Sunday, 10 October 2010

MK Gandhi and IF-THEN-ELSE clause

A few people seem to have misunderstood the phrase pseudo-intellect that I have used in my post Saint from Sabarmati. Also, I came to know about a few reasons for not “fully respecting” Gandhi. Hence I wrote this post.

The phrase 'pseudo-intellect' does not apply to all those who hold a negative opinion about Gandhi. I have applied it only those who take the extreme view of justifying murder of Gandhi.

Many things have happened during the heat of post-independence months. Perhaps people saw Gandhi as a mere tool to get the independence - and - not to formulate free India. Perhaps once India was free, a few were strong enough to push their own agenda and Gandhi was sidelined - being unable to influence this new lot of "awakened" followers of his. Wasn't Gandhi almost alone in his ashram when India was being shaped up - as if he became irrelevant suddenly? Other seemed to behave like a shop keeper whose attitude towards you changed as soon as you paid for the item. 

It is also said that Gandhi, given his calibre, should have got us a better India! Can we define what it is? On one hand we say that he is not a factor in getting us independence and he isn't that great. And, on the other hand, we say that he should have gotten us a better India given his calibre! Aren't we contradicting ourselves? 

Some people say that Gandhi should have predicted the Jawaharlal-Indira-Rajiv-Sonia-Rahul power-train of leaders and the adverse impact of the same on India. Isn't it a bit too much to expect?

Other point against Gandhi is that he should have made Patel the Prime Minister rather than Nehru. Patel was the Deputy Prime Minister and did play a key role in shaping India till his death. Perhaps he had a chance in the first general elections of succeeding Nehru and may be Nehru would have looked at a career at a different level. But Patel passed away in 1950. How is that not a significant factor? Who knows what could have become had Patel been alive! And let's assume that Gandhi had "made" Patel the PM and Nehru something else. Would that have forever stopped Nehru from becoming PM of India and build his dynasty? To formulate an opinion, we must take into account all other possibilities too - not just those that we like. An integrated view helps to formulate a justifiable opinion. Since we are not dealing with manufacturing and engineering, we cannot draw a straight line - linking cause and effect - between Gandhi making Nehru PM - and - Nehru building his dynasty. 

Charisma plays a big role (not the one from RK family) in choosing a leader. Nehru was more "attractive" compared to others. Look around in your own workplaces - for how are the leaders chosen and people promoted? Based on their true merit? Do you blame the company's founder for what is happening in reality - all within established legal frameworks?

We cannot blame Gandhi for not building the nation "properly" because

  1. It is we who named him as the "father of the nation" and it is we who have failed over the 60 years to properly govern ourselves. It is Nehru's strength that made him to stick to power. If other elected people did not have strong personalities to shake up the Nehru dynasty, how is Gandhi responsible for that? It is like crying "Oh shoot - I cannot take Ricky Ponting's wicket in this test match. I blame Bradman for this situation". 
  2. We didn't give Gandhi a chance to influence Indian policies and Governance because we killed him at the earliest. It took him several decades to build up crowds behind him. Isn't it fair to give him 3 to 5 years to shape up India?

If Gandhi had lived beyond 1950s and failed to influence Indian Governance, then yes, let’s blame him. But, expecting Gandhi to play a vital part in getting independence and then to get everything right during the hot days of post-independence is too much in my view.

My question is this: Hasn't Gandhi done enough to command our respect? Can't we say "Sirjee you are wonderful. I bow my head in respect. Thank you for what you have done." Heck! We say such things to Tendulkars and Khans of Mumbai! But poor Gandhi has to pass through several IF-THEN-ELSE structures, SELECT-CASE clauses and look right (even after 60 years and two generations) against all labels that we give him! He has to get thousands of other parameters correct before we could say - yes - he is great!

