Thursday, March 28, 2013

Judicial Pardon - A perspective in the light of Sanjay dutt’s pending imprisonment


Judicial Pardon - A perspective in the light of Sanjay dutt’s pending imprisonment

I have been watching with avid interest the proceedings of the impending imprisonment of Sanjay Dutt, for his alleged involvement in the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. While it is true, that Mr. Dutt is sentenced to five years minimum sentencing by the Supreme court, one needs to examine the nature of Jurisprudence and its role in regulating human behavior; as against, a mere factual interpretation and rendering of law . Whether pardon in this case should be granted or not, is something that I am not competent to assert, but as a student of History and the evolution of Human society, I do believe that no system of justice is static and inviolable. Laws are meant to evolve and adapt itself to changing times, and its principal task to keep the wheels of society well-oiled and moving within the embankments of civilized behavior. Laws are not meant only to punish, but also to reform, correct and integrate errant behavior into mainstream of society. And judicial clemency is a chief instrument for achieving that goal. Here is a short history of judicial pardon for us to ponder.

The first prominent mention of judicial pardon finds mention in the code of Hammurabi, a series of edicts that were developed in Babylon nearly 4,000 years ago, where the prescription of harsh penalties was balanced by rules to limit personal vengeance under mitigating circumstances. Such laws were feasible and practicable to apply under the absolute authority of a king, but the sprouting of democratic values in Greece presented a new set of challenges to apply such niceties of clemency. Therefore, interestingly, by the time the Athenian Civil War ended in Greece, the procedural difficulties that attended obtaining pardon in Athens were stringent and complicated that, before anyone could receive a pardon, one had to comply with the process of adeia (a democratically elected assembly), which required that at least 6000 citizens support a petition for an act in a secret poll. Not surprisingly, the approval of this many people were difficult to obtain, and hence clemency was seldom granted to individuals, at least those who were not celebrities. Thus, grants of clemency often hinged on popularity rather than concerns that a just result be reached. Later, In Roman times the unending triumphs of war gave the returning Hero, the status of Dictator for a day, with a right both to slaughter war captives and an unequivocal right to pardon them as well. Coronations and national holidays provided suitable occasions for monarchs to proclaim their generosity (A practice that is still continued in many democracies, including our own).The practicality of Asian thinking was evident in the manner in which the Han and Mauryan emperors in China and India respectively, employed the practice of issuing general amnesties as a means of procuring additional work force, or as soldiers; again, a practice that continued till the end of the second world war. However, the French and the English later on were to adopt pardon as an executive practice, although not with an intention of correcting human fallibility, but more in deference to the absolute authority of a king during those turbulent times, and not surprisingly, in France, the power to grant pardon vanished, albeit for a short period, with the French revolution of 1789, as it was deemed to be a heinous vestige of a repressive monarchy.

The above paragraph would have made it amply clear that judicial review and pardon has always been an integral part of law enforcement in various forms and shapes. In fact, the maturity of a nation is evident in the way we handle exceptions to established rules. It takes tremendous amount of national conviction to set a legal precedent that can alter the state of Justice forever. Justice Katju, makes a very important point when he say that “Justice should be tempered with mercy” – paraphrasing the immortal words of Portia in Shakespeare’s visionary play “The merchant of Venice”. Though this sentiment strikes an emotional chord within all of us, we need to be careful while enforcing this, to make sure that such sympathies do not merely extend to persons who wield popularity and power. In the case of Sanjay Dutt, it seems that he was misled into accepting arms and ammunitions, which later proved to be fatal instruments that took away innocent lives. It also seems that after having served some time in prison, he has transformed into a more mature and dignified human, than what he was before. A man’s intentions are best reflected in his actions. So, if this is the yard stick, then Sanjay has over the last two decades has lived a decent and socially acceptable life. The last thing that should be happening, is to sacrifice him on the altar of political vendetta. Let us treat him as an individual, on his own merit and give the president or Governor to decide his case. Ultimately, he may be found wanting and may well have to serve out his sentence; but that should not prevent us from allowing him a chance to be pardoned. I must agree with Justice Katju’s valiant attempt to serve the cause of justice, which he so eminently upheld during his tenure in the various courts of India.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The perils of democracy - The origins of Conflict in Srilanka - a perspective and a background


The perils of democracy - The origins of Conflict in Srilanka - a perspective and a background

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?”    ---Mahatma Gandhi

 Any kind of civil war has its roots in the way communities have lived and worked together within a given geographical area, and is often the result of a long history of slow rot, discontent and dissent accumulating over a period of time.  The origins of the Sinhalese – Tamil conflict is interesting principally in this context because for centuries, both these communities have lived, worked, produced great works of art and literature, shared common religious dogmas and myths; despite having the same ethnic differences, that are being bandied about so much over the last three decades. So my question is: what has changed in this century that resulted in this brutal civil car claiming thousands of lives on both sides; and how is that we find that two essentially mature communities who have lived together in harmony and peace for so many generations have all of sudden fallen prey to genocidal warfare in this century. I am attempting in this essay to provide an answer this rather controversial question.

In the year 1911, the educated sections of Sinhalese and Tamil communities were given their first “Ceylonese constituency”; ironically, with a Tamil leader elected to hold that seat, against a fellow Sinhalese. This was obviously the handiwork of the British colonialist policy of imposing their version of order on a diverse society. Nonetheless, seeds of communal tension were sown, and this first timid move towards elected representative politics was soon to disrupt much of the traditional harmony between both the groups. Numerically, the Sinhalese constituted a higher proportion of the population, and it is but natural there would be discontent simmering its way to the top. To appease this uneasiness, the Donoughmore commission was appointed and in 1931, it took the bold step of introducing universal franchise in one go, intending to move politics from caste, communal and class allegiances towards a broader and encompassing national identity. Though this move did much to improve education and social conditions, it dubiously resulted in entrenching Sinhalese leadership in a position of unassailable majority and power, thereby aggravating, stimulating and viciously strengthening the island’s bludgeoning pattern of communal politics.

