Sunday, August 14, 2011

आज़ादी का लड्डू

आज़ादी का लड्डू

बहुत साल हुए की स्कूल के ज़माने से देखा मैने
आज़ादी के मायने एक लड्डू और छुट्टी में समाये हुए थे

सुबह झंडा फेहरा के एक मशीनी कतार में खडे होके जोर जोर से नारे लगाने का इनाम
एक लड्डू, कुछ भाषण और यह जानना की देश की शान में एक और साल जुड़ गया है और देश और महान हो गया है

फीके भाषण और फीकी देश की शान के बदले, मीठे लड्डू उस दिन की लाज बचा लिया करते थे
तब मैं सोचता था की लड्डू ना होते तो इस १५ अगस्त की फीकी आज़ादी को कैसे पचा पाता

थोडा बड़ा हुआ तो जाना की लड्डू और आज़ादी का रिश्ता और भी मज़बूत है
अब मेरा वही आज़ादी वाला लड्डू, बूंदी का ना होके ठोस विचारों का बनने लगा था

वोह विचार जो कभी बचपन में किताबों के पन्नों में छपे थे और दिलोदिमाग पर छाप बना चुके थे
लड्डू की मिठास की पहचान अब इन विचारों के अमल में महसूस होती थी

पर भाई यह नया लड्डू तोह पचाने में बड़ा जद्दोजेहत वाली चीज़ निकला
एक एक विचार सामाजिक दीवार पे माथा मारे और चूर चूर होकर वहीँ धूल में मिट जाये

ज्यादातर दोस्त इस बदहजमी भरे लड्डू का मोह छोड़ दुनियादारी से हाथ मिला बैठे
बोले बेटे बडे हो गए हो अब! दुनियादारी समझो और बच्चों के किताबी विचारों से बहार निकलो

असली दुनिया में सब कुछ बिकता है और ख़ास तौर पे यह आज़ादी का लड्डू बहुत कीमत दिलाता है
बस एक बात का ख़याल रहे, यह एक बार बिकता है क्यूंकि बिकते ही साड़ी मिठास हवा हो जाएगी

और मैं ठहरा मीठे का दीवाना तो
बस इसी शर्त ने मेरे आज़ादी के नन्हे लड्डू को बचाए रखा
और उसकी मिठास ने ज़िन्दगी के मायनों को टिकाये रखा

कल फिर १५ अगस्त के बहने मैं खुद के लिए और वही आज़ादी का लड्डू बनाऊँगा
आप खाओगे ?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Who Am I

Who Am I

A truth seeking lair
A clipped wings flyer

Who Am I

Untamed and unconquered spirit
Playing with words as a habit

Who Am I

Doubting every possible conclusion
Yet holding some of them even at the cost of seclusion

Who Am I

With thousands of kills and bruises
Knife in one hand and other hand full of roses

Who Am I

Am I myself
Yes I am

And that why I claim my life with such arrogance :)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

आज मैने रसगुल्ले खाए और वोह बहुत स्वाद थे

एक बाबा जिसने एक ही सांस में अहिंसा का दम भरा और सेना बनाने का वादा भी किया 
फिर आये हमारे अन्ना जिसने उसी अहिंसा के चीथड़ों को अगले ही दिन सिया 
और फिर सरकार बोली की यह क्या बवाल मचा रखा है
ढंग से "खाने" भी नहीं देते , यह क्या अनशन-अनशन का शोर लगा रखा है

आम-आदमी के आम का जूस सारा निचोड़ मारा
अब छिलका और गुठली के साथ गुस्सा लिए बहुत सारा 
वोह चल दिया राजघाट और जंतर मंतर पे लिए तिरंगा 
मिल जुल के एक समाज बनाने सतरंगा 

पर रुको, मैने यहीं बैठे बैठे क्या किया यह तोह आपने पुछा ही नहीं
मैने तोह भैया आज रसगुल्ले खाए और वोह बहुत स्वाद थे 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Living without GOD

I guess it has been well over a decade and half since i shunned the notion of GOD even though i started questioning it as early as 5-6 years old.

Initially, this act was not welcomed at home. Even though dad, mom and bro aren't devoted religious people, but being at-least "believers", me turning into a so-called non-believer (i would contest this tag later in the post) worried them a bit more than, if somebody outside the family would have done that. I think the first thing i did towards exerting this act was not to be part of Diwali pooja (special worship during Diwali festival where whole family participates) and then shamelessly acknowledging that if i have to go to the temple, i would go only to have the tasty prasad and i don't think god exist there or anywhere even for the sake of the argument. Later when i turned towards science with great curiosity and started liking physics, dad tried few times with arguments like "even Einstein believed in God!" to which i had to say,"o yeah, good for him :) ".

