Dec 26, 2008

Colonial Conceit...

I'd rate Pride and Prejudice (2005 version) to be one of the finest movies ever made, not just for depicting an epic love story with a steadfast screenplay that captured most of the compelling narratives and conversational nuances of the book, thereby limning the quintessence of the truly outstanding classic that it is, but also for portraying medieval England naked, and yet beautiful - from its head to heels - from the 18th century English dance to the countryside gossip, the horse chariot to paper-ink-pen, English breakfast to the study, the ladies gowns to the men's boots.... and of course the ostentatious English pride...

The English are supposedly proud folks...not just the Knights and the Dames, but every English butler and governess was known to be proud."The Sun never sets in the British empire" is a well-known anthem that aptly delineates their pride...And honestly, they had every reason to be...They'd ruled almost half of the globe, they've given us some of the best literature of the world - Wordsworth or Shakespeare, Milton or Keats, and they'd produced some of the most abundant guns, germs and steel than many other continents...

Indians are a proud bunch as well, not just proud of our rich and varied heritage (you know where I plagiarized this phrase from - Our National pledge that we were supposed to rote-memorize in kindergarten), but also proud of our culture and literature..A parallel inspection of the customs of the peoples is baffling in its abundance of similarity, yet dearth of congruence..I find Mrs Bennet (mother of five daughters who cannot think of anything else but marrying them off to filthy rich gentlemen in Pride and Prejudice) so similar to Vadivamba (mother of Mohana, who wants her daughter to get married to the best men in town in Thillana Mohanambal) and Lady Catherine (the rich and arrogant English Dame who uses her power and influence to fix marriages in her favor in Pride and Prejudice) so similar to Madanpur Maharaja (the affluent king who uses his authority to allure Mohana in Thillana Mohanmbal) . The medeival English obeisance and the erstwhile Indian greeting of namaskaram, the English womenfolk gossip and the Indian wedding gossips /complaints, the English afternoon tea and the Indian evening filter kaapi, Hamlet's soliloquay "To be or Not to Be" by Shakespeare and Hanuman's in Sundara Gandam by Kamban are all nuggets of a parallel study in contrast...

There are definately disparities arising from geographical, climatical and economic differences between the peoples, but yet the similarity is striking...Thats why I love Pride and Prejudice as much as I love Thillana Mohanambal...and I like the English countryside lake as much as I like the Indian pastoral temple kulam..Both instigate poetry in a romantic soul...
But the similarity ends there...I love India more...

I forgot..There's another furtive reason why I'd rate Pride and Prejudice one of the best movies ever made.....I love Mr.Darcy :)

Dec 6, 2008

Who would bell the Elephant??

This blog post is a digression...this is about my beloved bleeding country - India. Until a few days back, I'd been one of those unpatriotic, if not disloyal Indian taxpayer, too busy in quotidian qualms (like tax calculation) to be worried about the Indian state. To me or my "techie" associates, Indian politics or any banter bordering it, served as a contentious lunch-time discussion, and was comfortably forgotten on returning back to our qualms. This Nov 26, a few young men changed it. It's been more than a week now, the Mumbai episode and the sad state of India continues to plague me. Public memory is supposedly short-lived, mine is shorter-lived, and lest I forget, here's the post...

There were terror strikes...lives were taken away in a way that was not supposed to be... feelings of apprehension, gloom and anger ensued amongst the Indian diaspora... a few political positions were re-arranged ...and with the mundane necessities of the lives that exist, amidst resting resentment, we are bouncing back with the usual "indomitable spirit". Anger is of some good, only if it gets translated to actions, bolstered by a rationale to retrospect on what went wrong...

What breastfeeds such terrorism? Is it the usual fallback factor - religious fanaticism or a deeper psychological phenomenon of vengeance of an offended community or a more economic reason of indigence or is it some burgeoning business somewhere? None of the above? Or all of the above? Or any of the above?Answers please!!!

Whatever it is, it would do us good to discern disdainfully that a state has no complete control over terrorism especially if it is emanating from a land outside its jurisdiction. But it does have complete control over its own defense and the intelligence feeding it. So, it is every Indian subject's (taxpayer or tax calculator) expectation that his government would defend him against terrorism with its daunting defense and would foil the best-laid plans of terrorism with its inate intelligence. So what went wrong this time?

No, dont blame just the politicians again..Remember the bureaucrats ? Politicians may come and politicians may go, but a bureaucrat goes on forever...Together, with their actions or non-actions, politicians and the bureaucrats have let the average Indian's expectation down..yet again..Is it because the men in power didnt act or the men who wanted to act didnt have the power? If so, is there something fundamentally wrong with the system of the "largest" democracy in the world? Afterall, we do not choose our leaders directly, India is an indirect democracy...representation is indirect, power is distributed, and so is accountability..

Well, there have been a few success stories of the bureaucracy too..Railways for instance, as quoted by a friend.The same friend barbs "...The politicians must leave the able bureaucrats to themselves, give them their space and time..and the results will ensue.." True, how many politicians do that? And how many "able bureaucrats" exist in the system today? I dont have the statistics, (Statistics are like bikinis, what they show is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital), but the vital picture is not too appealing...

So what do we do to make the picture more appealing? Given that we are bound by the vicissitudes of this existing system, the best the average Indian could do is to raise the class of the average politician and the average bureaucrat. So would you, the above-average reader of this post, quit your white collared or collarless job and become an above-average politician or bureaucrat? Would you bell this supposedly wise elephant called India?