The key question here is whether Ceylon was ripe for Universal Suffrage at that point in time, when its political system was still nascent and in a democratically embryonic stage. I don’t think so. Undoubtedly, the decision was taken with the best intentions in mind, but unfortunately was not based on factual reality. The previously elections witnessed a mere four percent of the population turning out to vote, and such miniscule numbers cannot be the rationale to impose such a significant moral demand on a country not educated or mature enough to appreciate the power of an Vote. And like most other Asian societies, the Ceylonese ended up accepting the Parliamentary system of Democracy, vociferously evangelized by the British.
The Second World War changed the course of Asian history. India and Pakistan attained independence in 1947, Burmese – in 1948; and Ceylon became a free country on 4th February 1948. Signals of the coming storm began to appear shortly after independence.  In 1948-49, the United National Party government led by D.S. Senanayake passed legislation which effectively deprived nearly one million Tamil plantation workers of Indian origin of their citizenship and voting rights. Apart from its manifestly discriminatory nature, it upset the balance provided by minority weighting in the legislature which had been a key element in the political compromise on which the Independence constitution had been accepted. Thereafter, it was much easier for a major Sinhalese party to ignore the wishes of the Tamil minority and yet win a majority in parliament. This imbalance was the key impetus for all that followed in the little Island nation that culminated in the cleansing of the Tamils and their demands in the early months of 2009. Organizations like the LTTE were mere branches of this deep fault line that was carved in the early days of Srilanka democracy.

To me, the entire debate on this issue boils down to the fact as to whether democracy and its concomitant rights can ever be imposed on people. Is it not something that grows and matures from within? Unfortunately, democracy is largely misconstrued as an ideology. Nothing can be further than the truth. Democracy is enlightened citizenship participating wisely and judiciously in the process of nation building. Franklin Roosevelt observed that “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education”. The history of Srilanka would have different if a political order was not imposed from outside to advance the selfish interests of a few avaricious colonialists. The stunted development of many Asian societies is largely due to the fact that they have not grown organically. Unless, they are tempered and chiseled by wise education and learn to seamlessly adopt and appreciate the fruits of living in a free society, there will be chaos and conflict, and chances of a civil war, or even a Genocide is pretty high.

While we mourn the deaths and loss of so many innocent lives in the civil war that has ravaged Srilanka and seek retribution, let us also understand that all of us are collectively responsible for preventing such brutality. Srilanka may be eventually ostracized for its role in perpetuating the Genocide, but that is no solution to the problem. The answer lies deeper:  the way we organize ourselves as nations, the deep respect we must cultivate for everybody around us and an understanding that differences are necessary for Order to be born, otherwise democracy will quickly slip in dictatorship and end in Genocides, more brutal and horrific than our imaginations can possibly conceive.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Chinua Achebe - The true Voice of Africa - A humble tribute to this extraordinary author; and an understanding of the times he epitomized and immortalized in his works.


Chinua Achebe - The true Voice of Africa - A humble tribute to this extraordinary author; and an understanding of the times he epitomized and immortalized in his works.

I have been reading Chinua Achebe’s works over the last two months and it is with great sadness that I noted that this vibrant old man of eighty two years is no more. I am not sure how many of us even noticed the mention of his death in the media. Or even if we had, how many of us understood that in his passing away, we have a lost a voice that has helped in bringing our attention to the plight and devastation of Africa caused by Colonialism. I have written this tribute to a writer whose work reminds us that literature is always born out of a deep sense of passion and connect with the world and its surroundings, should always be as a conduit for the flow of life, with all its joys and calamities……..

Great Works of Literary fiction are often born out of the crucible of  a society that is in the process of change, and the Teutonic  plates of Cultural and moral ideologies of a nation and its people  perceptibly shift to a newer equilibrium, that is completely divested of its past. In many ways, a writer and his work is often a candid reflection of such a society, and its embodied cultural undercurrents. And, there comes a time in the life time of a nation, when its true voice gurgles up through the pen and words of a singularly gifted artist, and finds its consummation in lending a credible voice to the entire community; and thereby opening up a whole new vista of life and thought for generations to come. Chinua Achebe - the great Nigerian author, who passed away on 22nd of March, was one such gifted writer.  Let’s then put his life and work in context.

The impact of the west and how it has shaped the geographic and intellectual maps of many societies across the globe is a fact that is well established in history. Africa is no exception. The landscape of that wonderful vibrant tropical continent has time and again been ravaged and abused by unnecessary intrusions and political interventions of Western Colonialism, and its blatantly ignoble policy of divide-and-rule. The British established, perpetuated and enhanced the traditionally derived differences in the continent to establish a system of colonial rule in Nigeria. The predominantly Muslim population of the north was kept happy by the colonialists by keeping them away from any advancement that Modern education may provide, and helped the ossification of the indigenous Muslim populace of Northern Nigeria, by binding them to existing rules of tradition and customs. On the contrary, The eastern part of the country, which was home to  Igbo tribe, were afforded the luxury of the British Munificence , who sent many of their sons to British universities and enjoyed the active freedom and opportunities afforded by such education.  This singularly dichotomous policy led to a deep political divide between within Nigeria. While the North wallowed in poverty and ignorance, the East was enjoying a life of comfort and riches.

 It was but natural that this state of affairs could not have continued indefinitely, and the early sixties saw the first signs of political dissent from Northern Nigeria to the more prosperous and egalitarian people of the East, leading to the secession of the eastern state of Biafra in 1967, and thus marking a seminal metamorphosis in the life, climate and the cultural fabric of the Africa. The decade of the sixties witnessed the violent ethnic purging of the Igbo tribe by the Northern Nigerians, the economic and food blockade imposed, the fight for oil reserves, literally pushing the State to the brink of obliteration and the chaos and horror that erupted thereafter, violated every known principle of Human rights codified and agreed upon since the Second World War. Horrid scenes of Starvation, abject poverty and the debasement of millions of Human lives – witnessed in the media and television screens across the globe, shook the conscience of the world to its very depths.

It was this milieu that Chinua Achebe captured in his magnificent   “Things fall apart” trilogy of Novels.  His work bought about a deeper understanding of the African nation and its cultural roots. Though Achebe was a product of Western education, his sympathies ran deep and his writings reflected this depth in the unforgettable characters that he etched ,and the colonial period that he invoked in his inimitably evocative style. His work also set the tone for Modern African literature. His writings reflected the true spirit of Africa without the accoutrements of Western idiom. Achebe arguably is one of the greatest novelist of African culture and his seminal achievement as a writer was in creating an English syntax in his novels that could not only imitate the tonal speech qualities of African speech, but also to give it a life outside its own immediate culture, reaching out to a larger wider world. The language of Igbo is inferential and to a great degree contextual, like the Chinese; and to capture the flavor of its layered meanings and intonations within the rigid semantics of English is a task worthy only of a genius. Many other African writers have followed suit:  Ben Okri, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – to name of few. All of them carry a trace of the scent and texture of Achebe’s enchanting and deeply disturbing narrative style.

