Archive for March, 2009

Going Gandhi Gone

March 24, 2009


From Mohandas Gandhi to his unrelated namesake Varun Gandhi, the Gandhi name has suffered a reversal of fortune.  From Mohandas who was willing to give his life for the sake of Hindu-Muslim amity to Varun who – based on the remarks on the publicized CD – would be willing to harm a Muslim life in a case of mistaken Hindu enmity, there has been a sharp erosion in the value systems of our leaders. 


The Gandhi family has paid a steep price for their dedication and political service and suffered the loss of two former Prime Ministers – Indira Gandhi (daughter of independent India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru) and Rajiv Gandhi (the elder son of Indira Gandhi).  Both Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were the tragic victims of assassins (killed in 1984 and 1991 respectively) associated with two different independence movements (Khalistan in Punjab, India and Eilam in Sri Lanka) that perceived the former leaders as inimical to their respective causes.  Varun Gandhi’s father, Sanjay Gandhi (the younger son of Indira Gandhi) who died in an untimely plane accident, was in a prominent position within the Congress Party and en route to becoming a potential Prime Minister.


Rahul Gandhi (son of Rajiv Gandhi) is slated as a future leader and potential Prime Minister while his sister, Priyanka Gandhi, currently actively campaigning for the Congress Party, may have possible future political ambitions in her own right.  Rajiv Gandhi’s wife, Sonia Gandhi is the current leader of the Congress Party. 


Maneka Gandhi (wife of Sanjay Gandhi) a BJP Member of Parliament from Philibit, UP was a Minister in the former BJP Government and her son, Varun is now campaigning to become the next BJP Member of Parliament from Philibit.


While many Indians are supportive of the public service and prominent political roles of the scions of the Gandhi (Jawaharlal Nehru) dynasty, one family should not be burdened with the onerous responsibility of having to produce the nation’s leadership for successive generations.  This applies not only at the national level but also at the state and local levels where a few families have assumed the lonesome legacy of leadership. 


The public needs to assist the feudal families to ensure that alternate avenues of employment are available to upcoming family members and to spare them the pressing pressures and trying tensions of having to take care of their ancestral aspirations in their “family fiefdoms”.


Some Indian filmmakers have had a fascination for decades with copying the attitudes and cultural norms of Western nations in many films and a few business houses have been aping some of the failed financial practices and questionable business methodologies along with encouraging their workers to adopt Western suits and ties in a tropical climate.  Now even politics is following suit and has adopted the Western obsession with ever younger leaders in politics as if youth alone is the answer to all problems.  The British author and savant, George Bernard Shaw noted that “youth is wasted on the young” and this is especially apparent in Indian politics today.  Instead of increasingly younger “Turks” /   leaders chanting the overused and shrill “change” mantra and committing “Varunesque” gaffes, there is a dire need for experienced, mature, wise and steady leadership (with a knowledge of our shared history and distinct cultures) that will focus on resolving the nation’s problems and improving the standard of living.       


In a mature democracy with a growing middle class and an increasing number of people who are upwardly mobile and educated, there is a greater pool of qualified and experienced candidates who can become prospective leaders, without special interest backing, without the benefit of being hand-picked star candidates and without nepotistic nurturing.


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(A)ward(s) to the wise

March 15, 2009

The Oscars went slumming – one might even be tempted to call it a “slum dunk”. Down and out in Hollywood, the celluloid elite shared the red carpet with the dwellers of the streets of Mumbai. After Slum Dog Millionaire won eight Oscars including for Best Picture and Best Director, Danny Boyle, the film’s British director was understandably elated – the film has raked in millions of dollars and will ensure that Danny Boyle is recession-proof and out of the slums, unless he decides to make a sequel.

What is the forecast for the numerous cast of characters who constitute the cast away extras of Slum Dog Millionaire? Millions of slum dwellers in Mumbai doggedly waited the return of the few fortunate cast members who temporarily took flight on a pilgrimage to the altar of “make believe” in the land of [fading] dreams.

From the heads of political parties, from cultural and civic leaders to the general public and down to the marginalized millions residing in slums, this has been a time of pride and recognition. When all the pride and recognition eventually dies down, as the bright glare of the reel camera fades away, one recognizes that the rude reality is far from an appealing vision.

Very few persons would willingly choose to live in squalid tenements that are crammed in close proximity with precious little privacy and filled with all the sensory experiences of congested human and animal existence. Along with lack of any if not most civic amenities, the escalating effluence is a frontal assault on all the senses while the teeming evidence of growing generations must be a daunting challenge for officials responsible for the census.

In the mad rush to unbridled market capitalism, the proliferating slums are a growth industry. The area of Dharavi, burdened with the questionable (questionable not as a matter of fact but rather of taste) moniker of the “largest slum in Asia”, has temporarily morphed from an unwelcome civic blight to a reigning celebrity delight.