My first question against the concept of GOD came with the fact that "god can punish or reward for bad or good deeds". Though my parent never told me this (as they don't believe in it either as i know) but this seemed the most popular belief amongst my peers and other people i met during childhood. I experimented with it a lot and observed that outcome was rarely influenced by an external agent and was mostly decided by present circumstances.

First incidence around me wondering on GOD question, was when all four of us use to go to temple occasionally (like once in few months, usually for family photo as temple always had a nicely maintained garden for a good background). My dad didn't use to go inside, especially in front of statues for worshiping, saying that he does not believe those statues had GOD in them. Instead, he said, GOD is everywhere, so no need to worship that particular statue and it was sufficient to come to temple and remember him. Also being a very hard-worker, he told us the old famous quote "work is worship". Doing good deeds and doing his job best, was sufficient to be okay with GOD thing. When i asked, "then why do u come here at all", he use to look at mom and tell me, "i like the place, its nice and quite etc" but the unanswered question lingered in my consciousness forever.

One incidence which shook (and then firmed !) my atheistic belief was when my bro was preparing for  military school exam, which he so much wanted to go into, and i thought that if there is a GOD maybe i should transfer all my good deeds to his account so that he goes through (considering our daily fights and his evil ways to score points over me by cheating, he had no chance with GOD there :P). He did went through making to the toppers in all-India merit list but i observed that, that was because this 10 year old kid studied with determination and dog-fight which i have seen only in best athletes like Abhinav Bindra and in the movie character Rocky. So it was more than my transferred data than his own efforts which made him get his aim (even afterwards going on to the best positions in his career). I was madly confused if i am wrong in any way about GOD and its influence.

Over some more months i met some other friends of mine and his, who have been doing good in academics or athletics and i found the same trend. The argument "GOD helps those who help themselves" was a very lousy explanation for me and it seemed more like an excuse to run away from investigation. Some more dramatic incidents and within a year i finally concluded that external influence, if any, is of minor importance and also i was not sure if this external influence is GOD or more from the sum-total environment (society, parents, situations etc) around the individual. This was the final nail in the coffin and GOD went buried down into the darkness of my consciousness never to be needed.

Also being a stammerer, i wondered if i can speak normal if i be nice all the time. First of all, its a hell to be nice all the time :P especially with well proven assholes all around :P but anyway, i tried my best and i was still the same. Occasional improvement was more to do with my own effort to understand it and study it systematically. After 8 years of concentrated work on it when i speak normal now, i am confident it was the systematic study and logical remedies than GOD thing. Infact, by "their" standards, i should have been made to suffer stammering all my life for blasphemy :P

Now in the absence of GOD, despite the common perception about "feeling emptiness" about logic and purpose of life, i felt quite opposite. Also i don't think GODlessness has made me any less empathetic and emotional. Detachment from notion of GOD did not made me go against the believers either. Infact, it made me study their ways in more finer ways and maybe i now appreciate the reasons behind their acts more than they do, since many a times, they are prohibited to question and ask for reason.

My romance with physics was at initial stages in those early teenage days, but the boring ways to teach it on black-board made me seek the answers with me myself doing something about them. I discovered most of the answers about life and its existence on earth quite satisfactorily within science (at-least at that time, now i do have some doubts about learning all those theories in detail). Without a creator most of the life could be explained. But here again i was surprised about the fact, why i was the only fool to deny its existence when all around me (who knew all of what i knew, most of them could write it better and score better grades than me too!) were very comfortable with contradictory beliefs. George Orwell's 1984's ideas like double-speak and double-think were the living standards for them.

