, and it has now  become a potential study. How much I will succeed is anyone’s guess. Time will tell! If I can succeed in my effort to treat this as a study, a life-changing experience – I will be the richer for the experience}



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Life, And Death… The Unending Circle

Published January 17, 2016 by vishalvkale

Life, And Death… The Unending Circle
Another year… Another Month… and Another Day… Yet another tragedy strikes close to me and my family, leaving us behind…leaving my mind in a turmoil, with questions and observations crashing through my mind as I attempt to come to terms with the larger questions relating to the purpose of life, and the smaller questions of my response both to the path of life as well as my response to such seminally tragic events…
As of now, as before, when tragedy has struck and me & my family are in mourning, the one thought that literally flashes through my mind, crashes into my consciousness is the same thought I had on my Dad’s funeral pyre 9 years ago… at the end, the only thing that remains is a person’s thoughts, nature, words, and relationships with people…
Nothing matters; the worldly possessions we run after so mindlessly will pass on to some other owner, nothing remains that you or your memory can call yours. The house will be transferred to some other name; the shirts, pants will be donated to some needy; the TV will be seen by someone else; the car will have a new driver behind the wheel; the bank balance and investments will be bequeathed to someone else… and so on and so forth…
The world will cry a little or a lot – or not at all, depending on how close people were to you {that is critical}; those who cry will do so for 2 days, maybe three – or maybe longer. The only person who will retain your memory lifelong is your spouse – and if you are exceptionally lucky {and good}… your children. That is it. Life stops for not a moment after you pass away; not one moment. Mouths will need to be fed; children need to go to school; and so on and so forth. Nothing stops – not even your closest family, and that is a hard fact.
WHAT REMAINS AFTER US?
The one realisation that has come to me is that what remains after you is only the good deeds you have done; the happiness that you have spread; the pleasure you have given; your words & your memories, which people cherish in those rare special moments when the past comes back to mind; nothing else matters. The only other thing that matters is your Children : if you manage to give them a good education and upbringing – they will carry this and thank you their entire life.
And yet, paradoxically, we spend our entire adult lives pursuing worldly items  and possessions to the exclusion of the only things that will actually remain ours; the only things we will carry with us to the heavenly abode. I myself, who am penning these rather grandiose terms, am not too different in this regard.
WHY? A PRACTICAL LOOK…
It can be argued that each individual has desires and ambitions, and culling and curbing your desires and ambitions is not exactly the right thing to do; that it is my right to do as I please, as I am on this earth to live. Granted. But does the  pursuit of our individual goals and desires mean we forget the items listed above? Cant we try and do both?
Nothing on this planet is free of charge : you will need money to live, to feed yourself and your family. And it is further granted that food alone is not enough; you will need money for giving your family a good life, you owe them that. That is beyond argument; I am not advocating becoming a hermit, or proposing / recommending simple living – high thinking philosophy. And, truth be told, less than 1% of people will take freebies; it feels great to achieve something – and this sense of achievement rubs off on your loved ones and your family as well.
Thus, the daily grind of life really does need to be gone through-  frankly, you yourself wouldn’t have it any other way. But the question remains : if after I am gone – my worldly possessions wont remain mine; that only my deeds, my words, my emotions, my memories will remain truly mine : then what is the purpose of it all? And furthermore, this question leads to what I regard to tbe the keystone question, the vital question : what is really important – or what is the relative importance of each aspect of your life?
KNOWING I, ME, MYSELF
I found, during my 9-year journey on these questions which first assaulted me on my Dad’s funeral pyre, that you cannot answer these questions without answering who am I? For, when you attempt to settle and answer the questions above, all rationalisations of the real world fall by the wayside – and you are left naked, confronted with yourself : and your real priorities, devoid of anxieties, worries, desires and ambitions. What would you want to be known for and remembered as? The answer to that questions is a reflection of your true self, in my opinion…
The past 9 years have also revealed something else – these questions and their answers remain carved into stone; independent of the real world around you, and the challenges and tasks it demands of you. It matters nought if you are on a high note in your life – or if you are in a struggling phase. The questions, and their answers, remain as they were. They are resolute & unchanging…
Through good times and bad, the tiny voice inside you remains, always telling you wher e you are going wrong, or what your real priorities are. The difficulty, as I have experienced as well as am experiencing, is in isolating that tiny voice, that original voice from the other voices that emanate not from you, but from your desires & ambitions, experiences, successes and failures. I have not yet succeeded in overcoming the pull of these stronger pressures, and learning to listen to the real me that resides somewhere deep inside me, the me that is telling my mind and body what is right and what I should be doing…
The key seems to be isolating the desires and ambitions driven voices that originate from the passions, and my life goals and experiences – from that small invisible me. I am not my desires; my desires emanate from my real world needs and experiences, and are strictly external to me as an individual. My life goals – even they are not me, for the perfectly simple reason that these- all of them – have external dependencies, so they cannot be the real me.
Who, then, am I? Answer : as of now, I don’t know. While the real world desires and ambitions are important, for I am a constituent of my society, and need to fulfil my role; they are not me. That much I am sure of. I do know that my body cannot be me : for it will one day return to its real owner – the earth. My body cannot be me for after people die – they do live on in memories, and their good deeds. My body cannot be me, for the simple reason that through pain and joy, a part of me remains untouched, and above all.
Who, then, am I? My hunt continues… 

