2019 – A NEW YEAR has arrived. Today, January 1, is the day of promises to oneself, New Year resolutions, bucket lists, and plans…a day of greeting everyone you know and even strangers.
This will be followed by unfulfilled promises, resolutions broken, lists that remain on paper and plans that remain in the mind. This is a pessimistic view. Some people do make a new beginning, start implementing resolutions and try to make the new year a happy one as desired
In my case, the last quarter of this year would mean completion of 80 years of age – one more year of a vigil at the exit gate of life, waiting for it to open. The boastful ‘unstoppable’ is slowing down and a decision is to be taken on whether to continue till 80 or make it ‘stoppable’ now — neither acclaimed if continued nor missed if stopped.
This post is being written, perhaps, due to the Indian belief that what happens on a new year day or a birthday will happen throughout the year – which explains why some celebrate these days by feasting and wearing new clothes.
Writing this is, however, not to ensure that this would continue for the year but an acknowledgment of the fact that I have lived, from the age of 16, by writing, with no great achievements in the past and certainly none likely in the few weeks or months that remain. That is the story of most. not all, people on earth.
And yet we wish each other a Happy New Year and celebrate the occasion. The famous poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1937-1984) who migrated to Pakistan during Partition (to start Communist movement there, but was frustrated due to his failure) asks what is new in the new year or how it is ‘happy’.
TWITTER NEEDS JUST any excuse to break into a public debate on any issue, with the users of this social media platform ‘tweeting’ views both far and against the issue.
A Twitter tweet on the American singer-dancer Beyonce dancing at the wedding, in Jodhpur, of Isha, daughter of India’s richest man, Mukhesh Dheerubhai Ambani touched off one such debate. Thousand tweeted – some expressing resentment at Ambani spending 100 million dollars (Rs.7.2 crore), others supporting Ambani and still others admiring the dresses worn by Beyoncé or Isha or saying how cute they looked.
In the good old days when there were no social media like Twitter. such expressions of
opinion was done by those who gossiped. And the rulers (yes, dynastic kings) kept track of what was being said and acted to satisfy the majority (yes, they were democratic).
Thus it was that Lord Rama of Indian mythology, told that a washerman expressed doubts about Sita’s chastity after she was kidnapped and held hostage by Ravana, asked her to prove it in an agnipareeksha (trial by fire) though he himself had no doubts.
Some tweets on the Isha Ambani marriage were outraged at such extravagant spending in a country where several hundred thousand still lived under the poverty line, where millions were homeless, many villages had dilapidated schools or none at all and where a campaign had to be launched to build toilets in rural homes.
Still others said the show-off of wealth by the Ambanis (whose house in Mumbai cost several million dollars) meant the money went to thousands who provided the services for the occasion and was, therefore, better than being hoarded.
Many calculated how many rural or slum houses for the homeless or rural schools or toilets could have been built with that money. Those used to mentally converting all dollar figures into rupees pointed out that the $100 million meant Rs.726,3300,000 at today’s exchange rate. Some felt it was nothing compare to India’s needs, but others saw it as a huge amount given per capita income in India is Rs.120979.78 per year (average Indian family is of 5 persons, that is almost Rs. 603986 a year per family).
This average included families which earn in millions per month, which means others earn below subsistence income. There can be much said on both sides. For a country of India’s proportions 726.33 million rupees is a paltry sub; for those earning as little as Rs. 10081 it is a huge amount.
It is obvious that ostentatious lifestyles are not for a developing country and that money should be spent productively. Extravagant spending on weddings in India, especially by people who cannot afford it, is a social problem.
The virtues of voluntary poverty or giving away things not really needed (though wanted) as advocated by Mahatma Gandhi are being realised all over the world, including the rich countries.
After all, you come into the world with nothing and take nothing with you when going.
INDIA, WORLD’S BIGGEST democracy was never as close to the world’s greatest democracy, the United States of America, as it is today.