Achebe received numerous awards and more than 30 honorary doctorates, but among the tributes he may have valued most was Nelson Mandela's. "There was a writer named Chinua Achebe," Mandela wrote, "in whose company the prison walls fell down."  No better tribute would fit the work and life of Chinua Achebe.

Read his works……..



  

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

An essay on divisive Faith - A Background for the layman


An essay on divisive Faith -  A Background for the layman

The virulent hatred that splits the Islamic community into Shia’s and Sunni’s is something that questions that edifice of Institutionalized religions. I have been doing some reading and research into the origins and structure of mass belief’s and faith; and I was taken aback to find that the fault line that exists between the two major sects of Islam ,is so completely based upon choices that have nothing to do with Islam or its fundamental tenets.

The entire course of Islamic history would have been different if Prophet Mohammed had had a Male child. Despite the fact that the he married ten times during his lifetime, not one of his myriad wives could give him a male progeny. His first wife, Khadija, gave birth to two sons in quick succession, only to lose them in their infancy. It was almost as life had destined that Mohammed (the quintessential Arab) would not have a son to carry his spiritual destiny forward, and ream in the entire Arab world into a single Islamic fraternity. As he lay dying, in the small chamber of his favorite wife Aisha, little did he know or realize that his death would cut asunder generations of Muslims into a pitiful state of bloodshed and relentless persecution of one another. His closest Male protégé was his Son-in-law Ali, who had been his devout follower, and had risked his life to help Mohammed sneak out of Mecca in the dead of the night in the year 622A.D - to avoid the swords of Assassins, who took offence to his egalitarian teachings of equality and compassion. Though, Mohammed had not explicitly christened him as his spiritual mascot, it was widely acknowledged that Ali would slip into this role. But here was the catch: Aisha had different Intentions. Irked by the fact that she was childless, yet closest to Mohammed - she did not take to well to the fact that Ali would usurp a position that she thought was rightly hers to take. She had a visceral dislike of Khadija, The prophet’s first wife and Mother –in-law of Ali. It was Khadija, who had held Mohammed in her tender arms after his first trembling encounter with the divine, and comforted him that he was indeed the chosen vehicle to spread the word of Allah. Mohammed gave her respect that he would not share with Aisha, whom he treated as a child to be played around with. This was the possibly the only political mistake that Mohammed committed in his otherwise immaculate dealings with people around him. Aisha’s deep dissent and anger came surging forth during those final ten days of the prophet’s life, when she meticulously plotted along with her Father Abu Bakr to wrest the divine authority that seem be implicitly resting on Ali’s head ,and leave the spiritual legacy of Mohammed in a permanent state of rift.

It is out of this cauldron of triviality, that the schism between the Shiites and the Sunnis burst forth. The believers of Mohammed, who had innately acknowledged the spiritual mantle of Ali, even before Mohammed was bedridden, came to be known as the Shiite’s; and the others who opined along with Aisha and her father, that Mohammed never truly anointed anyone as his successor, and sought a more convoluted process of election to choose a Caliph came to called as the Sunni’s. What Mohammed really intended to do is now lost now in the hazy mists of time and history. The wide spread advent of Islam did nothing to deter to the ever deepening chasm between the two sects. The Shia’s and the Sunnis - both of them abide by the Holy Koran and the wisdom of the Prophet’s words. But again, the light of enlightenment that Mohammed could not be transmitted and what has come through over the last fourteen centuries is a trail of hatred, bloodshed and meaningless wars to legitimize a claim that is essentially non-existent.
This brings me to the central point of this essay. I am just wondering what would have transpired if Mohammed had lived a few more years, begotten a male child from a eleventh wife and passed on the mantle of Islam to him; or, the other more significant question as to whether Mohammed really wanted somebody to succeed him. The division in Islam is purely based on interpretations of what the prophet would have intended to say and never on what he actually said. Therein lies the tragedy – the reverberations of which are till echoing with greater intensity than ever in the middle east and across the world. The Genocidal cleansings, the castigation of innocent lives with no future in sight, the whirlpool of chaotic interpretations , the politicizing of the cult of the Prophet   - is a grim reminder as to what happens when  religion becomes organized . It loses that touch of beauty and grace. It is said that when Mohammed, the illiterate trader, returned after the cataclysmic revelation from Angel Gabriel to Iqra (to recite) the transcendental poetry of the divine -  his face was flushed with a ethereal  light that was blinding, and was unable to believe that God had chosen to him to be capable of creating such soul stirring words of beauty.

Would he have also believed that centuries later , that those very  revelatory words that created a faith ,would lose the spirit of it ,and retain only the empty dry shells of verbiage that is mechanically recited across Islamic dominions day in and day out, without delving into the unity that Holy Koran truly stands for…... 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Religiosity - A very short essay


I have always wondered why religion has been so divisive and self defeating in its purpose. Is it because we have hypnotized ourselves into believing in a divinity that really does not exist, or is it possible, that religion essentially is so private, yet so universal, that it cannot be institutionalized ? . I am more inclined to believe in the latter. Every spiritual journey begins as a cataclysmic movement in the psyche of an individual, that bursts through the ramparts of thought encrusted cerebrum; and then by strange vicissitudes of propaganda and belief become the lingua franca of a community : codified and framed. What then essentially is a metamorphoses of awareness called "enlightenment", becomes in society, a peripheral cosmetic makeover clothed in the garb of ethics , customs and morals, that reeks of artificiality and staticity.

The point is : What is true and real for a Jesus, a Mohammad, a Adi Sankara , a Buddha or a you and me can never be communicated , no matter how beautifully it is clothed in words. And therein lies the fundamental problem. Stripped naked of all our psychological  entrapment, we are all one in godhead, the life juice, the pristine fountain of consciousness , a participatory witness in the state of the cosmos AS IT IS.

Unfortunately, Life doesn't bequeath this blessing to all of us. Some get it, some dont. Thats the hard truth. But it definitely pays to understand this madness thats going on in the name of religion, and wait earnestly, patiently for the flicker of grace that will annihilate this facade of codified religious indoctrination with all its accumulated garbage, and give us a glimpse into what religion is all about.

William Blakes (the mystic poet) expresses this beautifully, when he writes
"
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.”
"

Lets wait for this grace to envelope us ..................................

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The experience of "Who we are" - A few thoughts

One of the things that has always fascinated me over the years is this habitual and compulsive need of Man to confirm to patterns of thinking that we have acquired over a period time -  either through the rigor of chronological education, or from acquired social indoctrination : resulting in a tacit conspiracy ( a mighty taboo) to ignore who, or what,we really are. Though every once in a while, we tend to question the Universe and Man's place in it, the mysterious center of experience which we call "I myself", the problems of life and love, pain and death, and the whole question of whether existence has any meaning in any sense of the word : - we are immediately pulled back into the humdrum of  daily mechanical life, and those brief moments of clarity fade away without any great impact on us.

