Thursday, November 05, 2009

Vande Mataram, Fatwa and the Power of Positivism

There is a power in positivism. Life is progress, life is growth. The human mind loves anything positive. It has more to do with the sense of the self, the ego. Since ego is born along with the person, whatever the person looks at is being filtered through the ego. The dominance that Ego exerts over the human mind is what puts the self over everything else. And that is why a baby would want to grow, be the first and crave for attention and importance.

This natural urge to be positive about life gets subdued by external influences so much, that the mind gets entrapped into its negative groove. With time, negativity tends to suppress the natural affinity towards positivism. It would then take deliberate, conscious effort to undo the damage done by the mind and impose positive thinking over mind's influence. This "Unlearning" to return to positive thinking takes time and maturity.

There is an anecdote about Mother Teresa that she was once approached by activists to auspice the occasion of a protest march that was planned against War and Destruction. And Mother Teresa declined the invitation. When questioned, her response was this: "March FOR Peace, not AGAINST war. When you do that, I would happily preside over."

The Fatwa issued by Darul Uloom against the singing of Vande Mataram, claiming that the National Song of India is "Unislamic" has raised quite a few eyebrows, including some from the Islamic community. There is this English Daily from Pakistan, for instance, the Daily Mail, that questions the motives behind the Fatwa, the decree, that has been ratified and upheld by Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind, after all these decades of silence. Predictably, the resolution has raised reactions of the extreme sorts from expected sectors in India.

Getting back to the issue that we were talking about, Positivism, the strength of being positive is that it begets positivism. When the mind is positive, thoughts are positive. Positive thoughts lead to positive actions. Consistent positive action leads to positive habits, which, over time, results in positive behaviour and a positive personality. What starts positive and stays positive has the strength to spread positivity all over. Does the power of a simple smile need explanations?

Why, then, does the Muslim body, be it the Darul Uloom or the Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind, have to resort to negative actions? Why should any Fatwa be negative at all? Islam, with its deep culture and long history, could not have survived if it were not positive in its outlook. Why do Islamic bodies have to be negative then in their decrees? If the blame is passed over to the BJP or the RSS or any other body that embraces Hindutva, for having created the situation in the first place, where Muslims were "forced" to recite the National Song, still, do Islamic organisations and institutions have to "react" rather than "respond"? If this is really a "response", it had all the reasons in the world to be Positive.

Being Negative is not going to serve any purpose other than create negativity in people's minds, be they Muslims or Hindus or of any religion. This is a land that has proven evidence of Non-Violence and Peaceful means being the most powerful weapons against the mightiest of forces. No religion resorts to negativism - all that religions do is to help people evolve, physically, mentally, spiritually. All religions are Positive. Why should Fatwas be Negative then?

Public bodies that take up causes of the common man and stand for social causes need to exemplify the spirit of positivism in whatever they do. It is the responsibility of intellectual bodies and groups to stay positive and spread the bliss of positivism. For a change, let the influential religious bodies of Islam issue positive Fatwas and see their influences by themselves. After all, India has been blessed with one more legend, Mother Teresa, as testimony for the effectiveness of Positive Energy. Nothing needs to be discovered afresh - all we need to do is to take the right lessons and follow the proven path.

Friday, October 02, 2009

It Was Midnight Alright - But Was it Freedom?

When The Taj was taken control of, besieged by militants who fought round the clock slaughtering civilians, when there was bloody carnage at CST where passengers commuting and waiting for trains were shot down like flies and trampled upon like worms, left to soak in their own blood on the platforms, as those armed men fired at random and at will at anyone who was destined to stray in their paths, all we could do, the majority of Indians who were shell shocked as we stayed glued to our television sets, was to watch. Then, our shock gave way to grief and anger – anger that was directed towards our elected representatives who had left us all crying and dying, as they stay protected in the safety of tight security.

There was outrage, there were public outcries that questioned leaders in their faces, celebrities hit out at the administration and the government and people gathered at city centres, at the marine drive, at clubs and associations to discuss and debate what had just hit them out of nowhere. There were commentaries that India had awakened yet again, this time from parliamentary squabbles and dirty politics and cross border terrorisms that had come to be its lullabies.