The ‘comrades’ who drove the country into what was the Communist camp of the Soviet Union before it broke up, regret this. Political differences on the issue can be debated at length, and both sides can be right on some points.
But there can be no differences on the fact that we seem to always learn the wrong things from other countries and religions.
Watching the funeral eulogies of Senator John McCain, who died on August 25, just 4 days before he was to turn 82, reminded me of how leaders of the Majlis Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (MIM) in Aurangabad Municipal Corporation opposed an obituary resolution on the death of one of India’s most successful and respected of Prime Ministers, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who died on August 16, just because he was a Hindu. They were thrashed and chased out by the Bharatiya Janata Party members.
McCain, a staunch Republican who lost a primary contest to President George Bush and a presidential race to President Barack Obama, had just before his desired that his funeral eulogies should be delivered by George Bush, Barack Obama and the Democratic Vice-president of Obama regime, Joe Biden.
This brings into focus what I just heard in an audiobook (in preparation for the coming blindness) by Joe Biden on the death of his son Bo ‘Promise Me, Dad – A Year of Hope, Hardship And Purpose’. In the touching narration of his son’s last days of battle with cancer and his own dilemma over contesting for presidentship after Obama, Biden says the Republicans were just his rivals and not enemies.
Both parties have their own vision of a united America, its people’s aspirations and values and their beliefs. Contesting against Obama in the primaries and against Bush in the presidential race were just democratic actions, not a war. He has his own values but accepts the rivals’ right to their own values and goals. And he was all praise for McCain’s sincerity and beliefs, though he differed. True, I sat through in Parliament in Press gallery, when leaders of all parties paid tributes to departed MPs of all parties in many ‘obituary references’. But they were all mere formal rituals None sounded so true as the eulogies by Biden or Obama. Not one was memorable.
The political culture nurtured by decades of Congress party rule in India is one in which the political rivals are enemies, some parties are deemed “untouchable” and dynastic rule is sought to be made legitimate. What Modi says has to be opposed even if right and in people’s interest. You can align with Muslim League and MIM, put up candidates on the basis of caste and religion, organise genocide of one community and regularise refugees of one faith to build religion-based vote banks. But those who talk of the majority Hindus are ‘communal’!
Even after 71 years of Independence, Indian polity is yet to mature
KERALA, THE MOST LITERATE state in India has experienced its worst calamity in over 100 years. And India responded with full sympathy in rushing aid to the state. Heavy rains and floods have killed hundreds of people and displaced lakhs of them.
Rehabilitating the affected people is a herculean task. The entire nation and even Indians living abroad – Kerala has a very large number of them – are contributing generously to the relief and rehabilitation work in Kerala.
But then came relief politics. Rescue, relief and rehabilitation — the three Rs of disaster management– were pushed into the background in the state that was always first in India in the “3Rs” of education – reading writing and arithmetic (popular as ‘3 Rs’ though only one of them starts with an R).
It started with someone posting on WhatsApp and other social media pictures of workers of Seva Bharati, the RSS disaster management wing, engaged in rescue and relief work in the troubled state, with a request to forward the posts to others as “the paid-news presstitutes” of mainstream media would not let the world know of their contribution. The posts vent viral.
This has obviously irked the Congress and its “comrades” of the Communist Party of India and the CPI Marxist who rule the state. They countered it with posts denigrating the RSS group’s work. Very few know that Seva Bharati has been doing commendable relief work in every disaster-struck area in the country without any publicity. In my forays into social work I was involved in disaster management after the earthquake in Latur and have seen the quiet, self-less service of Seva Bharati volunteers.
This time someone wanted to publicise it and the anti-BJP parties thought politics was more important than relief and that this was a good stick to beat the BJP-led coalition in power at the Centre.
The Central government announced an advance assistance of Rs 600 crores while the state demanded several times that amount. The state also announced that the United Arab Emirates announced an aid of Rs 700 crores. Media persons searching for some reason to criticise the Centre took it up as a big issue.
A news channel host, always at the forefront of this brigade, made it a big issue, saying the Centre was giving less that the aid offered by UAE which was not being accepted by the BJP rulers.
