Sunday, October 31, 2010

Stop playing dice with paradise!

By all accounts, J&K has become a nerve-wrecking problem for all the stakeholders in that region right from the Kashmiris themselves to the mechanical arrangements that involves India and Pakistan in this long and complex arena of conflicts, apathy, pathos and despair.

It’d be very lucid to say anything about ‘K’ without addressing the evolution of this state. Kashmir has been a lingering issue that should have been resolved way back. I agree India has failed Kashmir. Pakistan too has. They have failed to address people’s concerns. It has rather become fashionable to speak over the ownership rights of this disputed land. Grandiosity from both side of the border steals the limelight while addressing people directly takes a back burner. No wonder, empty rhetoric is what is left on the table.

When the British finally decided to relinquish the Indian subcontinent, they were discussing about how the future state/s would take place. Various ideas right from creation of nations on the basis of language, basic culture, region & religion emerged. Of all the factors, religion became the ultimate criterion.

Though the Indian subcontinent boasted of nearly all-existing world religions right from the Indic beliefs of Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism & Sikhism to Abrahamic yet Indianised versions of Islam, Christianity & Judaism as well. Considering social passions, it was decided to include Islam and ‘the rest’ as primary dividing factors and thus, the modern states of multi-religious India and largely Muslim Pakistan got created.

But some regions became a thorn for resolution, primarily, the princely state of Jammu & Kashmir. Kashmir being a Muslim majority area was claimed by Pakistan for obvious reasons whereas India’s claims rested on ‘accession’ agreement signed between the Maharaja of J&K and the Indian government. It also needs to be pointed that though Pakistan was proclaiming itself as the homeland for sub-continental Muslims, even then, the modern partitioned India had more Muslims in entirety than Pakistan.

Also, Pakistan’s convictions further deteriorated when its eastern wing got separated to form the present independent nation of Bangladesh. The struggle for independent B’desh from united ‘Islamic Republic of Pakistan’ was on linguistic basis and not religion as cornerstone. It somehow proved that religion couldn’t always be a cohesive factor.

Now coming back to ‘K’.

More than 60 years have died giving birth to this problem as it is, and still we are running in political circles. People who’ve been following Kashmir can easily vouch for the fact that not all is well in paradise. Sadly, it is burning. And I suppose people with a benevolent heart and mind would feel pained to witness their agony and would like to see an end to their sufferings. Kashmiris themselves are tired and are demanding ‘Azaadi’. ‘Azaadi’ from the daily humiliation they go through and ‘Azaadi’ to live in a functional society with pristine atmosphere. After all, it’s a basic right for every breathing human being.

No one likes Army or, for that matter, any non-civilian body interrupting daily course of life, and that too on a weak hint of suspicion. And it’s a naked secret that defense forces have used coercion and violation at a drop of hat.

Having said that, playing devil’s advocate, what I don’t understand about voices coming from the Valley with statements such as “Kashmiri society and Indian society are different” and that “Kashmiri culture and Indian culture varies”.

My questions are - What is Indian culture? Can anyone define Indian culture? Is India too homogenous to assimilate Kashmir influence within its society and national frame? Can you identify any single aspect (say language/religion/culture) and declare it’s truly Indian and rest as not?

On the contrary, Indian society is a vast and diverse phenomenon. India’s diversity is capable of holding variety of interests and ideas even when conflicting each other eventually leading to broad based assimilation. Can’t beautiful Kashmir fit into exotic India? Don’t you think of all the existing options for Kashmir its continuance, as part of India would be a crown for its own welfare as well as for an idea called India?

Normality must return to Valley, at the earnest. We all agree. But what after that? A permanent solution must yield taking all the relevant factors into consideration. People who have long reneged on their Kashmiri identity in favor of power should keep their mouth shut and mind open. They are misleading the masses into false utopian beliefs. It will be nothing more than a farce and eventually too late to reconcile with truth. Arrogant Army powers must be severely amended, if not repealed completely. Crime is a crime and that applies to everyone. Shopian rape case showed how fragile the judiciary is in J&K. The culprits were not held accountable for their misdeeds. It was blindfolded Themis that went to trial and acrimoniously disrobed. Events as such shouldn’t be allowed to repeat.