All of that, is now history. And it’s business as usual again. The status quo stays where it always stood. While everything in the world is supposed to change every moment, some things never seem to change at all. Such things, as the nonchalant chores of the middleclass Indian, as the television channels that are as busy as ever making reality shows, as filmmakers who keep up their entertainment values, as writers who advocate everything under the sun, as scamsters who are busy inventing new ways to mint money, as cricketers who are never tired of defeats and endorsements, as businessmen who are always on the move, strategising, and as politicians who pay their ritualistic homage to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the lawyer who set us all free.

Or, are we free yet?

Monday, February 23, 2009

"Slumdog Millionaire" is One in a Million!

Those were the days when I, as a kid, like most others of my age, used to be fascinated about a few things that were clearly larger than life; so much larger, that they were dreams, not a part of life at all. It was a protected India then, and what we folks got to taste and relish were homegrown produce. The rest of them were only 'hearsay'.
Like the "Fastest" bike, Yamaha; like the sleak, trendy, powerful BMW; like that mystic fabled drink, Coca-Cola; like those awards they used to give to amazing films beyond imagination, the Oscars!
As we grew up, we thought it was okay to have expectations of Indian movies winning at the Oscars. The first movie that I could recall having associated with Oscar dreams was by the Legendary Mani Ratnam, starring none other than the versatile genius, Kamal Hassan, "Nayagan". "Hey, did you know that they are going to "send" Nayagan for the Oscars?" That should be way back in the mid 80's.
Then, there was serious talk about our own Aamir's "Lagaan". And boy, did it not deserve a Universal Acclaim as the Academy Awards! By then, Oscar was very much within reach. Still, it was eluding.
Fast forward to Aamir Khan, again. With "Taare Zameen Par", we made a convincing case for the most Prestigious awards in the industry. With such delicate handling of the subject, we did have a right to expect the best in the world.
Then, History was made! One movie about the slums and shit holes of Mumbai was seen winning the Golden Globe. Then, it was again in the news for BAFTA. By now, there were 10 nominations for the Oscars! There were celebrations all around. Channels and news papers were beaming with hope.
And here has it arrived like a bolt, storming across nations, cultures and audiences, with people across India identifying so emotionally with their long cherished dream. Amidst mixed reactions, disbelief, debates, editorials, analyses, "Slumdog Millionaire" has literally smashed all expectation levels, with a sweeping 8 awards at the Global arena!
The kids are on stage now, stealing the limelight among the most watched, talked about and enormously paid international stars. For them, Oscar is not a dream beyond imagination.
The Nation adores AR Rahman, now more than ever before. The audience that has been mesmerised by his intriguing notes, thrilled by his technically sound beats, enthralled by his voice that goes weaved along the finest blend of instrumental magic, now has a new Face of the Nation to be proud of.
Oscar is no yardstick for Indian cinema. For the average Indian, "Slumdog Millionaire" may not be as good a movie as, say, a Masterpiece like "Roja" by Mani Ratnam. For a hardcore AR Rahman fan, "Jai Ho!" may not even be in the top ten compositions by the magician.
What "Sumdog Millionaire" has done, is to project Indian cinema, its technicians like Resul Pookutty and Indian Music to movie lovers the world over. It may not be the best of Indian movies ever made, but it has gone a long way in making the world take notice of "Bollywood". The incidents narrated through the movie, its characters, the backdrop, they may all be mostly negative, painting a bleak picture of what the fabled Indian shine and glory is, for the curious foreigner who wants to take a sneak peek of this historical nation; but we are not here to seek certificates on our standards and culture on world stage. This is cinema and the immensely talented pool of artists have got abundant world-wide recognition today, which not many other creations of this medium have succeeded in as yet.
For those who are really worried about an exposed underbelly, let's work to clear the filth out there in the real world. For the average Indian movie lover who celebrates the celluloid dearer than the things he loves in life, let's rejoice this moment with no guilt or remorse. This is an Indian movie, a sound Indian technician and an Indian music Ace that have glittered all the way through the Red Carpet on that big arena. There haven't been many moments that would parallel this glorious occasion!
"Bollywood" has got itself coined after "Hollywood". It's time we created our own unique identity and a powerful brand out of Indian Cinema. "Slumdog Millionaire" may very well have come to define that new era!
"Jai Ho!"

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Taliban and the Valentine

At last, Valentine's Day is gone past. Phew.

