Wednesday, August 22, 2007

To be or not to be.

That’s the question the Indian State should be pondering deeply right now. To be or not to be a client-state of the United States of America, to be precise. Thank the Comrades for bringing it to our notice. At the latest count, i.e. as of February 2005, the self-appointed Leader of the Free World had 81 client-states (43 per cent of the countries in the world). This list is based on the US State Department information on Treaties in Force and Fiscal Year 2006 Budget Justification. Around 1945, Great Britain, France and Russia had about 50, 30 and 20 colonies/client-states respectively. The vacuum created by the decay of European Imperialism was filled by the US propensity to acquire and maintain client-states for strategic reasons of its own including its self-determined roles as the Leader of the Free World and the Global Peacekeeper. It is in this community of 81 would-be peers that India is likely to lose face were it to try to renegotiate the 123 Nuclear Treaty. That’s a fate worse than Death, I guess, if one were to judge from the headlines in the Indian Press. When India chose to remain “non-aligned” and Pakistan enrolled as a US client-state after partition, we know what happened. As is well-known, the relationship between the “central star” (the US) and its satellites (say, Pakistan) is identical to the mother country (Great Britain) and her colonies (say, British India) under Imperialism. The leader of the pack offers the satellites goodies (Green Revolution in Pakistan in the fifties, two decades before India got hers) in return of flooding her markets cheap made-in-the-US goods. This involved large-scale mechanization and capitalization of the agricultural sector and the generation of a huge market for the based-in-the-US agribusiness (seeds, fertilizers, pesticides). Our brush with WTO has already taught us what to expect in the future. Even then, I wonder why the US wants to add to its liability by getting hold of one more client-state. All the biggies among US businesses have already made it to the Indian shores. Having got into the habit of acquiring more and more clients, maybe it just cannot deny itself the pleasure of getting one more. I’m being facetious, of course. The US white culture is a culmination of its history of stealing land from the Native Americans, slave trading, dehumanization, exploitation and Imperialism, as even a casual observer of history can vouch. In view of this backdrop, Imperialism may now almost have become life blood for the Leader of the Free World. And, the supreme imperative to be the ultimate arbiter of Truth, Justice and the American Way to the rest of us lesser mortals, most likely.

Friday, August 17, 2007

60 years after.

Is in-your-face hypocrisy the birthright of free Indians, as much as it was of their forefathers? I’m amused by the ad released by an international bank which claims to have been in India from 1902. It is said to be an open secret that this worthy hires goons to recover debts from lenders, something that the Pathans who were in the same business before Independence used to do all by themselves. The ad is for celebrating “60 years of partnering with independent India”. Good lord! Then there’s a recent article by a “political psychologist’ agonising over why the partition was a violent-infested event. In all of its long arguments, it never even once considers the simple truth that partition was a property dispute after all and, in India as elsewhere in the world, property disputes trigger extreme passions and are more often than not settled with a knife, a chopper and a gun – not to mention hired goons. Then there’s all this hoopla about the ‘progress’ India has made. At whose cost? The poor and the destitute whose meager holding and right to livelihood is trampled upon? The faceless, voiceless, powerless non-citizens that never even come within the orbit of calculations of the planners? & There was no freedom at midnight, girls and boys. There was only a ‘transfer of power’ to bully, to exploit, to manipulate from the British to the Indian comprador capitalists, as the Indian Troskyist Vinayak Purohit mentions in his memoirs. Purohit is a Socialist who worked with Dr Ram Manohar Lohia. (By the way, his Troskyist pseudonym according to his Sri Lankan colleague, Hector Abhayavardhana, was most probably ‘Pankaj’ or “Pokoz’. Don’t ask me to even guess the reason why. Coming back to the present, the only Indian worth remembering at this juncture, to my simple way of thinking, is probably the one whose cause Medha Patkar has been championing all these years. Nostalgia must not be a bare-faced lie.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Oh, to be a Nobody!

More on the subject of less is more which I broached here: I just came across an amusing story by Mulk Raj Anand, ‘The Man Whose Name Did Not Appear in the Census’ (Selected Stories, Penguin Classics, New Delhi, 2006). In it, there’s an illiterate old villager living in perpetual fear of the government as well as creditors knocking on his door. So when there is another unfamiliar knock one night, he refuses to open up. His disgusted wife opens the door to a census officer. But her terrified husband refuses to divulge his name and personal details fearing other repercussions. At that point, the disgruntled official stomps out saying that this man does not exist because his name is missing from the census. Ludicrous though his reasons may seem, the man had the right idea, I daresay. This reminds me of a Tukaram abhanga where he prays to God that he may be granted the boon of being small (or. insignificant). He cites the example of the infinitesimal ant getting a grain or two of sugar to eat. The gargantuan Airawat, the ten-tusked elephant (one of the nine jewels from the churning of the ocean), on the other hand, has to bear the sting of the sharp prod in the hand of his mahout. The bigger they come, the greater their trials and tribulations. His advice is to be humble and insignificant. The original abhanga in Marathi (#744) with a rather crude English rendering can be found here: In the very next verse (#745), the sage again reiterates the same principle, singing the praises of a low profile. A raging flood can uproot the mightiest tree but spares the humble moss, he says. Duck and the mighty wave will pass over your head. Catch the feet of your enemy and his might becomes inoperable. In a later verse (#928), Tukaram suggests that he who is humble before all becomes the abode of the Infinite. He has performed an act of great courage that wins over the Almighty. Water can pass under anything because of its low density. Likewise, the thinner a person’s ego, the better his chances of getting to the heart of the truth. Tukaram undoubtedly was speaking in a spiritual vein. I feel nonetheless that it’s good practical advice about how to survive without making waves. Swim with the tide, in short. Not against it. . Gandhigiri anyone, boys and girls?, & P.S.: By the way, it seems Gandhi translated Tukaram’s Abhangas into Gujarati during one of his sojourns at Pune’s Yerawada Jail.