Book Review : This Unquiet Land

Published January 2, 2016 by vishalvkale

THIS UNQUIET LAND – STORIES FROM INDIA’S FAULT LINES
BY BARKHA DUTT

THE INTRODUCTION

Image result for This Unquiet Land Barkha DuttThis Unquiet Land is a book that stands out among all the other books I have read and reviewed on my blog, numbering more than a 120 at least. This is also a book that sets a narrative of India that is at complete variance to the one which the people of India would like to read which is that of a vibrant and fast growing India, an India that is on the road to its desired goals of Economic Growth and the promise of a future pregnant with positive developments and fast rapid emancipation of problems.

This is a book that looks at the dark side, the unsavoury stories and realities of India, a side that we would much rather ignore, or a side that we would much rather leave to our fervent hope that things will get better. This is a side of India that is best represented by “out of sight, out of mind”; a side dealt with looking the other way. This book is a book that is deep and dark in its narrative and tome – yet not depressing which is quite an achievement for the author, who has successfully taken on many a dark side of India.


THE AUTHOR’s NARRATIVE, AND THE LAYOUT OF THE BOOK

The book revolves around the author’s personal experiences through her extensive touring and exposure to India during the course of her long and eventful career. She has resorted to her experiences quite extensively; which brings me to the most significant disadvantage, or negative part of the book which lessens its impact by a wide margin : the lack of a proper annotation end-notes and bibliography alongwith precise dates of events.

There is a bibliography – but when you are penning such hard-hitting content, it is better to use in-page annotations, end-of-chapter endnotes or endnotes at the end with proper numbered references littered throughout the book. I would like to point the reader to other non-fiction books reviewed on my site – examples being Parag Tope with his seminal classic Operation Red Lotus; or Narendra Singh Sarila with his explosive Partition – The Untold Story. This would have elevated this book to the level of legendary stuff.

The author writes with transparent and unreserved passion with remarkable control over her language considering her depth of passion – which makes for fast as well as  absorbing reading; she is passionate about all topics she has covered – and it shows in her writing. This is a definite plus; the problem is in the layout of the content within each chapter. She has been fair and balanced for the most part; but a proper sequencing of the narrative and the points raised would have been welcome as it would have expanded its impact. A slightly more analytical approach, without compromising on the narrative tone, and a structured approach to each point would have been welcome; that said, I like it as it is. This is just a thought that could have made it more powerful.


THE CONTENT

The content is thought-provoking, and takes on Indian Society head on and in no uncertain terms. If anyone has been spared, I cant offhand think who, or what. There is no bias that I could detect {bar one – maybe two places, where I could also be mistaken}, and certainly a thorough hammering has been dealt out to each participant in the chosen topic regardless of the side the participant is one. Be it Women, or be it Society, or be it The Middle Class, or be it Kashmir, or be it Politics – everyone has been shredded.

Before I continue – just a disagreement on Nehru & Kashmir; I thought I detected a tone of blaming Nehru; I would like to point the author as well as the reader to the books reviewed on my blog, which are all authentic evidence-based books that tell a completely different story. Links of all books mentioned at the end of this review.