I'm not sure of the other news papers, but the Times of India made it look as if Velantine's day was the only activity that occurred in India in the first half of February 2009. The Buzziest Brand went all out for lover boys and girls, women's liberation, individual freedom, 'Pub Bharo' "Movement", Pink Chaddi's and sarees, Indian culture, Pub Culture and anything that one would never have even remotely associated with the V-Day Celebration! Well, the media only reflects the society. Just that, sometimes, it uses a magnifying glass in front of the mirror and the mirror's angle too, perhaps, gets a bit skewed. Well, it's all in the game, anyway.

Now that the V-Day demonsrations are over, with people pondering over what to protest against now, Pakistan is back in the news. But the picture is really cluttered with too many microcosms within our friendly neighbourhood - Fidayeen, Mujahideen, Deccan Mujahideen, Al Qaeda, Taliban, Afghanistan, Sharia, AQ Khan, Dawood, Drone fighters, Geo News . . . the list, or rather, the mixture is whopping! There are too many stake holders in the Sub-continent, so many voices and noises being raised, so many diplomatic and multilateral dialogues and statements being exchanged, so much chaos that the picture is rather murky, with a lot of dust in the air refusing to settle down any time soon.

To be candid, I did give it a cursory thought if I should be really be mentioning all those names that I just did in the previous paragraph and fall in the radars and scanners that keep scourging through the information on the internet for any misguided connotations. For the record, I love peace and I am staunchly against terror, in any form!

But what really was special about this V-Day in India was that, people from all walks of life became aware of such a significant festival. So much so that I wished my elderly uncle, "Happy Valentine's Day to you!". He was bemused and was at a loss for words: "How do you think I should respond to THAT? This is the first time in my life that someone has wished me on a Valentine's Day!"

That apart, V-Day drew parallels between the movement to "protect Indian Culture" and "Talibanisation". The pink Underwear campaign gathered pace, much beyond expectations, not because of the abundant supply of the commodity in question: Underwears are available in most households. The reason, I would say, was that it was a right campaign that appealed to the right audience, who were already perturbed by the developments after 26/11. Let's not get lost in silly questions about who gained, go drew mileage, who shot to popularity or what was achieved in the entire episode that marked the 2009 V-Day miles apart from its predecessors. Questions like these seldom matter in a democracy!

Finally, though all attempts are made not to ask silly questions at this juncture, I have to ask this before I sign this piece off:

  • What is Indian Culture?
  • What is Western Culture?
  • Is it the duty of every citizen to play a part in preserving one's unique culture?
  • Do people of other cultures try to protect their cultures?

That's it. Four questions are too many to ask at a stretch. Not that anyone is going to be even slightly bothered about them. Still, whether asked or not, whether answered or not, questions remain questions.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Project Change - a step closer to Dream India - 1

How is "Change" going to be effected?
There is no disagreement on whether Change is needed or not. Given the fact that even in the best of circumstances, change may not only be inevitable but also be highly desirable, the current state of affairs dictates that a change prevail now, more than ever.
This is not a discourse on the need for change. This is Clearway's take on what it takes to effect Change.
At the moment, the problem is vast, rooted deep and is an accepted part of culture. Optimists would like to hope that things are changing for the better. "Today's younger generation has been brought up on the internet; they spread cheers over sms; and they are increasingly getting frustrated with the status quo . . "
The pessimists wouldnt bother to take note of developments inching forward. And the older generation is aghast with the whims and fancies of the youth today, at their speed bordering on rashness, at their tendancy to "Live Life before it melts away".
It is another issue that the present age older generation has spent its productive years talking its heart out and doing little to change the course of the inevitable. If responsibility is to be fixed on someone who has let this rot, where will the buck stop?
Yet another conflict is the "Comparison Syndrome" of the veterans and the "When's the next dose of advice please?" attitude of "Youngistan". "If we, at this age are this, why are you, at such an age, so bla bla bla . . . ?", countered by "Why is this space around me shrinking into suffocation?"
Getting back to the point: Who's going to fix what matters? Remember: We are not discussing the problems here. Problems are obvious, omniscient and an accepted part of tradition. We are no longer concerned with the "What" of it. It's only "How?"
This series will discuss precisely these questions: "How"? "Who"? "When"?
"Why" is redundant. "What" is obvious.
As we step into this series, a word of caution. This is no thesis or research paper. This is not fiction. This is not a fad. And, this is not the Solution.
The Solution lies out there, in the real world. The solution lies amidst the problem, lurking dangerously to pounce on the problem. The problem is at peril. But the solution will lie dormant as long as it is not whipped into self-realisation.
Who's responsibility is the whip? How to wield it? And when would it be unleashed?
For those who are looking for a solution here, you may be disappointed. If you want to be part of it, this series may strike a chord. Because, you lie in the solution; and the solution lies amidst the problems.
Let's see how close we can get to it.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Clearway World Watch - Certainly, it's Uncertain

