petervas

Archive for the ‘Political’ Category

The tyranny of misplaced christian victimhood

In Political, Religion on April 1, 2015 at 9:08 pm

India is going through major socio-economic-political flux and I am delighted to see it all unfold. Like you, I have waited for a very long time for this day. Like you, I think of myself as an Indian first. My christian faith opens another charming window to view this world from. Lately I find myself attracted to the political dimension of our respective faiths. It gets ugly when we mark ourselves with a faith-based identifier. It gets uglier when we mark our territorial jungle trees with squirts of righteous pride. Instead of a faith based inclusion, we now face-off with a faith-based exclusion. In direct contradiction to the spiritual dimension stands an ugly political dimension of our respective faiths.

Unlike the west, Indian democracy has a unique blend of secularism. Instead of a constitutional separation between state and religion, we have a kludgy joint-family with resident cousins from all faiths. The state takes pride in your faith-based practice. Which is remarkably beautiful in itself. It is expected of us to actively participate in a state-sponsored orchestra of beliefs and non-beliefs, tooting our own horns.

This harmony sometimes threatens us with random cacophony. At times team work fails, and at other times the state actively promotes or passively mutes, one tooting section over another. We are familiar with our past histories and we do everything to not invite it.

It is in this light that a few events caught the media’s attention. This time around, the unlikely minority candidate were the christians. A string of mostly light stone peltings that can be best termed as vandalism, were termed as “church attacks”, and a few grunts of dissaprovals became “huge outrage” on social media. Rupa Subramanya discounted each one of them, to make sure the integral was never greater than the calculus.

I adore what social media is doing to the public discourse. As a loop-back mechanism to our governance, we are to be proud of what we have created. But there was dissonance here. It was not only a percieved threat that was amplified, it was false to begin with. And many took that argument at face value. NDTV and it’s anchors lost no time in weaving a popular narrative and my christian brothers consumed it like cola going out of stock.

As a Christian, suddenly I am a stranger in my own country, writes Julio Ribeiro, blared The Indian Express. He expresses his grief for his people thus:

“…the attack on Christian churches and schools in Delhi, all added to a sense of siege that now afflicts these peaceful people”.

An article in The Hindu “Being Christian In India” by Mari Marcel Thekaekara, attempts to sustain a narrative that I find faulty. She says:

“And I, too, as retired IPS officer Julio Ribeiro said in a recent article, feel threatened for the first time in my life, in my country.”

Reading these reactions, I had a momentary lapse of bearing. I did not feel the same way as some of these fellow-mates. I can dismiss the media hype, but can I discount my fellow christians? I asked myself:

1. Am I doing something wrong?
2. Am I a lesser christian than Ribeiro?
3. Is my identity less dependent on my faith than on my nationality? Should I be reversing it?
4. Why is there such comfort in christian victimhood?
5. Who among us takes refuge in it?
6. Why does media love it when I take refuge in minority victimhood, than if I do not?
7. Why is it that this is not a simple law and order issue and is being treated as a clash of disparate faiths?

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

The anklet bells went dead

In Carnatic, Music, Music, Political, Short Story, Social, Women on April 20, 2013 at 11:04 pm

 
 
 

anklet3

 
 

Bhanu Devi left the small water tap running while she scrubbed off the dried-up blobs of henna paste on her palms and feet. As the olive green henna dregs, washed away on the white tiles of a dimly lit bathroom, an intricate bloody-red pattern emerged on her palms and feet. She reminisced on her own wedding preparations of a long time ago.

“Not even a mosquito should find an open spot to land” demanded her mother to the one applying the henna design, a day prior to her wedding, some three decades ago.

With that, the design grew even more intricate. Bhanu Devi snapped out of this dreamy haze when she heard foot steps behind her.

“Don’t waste the water” said Meera Bai the prison warden, rather stiffly.

Bhanu Devi looked at her palms. They were flush red with the henna design. Yes, they were intricate. Yes, a mosquito will find it difficult to find an open spot to land. She turned her palms over to reveal an equally red finger tip and nails. She weaved her fingers together and imagined herself as a dead corpse. She would make a pretty one, she thought. She shut the tap, picked up her white saree and gave it a quick wiggle. She was prepared to die.