I have been a very straight thinker i.e. My life is good when i have crystal clear viewpoint and hence clear view before me about things around me. Hence contradictions needs to be sorted out and i can't live with them. I asked some of these people about living with contradictions (from conclusions of reason-based systems and faith-based systems) and they said, its okay to be both ways since everybody else is that way too! (thats a lousy reason for me). Science for money and religion and god-beliefs for living in society. Well it made sense for them and i had to satisfy myself with the fact that "i am different" (they said "god's special people who needed some more megawatts of GOD's illumination than usual" :P ). At first, being different was uncomfortable, added with the fact that i was a stammerer and had to struggle to converse and make friends. But as i crouched back to my own world, discovering the beauty of solace and company of few, it became my lifestyle. Further investigation revealed more interesting facts about GOD and its concept, which might be worth categorizing:
  1. Mostly, GOD was an excellent excuse to convenience. For example: It was convenient for a male dominated society to define laws for women folks and their regulation in life-affairs. Traditions are wound around this convenience in the name of GOD since once GOD's word is associated, obedience is a must. One more indicator of convenience based origin of GOD thing is that almost all GODs have been imagined in human form and even if they have partial animal appearance or characteristics, they final submit to majorly human form. Thats because, its a man-made concept. We don't like cockroaches, so they have no chance to be any GOD ever!  
  2. GOD was also a great unifier. Though my Bro would eventually contest that, religion and GOD are two different things and must not be confused to be same (i would agree with him now), but show me a religion without a GOD and show me a GOD which do not have a religion at its tails end. A group needs a symbol and when group grows too big, GOD is found to be a very convenient point of unification. The problem occurs when different GODs clash, then the same unifier becomes diversifier and discriminator. Poor GOD guy is un-necessarily painted with human hatred but being an excellent excuse, divinity overcomes the guilt of wrong-doings in the name of GOD. But its not always put to a bad name. Religious organizations around the world are known to be the front-runner in humanitarian aid providers and deeds of people like Mother Teressa are found to be excellent excuse when purpose of religion is objected.
  3. GOD is essential for existence of a society made up of non-individualist. Being an individualist, i rely on my own judgement for my life (in a way i am my own GOD :P). But if someone does not do things this way, its necessary for him/her to have a good start with the established ideas (holy books, sayings of holy men, holy ways of living life or something else which is "holy").
  4. GOD also is an excellent source to hide their fears and insecurities. Biologically, we are a carbon based life-form. At a psychological end, we are a fear based life-form. We fear almost every conceivable idea. Best and worst performances are equally feared. And we find a fine excuse in GODs. Fear based hatred, which is the source of xenophobia, makes them harm/kill each other without guilt and you wouldn't wonder where the guilt goes off to :)
  5.  Blind following is the most objectionable of all the issues. Objecting, not even existence, but an minor issue like; was he/she human by an chance, would be sufficient to ignite anger. Almost all religions like to consider GODs to be superhuman (but still in human form) for obvious human desire to see their own performances beyond the "so-called" capabilities.
  6. Lazy-ass ignorance is another name for GODliness. Those who never dared venture to understand themselves about how and why things behaved around them, simply declared it "work of GOD". Science had to make an uphill climb to prove most of the things without a creator and now ironically, "scientific" explanation for GOD has become a fashion in the age of science.
There are many more but i wont like this already stretched out article to go beyond its elastic point :P

I must clarify one final point. Not believing in GOD does not makes one a non-believer. To make a decision, a framework is required. My framework does not involve an external source (even if it exists). Also, questioning own belief system to its very core, is most essential part of being GOD-less living lifestyle. Leaving room for questioning, lets me breathe easy within the framework which is constantly updated with new experiences (which makes new beliefs). You can understand this in terms of Open source software and proprietary software. Proprietary software is very convenient since things are already done for you, but it comes at a price of being caged within no-change clauses. At the other end, Open source puts you into a dark well where you build up your own thing according to your own need and share with others without loosing your individuality.

Every GODless system is individual, since it does not obeys the laws of collectivism by its very definition. I do not demand any other god-less idea to be compatible by mine. Neither do i demand GOD believers to turn to my ideas and make a religion out of it. Collectivism breaks the very idea of GODlessness.

I do see beauty in definitions in worldly religions and GODs (infact the most objectionable idea is blind following and if this condition is removed, i have had wonderful conversations with GOD people without any problem). I like the story books which religions call holy books. Their characters are made GODs and worshiped out of insecurity but i like those characters for their qualities. For example:  I do admire Rama for his standards except for abolishing his wife for public acceptance. I do admire Shiva the most since i guess that dude would have hated to be a GOD. I do like stories in Kuran since it shows the hardships of tough guys surviving in hostile environment in the middle of a desert. I do enjoy music written in praise of god, but for the music and poetry. Jesus guy had been preaching all nice stuff all his life and i wonder if he would have really said that he has anything to do with GOD or was it the people around him who made it all up about GOD thing.

Anyway, the sum total of all these words is:

  • I am okay with NO-GOD and anybody believing in GOD
  • I don't ask you to believe in my belief and neither should you. 
  • I don't feel pity or similar things because i don't think your belief is ignorance. It can be termed ignorance from my point of view but being an individualist, my point-of-view is limited to me. Your GOD filled world has many flaws from my point of view but my world will also have equal number of flaws to satisfy symmetry :)

We can still find sufficiently pleasant and infact wonderful grounds to live a wonderful life on earth. Infact, as i see it, we both fill gaps in our approaches. World would need some objectors to every philosophy in order to maintain healthy life and avoid stagnation due to static conditions.

Friday, April 8, 2011

They took your life, they could not take your pride

I did not knew Juliano Mer-Khamis. Never heard of him. Never knew his work. Yet when i heard of his assassination (on same day as Martin Luther King), something hit me deep inside. I wondered why. How can you move so much by death of stranger when your own would certify you to be as cold as rock when it comes to emotions towards a human.