Sometimes however, a personal catastrophe; or a near brush with death, can jolt us to a newer dimension of life. The entire edifice put together by inherited thought structure crumbles, and in its wake there emerges a fresh and vivid perspective of life. We discover an inner core that was hidden under the debris of our hallucinatory selves. Relationships take a new meaning and relevance, and the world, after all, doesn't seem as much a burden as it was before. A ethereal sense of lightness seems to pervade.

More importantly, we come to understand that most of our problems are mere a misuse of words and a kind of intellectual neurosis, that prevents us from getting rid of it. For example, questions such as "why this Universe" may sound sensible but is actually as meaningless as asking "Where is this universe?". when the only things that are anywhere must be somewhere in the Universe. Similarly, "Love","Envy", ","fear" -  are mere words that attempt to freeze an essential flowing pattern. Unfortunately, this is the kind of education that society would want to subvert. Hitherto, this kind of  inner revolution of the mind has been confined to rather isolated individuals; it has never been widely characteristic of communities, simply because , it is too dangerous for that. Civilizations thrive on such divisions.

This strange feeling of  inner isolation  and loneliness, is in flat contradiction to everything known about man (Scientifically and spiritually) . Just as the Ocean "waves"; each individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe. Even those who know this to be true in theory, do not sense or feel it, but continue to act as isolated egos  - and the result of this self perpetuating illusion , is our hostile attitude to everything and everybody outside us. The chaos that we see around us is the direct outcome of this cosmic joke.

Lets then have more "Outsiders" in society, who can act upon the "insider" information of an illusory self . This is a transformation that is deeply needed today.................................




Wednesday, March 6, 2013

"The thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet" by David Mitchell. - A review

"The thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet" by David Mitchell.

There are books that one reads in one sitting; some, a few chapters; and very select few, that can be read only in small doses of few pages at a time. The thousand Autumns of Jacob de joet is a masterpiece that  falls in the third category . A book that can only be relished, enjoyed and appreciated in small quantities; not because that story line is complex or the style of writing complicated:  its just the sheer beauty of the prose and the fragrance of the period that it invokes, that desires it to be read slowly - pausing a little to allow - the earthy fragrance of rural Japan in the eighteenth century, the intricate customs and codes of its inhabitants , the stench of the Dutch and English colonization and exploitation; the slow blossoming of love, passion and forbidden relationships : to seep into our being reluctantly, at first, and then slowly but assuredly making us a integral part of the story as it unfolds.

The narrative of David Mitchell is refreshing in its approach.  Crisp dialogues interspersed with  succinct observations on the atmosphere in which the act is placed; weaves a mysteriously kaleidoscopic effect on the reader. Every sentence is beautifully crafted and brilliantly researched. The story takes on many hues and dimensions, but the backdrop of Japanese culture and its mixed reactions to western encroachments , morals and attitudes , stands out as the central theme of the book.

I would not want to summarize the story ; primarily because it wouldn't do justice to this layered play of emotions, intrigue and drama . Read this , if you are a book lover. Preferably, buy the book and keep it by your bedside, and read a few pages before you go to bed. Probably, some of its magic may resonate in your dreams.


Cheers ..................................

Friday, March 1, 2013

Musings on a Birthday - 2012

Musings on a Birthday .

Alan Watts - an influential philosopher once commented " We are not born into this world; we are born out of it".

Again Stephen Jay Gould - an eminent evolutionary biologist of the twentieth century wrote in the preface of his wonderful study of Burgess shale - "if one were to rewind the tape of evolution and play it; chances of any species even closely resembling a human is as remote as a leaf growing on a twig on the branch of a tree"

As a human race , we simple cannot accept the simple fact the existence is essentially meaningless. Our attempt throughout the ages has been to anthropomorphize life. The fiction that Charles Darwin erected in the eighteenth century that Human beings are the pinnacle of creation has steadily been eroded and reconstructed by every known scientific discipline since then . The more we push the frontiers of knowledge the less it seems probable that Man holds a special place in this universe. A collective human history of a few hundred thousand years can hardly stand testimony to our vain glorious claim of being the epitome of creation; when this very earth was inhabited by unicellular organisms for at least a million years before any semblance of life was recorded was on this planet.

What then gives us this audacity of hope and misplaced pomposity. Our everyday lives are so insecure and depth less that we seek salvation in ideas of permanence in whatever form it comes. When the entire universe is mutating every moment, we seek to achieve immutability through our actions, deeds and thoughts. Our glorification of birth and death is merely an effort to immortalize ourselves in an universe that is essentially timeless.

Earlier this year, I understood the true meaning and significance of what it is to be a "mortal". A mortal is one for whom life is not a means to an end and is merely an event in this vast panorama of this universe sustained by vast cosmic forces that converge at a single focal point in existence - bereft of any doership, but merely a placid vessel that is propelled through this boundless ocean of creation to a destination that is completely uncertain yet mysterious and compelling. In short, a life untrammeled by consequences.

A birthday them is not merely cherishing the birth of a "Me" but a profound gratitude to the cosmos for having manifested this Psycho-physical organism - A singular chance occurrence that was conceived in chaos and yet imbued with insight to discern and intuit its significance as merely flotsam and jetsam in this evanescent cosmic broth .

Gosh - What a Birthday :)

Cheers !!!!!!

Talaash - a movie, an Exorcism

Talaash - an Exorcism

Over the years, I have come to admire Amir khan not only for his talented acting but also the choice of his story lines. I liked his work in "Dhobhi Ghat", where I felt he transcended the traditional boundaries of film making and made an inward descent in exploring his psyche. All acclaimed actors and directors have expressed themselves through their films. The foreboding maliciousness of a Roman Polanski; the twisted psyche of Hitchcock; the blood and gore of a Quentin Tarantino; the stark realism of a Kurosawa or satyajit ray - reveals the need of an inward fulfillment through their work. Amir khan belongs to that bracket.

