Monday, October 31, 2005
Conflicting reports on how yesterday’s blasts have affected business sentiment in the Capital. As reported on the Economic Times website, the blasts have “taken the fizz out of Diwali shopping”, while the Indian Express says that the blasts “have failed to dampen the festive spirit”. Hoping that the IE’s reporting right on this one. It is imperative that people go out and have a good time and destroy terrorists’ intentions. If we allowed them to hamper our enthusiasm, these barbarians would have won the battle against us and our way of life. We must send out a strong message that come what may, we won’t be cowed down into terror and submission. This is exactly how Mumbai and
The number of injured is currently 200.
More reports on rediff.
Sometimes — quite often — the same people who are capable of a radical questioning of, say, economic neo-liberalism or the role of the state, are deeply conservative socially — about women, marriage, sexuality, our so-called ‘family values’ — sometimes they’re so doctrinaire that you don’t know where the establishment stops and the resistance begins. For example, how many Gandhian/Maoist/ Marxist Brahmins or upper caste Hindus would be happy if their children married Dalits or Muslims, or declared themselves to be gay? Quite often, the people whose side you’re on, politically, have absolutely no place for a person like you in their social, cultural or religious imagination. That’s a knotty problem… politically radical people can come at you with the most breathtakingly conservative social views and make nonsense of the way in which you have ordered your world and your way of thinking about it… and you have to find a way of accommodating these contradictions within your worldview.
What does the World Social Forum mean today? They are big questions now. Ultimately, millions of people marched against the war in
It’s indiscriminate — it can be Miss Universe, or a writer, or the maker of a ridiculous TV soap, the minimum requirement is success. There’s a particular kind of person who comes up to me with this star-struck smile — it doesn’t matter who I am — they just know I’m famous; whether I’m the ‘BookerPrizeWinner’ or the star of the Zee Horror Show or whatever is immaterial. In this freak show, this celebrity parade, there’s no place for loss, or failure. Whereas to me as a writer, failure interests me. Success is so tinny and boring. Everyone is promoting themselves so hard.
People, ideologues who believe in a kind of redemption, a perfect and ultimate society, are terrifying. Hitler and Stalin believed that with a little social engineering, with the mass murder of a few million people, they could create a new and perfect world. The idea of perfection has often been a precursor to genocide. John Gray writes about it at some length. But then, on the other hand, we have the placid acceptance of Karma which certainly suits the privileged classes and castes very well.
This is an Aamir pic from his forthcoming Rang De Basanti, a UTV project. UTV is also slated to release The Namesake, Mira Nair's adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri's rather mediocre novel. The film promises to be good though, what with Nair's signature style (Monsoon Wedding) and Tabu in the lead role.
A new angle that's emerging is the suspicion that Al Qaeda might have played a role too. If proved, this would be a dangerous portent, indicating that the struggle in Kashmir is acquiring an international dimension.
Minister of State for Home Sriprakash Jaiswal has revealed that there was a tipoff that a terrorist strike was being planned but the IB had no credible information. He did not, however, mention if this and the other botched-up operations in the past deserve a serious consideration on why Indian Intelligence agencies oughtn't to be wrapped up.
22 people have been deatined for questioning.
Sunday, October 30, 2005
India and Pakistan began talks today to chalk out the details of supplying relief across 5 points along the LoC. Amidst the devastation and continued misery of people in the earthquake affected areas, the two governments have finally sat down to discuss modalities of the proposal. Pamela Philipose’s scathing leader in today’s IE asks the two countries to bury the hatchet for once and take steps to mitigate the suffering.
Meanwhile, serial bomb blasts have rocked
As the blurb states, “this is the story of Daisy Goodwill, from her birth on a kitchen floor in Manitoba, Canada, to her death in a Florida nursing home nearly ninety years later.” The reader passes through each of Daisy’s life-phases, arranged in neatly divided sections, titled Birth, Childhood, Love etc.
At 72, Daisy lives in a three-bedroom condo in
“If you were to ask Victoria’s Great-aunt Daisy the story of her life she would purse her lips for a moment – that ruby-red efflorescence – and stutter out an edited hybrid version, handing it to you somewhat shyly, but without apology, without equivocation that is: this is what happened, she would say from the unreachable recesses of her seventy-two years, and this is what happened next.
It’s hard to say whether she’s comfortable with her blend of distortion and omission, its willfulness, in fact; but she is accustomed to it. And it’s occurred to her that there are millions, billions, of other men and women in the world who wake up early in their separate beds, greedy for the substance of their own lives, but obliged every day to reinvent themselves.”