Meera Bai escorted her back to her cell. It was too early for the other prison mates to be awake. It was 3:00 AM on a cold Tihar jail Thursday morning, and Bhanu Devi’s anklet bells proved an insufficient wake-up ringtone for the deep sleepers. She passed Rupali the prayerful, Mohsina the beautician, Savitri the musician and Jamila the vaastu expert. The anklet bells were Savitri the musician’s idea. They were all behind bars, they were all fast asleep. They knew each other for more than a decade now. They were the survivors who lived past an alarming mortality rate in this notorious maximum security prison for hardened criminals. She stopped at her tracks, as she felt a tug at her saree. She looked down. It was Jamila the vaastu expert, kneeling down, one hand holding the prison bar and the other, Bhanu Devi’s white saree.

“Face east, you will attain moksha” she whispered fiercely. Having said that she let out a loud wail and started crying.

Just the previous night, Mohsina the beautician applied the henna on Bhanu Devi’s hands and feet. She was constantly reminded of her brief as the rest of the girls giggled – “Not even a mosquito should find an open spot to land”

Rupali the prayerful, read from the scriptures, but they did not have the patience to hear it. So she slipped into a love triangle Bollywood potboiler. “Rupali, tell us what you would have done, if you caught your husband cheating?” They actually knew it in great detail, and needed nothing to jog their memories. This unusual night was a last supper of sorts, and it threw up unusual questions. They already knew that Rupali had made it impossible to find any trace of the victim – her cheating husband, and his illicit lover, some two decades ago.

“Let us not dwell in a past where we can never find redemption. Memory only serves to confirm our rotten selves.” Rupali slipped into a simple sermon to an attentive audience of four that night. “Only action is a great redeemer, hence let us do good deeds”

Bhanu Devi leaned forward to clutch Rupali, but stopped abruptly realizing that she had pasty henna on her hands. “Thank you for keeping me alive in this dark world”

Mohsina the beautician pulled her gently back and signaled to Savitri the musician to wipe the tears from Bhanu Devi’s face “Just dab, not wipe. We do not want the kajal to smear the entire face”

Savitri the musician made it abundantly clear that the anklet bells be of the seventh note of the swaras. The “Nishadha” or the high pitched “ni” of the musical scale. “Nothing else would do” she had mentioned to Lalu the pimp, who was a tone deaf gate-keeper of prisons, and got it right after the fifth try. “Ni, you bloody idiot!” yelled Savitri the musician loudly into his ears. “Ni, Ni, Ni, SaRiGaMaPaDhaNi, Ni, Ni, get it?”

Lalu, finally got it by sheer luck. It was the luck of trial-and-error. The anklet bells matched the damned “Ni”, a high-frequency note that Savitri the musician swore you could hear from the other side of the universe. It was her damned idea, that this high pitched note, could be heard loud and clear from a distance. Even from the gallows, that is.

Jamila the vaastu expert, gasped for breath, by which time everybody was awake. “Do not worry darling, we are with you!” cried somebody in the dark and it was clear it was a male voice.

Bhanu Devi walked the 240 steps north, 300 steps east, up a small staircase of 5 steps, 34 steps right and across the multi-faith temple-mosque-church for lost causes to arrive at the gallows. “Hey, Bhagwan!” said the hangman as he nervously slipped the black mask over her face and proceeded to tighten the noose that he hoped would not fail. He was no professional hangman. But they said they will pay him Rs.5,000 if he gets it right. They forgot to tell him it would be a woman though. India’s first woman to be hanged to death. “Beyond rarest-of-rare cases” he thought to himself as he pulled the lever.

Bhanu Devi slumped out of sight and into the dark gallows. She did make a valiant attempt to jangle the anklets in the depths to produce the “Ni” that Savitri assured would reach their ears. That she had moved on from this world to another.

“Did you hear that?” asked Savitri at around 5:01 AM that fateful Thursday morning. That high pitched “Ni” reached her ears.

Three times before it went dead.

 
 
 
Notes

  1. Pranab clears way for first-ever hanging of a woman
  2. Vijay Madhav’s cover – ARR’s Uyire/Tu Hi Re
  3. The Death Penalty Worldwide
  4. “It’s like living in a graveyard.”
  5. Dearth of hangmen in India

 
 
 

 

Other Short Stories
bharathi raghu pieta
A Delivery in the Slow Mail Lesson One – Mayamalavagowla Gudiya – A doll that saved me

 
 

 

Church of the Dispossessed – Part III

In Political, Religion, Social on March 17, 2013 at 8:34 pm

 …in need of a Theology of Liberation

libtheo

Joseph Ratzinger was a trusted lieutenant of John Paul II.  He was the able administrator  of Catholic orthodoxy.  When he was elected pope in 2005, it was widely believed, that he would extend the conservative reign of the previous two popes.