IF-THEN-ELSE or SELCT-CASE predicates are not needed for Gandhi bashing. The logic is smooth and direct. Some examples

  • Want to name the class where the poor sit - be it a movie or a train? Call it Gandhi Class.
  • Need to make fun of someone who plays things by the book? Sarcastically call him Gandhi. Get the angle of your hand right when you point him in the face.
  • Need a solution for a problem that we were unable fix in the last sixty years? Don't hesitate, blame it on Gandhi whom we killed 58 years ago.
  • Looking for a reason to express frustration against the reservation system of India? You are right - It is Gandhi again - because it was he who called the untouchables as Harijans out of love in the first place. Wasn't he?
  • Can't get a girlfriend? Stoop low - make fun of Gandhi who had had his arms around two young women while he walked to prayer meetings! (Yes - I had the misfortune of hearing this logic from an educated crack who was also a team leader!)
I accept – there were things that Gandhi wasn’t equipped or able to do during his days. That doesn’t bother me much. What bothers me is that we are “not hesitating” to circulate Godse glorifying articles on October 2nd and seem to look for reasons to put down Gandhi. The fact that we have sunk this low is more relevant for us now, than what Gandhi did or did not do sixty years ago.

Don’t you think so?

[PS: IF you don't know what IF-THEN-ELSE or SELECT-CASE clauses are THEN catch hold of a passing-by geek and ask ELSE ignore them and SELECT the easier CASE of assuming them to represent a few obstacles]

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

"Show of Hands" in Saatchi ShowDown

Show Of Hands
Just to see public reaction to my painting "Show of Hands", I have entereted the ShowDown competition held by Saatchi Gallery in London.

The competition is held weekly. 24 paintings are chosen from 12 rounds of competition. Ultimately, 2 are selected for display in the famous Saatchi gallery in London.

Right now, "Show of Hands" has gathered 345 public votes with an average score of 8.23 out of 10. If you are interested in voting, please click on this link and rate the painting on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest.

Voting ends at 9 AM GMT on October 11th

There are loads of other super paintings from thousands of other folks. Enjoy them too.

No registration is required for voting.

Monday, 4 October 2010

India: Beyond Bhangra and The Taj Mahal

Nearly twenty four hours after India’s unprecedented extravaganza at the Nehru Stadium, the British media seems to be still sitting on the fence about the CWG Opening Ceremony. As usual, there is a great restraint on giving credit where it is due for anything non-British. Well, aren’t they predictable? Give them a long shot view on of athletes running 800m race, they can still pick up passion and determination in the eyes of the British athlete even on a black and white TV! Give them Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games inauguration ceremony, all they can mumble is the word fantastic and nothing else. They see that every appreciation has a qualifier from the past. Wait for a few more days: India’s child Table prodigy becomes a case study for child abuse and that cute girl with folded hands getting taught under a Bodhi tree becomes a symbol of suppression of the women in India right from tender ages. Allow a fortnight, extraordinary patience of Delhi-ites on the day of the opening ceremony comes up as an evidence of punishing the poor for the flamboyance of the rich. Perhaps the Chinese were fed up with all these – hence invented this quote – The eye sees what it wants to see.

So, what did my eyes see?

Overall, I saw a different India, a confident India, colourful India, young India, powerful India and a committed India. But I also saw the typical India. (Do I sound British when I write it?)

Out of all those things I managed to notice, I have quoted a few below:

  • Strikingly The Taj Mahal and Bhangra dance were downplayed. The unmistakable symbols of India were kept aside to allow everything else to come forward. This is a very good move. I was fed up with Taj Mahal and Bhangra dominating anything related to India. I have no disrespect for either or both of these. I am sure that Taj Mahal and Bhangra are equally relieved to be cast aside. 

  • I saw South, North East and East India getting ample opportunity to showcase their culture. Though Birju Maharaj et al choreographed flamboyant dance routine, several dance routines started off with a South Indian theme. Weren’t they? Is this some evidence for existence of Positive Kalmadi Effect

  • The Helium Balloon and a flawless technical display affirmed India’s technology skills.

  • Serious number of people have freaked out on concepts, ideas, lighting and the choice of colours. I think this time, creative people were let go off the leash or bond or whatever that used to hold them back so far.

  • Whoever did the arena lighting during the cultural show – he/she/they know really what they are supposed to know about lighting. 

  • Some LED manufacturing company saw its LED sales sky rocket! What! LED headbands? And LED stuck Sitars?

  • During Yoga with Smile, none of the performers seemed to hurry back to the starting position from complicated final positions. Of course, I would have uncoiled myself so fast from Tholaasana, Mithunaasana etc., that I would’ve snapped a few more ligaments and tendons in no time!