To get an idea of what and how i felt, you would have to see the movie he made: Arna's Children (BUY THIS DVD  all the money from this purchase keeps Freedom theater alive)

His mother started it all. Arna started a theater in war torn Palestenian village of Jennin and tried to give a way out of the madness all around. Juliano was perhaps the only one who could understand the full intensity of her effort and her logic behind the same. You can see this in his movie. You see the children taken from war torn society struggling amongst hatred and conflciting propagandas. Then you will see them pushing the anger (born out of so called injustice) and channelise it into thier talent. Then you would see how talented they become at actual performance (to me they seemed better actors than the trash i see on screen). You can also see the hope in their eyes. Then you are introduced to the darker side of story when you realize that they end up dead for the cause of "their people". You could see all this because Juliano made you see through his lens. He could make you see all this because he could understand the issue to its core. He could see a way out of propaganda and was perhaps disturbed by the way Arna's effort could not compete with the realities of time.

He continued the same efforts and "they" took his life. They tried to kill hope. Hope of a way out. Because "they" like madness to hope. They would rather prefer gun over stage. The cycle of violence seems more sacred to them. The un-named and masked "them" wanted rational to shut up since its too loud and disturbing for irrationality they live.

I don't know yet what i can and will do about this but its for sure that I wont let the idea die.

Some videos involving Juliano's work:

Monday, March 28, 2011

हवा महल

इस दीवानी दुनिया में, इक दीवाना घूमता है
इश्क की तनहाइयों से कोई बहाना ढूंढता है

घूमता फिरता शहर दर शहर, वोह इस बडे से हवामहल में आ पहुंचा 

ढूंढता है इस हवामहल में की कोई प्यारा लम्हा मिल जाये
छोटा मोटा ही सही कोई बहाना मिल जाये 

हर खिड़की पर एक लम्हा अपने आप को बेच रहा था 

इतनें सारे लम्हों  में उसे तलाश बस एक झलक सच्चाई की 
नौटंकी की पपड़ी उतर फेक , एक फांक अच्छाई की 

छील छील के दीवारें, महल नंगा हो गया है पूरा पर दीवारें और खिड़कियाँ अब भी गूगी रही 

तभी एक छोटी सी दबी कुचली सी आवाज़ आती है
सामान के ढेर के नीचे से दबी हुई सी बुलाती है 

उसकी बुदबुदाहट भी दुनिया के शोर से ज्यादा साफ़ सुनाई दे रही है 

वोह हाथ बढ़ा के आवाज़ को सहारा देता है तोह वोह बोलती है
और सबसे बड़ा जीवन का रहस्य खोलती है

मुर्ख, मृगतृष्णा में बावला हुआ फिरता है तू

यह महल, सामान, दीवारें और खिडकियों से बहार निकल
और ज़िन्दगी की धरा में बेख़ौफ़ बह जा विकल

जो मिला न मिला, जो खिला न खिला 

उम्मीदों की उड़ान सारें ऐशों आरामों की राख पे चलती है
उस राख की हर फांख एक नयी मंजिल फलती है 

स्वाद की मिठास जीभ पर कम और मन में ज्यादा पकती है 

उसी आवाज़ में उस दीवाने की दीवानगी का खुदा था शायद... जो वोह खुश हो के, पोटली बाँध और नयी मंजिलों को तीरता हुआ एक नए हवा महल की तलाश में निकल पड़ा...एक आखिरी हवा महल...आखिर मृगतृष्णा का सवाल है बाबा :)

- संदीप नागर

We The people of India

A few days ago i got an interesting forwarded e-mail from a friend. Unfortunately there is no way to locate the original author of the article, so please excuse me for mentioning it anonymously. So first you would have to read the original article (brown font below) and then my views on it.

Note: My views may seem a very pessimistic viewpoint to describe a nation which is growing fastest by many standards, i would say that most of the facts mentioned are quite accurate.

For the convenience of non-Hindi and non-Indians readers i have illustrated some concepts in italics with blue color font :)

original article:

Why Indians don't give back to society & Why don't we worship Brahma?

Brahma ( is amongst the three gods responsible for creation. Brahma creates, Vishnu maintains and Shiva destryos: and hence they complete the cycle of life. Amongst millions of temples for various versions of vishnu and shiva, there is only one single temple of Brahma at a place called Pushkar and whereas its a religious duty to worship shiva out of fear (since he can destroy) and vishnu (since he maintains harmony) almost nobody cares for brahma :) 

Some characteristics unite Indians. The most visible is our opportunism.

Why don't we worship Brahma ? We know he's part of the Hindu trinity as the creator, but we worship Vishnu, manager of the cosmos, and Shiva, its eventual destroyer. The answer lies not in religion, but in culture. But in what way does our religion shape our culture?

Weber explained the success of capitalism in the US, Germany and Britain as coming from their populations Protestant faith. This ethic, or culture, was missing from the Catholic populations of South America, Italy and Spain. Protestants, Weber said, extended Christianity message of doing good deeds, to doing work well. Industry and enterprise had an ultimate motive: public good. That explains the philanthropists of the US, from John D. Rockefeller to Andrew Carnegie to Bill Gates.

