Saturday, March 24, 2007

Iran, Cricket and another week of madness

The last one has been a crazy week - one of confusion and pessimism. The optimist, there are a few of these still left, had nothing to show for his side this week, or so I think.

Let me recount the top events this week:

1. Violence in Iraq continued. A rocket launches near the site where UN Secy General was speaking, and Ba Ki Moon gives half-a-second TV representation of how the war in Iraq continues to unsettle the world. Iraq's Deputy PM gets hurt in a bomb blast, probably initiated by one his bodyguards. People die, more American soldiers go in, and the US Congress pushes for a timeline for troops withdrawal which Prez Bush promises to veto. Tellingly, the person who was seen bring down Saddam Hussein's statue 4 years earlier told the world media that the occupation has been worse than life under Saddam. A vietnam veteran told BBC that after the congress resolution, the war started sounded ominously like 'Nam. And, Prez Bush, clearly running out of ideas and time, said nothing!

2. Iran continued to work on their nuclear capability. When UN decided to take firmer action, they captured few British Soldiers and American Marines to divert attention. If anyone gained from American activities in last few years, it was, indeed, Iran. The world media wrongly assumes that Iran would want, for their own interests, stability in the Middle East. Wrong, I would say, because Iran has its own regional ambition, and stability, under american control, does not help it at all. They, and their Iraqi Shia allies, successfully did what Ronald Reagan wanted to do in reverse - use Saddam Hussein to destabilise the region. So, if Reagan pushed Saddam to keep Iran busy, Iran has pushed America to keep themselves busy and bogged down in Iraq, undermine the Saudi influence in the region and give a window of opportunity to Iran to attain the regional influence they always aspired for.

3. Bob Woolmer was murdered, quite obviously for money reasons. The game, indeed, remains corrupt, though no one will admit this in public. Cricket has become the game of scandals and match fixes, with every major team, player and board being involved in it. Woolmer's death now should bring attention from more serious law enforcers than just the game's governing body [which is corrupt in itself] because it is becoming too dangerous, and it is becoming difficult to keep it away from public eye. Someone will now spill the beans.

4. Gordon Brown presented his 11th budget and reminded his audience that only one man - William Gladstone - has presented so many budgets [he did 12], and by the time Gladstone was presenting his 11th, he was also the Prime Minister. The obvious suggestion was that it is time. The less obvious implication is that he may also choose to present his 12th, by holding both No. 10 and 11 at the same time next year. He also did some tinkering on taxes, and did nothing for anyone other than the bureaucrats. His long term vision for Britain, it seems, is a Britain of pen pushers, an anti-entrepreneurial, stagnating society, much in opposition to the 'Opportunity Society' that Tony Blair talks about. One is bound to feel sad for Blair, a brilliant man, who chose his own undoing in Iraq [Would anyone compare him with Anthony Eden?]

5. India continued its rumbling journey towards industrialisation, with more chaos, more violence and clearer display of administrative incompetence. Rahul Gandhi started asserting himself, but he sounded more like his uncle, impatient and arrogant, than his father, humble and visionary. Time, of course, changes people, as it did to Rajiv, but one has to wait and see.

So, this is more or less it. Not much gleamour of hope, I am afraid.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

New India/ Old India

There are stories I want to believe in. Stories of an emerging nation. Of human achievement, of dreams, of accomplishments of impossible tasks. Of confidence. Of being presented to the world, in its own terms.

Of India – that’s my country. Wherever I am in the world, whatever I do – it is etched in my face and my body. In my tongue, nested in my accent and programmed in the way I think. I share the pride, and bask in glory, of my resurgent nation.

At last, at last. This is the land of the plenty, which invited plunderers from around the world, and in the end, absorbed them in its identity. It is the land of the plural, which spoke in many voices and many languages, but in agreement. It is this nation, comatose for centuries, passive – which awakens up now and talks its own language.

So, supermarkets, superhighways and superscientists. Businessmen who talk about buying out the world. Politicians who bask in a new confidence, and look forward. Students who dream, professionals who swagger on the streets of London and let everyone know their identity.

In 2020, we are going to be a superpower!

But do I lose that India in the bargain, which was dignified in its poverty, calm in its divergence, and ungreedy in its boorishness? Do I lose my moral right to sacrifice, to think of others, to be non-violent and to be different? India embraces the world, right, but is she wearing her own clothes?

A country is an illusion, but one that contains our moralities. One that binds, makes us responsible – the only thing in this godless world that is superior to ourselves that still counts.

I was born with that ‘Indian’ identity. We were then – as I say – comatose! And, yes, we were tainted. We were corrupt. Our non-violence was a mockery in the face of fratricidal riots. We called a muddle coexistence, and mob-pleasing behaviour, tolerance.

Yes, the world cared little about India. Mocked our ‘Hindu’ rate of growth. Our businessmen greased the palms of bureaucrats. We were happily playing our war games with our own neighbours, and paying the global goons to keep peace.

But, somewhere, I was proud and unique – as an Indian. Not one with bollywood tunes, Govinda pants, Munnabhai morality and Montekonomics. But one who saw dignity in paucity, believed education, above all, gives humility, and knew there was no greater value than sacrifice. One who had confidence despite the world, who could look inside and find peace, and reject the intolerance, violence and ignorance in seeking the truth.

My India, then, wore its own clothes.

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