"Talaash" attempts to answer some fundamental questions of life : Can we live without the burden of the past; Could we had made choices that were more appropriate in a given circumference of circumstances; Do we have to live a meaningless existence to the point of alienating everything and everybody around us; and finally, Can we exorcise our past and start finding tranquility in the present. The visual medium is a wonderful art form to explore these existential questions and Amir, Rani and Kareena have done wonderfully well in presenting these questions through their performances. I especially liked the work of Rani Mukherjee in this film. The educated,forlorn and neglected wife finds respite in the misty vapors of make belief and surprisingly finds rejuvenation in them. Rani is simply brilliant in this role. Kareena uplifts the sultry role of a seductress to sublime heights with no more than a flicker of an eyelid or an ephemerally teasing smile . And of course Amir - A quintessential actor. The trajectory of his performance is representative of the fact that actors need to evolve and mature with every piece of work. They should not be afraid to experiment and shouldn't always be playing to the galleries. Every art form needs a path breaker - What would have literature been without its Shakespeare; Music without Mozart; sports without a Federer. In contemporary cinema , I can only name two actors who could boldly adorn a character without becoming a slave to criticism. They are Kamal hasan and Amir Khan respectively. There have been others who have experimented at the periphery but not bold enough to venture to the centre. To do that would need tremendous courage and conviction in the story, the art form and an ability to reinvent
oneself with every piece of work.

Many thanks to the director Reema Katgi for conducting this this deeply symphonic piece on screen.

Cheers - Must watch for a movie buff.

Zen and the art of getting a driver's licence - a personal odyssey.

Zen and the art of getting a driver's licence - a personal odyssey. 

One can be enlightened in so many different ways. Here is an interesting example.

Getting a driver's licence can be a pretty nerving wrecking experience in India if we dont got through a driving school. The last time i took a driving test was in 1991, when me instructor pushed a dilapidated ambassador car down a slope and I was issued a licence for twenty years :) with no effort on my part whatsoever. Luckily, I did learn to drive afterwards and to the best of my knowledge did not knock down anybody fatally.

I stopped driving sometime in the late nineties for various reasons. It was a couple of months ago that I bought a car in Bangalore and found that my licence had expired in 2010. So began the arduous task of acquiring a new one. To cut a long story short, after having successfully crossed the hurdles of a Learner's licence , I landed today at at the test driving track to prove my abilities as an accomplished driver. I had all the documentation ready and approached the Transport officer with a little bit of trepidation (understandable , Exam jitters :) . I thought I had analyzed all possible reasons why I may be denied an opportunity of being granted a Licence, but what ensued was something extraordinary . The Transport officer had a thorough look at my documentation and then looked at me. I had this faint feeling in my stomach that he was sizing me up. His eyes rolled from my upper torso downwards finally settling somewhere between my knees. NO,NO ,NO - don't get me wrong. He was looking at my Calvin Klein knee length pants. He then looked into my eyes and said " I cannot allow you to take the driving test without half trousers". I was so totally taken aback by this statement that something cracked and I started laughing out wildly. I just couldn't control myself. There were about hundred people around me who were baffled by my illogical behavior. I was not angry, sad, irritated, frustrated or any of those emotions. I just felt that the whole thing was joke. For the brief moment, my logical thinking process which had thought of so many possible reasons for rejection was simply and profoundly stumped. It collapsed ; and in those brief moments I realized that this is truly "No mind" situation. I just couldn't react . I turned around and walked into a store a mile away and bought myself a pair of Jeans - all in a sense of Daze.

Well eventually, I did give my driving test and cleared it. It was on my way back that a very deep insight stuck me. Zen buddhism advocates "Koan" as a way to end the stronghold of conceptualization. The masters would give a student an intellectual puzzle to think about like - "What is the sound of one hand clapping", "If I see you have a staff, I will give it to you. If I see you have no staff, I will take it away from you". The student will have to contemplate on the riddle thoroughly and completely, until they exhaust all intellectual possibilities. The master then would do something so illogical such as whacking him, dropping a stone in a pool of water - which would halt or suspend the thinking process instantaneously and in that gap, true reality is perceived by the student.

Arthur Koestler - a existential novelist and thinker wrote a wonderful book called "The act of creation" - in which he develops a seminal idea in modern terms . He defines creativity in any sphere as “ perceiving of a situation or idea . . . in which two self-consistent but habitually incompatible frames of reference cross" . When those references juxtapose, there is a release of creativity or spiritual cognition.

I realized why I burst out laughing. The situation was so incongruous ; so completely out of reference that my thought process gave way completely. I just couldn't react; I merely acted on the spur on the moment. The burst of laughter had cleansed me clean of negativity and I was more focused on the task without a sense of stress or strain. The act of obtaining the licence (which I did) became secondary to the process of achieving it.

Phew - no wonder India is land of Spirituality. Even a RTO office offers you help in personal and inward growth. Cheers !!!!!! :)

Skyfall - a review

To call "Skyfall" a disappointment would be an understatement. Half way down the movie I had the eerie feeling down the spine that I was watching an Akshay Kumar starrer sans a few scantily dressed damsels soaking up water in translucent (Transparent is vulgar :)) clothing.

Daniel craig has this unusual talent of putting on a look of heightened constipation, when he has nothing better to do (which is for most in this film). Bereft of feminine companionship for most part of the film and a story line that borders on somnambulistic lullaby (what a turn of phrase :)) - I wonder what Ian fleming must be discussing with his creator about Skyfall.

There was a ring of hushed silence among the packed audience; desperately trying to unravel the happenings on the screen. It is almost that their senses were betraying them. The exaggerated heights of expectations came tumbling down the precipice of reality banging into every conceivable protrusions along the way . This is not the Bond film we want to see. Where is that suspension of disbelief; the nonchalant manliness of Sean connery; the rhapsodious charm of Jane seymour, the sensous eyes of a Halle berry; the villainy of a Dr.No.

James bond - a resurrection is needed !!!!!!!!!!! :)

Salman Rushdie's "Midnight's children" - Won the Booker of Bookers.

Salman Rushdie's "Midnight's children" - released in 1982 - despised and banned by Indira Gandhi - Won the Booker of Bookers.
15th September 2012 - I started reading the book and finished it in straight seven days. This fantastical tale told with mystical beauty ranks as one of the best works of allegorical fiction ever written. The literary flights of imagination seduced by a historical backdrop of an illusory freedom lifts one to those rarefied airs of pure delight and unadulterated joy. Over 650 odd pages , Rushdie holds the reader enthralled in a story that shuttles back and forth in time; almost a Beethovian symphony that moves from a high octave to a low note without a semblance of a break in continuity. The choice of words, the turn of phrase , a nonchalant touch of arrogance - reaches a spiraling climax that never ends, but merely pauses; before the next mercurial onslaught of words from a proverbial master.

Book lovers - Read this. Its an effort worth a life time.

