Sunday, November 11, 2007
Musharraf won the elections but he doesn’t seem to be a fish that is sure of the waters of democratic process. We may say that he is acting on account of self-interest. I think self-interest would still be there even if it were Benazir Bhutto or Nawaz Sharif or Imran Khan or anyone else. Self-interest is not a political problem, it is human nature. Corrupt motives, however, need to be seen in a dimmer light. And politicians in general have given no hope to Pakistani masses.
Seen from a purely legal angle, the move is certainly unconstitutional and the justification of preventing Pakistan from ‘committing suicide’ like a jilted lover fails to convince unless of course getting rid of Musharraf is equated with committing suicide.
Apparently, Musharraf saw the Supreme Court turning against him and hence took an extraordinary step to avert extraordinary dangers. Among the first steps he took was to sack Chief Justice Iftikhaar, which was expected considering the kind of beating Musharraf has to take when he tried sacking the Chief Justice the last time. It is more of an act of vengeance than a political manoeuver. And, of course, survival is also a key factor.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
September 21, 2007
Ram Sethu or Adam’s Bridge (for the western oriented) is not manmade, NASA says. Well, Ramayana doesn’t say it is. It was made by Nal and Neel, who were not humans of course. They were vanaras (kind of apes). That’s one part of it. Another relevant question could be: what makes a man made bridge different from a natural bridge or that of any other kind? I am no scientist but this much is obvious that the only way to say that something is not manmade is by saying that something was made not the way we humans would make it, or by saying that it was made in a way much like the way some other agency is known to make it. How do we know pyramids were made by human beings when even today, with all the technology at our command, we would find it difficult to imitate the structural perfection of the pyramids? But we cannot say it was not made by human beings because they are graves to dead men and, therefore, have to be necessarily made by human beings. The purpose is clear and right in our faces, and we cannot turn our faces on it. This is what Ram Sethu lacks. It was made to cross over to Ravan’s Lanka, mythology tells us. But the bridge has no inscription to that effect. Thus, the confusion.
The most important, however, is not whether or not Ram existed. It is about the religious belief of the people in this country. And beliefs are not open to question. Ram’s factual existence may be debatable, his social and religious relevance cannot be. The controversy ends there. There should be just an apology and the chapter be considered closed. And people like Mr. Karunanidhi must be told to restrain himself before he goes down the public memory as one of the makers of the bridge. The species is known to be unnecessarily naughty. That would be a more plausible explanation for his otherwise inexplicable antics.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Newspapers in India – like, I assume, everywhere else in the world – are crying hard and loud enough about Harry Potter, and people like me are quite baffled about this new entrant in the international arena. This one seems to occupy all the space available, nearly everywhere irrespective of the medium. I am among the less informed who get stumped wreaking our well-fed memories to recall as to which country has a bespectacled boy-President with a wand in his hand. Then, with some help from the surroundings, things get clearer. So, the newspapers are all going so maddeningly colourful and kiddish on account of a character from the children’s book. I mean, I am not against children or their books. After all, it’s huge consolation that they are reading at last – no matter what. This little Potter fellow can spin some magic of some sort with his strange looking wand (isn’t it a little too short?). And we all – young and old, rich and poor – love magic because it makes room for new otherwise-impossible possibilities. Magic throws open the gates to the magical and the impossible – a chance to live out what cannot be acquired. It has that single most important ingredient that makes all dream worth pursuing – hope. The hope that the world will be better tomorrow; that things would improve and not just change. No matter how many times the reality crushes the hope, it survives still. Hope floats in the muddy waters of murky reality. And that makes us live and want to live, and also keeps the Harry Potters alive. Imagination is more important than knowledge, Einstein said quite correctly. Well, it indeed is. How else could a hopeful world be explained despite earthshaking disaster of man’s making. We need the Potters and the fairies as much as our forefathers did.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
“Purdah hardly protects women. Far from it, it was and continues to be a device to subjugate them. That this subjugation was complete under the Rajputs is evident from the facts that either before or after Moghul invasion one finds no historical figure among Rajput women except Mirabai. Ironically, her greatness lies in her being a symbol of revolt against the suppression of women.”
Purdah or veil, as must be known to the writer, is made of cloth, and not of steel and cannot, therefore, be expected to work as a shield or armour. The ‘protection’ being talked about here is the protection of some kind other than afforded by combat attire. Quite evidently, it is a protection against sight, and is not essentially against the sight of the intruders or plunderers as the writer seems to suggest or as Ms. Pratibha Patil seems to have suggested. It was brought in essentially to protect women from becoming an ‘object’ – or an ‘object of desire’, if you prefer. The same writer concludes the same piece saying, “The sad truth is that purdah is a relic of the times when men regarded women as property. It has no relevance in a liberal society.” Let’s agree for the sake of argument. She says it belongs to the period when women were treated as ‘property’. Well, property belongs to someone, as the conception of ownership is inherent in the term ‘property’ itself. But an object may not ‘belong’ to anyone. In the times of purdah, women ‘belonged’ to someone, today they belong to the billboards. That’s liberal society for you. With the exit of purdah, also went away the ownership, making women public property. Haven’t you seen magazines for males featuring attractive women clad in swimsuits on the cover? Haven’t we seen them selling shaving gels for men? Aren’t they being ‘used’ without belonging? And for whose benefit – males, of course. It was this ‘objectification’ that the purdah sought to be a defence against. Of course, the clothes that protect from the sun, rain and dust also confine one’s body to some extent. Protection always comes at the price of liberty, and for security of any kind one needs to forego a part of one’s freedom. So long as the liberty to choose is there, the freedom cannot be said to be lost.
Coming to Mirabai, her ‘greatness’ does not lie in being ‘a symbol of revolt against the suppression of women’ but in her devotion to Lord Krishna. It is this that makes Mirabai stand out. She was not a social reformer but her devotion necessitated her revolt. Mirabai’s devotion and her treating Lord Krishna as her husband was against social norms, which made her a rebel. So, rebellion was a necessary means and not an objective. Therefore, purdah does signify a bygone era but that does not entitle us to sit in judgment on it, as it is also indicative of the realities that are not ours. We have neither the authority, nor the understanding to pronounce a value judgment on the past. After all, today will be ‘yesterday’ tomorrow.
June 22, 2007