What explains the behaviour of Indians? What explains the anarchy of our cities? To find out, we must ask how our behaviour is different.

Some characteristics unite Indians. The most visible is our opportunism. One good way to judge a society is to see it in motion. On the road, we observe the opportunism in the behavior of the Indian driver. Where traffic halts on one side of the road in India, motorists will encroach the oncoming side because there is space available there. If that leads to both sides being blocked, that is fine, as long as we maintain our advantage over people behind us or next to us. This is because the other man cannot be trusted to stay in his place.

The Indians instinct is to jump the traffic light if he is convinced that the signal is not policed. If he gets flagged down by the police, his instinct is to bolt. In an accident, his instinct is to flee. Fatal motoring cases in India are a grim record of how the driver ran over people and drove away.
We show the pattern of what is called a Hobbesian society: one in which there is low trust between people. This instinct of me-versus-the-world leads to irrational behaviour, demonstrated when Indians board flights. We form a mob at the entrance, and as the flight is announced, scramble for the plane even though all tickets are numbered. Airlines modify their boarding announcements for Indians taking international flights.

Our opportunism necessarily means that we do not understand collective good. Indians will litter if they are not policed. Someone else will always pick up the rubbish we throw. Thailand's toilets are used by as many people as Indias toilets are, but they are likely to be not just clean but spotless. This is because thats how the users leave them, not the cleaners.

The Indians reluctance to embrace collective good hurts his state. A study of income-tax compliance between 1965 and 1993 in India (Elsevier Science/Das- Gupta, Lahiri and Mookherjee) concluded that declining assessment intensity had a significant negative effect on
compliance, while traditional enforcement tools (searches, penalties and prosecution activity) had only a limited effect on Indians.The authors puzzled over the fact that India's income tax performance (was) below the average of countries with similar GDP per capita.

We do not think stealing from the state is a bad thing, and our ambiguity extends to corruption, which also we do not view in absolute terms. Political parties in India understand this and corruption is not an issue inIndian politics. Politicians who are demonstrably corrupt, recorded on camera taking a bribe or saying appalling things, or convicted by a court, can hold legitimate hope of a comeback unthinkable in the West.

The opportunist is necessarily good at adapting, and that explains the success of Indians abroad. We can follow someone elses rules well, even if we cant enforce them at home ourselves. The Indian in the US is peerless at the Spelling Bee because the formula of committing things to memory, which in India passes for knowledge, comes naturally to him. But this talent for adapting and memorizing is not the same as a talent for creation.

The question is: Why are we opportunists?

In his great work Crowds and Power, Elias Canetti observed that the rewards religions promised their faithful were all far off, in the after life. This is because a short goal would demand demonstration from god and create skeptics instead of believers. There is an exception to this
in Hinduism. Hinduism is not about the other world. There is no after life in Hinduism and rebirth is always on earth. The goal is to be released entirely and our death rites and beliefs -- funeral in
Kashi -- seek freedom from rebirth.

Christianity and Islam are about how to enter heaven; Hinduism is about how not to return to
earth, because its a rotten place. Naipaul opens his finest novel with the words The world is what it is, and Wittgenstein (The world is all that is the case) opens his Tractatus similarly.

Hinduism recognizes that the world is irredeemable: It is what it is. Perhaps this is where the Hindu gets his world view -- which is zero-sum -- from. We might say that he takes the pessimistic view of society and of his fellow man. But why?

The Hindu devotees relationship with god is transactional: I give you this, you give me that. God must be petitioned and placated to swing the universes blessings towards you. God gives you something not through the miracle, and this is what makes Hinduism different, but by swinging 
that something away from someone else. This is the primary lesson of the Vedic fire sacrifice. There is no benefit to one without loss to another. Religion is about bending gods influence towards you through pleas, and appeasement, through offerings.

Society has no role in your advancement and there is no reason to give back to it (in any way, including leaving the toilets clean behind you) because it hasnt given you anything in the first place. That is why Indian industrialists are not philanthropists. Rockefeller always gave a tenth
of his earnings to the Church, and then donated hundreds of millions, fighting hookworm and educating black women. Bill Gates gave $25 billion (around Rs1.2 trillion), and his cause is fighting malaria, which does not even affect Americans. Warren Buffett gave away $30 billion, almost his entire fortune. Andrew Carnegie built 2,500 libraries. Dhirubhai Ambani International School has annual fees starting at Rs. 47,50,000 (with a Rs 24,00,000 admission fee) and Mukesh Ambanis daughter was made head girl.

An interesting thing to know is this: Has our culture shaped our faith or has our faith shaped our culture? I cannot say. To return to the question we started with: Why is Brahma not worshipped? The answer is obvious: He has nothing to offer us. What he could do for us, create the universe, he already has. There is no gain in petitioning him now. 