·       WOMEN : This is the chapter that every man should read. A hard-hitting and brutal chapter that takes your mind into a disturbed vacuum, factual and completely true so far as I could tell. Be it our treatment of and approach to the rape issue; or be it the issue of work versus family for women – you will find it all here. My only issue relates to the question of gender roles in Indian society, as my article argues. I look forward to the author’s views on that, if possible

·       THE COST OF WAR : This is the peice de resistance of the book, a chapter on her experiences in the Kargil War. You are left with wonder as you marvel at the courage shown by her and her staff, as well as the commitment and passion. This offers a very different look at the Kargil War, from the perspective of a civilian, rather than the look given by General VP Malik in his two books reviewed earlier. {Links below}
·       TERROR IN OUR TIME : This chapter deals with a wide spectrum of terrorism – related experiences. Vast in its scope and breadth, it gives a birds eye view of the terrorism challenge faced by India, including a short precise on the maoist challenge. The one problem here is the inclusion of the sporadic incidents of Hindu extremists; while these need mentioning in a chapter on terror, I felt that they could have been reduced to a half page, or one page – rather than the 2-odd pages they got.  Am I nitpicking? Perhaps I am; but smaller focus would have been more balanced. The main problem we are facing is different

·       IN THE NAME OF GOD : I don’t write on Religion – period. This is the red line I will not cross. That said, I highly recommend this chapter – without giving my views on it, I may have liked it, I may have hated it. My views on this remain sacrosanct, and in my mind. I have a determined policy to not write anything on Religion, after my last 2 articles on this. {Links at the end}.
o   My only comment – the identification of the colonial factor as being one of the causes of the conflict we are facing {page 129} is somewhat accurate; though not completely so. The origin of this sectarianism cannot be understood unless you understand the changes that took place right from 1700AD, as I argue in my secularism series {Links below}. This is something that I still haven’t fully understood despite reading a full 28 books on this – all pedigreed, maybe more. {PS : Not all are reviewed on my blog – some will not reach my blog, as the content is either explosive or the book is too hard to review, like Jinnah or Experiments}
o   There were always 3 players – The Muslims, The Sanaatan Dharmis {Hinduism is not the name of our religion; the only name we can give it is Sanaatan Dharm} and The British. What we see today has its origins in the three societies and their delicate interplay, and is not so simplistic. For more, click links at the end.

·       KASHMIR : Read the book for this chapter alone, and with an open mind. You will be the richer for the experience. This seminal chapter is an excellent kaleidoscope of personal experiences at the tragedy that is Kashmir wedded with a short look at the history of the state during Independent India, making for enthralling reading. What is specially noteworthy is that our mistakes have been thoroughly analysed, making for a highly disturbing but thought provoking read
o   That said, this is the one chapter where I have two disagreements: Nehru – whose role has been revealed in the classic book by NS Sarila {ADC to Mountbatten} which reveals the true story basis original documents – with proof and extensive references –  from the archival records of three nations. {Link below; suffice it to state that I thank God for sending Panditji to us as an Indian}.
o   The other disagreement I have is in the detailing of the tragic stories of excesses by security forces. I don’t object to them being aired; we are a democracy – and these excesses should be aired. The problem is that in analysing the mistakes we committed, I felt that a greater sense of balance was  needed in clarifying the foreign role and the Pakistani hand, as well as the loss of life due to it, which numbers in thousands. That said, she has looked at all sides of the picture to be honest

·       OF POLITICAL DYNASTS, JUGGERNAUTS & MAVERICKS : Loved this chapter – thought provoking, disturbing, blunt and to the point, with a hard hitting look at all political options, with no one being spared –whether Congress or BJP. This is a truly great read, as we get an inside look at the entire political brouhaha of modern India, as well as some pretty direct questions and searching examinations. AAP is the only party that gets away easy…

·       A SOCIETY IN FLUX : This is the chapter I loved the best, given that I have analysed almost the same in my article {The Great Indian Middle Class – Neither Middle Nor Class}. While I look at the aspect of corruption and selfishness of the Indian, the author has taken the middle classes and upper classes apart, torn them to shred in my opinion in this chapter – which is also the darkest and most disturbing chapter in the book with the graphic descriptions and horrors. A riveting yet darkly fascinating mirror to Indian Society….
o   The stark statement of the inequities in our society, the level of deprivation and the level of deplorable ignorance shown by us, the terrifying sceptre of poverty, or the shocking and ugly pusillanimous behaviour of us Indians has been ruthlessly exposed through real life incidents that will haunt you. Read the book to feel the same level of shock and disgust I felt…

CONCLUSION
In conclusion, I rate this book 4.5 stars –  am docking 0.5 stars for the reasons mentioned. It is a tour de force penned by a person with a vast experience cutting across a veritable kaleidoscope of situations – which bring a murmur of admiration to your lips at the sheer chutzpah, courage as well as her strength, given what life has exposed her to. At the end, you are left with a picture of India’s fault lines which need attending to, as well as an appreciation of the author. Could this book have been more balanced with a look at the positives? Yes – but then, it wouldn’t be a book on Indian Fault Lines-  and high time we Indians faced up to our challenges. Overall, an excellent book!