"Jab Tak hai hum" - The final hurrah of Yash chopra.

"Jab Tak hai hum" - The final hurrah of Yash chopra.

A bit of nostalgia seeped in as the movie ended. We have been entertained , titillated, and drawn into romantic fantasies of Yashji for nearly four decades now. His movies actualized the dormant desires inherent in the common man. Three hours of pure magic . Vibrant hues of nature mingled with variegated shades of romance and eroticism filled his canvas. His heroines draped in sumptuous costumes, dancing in exotic locales, murmuring sultry platitudes - have redefined romance on the silver screen for ever. His story lines often brushed the edges of conservatism - probing into those areas of human relationships that have always been in the dark. Adultery, incest and all those taboos of society were presented to the audience with an empathy rarely achieved by an Indian director. An era has ended with this film but i am sure the soul of Yash chopra has left an indelible mark on Indian films and will continue to reverberate in the hearts of millions who were enthralled by his genius.

Now "Jab tak hai hum" is a pretty mediocre film. Too long, very loose story line and directionless to say the least. There are however two aspects that stand out in the film. Firstly the versatile genius of gulzar and the impeccable costuming by Manish Malhotra.

It is only a sheer genius who can keep writing such vibrant, cohesive and thematically relevant lyrics as Gulzar does. It is amazing how words flow from his facile pen and adorn the notes of any composer he works with. The sublime artistry of words, the unexpected twist in context and the the purity of the landing phrase may go unnoticed by the younger generation; but they still resonate with the same authenticity and trademark signature of the master as they have over the last forty years.

Manish Malhotra's work as Costume designer in this film is exemplary. The choice of colours, the understanding of the mood and the right blending with the camera is a pure visual delight. Katrina has never looked more beautiful in a film.

Well, all in all a decent film. A word of caution - A night show may not be the best option because there is a possibility that one may fall asleep after the intermission, unless one wants to concentrate on other aspects of film making other than the story line . Cheers !!!! :)

Life of Pi - Wonderful


Life of Pi - Wonderful

One of the most challenging and persistent existential question is this - What am I - stripped of my material comforts, emotional bootstrapping's; without belief,surviving with barely enough to assuage the pangs of physical needs, bereft of any kind of psychological anchor whatsoever in this whole wide world ? Do we really know ourselves?. What would happen to us if we are uprooted from our comfort zones and bought to face complete annihilation of what we believe ourselves to be.

Not many movies have attempted to answer this question at a very deep level. "Cast away" was one such film. The almost surreal performance of Tom hanks as an individual completely surrendering his identity, his persona - to merely stay alive and return to the world with a new perspective on life,living and priorities is a must-see for every youngster. In my opinion, it is one of the best movies that I have ever had the privilege to watch.

"life of Pi" is a very satisfying rendition of the Booker winning novel by that name. I have always admired Aang Lee for his prismatic visualization of a story. The film has wonderfully captured the ripening of PI from a boisterous yet contemplative youngster cocooned in the encrustations of filial love and sentimentality; to an adolescent stripped bare of beliefs and habits gushing along the flow of life with a abandon that comes out of deep understanding of the utter purposelessness of life and man's place in it - is a journey that is reminiscent of the one that each one of us takes in our own way and touches a chord that resonates deep within us.

Watch this film for it simplicity: Watch it for its magnificence; Watch it as a reflection of our own shallow personalities in an essentially beautiful universe. Finally, watch it as a tribute to Yann martel for conceiving this wonderful saga and Aang lee for having painted this story on the silver screen with his magical and inimitable strokes.

Cheers !!!. A must see.
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A post on the eve of New year 2013

The year 2012 has ended on a melancholy note for us. Democracy in India is now in the crossroads of world polity. The jubilation that we once had on achieving our independence has now become a faint memory. The greatest experiment of Parliamentary democracy anytime in history is now showing signs of septicemic decay ; which if left to rot may lead to disastrous consequences for generations that yet to come. The founding fathers of our nation were men and women with uplifted vision and dreams in their eyes ; and when they to came to debate and codify the constitution : they did so with immense faith and belief in India and its inhabitants. They were optimistic that we as people of this country would be a beacon of light to other emerging nations on how a society that has roots that stretch long time backwards can adapt themselves to modern ideas, and be supple enough to accommodate new thoughts streams without forfeiting the basic rights and dignity of an individual which is the primal principle of a strong nation.

I would not to place on record the wonderful preamble to our constitution that was enacted on 26th November 1949. This should be the prayer of every Indian each day. If we could realize even a minuscule part of this glorious vision contained in these lines, I am confident that we shall become what we were destined to be - A nation that shall lead and not be led.. Here we go

"WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN,DEMOCRATIC,REPUBLIC and secure to all its citizens:

JUSTICE,social,economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression,belief,faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;
and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the DIGNITY OF THE INDIVIDUAL and the unity of the nation;

IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY, this twenty-sixth day of November 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT,ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION."


Wishing all of you a glorious new year. God bless!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Chess : Stray thoughts on a lazy Sunday evening:

Chess : Stray thoughts on a lazy Sunday evening:
An quote from G.M Hartston's monograph on the Czech opening in the game of Chess

" Chess doesn't drive people mad, it keeps mad people sane"

A rather interesting thought crossed my mind yesterday as i sat musing with an old faded chess book in my balcony. NIIT's Brand ambassador is the legendary Chess wizard Vishwanathan Anand - a child prodigy whose supremacy in this game has virtually remained unchallenged for close to three decades now. In an age when products and services have come to be promoted by voluptuous curves of nubile ladies , six pack abs of moronic looking hunks or ludicrously juvenile pranks of aging Bollywood actors and sportsmen - the image of a young Anand showcasing "intellect" reinstates ones inherent belief in the sanity of selling an idea. Anand may not be in the league of the most sought after icons , but there is an element of composure and poise he brings to NIIT as a brand; which in my opinion nobody else can even attempt to bring in. It is not very surprising that he has not endorsed any other product or service because there is simply no other product that can define what Anand is or does.

Anand personifies a mind that is a product of deep imagination, calculation and an ability to think far ahead of all possible outcomes that germinates from a single initial mental move. His body becomes the vehicle for that perfect orchestration of an intellectual symphony that at once reveals a deep underlying awareness of different permutations and combination of thought. The success of Anand lies in his infallible ability to recognize patterns in any given situation. Given a position he indefatigably understands the leitmotif of the piece and its possible ramifications. Such is the nature of a Genius.