A challenge of geographic representation:

About 7% of the world’s Catholics are in North America,  24% in Europe, 15% in Africa, 11% in Asia and a whopping 42% in Latin America.  In 1970, 40% of Catholics were in Europe.  Today that has declined to 24%.  The center of numeric gravity has already shifted from Europe to LatAm, over the years.  But the papal make-up has never reflected that tectonic shift.  The flock has continued to be lead by a shepherd not their own.

A challenge of theology:

The First Vatican Council of 1870 was a conservative response to the modern world that was  bustling with scientific revolution and emerging from the French revolution and beginning to steep into European nationalism.  This First Council adopted the doctrine of papal infallibility and condemns the following:  liberalism, science and the separation of church and state.  It rejected the world view.  It emphasized a monologue with itself and took a position of exclusion.

The Second Vatican Council of 1962, sought to open the windows to let in some fresh air.  It emphasized a dialog with the world and attempted to take a position of inclusion.  It adopted the following:  There exists a salvation outside of Catholicism, built bridges of understanding with Judaism and Protestantism.  It changed the language of the Mass from Latin to regional vernacular dialects.  The most visibly arresting of them all, was the priest turned 180 degrees, to now face the congregation instead of facing the altar.  Some of the important First World issues were sunk by the two popes that held a conservative sway:  Homosexuality, contraception and women priests.  These, by the way, were not Third World issues!  The third world tended to be much more conservative on issues related to sexuality and gender.

The challenges ahead:

The new pope has to initiate inter-faith dialogues between the Judeo-Christian-Muslim worlds to bring harmony and peace to a world at war with each other.  He has to take a firm stand against pedophilia and sexual abuses by the clergy.  The church’s first response is towards the victims of abuse.  He has to set the financial house in order.  He needs to be cognizant of the new emerging balance of power in the world.  He needs to invite a disillusioned youth back into the church.  Sending one way tweets and working the social media is a narrow strategy, if the reality on the ground is that your clergy is not in talking terms with the youth of today.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Saffron Swastika – Fascism’s India moment

In Political on November 24, 2012 at 10:36 am

Bal Thackeray, the leader of Shiv Sena died due to illness on the 17th November, 2012.  He was 86.  The political leaders of the country, along with the corporate honchos, filmdom’s Bollywood super stars and a large swath of urban Mumbai population paid rich tribute to this man.  State honors were provided as he was laid to rest in Shivaji Park.  He was wrapped in the Indian national flag, as a tearful Mumbai was artfully covered by a media that blared obsequious peans of it’s own.

In a quickly staged media event, a deferential following paying last rites to the elder Thackeray  was concocted as lending legitimacy to a leader’s factious legacy.

Most calling him Hindu Hriday Samrat or the emperor of Hindu hearts.  In a compelling The Hindu op-ed titled An Authentic Indian Fascism, Praveen Swami wrote about the abundance of tributes flowing in:

It is tempting to attribute this nauseous chorus to fear or obsequiousness. Yet, there is a deeper pathology at work. In 1967, Thackeray told the newspaper Navakal: “It is a Hitler that is needed in India today”. This is the legacy India’s reliably anti-republican elite has joined in mourning.

Swami goes on to argue that the Shiv Sena represents an authentic Indian fascism, created by the accommodations that India’s liberal democracy sought with communalism.  His litmus test of fascism has been Gramsci’s understanding that fascism is the excrement of a dysfunctional polity. He is correct in his observation that it was a dysfunctional polity that gave rise to the Shiv Sena.  But, was it fascism?

I apply a different definition and test this authentic Indian fascism.  Swami is right in his opinion that there are many fundamental building blocks within Shiv Sena that approached a classic fascism model.  I take Michael Mann’s construction instead, of classic fascism and apply it here to the Shiv Sena model.  Same subject, different angle.  According to Mann:

The pursuit of a transcendent and cleansing Nation-Statism through para-militarism. 

Read the rest of this entry »

Infidelity – The Petraeus Affair

In Media, Political, Social on November 15, 2012 at 12:14 pm

The best of men are only men at their very best ~ John Charles Ryle

English pastor [1816-1900]

The Director of the CIA David Petraeus, resigned on account of an affair that was exposed by an FBI investigation, with his biographer Paula Broadwell.  The cheating heart and wandering eye story is an old one, posing a grave threat to marital relationships and causing reputational damage.  What’s the point in covering this story, when there are tons of publications, both seedy and reputable that covered it with great gusto?

Different cultures treat infidelity differently.  The impact on marriage and careers differ.  The social acceptance or ridicule of non-monogamy differ in different cultures.  The religious, moral and cultural restraints to non-monogamy vary.