And yes, there is an undeniable gap between mainland Indians and people in the northernmost state. Lack of communication has been a huge deterrent. Tourism in J&K, which helped a lot in fostering economy, goodwill and camaraderie was, no wonder, attacked by the secessionist/terrorist elements. As long as people-to-people connect is absent, all other efforts will only be on paper. If we want to call a country with 28 states, then we better not act like a 27 states nation. Interestingly, Bollywood of the past glorified Kashmir as a tourist destination, but today, even it prefers Swiss Alps.

My post here reeks of parochialism and I can’t do anything about it for a very simple reason: I am an Indian. My nation was built on common aspirations, common dreams and a search for common identity. We weren’t forced to shout “I am an Indian” at any point of time. The sense of Indianness trickles from our heart no matter whichever state we belong to or whatever tongue we speak. Yes, we are facing problems in the form of poverty, Naxalism, corruption and whatnot but talking of secession of Kashmir, I don’t think it helps the case.

India has a timeless history of tolerance. Even today, we tolerate a lot. But frankly, toleration of sedition is one thing and secession, another. We don’t have to look weak. All we have to do is be right and right now, we are far from right. We are in the middle of somewhere.

Prosperous Jammu & Kashmir, Progressive India and South Asian haleness should be the ultimate aim.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday blues?

Every once in a while, you ask yourself irritating questions like “Why do my life suck?” and “Where did I go wrong?” and to add injury to insult, you are answerless. The irritation grows on you and you are numb. By the way, all the aforementioned happens mostly on Sunday night, once the weekend is over and the reality called Monday starts to kick in. Don’t know about others but in my case, its cent percent true.

All through the weekdays, we slog. The minuscule few among us will dare to commit blasphemy by admitting lines like “I love my job”. Well, they’ve got good karma to lean their back on. The majority of us with our overburdening baggage of bad thoughts, bad words and bad deeds are meant to do what we do best – sulk.

I often ask myself the second question, “Where did I go wrong?” because there is no pointing asking the first question. Frankly speaking, I have no idea. As a kid, I was lost in the cartoon world and my hero was none other than Mowgli. I wanted to be like him. The funny thing is I still do. I’ve never been a people’s person. I just hate being in a crowd. I guess I think a lot and do lot less. Maybe it has something to do with Mowgli. He grew up with wild animals around him. He did what no one in the history of humankind did, at least not in Indian jungle: he talked to animals. I mean, like he knew animalian language. That was something I wanted to do. Being a human, you can climb Mt. Everest or dribble like Ronaldinho or serve like Federer or goof-up like Kalmadi but you can’t talk to animals, like really “speak” to them. Forget it. I know Mowgli sounds far-stretched but you get the point.

Well, the thing is, we gradually grow up with societal conditioning that comes free of cost but very taxing in the long run. We stop being original. People around us want us to look up to someone for inspiration. No one tells you to look at yourself, to find the real YOU. Apparently, the elders play safe. Having seen the hardship of life, they want their kids to grow up safe and sound (no matter how deafening the reality is!).

Just imagine how the world could have been had no one of us abandoned our childhood dreams behind. People often give up their dreams and then call themselves ‘practical’. Nothing wrong with being practical but practical zombie is what we become. Life becomes mundane. Everything becomes scheduled. Routine takes over.

My dad left his village and escaped to Bombay in ’60 (the very year modern B’bay took birth) at the age of 13 but he wasn’t chasing dreams. He was just tired of being punished in school for he knew he wasn’t up for education. Compared to me with my so-called education, his life has been something. Something to cherish for in days to come, with tales of endurance and endeavor in almost every step he took since. If only we are courageous, as we once used to be. Or maybe not.