Are there disturbing elements in this book? Yes, there are. This is not your coffee table book; this is a hard look at the nation’s problems; could it be more balanced – yes; as I point out. But that does not mean we ignore it. A must read as per me…




REFERENCES AND SUGGESTED READINGS : 


Secularsim – Modern India and Pseudo Secularism {follow links for historical detailed persecpective}
In addition, there are over 26 books on Indian History reviewed on my blog; feel free to browse if interested

The Intolerance Debate : Are We More, Or Less Tolerant?

Published November 8, 2015 by vishalvkale

The intolerance debate has been raging for some time now; high time we tackled this bear by the horns, challenged it and defeated it. But, in order to do that, it is essential we understand the nature of the problem facing us.  It was as I was making this effort of trying to understand intolerance that a striking possibility occurred  : that we might actually be getting far more tolerant than we thought!

PROLOGUE

This first occurred to me when I noted how Dilip Kumar and other Muslim actors had to change their names in order to broaden their appeal. We have moved a long way since then; now not only do film stars not change their names, but can confidently go ahead without a care for their names. Modern India can now showcase famous names across trades and professions showing that professional discrimination has been steadily decreasing to what I hope is now near-zero.

This latest question occurred to me on reading some period literature of the late 1800s and the early 1900s;which showcase the status of our society as it was at ground level in those trying times. As compared to that period, in my opinion we have moved far, far ahead and have become far more accepting and tolerant. Sure, intolerance remains; but it is nowhere near what it was earlier. Sure, problems remain; but nothing quite so serious as compared to before.

SANAATAN DHARM

Santaani resurgence is not a new phenomenon, and has always been present since the times of the early 1800s at least; neither is the division in our society along various lines from caste to politics, That is the price we are paying for colonialism; that is the price of our independence, I have no doubt that eventually we shall triumph; my confidence in my mother, my India is total in that regard, As is my confidence in at least my religion : Sanaatan Dharm, wrongly known as Hinduism.

We have two choices : focus on the negative message of intolerance, or further the positive message of tolerance. I choose to take the latter path : can we spot current trends towards tolerance? I can, More than several, and in the here and the now…

There is far more than meets the eye, in that this isnt just a political issue as much as it is a classic socio-political issue arising out of the entire sequence of events that can be traced back decades, if not more. The past events have given rise to a minority of Sanaatani followers in India who hanker for a more fundamental approach; a set of people who set store by Sanaatan Dharm as the central religion, and the pole of Indian polity as well as society

Note : I refer to Hinduism as Sanaatan Dharm, by its original name. There is no historical or religious basis for the term Hinduism; basis my more than 36 books reading of Indian History, almost all reviewed on my blog.

There is still a segment of people who regard Muslim rule as alien, who still quote the wars and the violence in the Mughal and Slave Dynasty periods, who insist that Muslim rule was far more damaging than the British rule, You can read blogs, articles on the mythical 1000-year slavery, or the other aspect online on any number of platforms, or on comments. Hopefully this is still a minor matter in India

What is happening isnt just a political affair; it is a socio-political affair. And unless we factor in all factors, any conclusions we reach will be erroneous. And the past has a tremendous bearing on the present; any number of current events can be found as proof. Please read the comments on various sites, and note the tenor of the comments, and how they hark back to the “golden” period of Sanaatani rule for vivid proof of this. We have no choice but to face down the events of the past, and prove the reality, separate the chaff from the substance, and lay bare the reality,

FACTORS OF THE PROBLEM, AND THE ANALYSIS

The problems we face today have their genesis in several factors :
* History
* Social Developments and Churning
* Politics
* Religion

But more of these in later articles; To cut things short for now, it isnt a matter of do-this-as-my-forefathers-were-done-this-to-them. It goes much deeper – into a hard-wired inferiority feeling in some Sanaatan Dharmis, wherein they regard the period 1300-1700 as a period when the Golden rule of Sanaatan Dharm fell by the wayside. The problem with this narrative in vogue is at many levels and layers; for starters – the assumption of Sanaatani political rule is itself debatable, given the non-political nature, by and large, of Sanaatan Dharm. Further, the interplay between political factors and the cooperation of local kings also goes ignored in this narrative

Second, the assumption that Sanaatan Dharm fell is itself, to me, a deep insult; the way I see it, we Sanaatanis did not fall; despite the heavy persecution that was periodically visited upon us for the past several centuries, While the Abrahaminic Religions totally eclipsed the earlier society in just about the rest of planet Earth, we followers of Sanaatan Dharm remain, as we were, resilient, resolute, unchanging, with the same cultural and religious practices as in 500 or 1000 plus BC, perhaps even 4000BC Plus!.
Now that, I respectfully submit, is something truly special. We were there when Babylon rose and fell; and we are still here, in the 21st Century.