Here is a look at the how and why purely from an American cultural context.  It will be really exciting to translate some of this to an Indian context.  I will leave that for next time, when I am more knowledgeable of that difference.  I am simply transcribing and paraphrasing from the audio of Tom Ashbrook’s OnPoint radio podcast referenced below.  Absolutely nothing original on my part.  I find the conversations with David Buss and Pepper Schwartz insightful and explain in great detail the core of the infidelity issue.  David is an evolutionary psychologist at UT Austin and Pepper is a professor of sociology and is a sexologist at UW, Seattle.  In brief here are the questions they are addressing:

  1. why do we have affairs?
  2. what is the price we pay if we get caught?
  3. what is his fault?  what is her fault?  what is their fault?
  4. how do you avoid infidelity?

Why do we have affairs?

Infidelity appears to be a fairly common but is a deadly malaise in our society.  The shocking revelation in the Petraeus scandal is not infidelity itself, but the fact that a four star general succumbed to it.  Statistically speaking close to 30 to 50% of couples who are in a committed relationship step out of bounds of their commitment.  About 75% of males and 65% women say that they will have an affair if they have the promise of not getting caught or the consequence of their action is zero.  Apparently the cultural upbringings, the religious restraints and the fear to commit a moral transgression anchors us strongly in a monogamous relationship.  As one caller stated it well:

There is something much greater than “what she does not know will not hurt her”.  There is the “what I know will hurt me” that stops me short of going astray.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Equestrian Manifesto

In Political on October 16, 2012 at 12:50 am

Arvind Kejriwal [AK] is exercising what is being termed the Samson Option.  He intends to bring down the entire Indian democratic edifice built on the loose soil of sham politics. I have a problem with this analogy, as Samson himself was completely blind when he brought down the edifice of his enemies!

AK is moving from one target to another in very quick succession, identifying assorted scams ranging from loss of tens of lakhs of rupees to hundreds of crores of rupees to the public exchequer.




This is leaving me a bit queasy in my stomach as I think the grand purpose and scheme is ill defined. Is AK blind like Samson?  But on second thoughts, purpose be damned as we almost do not have a viable alternative than to do a simultaneous mass flush to unclog the plumbing. I think AK’s churning-the-ocean of corruption may have some desired benefits after all, if done right.

We have reduced democracy to strictly mean representation democracy through ballot-box politics, nothing more. Yes, voting is our birthright and we have successfuly cast our votes. No, receiving service is not our birthright and we have lost our voice to even plead for it.  Life goes on here in India, in spite of this fabled democracy, or so it seems.

AK is now flogging the political horses and I see them twitching at times.  They are alive! Only, not to us!

Using these political horses as allegorical props, we now formulate an equestrian manifesto, that will successfuly tranform India from a declining state to a shining state:

1. AK must not quit flogging this horse

2. AK flogs it long enough for the horse to quit being a show pony of decadent power

3. The horse goes through a cathartic change in attitude and focuses on service to the nation

4. Newer horses are attracted to this new landscape, where service to the nation is the only green grass growing and available to munch on

5. The flogger and the flogging should be translated into a universal repeatable process so that it eliminates asinine horses from the democratic pen

6. This repeatable process should be put in place for all horses: from union horses to panchayat horses

 
 
 

other Political Issues
chemcast indianfilms hijra
The Saffron Swastika MF Husain India Shining

downgrade and its impacts

In Money on June 7, 2011 at 7:52 am

This is an interesting picture. While it appears that S&P gave a black eye to the dollar, the real blow was delivered to the politics and politicians involved in the great debate to reign in the ballooning national debt.  The credit ratings is an interesting thing though. India has declared it’s ‘grave concern’ over the downgrade. What is all this fuss about?  To be sure, let’s first understand the bond market.

I came across a great counter-point to all the gloominess surrounding the drop in credit ratings the US suffered in the hands of S&P last week.  I am not an original thinker here, just summarizing from their own blog:

1. The vast majority of U.S. debt is held by big institutions like pension funds and central banks. Those institutions do their own research on sovereign debt, and don’t tend to be heavily influenced by rating agencies

2. Ratings are a factor in financial-industry regulations and in internal policies at financial institutions. But almost all of these regulations and policies treat a AAA rating the same as a AA rating.

3. When other countries were downgraded from AAA to AA, the effect was minimal in most cases, according to this this report from AllianceBernstein.

* Why a downgrade might be a big deal: There’s ultimately no telling what investors would do in case of a downgrade

S.&P. said that the recent deal to raise the United States’ debt ceiling failed to address the country’s mounting obligations.  Here’s the key takeaway from the agency’s statement:

[…continued]

Read the rest of this entry »