I’ve got nothing against education. People high on adrenaline may say education makes us feeble and coward but I don’t think so. On the contrary, I believe education makes us accountable for our actions, or the lack of it. But somewhere down the line, our education is falling short, way too short of its potential.

People around us are fading away and we see it happening every single day but we don’t stop and stare lest someone does the same to us. We are in a hurry to make money and whatnot. It’s like being a race where no one is a winner but someone or the other is a foolproof loser.

Novelty entails boredom and the cycle carries on till it crashes. I’m waiting for this materialistic bubble to burst and make such a loud noise that it can shudder us out of our slumber. I'll be in Ladakh or maybe Tamang by then. Hopefully.

As of now, I’ll be slogging too. Hello Monday, nice to meet you again.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Why do you need leader(s)? Can't we function on an individual basis? How does leadership differ at political level? Where does the solution lie for political apathy?

These are questions. And I don't have the answers. At least, I thought so.

Firstly, whenever the question of assuming a leader and then following him/her comes up, we sense a sigh of relief, for various reasons. The biggest reason could be the anointment of a person who could be charged responsible; if at all something goes wrong. I know that sounds a bit cynical but let's take a chance with cynicism for a change. See, we humans are just like any another animal in groups. In other words, we are a herd and we require steering. And that's exactly where a leader comes in. S/He makes sure the herd is given direction and we are not talking about right or wrong or lame direction here. We are just getting into the mindset of how one accepts another human being as a leader. It could be plain stupidity on the hoi polloi's side or superior intellect on the leader's side, sometimes parlayed by the leader's cronies.

Secondly, individuality is much stronger than leadership. The leaders themselves are individuals at grass root level. The concept of leadership peculiarly pertains to urban life. In rural areas, the idea of leadership is gradually catching up; the reason being family orientation and self-sustenance, be it in life or produce. Villagers are known for working together. They help out each other on agrarian and related issues without conforming to the norm of leadership. Here, a person is designated a job and s/he does it with will. The standard of execution may not be ratified but everyone involved are accountable to each other. The success can be at an individual level, not necessarily at leadership level only. Art can make a good case study for individual progress.

Thirdly, in politics, the concept of leadership changes a bit. Here, the role of a leader gets mysteriously curtailed to the interest of the party s/he belongs to. It's easy to dismiss politics as a corruptible institution but there are some inherent home truths to face too. There is a difference between a politician and a leader. Not every politician can successfully transcend into a leader. The days of Gandhis are gone. 
Today we have less of leaders and more of dealers. The alphabet remains put but a little anagram and the meaning changes. We are in for a bitter reality and the funny thing is we don't find it bitter anymore. We are sort of immune to the political idiocy. If a leader in a corporate company isn't performing well, it exhibits his lack of authority over his team-members. The blame could either solely rest on the leader or the members or both. The bottom-line is, all are accountable. In politics, we never get to peek through the veneer of the structure and hence the only person we get to pinpoint is the one at the top – the pseudo-leaders.

Fourthly, participation in political process is the key. We can keep playing the blame game but that won't work, in the long run. Our country is presently what it is today just because our leaders are not what they should be and neither are the citizens. We need to know our enemies before we go to battle. In this case, though, the enemy could be our strongest friend. Yes, I'm talking about our scam-laced politicians. If only we monitor the white-clothed people who flock to our doors before election time, things can improve a lot. If only the politicians realize that we'll not only be looking at their report card but also their progress (or prognosis). We cannot fool ourselves by believing the politicians won't run for office just because he can't run the office. They are worse. It's like a disease and needs cure. And the best part is, it's not that tough. All we have to do is be conscious and use the power endowed on us by the Constitution and use RTI. Yeah, it's easier said than done but someday we'll get tired of saying.

Leaders who can't run the country ruin the country. As simple as that.