To the mainstream of Sanaatani people, it doesnt matter; we are more concerned with out duties and our lives; our scriptures are pretty much specific – do your duty towards nation, family and society. Nothing else matters. You are alive just for one reason : to do your duty to family and society, period.

But, to some people, the loss of political power in the early part of the 1st millennium onwards till the 18th century is proof of the mythical “fall” of Sanaatani power. There is a burning desire to see Sanaatani followers as powerful militarily and otherwise; they tend to forget that the real power of a Sanaatan Dharmi is, as per me, his or her internal strength and resolute and rock-hard belief system that has withstood centuries & millennia of epochal buffeting winds and changes.

To simplify, it isnt really about others; it is a burning internal desire to strengthen our own Sanaatan Society that is one part of the driving factor – giving rise to forces like the Sangh. Now this can be both positive as well as negative; that we need a Sangh, a body of social drivers that can ensure continued passing on of values and norms is beyond argument; I myself am a fan of the Sangh’s socio-cultural activities, and how they strive towards creating a good citizen, as well as driving the power of our religion into their minds, as also inculcating a feeling of pride in our heritage, which are all positives. {I have used the Sangh here just as an example}

On persecution of Sanaatan Dharm followers : that is a statement that has some basis in fact, and there is no point denying it, Yes, we Sanaatan Dharm followers are, in my opinion, one of the two most persecuted people on this planet – and in our own land, to boot. We, and the Jews stand as exemplary people in the history of the Earth : no one has been persecuted as much as us, and by just about everyone. It is a matter of inconsequential debate as to who was persecuted more : {my opinion, The Jews have been through more than us} – and is an academic point.  
But who persecuted us really – the Arabs, or the British? And what about the active cooperation of local kings with the invaders? What about the various treaties and friendships that happened during medieval times? And why are we forgetting the active conversion campaigns of the European Christians? {Christians were here in India since almost 70AD, and had lived peacefully. It is only after the Europeans that conversions started.  All these, and other questions will need attending to.

While the World has learnt and grown up to accept Jews, The Sanaatan Dharm follower is still held to public ridicule outside India in any number of even mainstream outlets. It hurts, damnit – and I make no bones about it. So why doesn’t this strike a chord in us?

But the real challenge is in facing this hurt, accepting it – and moving on, We cannot afford to live in ignorance; that way lies disaster, leaving open the chance of manipulation by some forces. We have to face the history, grow up to it, look it straight in the eyes, and state: You are History, I am the present, and I shall learn from you, but not want to seek justification or revenge. The current set of people have done nothing to damage us, and thus share no blame. What is past is done with, and over. Let bygones be bygones; forgive and forget.

By not facing upto the past, we are leaving the field open for one-sided narratives that blame everyone except look inward, We need to introspect, understand and face our own faults that lead to this persecution, for that is the positive way forward, We need to understand that not everyone, even in the past, was out to get us; and that the persecution, while true, was not supported by all. We, now more than ever, need to face upto the history of our nation, and learn from it; learn from our fall from grace, understand the true reasons for our fall from grace, and connect these learnings to the present day. That is one way we can fight this rising tide.


In conclusion, in this set of articles, I shall attempt to look at why India is actually getting more tolerant each day; I shall try and analyse the reasons for the rise of the rhetoric around some aspects, try and present the fuller picture, and underscore that while challenges and worries remain : there is far more reason to be hopeful and buoyant than there is to be cynical and worried… Jai Hind! Vande Mataram!

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. {http://reflectionsvvk.blogspot.in/search?q=culture}
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 {http://reflectionsvvk.blogspot.in/2012/04/book-review-fault-lines-by-raghuram-g.html} , as well as the book by Michael W Hudson {http://reflectionsvvk.blogspot.in/2012/05/book-review-monster.html} ; 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.