  • The Wire Buddha with Seven Chakras – man, you too seemed draw the same, if not more, crowd as the original Buddha! How is this wire frame Buddha appeared so peaceful?

  • Gas Cylinder cycle rickshaw fellow has made me very jealous now. I want to ride one of them at the earliest.

  • Just when I was about to say “Okay here is the last item - Thank God - there weren’t any hip shaking women in any of the routines” – behold! Two such women appeared on either side of A. R. Rahman!

  • Last hundred steps of the torch relay witnessed chaos when Indian team members crowded and almost fell on torch bearer himself, who shamelessly was chewing gum – Isn’t it typical?

  • If such a show had taken place here in England, we would have given the performers a well deserved standing ovation clapping continuously for about 5 minutes.


    • many grown-ups were sitting tight lipped – as if convey – I am Deshmogle – Assistant Deputy Chief Municipality Civil Engineering Executive. Respect me for that – not only in my office – but also at home – and also here – even after I retire or under suspension. The young crowd didn’t bother – they clapped, danced, shouted and whistled.

    • many (so called) dignitaries were checking their wrist-watch as if they need to go home and cook dinner for the family of twenty – including Camilla.

    • many had faces with lips drawn to form the inverted alphabet ‘U’

    • many were drumming fingers of one hand on the palm of the other instead of clapping. That doesn’t qualify for a clap perhaps for an insult.

After reading this, I am sure that at least one third of the crowd would ask me “Yeah, the show was nice, but what did you expect me to do? Dance on my foot?

Well, erm, yes, why not? Couldn’t you have at least stood up, corrected that inverted U formation on your lips and clapped louder than you actually could talk? At least this time, they deserved it.

We still need to learn about appreciating others in an unmistakable, open, visible manner. It is quite important.

  • Kalmadi, during his speech, said what others should have said after eleven days. It is not upto him (of all the people) to say that India Has Delivered – that too during the opening ceremony.

  • I am sure that some organisers were checking whether a trap door exists under Kalmadi’s foot where he stood delivering his speech. And if so, how soon can it be operated. And if not, how come they missed building one? I think that the trap door will be ready by the closing ceremony.

  • On this “India has delivered” expression – isn’t it too early to say so? What we should have said was “Welcome to India. We have put together this show for you. Please enjoy”. That’s it. That would’ve caused an effect somewhat closer to showing the other cheek for which we stand for.

Besides, we still have two other major hurdles to cross – doping scandals and security incidents.

  • Bangladesh and Pakistan received cheers from the crowd. But why didn’t Sri Lanka?

  • Elephant was missing. They should’ve brought an elephant or a tiger. Okay, asking for a tiger is a little too much. But, elephant? On second thoughts, may be it wasn’t a good idea. It might have caused some trouble for the elephant as there were sixty thousand people in the stadium.

There you go! My two cents on CWG Opening Ceremony. I would like to conclude saying that the mood is indeed upbeat. Not only that – take note – the stakes have gone up for the Closing Ceremony!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Saint of Sabarmati

It is October 2nd and that time of the year to remember the great soul who sculpted India - M. K. Gandhi. Our awareness of, love for, pride about Gandhi peak today. Politicians spend endless time talking about Gandhi. Typically, the innocent children of Primary School and not-so-innocent of the High School end up as victims of long, non-coherent speech about the Mahatma - rendered by people, more often than not, having least respect for the great soul.

We listen to Asha Bhonsle's song - Sabarmati Ke Sant, watch black and white fast moving silent video clippings of the Mahatma, crib for the fact that October 2nd "fell" on a Saturday which means "loss" of one public holiday. Old generations pick of Khadi at some 60% discount, at least a handful of the young ladies consider stitching a chudidhar out of Khadi. Non vegetarians and connoisseurs of interesting multi-coloured liquids (aka alcohol) postpone their feasts and parties - not out of respect but perhaps due to the non-availability of the desired stock.