My views:

thats a cool take on Indian Psyche (see below). I agreed with most of the points that culture (which does erupts out of religion beliefs) does have a major chunk of opportunistic attitude in friends, family and society in general. Its also hard to disagree from the point mentioned about Brahma since it looks very logical from the argument presented. Though ascribing almost everything to Hindu viewpoint is understandable from the fact thats its a majority, but then it wont be accurate. Almost everybody (even from other religions and belief-systems in general, event atheists :) behave that way : the so called "Indian way" (which some like to call the "chalta hai" attitude)

So maybe the next question is why did Indian subcontinent developed this way?

Maybe its because this land was the land of plenty. Few natural disasters occurred here (fewer than civilizations on shores and in extreme cold and hot climates and those on an island with limited resources). There was ample of food and resources which led to development of big cities and then to kingdoms. The role of kingdoms is an important one here since this is where oppurtinism became a feasible option of interacting with peers. All you had to do is to be okay with king (in general "the authority" like school masters, head priest in temple, bread earner of house, head clerk of an administrative office: We developed our love for hierarchy here. The so called "kissa kursi ka" :) ). 

If (s)he changes, change with them and just be okay for you can only survive this way. This explain why most of the wars with so called "foreign invaders" (as Hindu fundamentalists love to put it though they will vehemently oppose the idea of Aryans themselves being foreign invaders) were lost due to betrayal of a key minister/ally at just the right moment since (s)he was offered something more lucrative. Loyalist were the crazy ones. More interestingly, loyalist were conveniently used by the opportunists to fight their wars for them and this idiosyncrasy is repeatedly observed in almost all major conflict (recently it was Kargil when BJP government forced army to to make a "quick" war to gain political and social points, instead of letting the intruders face the harsh winters and continuous bombings for longer time which would reduce Indian troop casulaities).

the term "kissa kursi ka" literarly mean the "story of chair" and it means that Indian society has a strong tendency to grab a "position of authority" (usually a chair in an office which controls the management of many people: like a principle in school, boss of a lab, head of university, president etc ). There is also a tendency to not only grab the chair but "not to leave it" for as long as possible. Take a look at politicians, offices, management etc in India and mostly you would find an old guy who cant even walk and talk properly and has one leg in coffin, but wont be ready to let go off the chair he holds since "chair defines him" by the virtue of authority it holds.

One funny way of understanding this opportunism based way-of-life can be shown in the statement which somebody mentioned to me many times : मुसीबत में गधे को भी बाप बनाना पड़ता है 

(" मुसीबत में गधे को भी बाप बनाना पड़ता है " which says that "when you are in trouble, you should even accept donkey to be your father". Donkey is used in negative sense as the animal which is retard because he carries loads for no profit of his own :)

INTEGRITY becomes a trade-able entity in such societies.

(Wo)Men-of -honor (i must clarify here that honor does not lies outside you in materialist things, its inside  

so as the video goes, shaurya isnt the dress, but the idea of the man who dons it as a standard and this is amplified in the line "marti marti is duniya mein, nihathey datey rehney ki himmat") are the crazy ones who makes their family and everybody else suffer because of their "crazy principles".

Translation of poem in the video: "shaurya kya hai" (translation: what is honor):

what is honor?
The thundering noise of marching soldiers
or is it the noise of blitzering guns screeching a quite sky
what is honor?
few medals on your green uniform
or making borders in the name of unseen divisions
what is honor?
to shoot down a quietly flying bird with your gun
or to burn down a city with your firepower
Honor !
is it achieved when a hot boiling blood running in veins suddenly stops
or when we make about present hell in search of an unseen heavens as promised
what is honor in this sky full of smoke
what is honor in the cries of funeral at a small village in the valley
maybe its a strong belief
maybe its a will
deep inside us
a will to hold hand of someone by breaking religious rules
to give a challenge to the thunderous sound of bullets with your silence
To stand unarmed in the world going crazy arming themselves
To save my part of the beautiful world for coming generations
what is honor ! 

This poem from renowed poet Javed Akhtar comes at the climax of a movie called "Shaurya (Honor): It takes courage to make right...right" ()

Double standards and plastic smiles are two very obvious side-effects of this way of life (opportunism). I think i need not explain them as they are very obvious around us.

But the important fact is that despite all this, society hasn't collapsed and its still thriving with life maintaining itself in a surprising dynamic equilibrium. When everybody distrusts everybody, we expect society to crumble under its own pressure but this has not happened. why? Frankly i don't know for sure but "i would like" to ascribe the non-collapsing nature to the "few" (but very strong minority) of those who-do-not-put-their-pants-down in the face of adversity. They exist invisible mostly because they don't run to grab attention. But they exist and will continue to exist for some reasons which are beyond my intellectual capacity. Another reason might be that even within the group of distrust, there is a short term trust, which holds the group as a single intact structure (hence i used the word "dynamic equilibrium" previously). Short term trust works better in this kind of society and hence it becomes a national standard to way of life. So in this system, people are in general good to each other until the point you really need them. In general the life flows nicely, peacefully and harmony can be easily confused with the fake smiles and attachments people will show for each other. The real test of times differentiates them from the short minority i talked about. I could guess (from my very prejudiced viewpoint) only two of these reasons to understand why system hasn't collapsed (and will not) but maybe there are some more too.