NIIT stands for Software educations and services ; an intellectual exercise. The game of chess is the right symbol for excellence in software :- it requires a pliable brain that has the capacity to be absorbed so completely in the task, that the movement of the fingers over the keyboard punching out those ineffable instructions resemble the strategic maneuvers of a consummate chess artist to reach a desired goal. The patterns that emerge after reams of coding is inherently present in the very first line of the code which meanders, bounces , retraces its steps but never once losing sight of the overall picture . Such a brain is the epitome of software.

In my opinion, Anand will remain NIIT's Brand ambassador as long we understand that the imperceptible world of software will involve intense discipline of the mind, towering concentration and an endless ability to evolve and reconstruct new patterns of thinking and acting.

Kudos NIIT - for choosing this genius................................:)

The hanging of a convicted terrorist - My opinion.

The hanging of a convicted terrorist - My opinion. 

Death penalty is legalized crime. One of the fundamentals principles of Justice is that, no man, however malicious his acts may have been, can be committed to death by law in a democratic polity : unless it is the “rarest of the rare cases”. Around one hundred and ninety countries across the globe have abolished execution as a form a punishment. Since 1995, there have been only four instances when Death penalty has been imposed in India. Ironically, the last two sentences were carried out in a matter of last few months; of Kasab, and now Afzal Guru.

I have no doubt in my mind that we cannot tolerate communal violence in any form, more so in the name of religious or racial fundamentalism and its scary manifestation: terrorism. We have to deal with these ugly weeds with appropriate measures of strength and justice. But the question that remains unanswered in me is this: Can a “hanging” moot out the cause of this psychological decay? Men who commit violence in the name of an ideology are merely acting out a fantasy fed by a diet of steady indoctrination of hate and intolerance over long periods of time. Their upbringing have been so skewed and polarized that it is impossible for them to comply with principles upon which a sane society is formed. So can one man be held responsible for what essentially is the collective responsibility of the system?

The Nazi trials offer a different perspective to crimes against humanity. One of the principal issues before the Nuremberg trials after the Second World War was to ascertain the root cause of the holocaust, and not merely a vindictive act of persecuting its perpetrators. In one of the striking observations of the trial, the justice committee remarked that executing the accused may actually lead to sense of disillusionment in the Germans - Many of whom still believed that Hilter and his regime was incapable of mass murder, even after they have been forced to view the mounds of corpses in the camps. In fact, the allied forces held the German armed forces in conditions that were better than those that they had offered to their prisoners of war : only to make sure that they were sending out the right signals to the people that the war tribunal was only interested in rebuilding Germany and not desecrating it.
By Hanging Afzal guru in a shroud of secrecy, without following the most basic protocols – we are not doing ourselves any good. The fragile stiches that are holding the country together are further being ruptured by such callous actions. We cannot uproot an ideology by making a martyr of a person. Yes, a martyr is what Afzal Guru will become to those innocent young minds being trained and pulverized into vicious hate machines in training camps spread across our borders; to step into our shores to wreak the same course of violence again and again.

In my opinion, Let us as a country work towards securing our defenses better. Despite so many acts of violence, I am not sure, if we have fundamentally understood the basic fact: that the root cause of our problem is our utter lack of sensitivity and preparedness to fight terror. We don’t seem to be learning meaningful lessons from the past. Despite out brouhaha over the hangings, none will disagree that we are still susceptible and blatantly vulnerable to further such acts of insane terrorism. After the dastardly September attacks , The US administration did a thorough analysis of what went wrong and the 9/11 commission report boldly outlined the failures of their Air defense system thus:
“Existing protocols on 9/11 were unsuited in every respect for an attack in which hijacked planes were used as weapons. What ensued was a hurried attempt to improvise a defense by civilians who had never handled a hijacked aircraft that attempted to disappear, and by a military unprepared for the transformation of commercial aircraft into weapons of mass destruction.”

This is the kind of soul searching that must happen in India. But this can only happen only we move away from the parochial arena of political expediency and look at the bigger picture. Until then, we will keep satisfying the hunger of masses by appeasing them with an Afzal guru or a Kasab.

My deepest sympathies to the victims of terror, but I cannot but feel that we are barking on the wrong tree by imposing death penalty. It may momentarily seem as though justice has been served, but the long term repercussions may well be far more painful, than what we may want to believe as a nation.

Cheers………..

Zero Dark thirty - an Ugly face of Counter terrorism

Dark Zero thirty - the ramifications of 9/11 and the ugly globalization of torture. 

What happened in those fateful moments between 8.30 and 10.00 A.M on eleventh of September 2001 , as the twin towers disintegrated ever so slowly into earth, with almost a billion people across the globe watching with disbelief the collapse of the symbol of financial power - will forever remain etched in history, as the day when the political polarization of the globe was irrevocably and in many ways irredeemably changed and rewritten. America stood dumbfounded at this audacious act of terrorism. The collective psyche of its people were badly shaken out their reverie of being the most impregnable nation in the world. Amidst the ruins of the twin towers and innocent corpses, the nation found their identity rattled. And out of this cauldron of insult, embarrassment and deep wound, they unleashed upon the world a witch hunt for Al Qaeda and its various tributaries. The hunt for Obama bin Laden had began. This war against terror was something that the world had never encountered before. There is no way the Americans were going to get to the bottom of this by conventional methods of warfare and espionage. The world was watching with bated breath the reaction of the American establishment to this tremendous act of affront by an elusive,covert and highly motivated terrorist outfit. Their honor and pride was at stake. History is a constant reminder of the fact that whenever a nation takes to war with retribution in its heart; it is bound to find short term success, but will eventually leave the moral fiber of the country in tatters. The aftermath of 9/11 found the Americans waging a war that flouted every rule in the book of modern warfare. Utter disregard of Human rights - of which, ironically, they were the most active proponents ; gross abuse of interrogatory methods and extracting half baked information under duress, leading to callous and unreasonable military invasions (war on Iraq) have really blurred the the thin line that separates the brute from the Human. After ten years (2011) , Osama was finally killed by the Navy seals in a swift operation that took thirty eight minutes ,and the body of this Kurta clad cleric was interred in the sea with absolutely no religious paraphernalia. The ways and means adopted by US to achieve this end has come at a high price, and that is complete negation of human dignity and life. As the embers of Osama death are cooling, the world is now beginning to glimpse the reality of this inquisition undertaken in the name of counter-terrorism. The procedures , motives and arm twisting of facts in the name of truth and justice initiated by the US government and pushed down the throats of other allied countries, is a story that is beginning to emerge slowly, but persuasively ,that in this fight against terror, the US probably has crossed that line that distinguishes the sinner from the saint.