Shields sprinkles such gems on every other page and her deeply engaging writing style brings you to wish for a cord, a realizable link between all such people – alone, utterly alone, passing their days mimicking life. Something to make them say, “I am not all puff.” Her prose makes you wonder, is this what life is then? Is there something like a true life at all or are we destined to lead our own imitations of it?
Carol Shields was a very gifted writer. (She died of breast cancer in 2003.) There were moments during the book when I was wary of continuing without taking a break, because it had become the book’s habit to induce in me a deep and mildly painful contemplation. I found myself holding it and looking into the distance, having just read a passage, and wishing that the questions it evoked would ease a little and give me a breather.
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Two Harvard economists Alberto Alesina and Nicola Fuchs-Schündeln have brought out a paper titled “Good bye Lenin (or not?): The effect of Communism on people’s preferences”, in which they present data on
This provides two immediate inferences, both of which are mentioned in the research paper. One, that the likeness for State stems from the overdependence that people come to rely on in communist regimes. There are fewer tendencies for individual enterprise in a communist state. There is a propensity to blame society at large for one’s distress and so greater acceptance of public intervention. And two, communism comes across as a self-fulfilling prophecy. It creates conditions of deprivation in a society, which demands the very policies, viz. redistribution, state ownership, that further propel misery. In this way, it is a vicious cycle that perpetuates itself.
The study is contemporaneously relevant to us because the UPA government is continually cowed down in its policies by the Left. Whether it is introducing pension reforms or FDI in retail, the Left has mastered the art of giving the Congress top brass sleepless nights to further its ideological agenda. Well, the Left’s gotta do what the Left’s gotta do. What is befuddling is why the Congress is putting up with this intimidation. History will judge them more graciously if they stuck to their guns and relinquished power rather than dilute their agenda with the Left’s able guidance. Mr. Singh, take note. It’s your vision, after all, that is being so casually frittered.
So, one thing is amply clear. Either Ahmedinejad does not read my blog, or if he does, he certainly doesn't think too much of me to take my advice. He has gone on to stand by his comments, adding mint-fresh impetus on the way. And as if that wasn’t enough, his remarks have launched a chain reaction with everyone from editors to clerics picking up the proverbial stick to hack
In the news report on Times Online cited above, what struck me was a statement which said that militants were openly recruiting for suicide missions at a rally against
EU got into the act on
"There has been a long time in which I have been answering questions on
It confounds one to think that a country’s President would make such provocative remarks.
Meanwhile, a note of sanity from the First Deputy President of Iran Parviz Davoodi. In a meeting with External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh on the sidelines of the meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Moscow, Davoodi has assured India that the latter’s vote against Iran at the IAEA Summit in Vienna is a minor irritant between the two countries and will not affect long-term ties. This is a breath of fresh air from the Iranian leadership, some of who, as the Ahmadinejad episode demonstrates, have been speaking in public only to incite.
Saeed Naqvi, writing in today’s IE, says that India should not have voted against Iran because it doesn’t behoove a country of India’s strategic stature (he alludes to India’s candidature of the UNSC) to have “buckled under US pressure”. I disagree. Foreign Secretary Saran has made it amply clear in the course of the past few days what the compulsions vis-à-vis this deal were. It would be hypocritical of
The government has asked the CBI to reopen the riot cases against Congress leaders Jagdish Tytler, Sajjan Kumar and Dharam Dass Shastri. I picked up this news item for 2 reasons. One, it reminded me of the speech that Manmohan Singh made when the Nanavati Commission Report and the government’s ATR were tabled in Parliament. It was a very strongly worded speech, and I have no hesitation in saying that only someone of the stature and magnanimity of Manmohan Singh could have made it. His apology was heart-felt.
And two, because the government had the courage to take action against its own leaders. I wish the BJP would do something similar in
As an aside, I hope Justice Nanavati would not be as vague as in his anti-Sikh riot report, when he comes out with the
Friday, October 28, 2005
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ruled out the possibility of the dialogue with ULFA going the NSCN-IM way, by categorically stating that any talks with ULFA will have to follow the Constitutional framework, and that there would be no talks on redefining India’s boundaries. ULFA has been demanding a dialogue on sovereignty with the government. The government has had to make these proclamations owing to its own ineptness. In early October, it allowed ULFA extremists in
The problem runs deeper. Assam CM Tarun Gogoi has been privately pushing for operations against the ULFA but is worried that a tough public stance could affect poll fortunes next year. There is also the apprehension that some ULFA leaders are enjoying state patronage in
The government will need to do some deft handling of this volatile situation lest the north-east slide into chaos.