Intellectuals speak about the influence of Gandhi on the global politics, whether it was a bad idea not to award Nobel Peace Prize for Gandhi, some go a bit deep and compare and contract Churchill and Gandhi. Pseudo intellects think that Godse did the right thing and circulate his last speech, stories about how the judge cried while sentencing Godse. Some channels are likely to show excerpts from the epic movie Gandhi or Lage Raho Munna Bhai. Had she watched either of them, my granny would’ve complained saying ‘Gandhi wasn’t that fat’ 

What do I do? The usual, the one thing that I am good at. I rant. I would like to scream "Godse: You are not my hero. Now Get Off!" 

Let's see – The Indian Embassy in London has not yet posted anything about Gandhi on its website. Under “What is New” section, we still see Cameron’s visit to India followed by Commonwealth [CommonFilth] Games. Right side of the header has a picture of Gandhi’s statue at Tavistock Square – London – but it isn’t a hyperlink to anything. 

There are no major press releases on any of the newspapers. Or have I missed them? That’s really odd. There was one last year from The Indian High Commission in London.

Chalo – let’s forgive them. It’s a weekend. Perhaps people are busy taking care of their weak ends.

About Tavistock Square
For those of you who don’t know, there is sculpture of Gandhi in Tavistock Square - Central London. It is in between Russell Square and Euston tube stations. It is very close to my office in London. Sometimes, if the weather is nice, I walk along Tavistock Square resting for a while in the Peace Park – where Gandhi’s statue is located.

The sculpture is generously big. And quite detailed. Wikimedia has its best photo. It was made by the British sculptor Fredda Brilliant and was erected in 1968. 

When London was under attack in 2005, a bomb went off at Tavistock Square –very close to this statue. Thirteen people died as a double-decker was blown off. The sculpture and the serenity have survived since then. Isn’t it ironical? I think that it was meant to be that way.

Yet another Statue of Gandhi in Parliament Square
In 2007, Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone said that he would like to see a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the parliament square. He had very nice words to say about Gandhi. He said that “.... Gandhi’s achievement must be enshrined...” What a nice word – enshrined! He also said something to the effect that “... the millions who come to see Big Ben, Churchill’s statue would still know Mahatma Gandhi, even after thousand years. Whereas if you wander round Trafalgar Square and see the two generals there, you have to go and check the history books...”

I hope that that his idea is still on track and quite soon we will have yet another statue of Gandhi where it matters the most.

Gandhi’s London
Just when I was about to conclude that I must see London from Gandhi’s perspective, I found about – Gandhi’s London: A two hour’s guided walking tour of London sights associated with Gandhi. Check it out here:

I would love to translate this book to Kannada: Gandhi & Churchill: The Epic Rivalry that Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age. I will keep you posted on this effort.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Hima Sundari and NRI apathy!

73 year old legend performs Kathakali for 90 continuous days to entertain us. But we are so busy that we can't spend two hours to watch and 2 minutes to say 'Thank you Ashan?
Oh man, what a shame!

Today, we drove to Bridgwater (around 40 miles from Bristol) to watch yet another Kathakali performance by Padmashree Kalamandalam Gopi Ashan and his team. Today's show was called Hima Sundari. As the name suggests, it was an Indian adoption of Snow White. The show featured the lovely peacock which wasn't able to appear in Bristol due to limited green room space. School kids danced with the peacock that went close to the audience and received not only a few laughs and Namaskarams but also a few weird looks and sheepish smiles. The story was culturally apt for the largely British (non Indian) crowd. We were hoping to watch a performance based on a Hindu mythology. We believe that such traditional stories give more room for the performers to express themselves. Ashan's performance, especially in the last act, was very touching. Today he was not feeling well. But there wasn't a trace of his illness on stage! It is very clear who amongst us is young - both physically and mentally.

There were around 80 people, but just around 6 Indians (four of us + another Indian lady and her child) and only one Malayali (one and only Uday). And it was a free show!! Hasn't comedians joked enough about Indians flocking to free shows? What happened today?
We met Barbara, Vijay and Ashan himself and picked up a few memorabilia.

And what a night it was! Thanks to Rama - who had cooked a nice, hot and spicy pongal.

Perhaps Pongal was a fitting response to today's wet, windy and chilly weather. But is there one for NRI apathy towards the legend that has come to our doorstep?