Earlier this month, a comprehensive report was bought out by Open society foundation - a New York based organization, whose mission is to keep a watch on Human and civil rights issues across the globe, and to write and speak about them to educated public. Amrit Singh, a senior legal officer on National security (incidentally, she is the youngest daughter of Prime minister Manmohan singh) and Conterterrorism is the author of this 200 odd page document, which for the first time captures the levels to which the global community has stooped in this attempt to appease the vendetta of a single nation. Phrases like "Black sites", "enhanced interrogatory techniques","Extraordinary rendition" , which not only are morally depraving, but given legal status by successive US presidents. Fifty four countries (which does not include India) have participated in this ghastly human hunt for terrorists, regardless of the many who were unnecessarily detained, tortured and rendered incapable of returning to a normal life, and no legal reprieve possible.

Inhuman torture and detention is counter productive to understanding truth. This is an established psychological thesis, endorsed by governments around the globe since the Nuremberg trials held in 1945 . The fact that all civilized norms of behavior were violated in the 9/11 search for retribution is a signal that it really doesn't take much to descent into subhuman behavior, if the right conditions are provided. USA was provoked by an small army of fundamentalists and it badly ruptured their sense of pride and power. Their subsequent actions were more of a self vindication of their superiority and conscience keepers of the globe. It is time for the United
States and its partner governments to admit to the truth of their involvement in secret detention and extraordinary rendition, repudiate these practices, and conduct effective investigations directed at holding officials accountable. These measures are essential not only for ensuring that torture and other human rights violations have no place in future counterterrorism operations, but also for ensuring the effectiveness of these operations. Indeed, as recognized in the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in
2006, “effective counter-terrorism measures and the protection of human rights are not conflicting goals, but complementary and mutually reinforcing"

Watch "Dark zero thirty" with this background in mind.............

Cheers.......

The Union budget - a personal perspective

The Union Budget - the heart beat of an economy. A few stray thoughts and reminiscences.

I remember vividly sitting in the back rows of a packed lecture hall in Chennai a couple of decades ago, waiting for the arrival of Nani A Palkivala , the eminent lawyer, Jurist, ex ambassador to the USA - to deliver his yearly talks on the budget. I had just then read his remarkable book " We, the people". a compendium of his speeches and writings on a wide range of topics of national interest; more importantly : the ones on the yearly Union budget. Nani walked in exactly at 6.30 P.M. A few minutes later, he started speaking extempore. His opening lines still resonate in my ears. Nani began " This is not a budget to make you deliriously happy or to drive you to the verge of suicidal despair. It may be regarded as a good budget in bad times, though it might have ranked as a bad budget in good times ". So he went for nearly two hours; dissecting the budget, unraveling the hidden truths , making sweeping judgments on the state of the economy and its direction, rattling figures that elucidated his reasoning.; touching levels of oratory that a Cicero would have been proud of, Quoting Shakespeare, Milton, Buddha , Blake and Emerson in equal measure and flawless precision, squeezing the two hundred odd pages of the cryptic financial document of its essential juices - all this without a single piece of paper in hand and an authority that bespoke a tremendous sense of conviction, integrity and a life long contemplation on Justice and betterment of our Nation. It was a virtuoso performance,that left the audience gasping and spell bound at the same time. What was earlier considered by most of us as a stale document containing irrelevant facts and figures, started to make a lot of innate sense and meaning . Unfortunately, that was the only time I could hear Nani's masterful exposition on the Budget, because he stopped delivering these lectures an year after that. But he had got me thinking on the right lines.

Since then I have been following the Annual budget speeches , trying to understand the vision of the Government in a holistic manner. The first annual budget was presented by Sir R.K Shanmukham shetty - a business man, controversially chosen by Nehru because of his Pro-British leanings. The irony however is that, the finance minister had to unceremoniously resign shortly after his first budget because of alleged impropriety for harboring preferences for Mill owners in Coimbatore (in which he had a considerable stake). It was an inauspicious beginning to Indian democratic process. For the next forty odd years, the country was enslaved by ridiculous chains of political ,industrial and fiscal oppression in the garb of socialist policies , and none of the Financial budgets were allowed to give free vent to the principle of market economics. It tool the financial acumen of Dr Manmohan singh and the vision of Prime minister PV narishma rao to steer the country from the verge of financial obliteration in 1992, when they presented a radically new approach to the driving the country forward. Where we are today is because of the pivotal turn that we took then.

While we may debate, discuss, argue and expostulate on rates of taxation, investment other benchmarks of a financial budget, it is firm opinion that Our country needs a more solid strengthening of welfare measures. Let us not forget that the budget that all of us have spent a couple of days fretting and fuming about , hardly touches a vast majority of our population - the agrarian community. In fact, one of the budgetary allocations for establishing storage of grains at Panchayat seems to a be tacit approval for Large supermarkets to engage in futures trading of food grains. We may worry about our cell phone gizmos costing a little more; our restaurant bills making us squirm a little or expensive SUV's eating into our expenses; but let us realize that there is a significant dearth of basic education, Health and hygiene in vast parts of our country, which still remains unfulfilled after decades of independence and high sounding policies. History is a vindication of the fact that wherever there is a fundamental need ,the state has to step in to provide the basic infrastructural services and amenities to the common man, . The Private sector may then pick up the threads left open and probe more imaginative vistas. The industrial revolution in the seventeenth century, which gave birth to the notion of capitalism is also amply illustrative of the fact that unless there is infrastructural support from the government, it is very difficult to bring about a change in the quality of life for all its citizens. It is foolhardiness to suppose the private citizens would pay for something that the government should be rightly doing .

It is equally a fact in any polity ,that a financial budget becomes a mouth piece of the ruling party and its effort to appease its vote banks. Thats perfectly acceptable. But what is not acceptable is the inability or the unwillingness to implement major policy measures. That is the crucial difference between China and us. Our political establishments (ruling or opposition) is more focused on rhetoric and not on the ground realities of making things happen. A few conscientious ministers, who have passion to do things, are publicly ridiculed and pushed to the sidelines. Every single budget over the last decade has held great promises but has failed to ignite the nation. This Union budget has kept the status- quo moving. Anyways, The election year is around the corner and no political party would want to " play dirty" .

I wonder what Nani would have had to say of this budget. Probably, his criticism of the 1989-90 budget would apply . He said then 'There is no policy underlying this budget. It merely bears out the criticism of a perceptive thinker that India loves to indulge in gestures rather than policies and implementation ' . How true this statement rings even after twenty long years?....................

God bless.................