But wait, am i talking about just Indian society or humans in general :P

I have given a different name to the concept of opportunism (as described above). I call it "The LAW OF CONVENIENCE" which states that humans desire and hence design the most convenient path for social activities. So if they "believe" that there is no use and harm to worship Brahma, they would "prefer" not to do it until some inconvenience comes up.

This law is very universal and applies to western world too. Recently there was a debate in Sweden around a companies idea which marketed unhappy relationships ( by proposing to provide links to people wishing to have an "affair" instead of divorce. Now this might seems off the scale but isn't this happening already, though in secret. This also signifies the same opportunism (but with different clothes, maybe the fancier ones). Also there was a very disturbing news (for me personally) when a man was discovered to be dead after 3 years ( and the place where he was living isn't very remote area. The notion of family and caring for each other is diminishing not because the social pressure has capped off, but because its now easier to abuse the freedom, rather than use it :)

So i guess the saying from india "धोती के अन्दर सब नंगे है " (everybody is equally nude inside their clothes) signifies the very fact that the topic under discussion is a global phenomenon :)

The Great Indian Tamasha (circus)

It has been more than 3 years since i came to Stockholm and have been working at KTH. It was a bit surprising to see such an ordered way of managing student affairs and student union taking constructive ways to improve student experience, as this is not what i use to experience back in India. Student unions in Indians are connected very closely to political parties and their affiliations oblige them to obey directives from party high-commands, directly or indirectly. In view of the coming student elections, i would like to share some experiences which i had in India around the same issue.

As i mentioned above, almost all major political party put their weight behind a particular student political party in elections. Hence the scenery around student elections change to very much what we see in national elections. Prospective student leaders roam around the campus asking to vote for themselves. They are allowed few minutes of time in each faculty where they come to classrooms and put up their agenda. Posters spring up on walls of university and university gates usually are hoarded by their volunteers trying to woo students by all possible means. The main motivation of student leaders behind running for the student office are power, money and future.

Student office can exert major pressure in the decisions taken by university administration and this gives student leaders tremendous power to put up their political agendas in university policies. So if national opposition parties decide to protest against a government policy, you can see the universities “controlled” by their student leaders organizing these marches on their behalf and at the same time student party affiliated to government tries to do the opposite and this puppet game mostly affect the studies too. Almost all Indian universities provide hostel facilities to students and hence hostels become a major power hub for student leaders where they accumulate their representatives who control the resident students and manipulate their opinions (sometimes by brute physical force too!). Some student hostels became infamous for harboring criminal elements too as these criminals were used by politicians for their own needs and safely placed under the “protection” of their pet student leader. The taste of power which a student leader feels, when (s)he can exert his opinion on thousands of people, makes him/her addicted to this game and hence almost all of them end up becoming local or national politicians. Also, their interaction with criminal elements (who help them secure votes by illegal means like kidnapping, threats and likewise activities ) stays much longer than their student office tenure which introduces criminals into political systems.

Money is one of the major factor in this case. Student union controls the budget for various campus activities and corruption is a way of life. Budgets of major universities runs in millions and significant portion of this money is directly controlled by student union. Since the money runs in millions, so its not surprising when student leaders invest few hundred thousands during elections and one wonders how can this guy/gal afford this kind of money when (s)he doesn't come from rich family background. They know that they can “earn” more than what they are going to invest.

Present student politicians end up future politicians as the party high commands evaluate their performance during their tenure at universities, especially their obedience to their “orders”. This makes them mere puppets and they end up doing the same when they end up a politician. This vicious circle promotes only those kind of people “who can be controlled” and have low self-esteem for their individuality. Hence its not surprising to see dynastic tendencies in political parties in India.

One of the most disturbing face of this above mentioned system came to light prominently during the 
anti-reservation protests in 2006 when a non-political student organization “youth for equality” spearheaded massive nationwide student protests and local students offices were kept mum by major political parties, who made that issue at first hand (to gain major portion of the vote-bank). It was particularly shamefully to find that in one of the major student protests against government, students offices had little to do for the fear of their own future, even if they understood the rational argument involved.

The most disturbing aspect of the whole issue of this article is that the so called educated people in universities are electing these kind of people and this makes me doubt if we can claim that education improves the rational powers to decide for individual or society. Those students who have complains against the system, choose not to get involved in controversies since student leaders can actually exert their “powers” to disturb their studies and their performance in their degrees. This hidden blackmail, in a society where education is valued as one of the few liberating ideas from poverty and uplifting societal status, fuels the system to continue in its ugly form.