Dharavi, besides being the setting for “Slum Dog Millionaire” is a thriving market place with revenues estimated at close to a billion dollars. This huge investment is music to the ears of politicians and special interest backers who stand to benefit from the status quo. The unhealthy political-economic combination makes it all the more difficult for civic-minded detractors to push for the denizens of the slums to be relocated to other areas with better standards of habitation and for the demolishing of the urban blight to make for greener public spaces for an enhanced quality of life.

In a related story, the residents of slums in order to supplement their meager existence and to cash in on the interest sparked by the Oscar winning film are offering tourists tours through their neighborhoods. The only way that this could be viewed in a favorable light is if the slum dwellers were showing the tourists a disappearing way of existence.

India is currently making preparations to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games. New Delhi, the venue of the games, has the same problems as Mumbai in terms of slums. Now is the time for the government of India to take decisive action in relocating slum dwellers to better and permanent housing in all urban areas. The removal of the abandoned slums and the conversion of the slum land to urban parks will enhance the quality of living of all Indians.

India will continue to be a nation grounded in its aspirations for a higher standard of living unless its soaring population is kept under strict control by a disciplined national population strategy. India can only become a superpower of the people when the proverbial man on the street neither lives on the street as a “slum dog” nor as a “millionaire” in a personal ivory tower. Indians can lead the way in under-populating and under-polluting their region as they live healthy, frugal, sustainable and productive middle-class lives.


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Gauging Genocide

March 14, 2009


The international legal definition of the crime of genocide is found in Articles II and III of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.   The law protects four groups – national, ethnical, racial or religious groups. 


The following constitute some of the actions that can be classified as genocide:

  • Killing members of the group includes direct killing and actions causing death.

  • Deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to destroy a group includes the deliberate  deprivation of resources needed for the group’s physical survival, such as clean water, food, clothing, shelter or medical services.

  • Deprivation of the means to sustain life can be imposed through confiscation of harvests, blockade of foodstuffs, detention in camps, forcible relocation or expulsion into deserts. 


In several recent conflicts, civilian homes, public utilities infrastructure, hospitals, schools and United Nations offices have been targeted killing thousands of civilians – defenseless children, women and men.  United Nations organizations and peace groups have joined the widespread international outcry for instituting genocide charges against the aggressor nations. 


Some partial observers have tried to make the case that if the aggressor nations are not signatories to the ICC conventions, then the ICC does not have the jurisdiction to prosecute the aggressor nations.  Due to the severity of the crimes, the aggressor nations should not be allowed to evade accountability for their war crimes due to political ploys or legal loopholes.


Recent events have highlighted the glaring double standards and political imbalance that unfortunately exist in assessing, administering and adjudicating war crimes tribunals.


The International Criminal Court (ICC) was set up in The Hague to handle cases, such as the above, where there has been clear contravention of international laws and aggressive atrocities resulting in extensive civilian casualties.  The aggressor nations need to be expeditiously judged by the same set of ICC standards and the liable leadership of the guilty governments should face swift sentencing and prompt punishment.


India, the land of enlightened religions, Mahatma Gandhi, non-violence  and non-alignment should be in the forefront of condemning all cases of genocide as well as establishing economic embargoes on all states that indulge in genocide and ensuring that the war criminals face their just retribution.



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March 14, 2009

Haiku is Japanese poetry that combines form, content, and language in a meaningful and compact form. Haiku poets express their thoughts about both mundane and arcane matters and many Haiku themes relate to nature, feelings, or experiences. Usually, Haiku employs simple words and grammar. The most common form for Haiku is three short lines with the first line consisting of five syllables, the second line consisting of seven syllables and the third line consisting of five syllables. Haiku is more like free verse and less like rhyming poetry.

“Rhyku” is my variation of Haiku and follows all the Haiku precepts except for the rhyming part. All three lines of a Rhyku must rhyme. I list below some of my attempts at Rhyku. I have added a[n] [alliterative] title for each Rhyku although this is not a requirement for Rhyku or Haiku.

Hie Queue: / The longer the wait / More does one become irate / To flee static state. /

Solution sought: / Era of foreclosure / New age seeming insecure / What will be the cure? /

Tracking Traffic: / Rhythm in chaos / Ebb and flow continuous / All with a purpose? /

Veiled View: / Mountainous terrain / Rising above wooded plain / Misty in the rain /

Cain and Abel: / Dying Abel bled / Now there was no need to dread / But Cain’s soul was dead. /

Loaded lobbies: / Where greed is the creed / There will not be paid any heed / To people in need. /

Reparation Repentance: / Torrent of blood spilt / Destroying homes and lives built / Repayment for guilt. /

Perennial Poetry: / Words that are sublime / Inspiring in any clime / Transcending our time. /

Primary Prerogative: / Sun always rises / Even after dire crisis / So too, does Pisces. /

High Cue: / The dark of the night / Makes way for the early light / Then the sun shines bright. /


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