Eventful may not be the right word. At best, it would be an understatement.
Gladly, the surgery on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's heart has been successful. Amdist controversies about Asian Heart Institute over AIIMS, the Nation does heave a sigh of relief at the development.
One does wonder if it takes more than a brave heart to be at the helm during these testing times, though. The heart, minimally, has to be a functional one, of course, as has been ensured by Dr Panda and Co. Now, Dr Singh would wake up, hoping he doesn't get a shocker for the immediate future, till the docs declare him fit for office. Inflation, Recession, Pakistan, Politics, Elections and last but by no means the least, our own dear Mr Raju . . . there seem to have been more than one reason that drove Dr Singh to AIIMS at short notice. Perhaps, he would rather spend a few more days in peace than rush back to his unenviable seat.
Talk of Raju! Man! This guy has got real guts - not one to be complaining of a chest pain or a blocked artery anytime soon. The Damage Control folks have a lot of ground to dig out of the Satyam mess. Ramalinga Raju doesnt seem to have dumped his skeletons in a hurry. What started off as one innocuous mis-handled and ill-conceived acquisition bid goes into a never ending maze. And I would bet our interrogators are wasting their time trying to question Raju. Quite possibly, he himself would have lost track of what he has been doing over the past few years. One leading to the other and to yet another . . . SEBI and the Serious Fraud Investigators would rather find out what is and what is not first, without getting into the "How" part of it, as of now.
One sure thing is, when the judge pronounces his verdict on the number of years awarded to the Satyam bosses, we would have to listen to it twice. We are getting so used to hyped up or understated numbers from Satyam of late, that any figure emanating seems distorted like a badly scratched prize card.
The world is not all that bad, after all. While the Satyam boss got himself sucked into the siphon he designed, the Americans have a new ray of hope in Obama. And the ray shines spreading light and cheers the world over - not to mention some shivers to Pakistan as well. Fidel Castro seems a happy man in Cuba, blessing the President's intentions regarding Guantanamo Bay and the changed American outlook. That's not a sight you would see every other day! Obama is moving, is moving fast and is moving steady. Early days to judge? Well, he gets the benefit of doubt.
So, while the new Administration in the US gets moving firmly on its agenda, lip reading experts have already spotted the new team pronuncing "Pakistan" and "Afghanistan" at quite regular intervals, and pronouncing them together. Ms Clinton has already had a word with Mr Zardari. Zardari might have been more fortunate and happy to have had Sarah Paulin in for Joe Biden; now that he has Clinton giving him a hard look, he'd better get down to business than run for China's moral support.
Notwithstanding the series of economic stimuli that make Uncle Sam look more like Santa, the highly inter-connected world economies have been spiralling out, not stopping on its downward spree yet. Britain too has joined the Big League of recessionary economics.
Put them all together, our Prime Minister is definitely better off in the safe confines of hospitals, without access to news channels or papers, for a while now. He has high voltage political games awaiting him anyway, with elections round the corner.
But a casual look at the polical and economic scenario is enough to scare the Indian layman. With Pranab Mukherjee calling the shots at PMO and Finance for Dr Singh, Mr Chidambaram learning the ropes of Home affairs instead of his Finance Forte, the Finance expert in the hospital beds with juices and sugar-free horlicks by his side, SEBI still trying to figure out what hit them and fighting it out with Court orders for Raju's possession, the inverted Satyam - MAYTAS - having its hands laid in more than one Metro Project, World bodies projecting more terror seeping in from across the Indian border and a global recession with no end in sight, who is handling what in India?
Well, the economy is still running, and more importantly, still growing. And no new scams have been unearthed; and terror hasn't risen its head again after 26/11, yet. That's good enough for the Indian citizen. We have not grown all that sophisticated to be asking for more than that!