This car has been eagerly awaited for quite some time now. In a market where the cost of the two-wheeler is touching 60 grand, there is no limit to which it would be mass-accepted as a bread-and-butter model to do routine tasks around the corner. Sure, you wouldn't want to go cross-country in it, but look at the advantages. First and formeost, in this era of global warming and shortage of fossil fuels, this car will guzzle far less fuel than your average four-wheeler. Then it would provide the advantages of a 4-wheeler over a 2-wheeler at marginal extra costs. Imagine the number of people who, unable as they are to buy a car at current rates, would happily go for this one and bring about the second major revolution in the Indian automobile space. The first, as we know, was Maruti.
Ratan Tata had this to say about the project, in an interview with Mckinsey:
It is propelled by the opportunity, but there is also a social or dreamy side to it. Today in India, you often see four people on a scooter: a man driving, his little kid in front and his wife on the back holding a baby between them. It's a dangerous form of transportation, and it leads to accidents and hospitalizations and deaths. If we can make something available on four wheels--all-weather and safe--then I think we will have done something for that mass of young Indians.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
He is not only not rebuking
And this is just the bit about Iraq. Afghanistan, of course, has long been consigned to irrelevance, with no reference whatsoever to capturing bin Laden. If Americans are having a tough fight in Iraq, God only knows how they intend to pigeonhole Osama in that inhospitable terrain. But power, as they say, corrupts. So we hear stories of bringing other evil nations (read Iran, Syria) to their knees. More on this megalomania later.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Iraqis have ratified a new constitution with 78 percent voting for it. The approval paves the way for parliamentary elections on December 15. The biggest support for the constitution came from Shiites and Kurds, who form nearly 80 percent of the population. Sunni Arabs rejected the constitution, in what can be more than a hiccup in the evolving process to put
The likely shift in Ba'athist strategy will probably not be seen in numbers but in targets, as reported in the Asian Tribune. The report states, “Sunni Arab politicians will remain threatened by the Islamic militant wing of the insurgency, but may see some respite from the Ba'athists as long as they avoid the appearance of cooperation with the
Another factor is the division in the Shiite ranks. Secular Shias prefer a strong central government, while some religious leaders seem inclined to prepare for the fragmentation of
The differences between secular and religious Shias were papered over during the drafting of the constitution by intentionally avoiding inscribing much about the functioning of the future government. The Shia negotiators, like their Kurdish counterparts, focused instead on gaining the best positioning for their sectarian group to dominate the future Iraqi government. This will likely delay the formation and functioning of the new government since many serious issues -- from the role of the Federal Supreme Court to the right of the federal government to impose taxes on the population directly -- have yet to be worked out.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
(To be taken with the tongue firmly in cheek)
Excerpts from the report:
Driven partly by pressure from incessant literary prize shortlists, more than one in three consumers in
The biggest group, more than two in every five people, follows the traditional method of choosing their reading; relying on recommendations from close family and friends.
The sample's own top 10 titles, a mixture of classic and popular, is: the Bible, Lord of the Rings, one or other of the Harry Potter stories, Catch-22, Animal Farm, The Hobbit, Pride and Prejudice, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Da Vinci Code, Wuthering Heights.
Monday, October 24, 2005
The following is a passage taken from Henry’s visit to the
“He was not sure if
A stunning book, The Master must be read for the long hours of suspended solitude one gets to savour as one delves into the soul of a truly remarkable man.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Amidst reports of good success in the discussions held between Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran and US Under secretary of State Nicholas Burns come news reports that America is all set to finalize the sale of 80 F-16’s to Pakistan in the coming week. This is another instance of the narrow-sightedness of the American foreign policy.
Meanwhile, President Bush has called on the UN Security Council to discuss Syrian involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. In a statement, Condoleezza Rice demanded “some way to assure accountability” after a UN report indicting senior Syrian officials in the murder was released. Somehow, the entire prospect of accountability at UN has suffered a body-blow in the post-Iraq scenario and to see the Bush administration mention it is to stretch hypocrisy to the limit. Another farce is all set to begin as another country comes on the “Axis-of-evil” radar.
In a tiny news report on the Economic Times front page yesterday,
Saturday, October 22, 2005
More on this exciting bit of a developing landmark in India's shifting foreign policy as reports trickle in.