But not everything is lost. We do encounter some leaders who go the “other” way even at the cost of resistance and pay the price for the same. I hope that the present popular opinion in India saying, “when you try to change the system, system eventually changes you”, will change to something more constructive. India is now emerging from its sleepy and dark past of ugly politics to more open and establishment-resistive systems and student politics cannot remain isolated from this phenomenon. Their constructive role in student life is still pending in a big way. We have learnt lessons from the past and present students are becoming more aware of the issues through media and are beginning to question student leaders who enjoyed going un-questioned in past.

(This article was also blogged at "the international party" @ stockholm university, Sweden )

Friday, December 3, 2010


The title of the post was quoted by Charles Ives, upon being given, but refusing, the Pulitzer prize. He stated much more than a statement. He released a quantum of information in this short statement, about the way we (as a human society) has progressed. Let me explain this in more details below.

The incentive to do a particular thing is considered the source of energy to do that act. Without incentive, there will be no act. If we never felt cold, we would never invent heating systems. If we never felt the need to rise above another, we would never invent the concept of lies as well as hard work. So we see that "incentive" is the pivotal point in the hub of activities.

I feel that this concept of incentive can be best understood in the words of Dr. Feynman who illustrated why he considered prizes as useless entities.

Just like people doing science (as explained in above video), there are two kinds of people: one who seek pleasure-of-doing stuff as their sole incentive and those who associate some reward outside the pleasure-of-doing stuff as their incentive.

Both of them are valid incentives and they make a hell lot of difference for us as a human society.


Those of you who have read Ayn Rand's Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged, would now appreciate that all she described ever, were the former kind of people and the kind of society they would make (Galts Gultch) and the ironic question "who is John Galt" simply emphasize the existence of these kind of people as a finite minority. Those kinds who have the whole world in their own existence and find meaningful existence within them-self. This doesn't mean an islander's life at a social level (as it is usually contested by those who fail to appreciate this viewpoint) but instead mean that the pleasure of doing the stuff is the sole purpose of doing it and no reward would ever match that kick of accomplishment. Infact, rewards become meaningless and this is why Charles Ives quotes that a less mature existence on an intellectual plane would prefer reward-based-incentives. Howard Roark's speech from Fountain head and John Galt's speech from Atlas shrugged emphasized the line of thought for these kind of men and the reprecurssion of deviations from that respectively.

John Galts speech divided in many parts to emphasize the relevance of text in present times :)

The difference between these two approaches makes the world as we know it now. After industrial revolution, reward based systems drove humanity towards earning more and more rewards for their acts (which made them superior) in terms of land, money power etc. At some points, money and power becomes the sole point of existence. This fact is beautifully depicted in a brilliant movie "American Psycho" (read my review here) where a group of businessman base their whole existence on the beauty of thier business cards, which others appreciate (

In-fact the recent conflict around possibility of data sharing and corporate profit which owns the data is a result of this approach. The meager monetary payments to creators become valid means of owning the data and its use for a certain period of time (which can then be extended from time to time, as per convenience) become (or rather "are made") legal. Recently i interacted with one of the most original musicians from India: Indian Ocean band, and they told me that they have voluntarily put up songs of their latest album to download for free since they want the music to reach out to their intended audience and actually music companies hinder in this path more than they can facilitate it. This is true for not only entertainment industry but scientific industry too. GM killed electric car after the big lobby of oil corporations went against it and layed off the precious work of many engineers who made that marvel possible.

It is also important to understand at this point that the nomenclature which we ascribe to the ideas shows our approach towards the same. "Industrial world" means the world of material production (by any means) more than it means innovation and hard-work based progress. Morality is best derived from texts (religious or some leader's mouthpiece) rather than inventing and deriving it through reasoning. "Democracy" means more towards submission to the new kings (which are now elected rather than born) than the power to decide for yourself rationally. Submission in the name of fear(S) becomes order of the day. Wars and violent conflicts becomes the way to solve disputes and any serious attempts to solve problems in a rational manner (like UN) is sabotaged and abused to grab more power instead. These few actions are the result of the system we have chosen for ourself (voluntarily or involuntarily: those who refuse to give up this system choose it involuntarily)

Having criticized this approach, I must emphasize that I do not mean that incentives are useless. They are the fact of life and any system which asks for abolishing them will be un-natural for the human systems we know now. Instead, what i emphasized is that there exist two separate categories of humans : one whose incentive isn't materialistic (in terms of money, power, praise etc) but just the pleasure of doing the stuff and learning something new and at the same time there exist a majority of humanity which choose to work another way. Since majority dictates the way a human system drives towards future, so we have a reward based system dictating our ways to exist and hence exploitation becomes inevitable.

I do not know what future will bring us but changes are inevitable and i could somehow sense that we are recognizing the flaws of present system and we might shift our gears to a new one, which might be prize-less :)

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