To the embarrassment of that loudmouthed anchor, the UAE ambassador in India made an announcement that officially no amount of aid was decided on and that the Centre had thanked UAE for its offer to help. It was the earlier Congress regime that decided that as a policy, no relief from abroad should be accepted. Had the NDA coalition government accepted the aid the same Congress would have attacked it for lowering the country’s selfrespect.
An anchor more loudmouthed than the critic of BJP got a chance to out-shout him to point out that the UAE government did NOT announce more than the Central aid and also that what the Centre announced was just the first instalment or advance. The state’s ability to spend thousands of crores at once was also questioned
“Can Kerala government spend thousands of crores on a single day? Or will it put the money in FDs?” a Facebook post taunted. Another concluded that the Centre was anti-Kerala as it was ruled by the Communists. A Congress leader pointed out the earlier decision (not to accept foreign aid) referred only to relief and not rehabilitation.
He was obviously unaware that rehabilitation comes much after rescue and relief. He also did not object to a Sikh group from Chicago, Khalsa Aid, sending relief supplies and setting up langars in Kerala – all parts of rescue and relief which, according to his party, should not be accepted. “Khalsa Aid CEO Ravi Singh told BBC that the humanitarian aid group will expand its operations in Kerala to help the distressed people,” Sikh Siyasat News reported.
There was a post about a pro-RSS teacher, whose legs were cut off by the Marxists years ago, who was doing rescue work in the floods,m when he was again attacked by the Marxists and his artificial legs broken. There were also reports of the CPI-collected relief supplies being carted away by force by the Marxists to its own relief centres.
When it came to relief politics the Marxists had no allies –Congress or CPI.
The Chief Minister’s Office in Kerala joined the fray in attacking the Centre for rejecting the UAE aid. It also issued a statement that the controversial Shashi Tharoor, Congress MP, who was spending time in Geneva when the state that elected him to Parliament was in distress, was not the authorised spokesman of the Kerala Government when he made statements about the disaster in foreign forums and the Press.
The flood disaster has not only taken up political colour but also a communal one. One tweet said Shah Rukh Khan gave away Rs. 5 crores for relief. Another said Salman Khan gave Rs 12 crores unannounced and without publicity for the Kerala flood victims. A third questioned if Amitabh Bachchan donated to flood relief at all. The tweets came from members of one community. The man who tweeted that the BJP government was anti-Kerala was asked, “Do you think only the Vatican and UAE are concerned about Kerala?”
The man’s community is obvious – as was his bias. Kerala has very large number of Muslims and Christians and both the communities play a major role in the politics of that state – one reason why the BJP has not been able to make any headway there.
It turned out that SRK gave only Rs.21 lakhs and that too from Meer Trust he controlled. What Salman Khan gave is still not known, but his track record is of high donations. Amitabh Bachchan gave not only Rs 51 lakhs from his own money but also sent six cartons containing closed, 40 pairs of shoes and other material.
The film industry joined the rest of the country is coming to Kerala’s aid. A report said Kunal Kapoor and Randeep Hooda have been actively helping the Kerala flood victims through various crowdfunding projects. Sunny Leone donated 1200 kilograms of rice and dal for the victims. Kangana Ranaut donned Rs. 10 Lakh towards Kerala CM’s Relief Fund. Sushant Singh Rajput has been “extremely agile in supporting the victims and has gone the extra mile and donated Rs. 1 crore to the state”. Singer-songwriter A.R. Rahman paid a special tribute to the Kerala flood victims. In his recent concert in California he replaced .Mustafa‘ with Kerala in the lyrics of his famous song and also sang ‘Don’t Worry Kerala‘.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the flood damage would be much more than the primary estimate of Rs 20,000 crore,..”Rehabilitation process of the displaced is progressing in the right direction,” he said. The chief minister rejected the Congress-led UDF opposition’s criticism of the relief and rehabilitation work.
Having worked in the field of disaster relief and reduction I recollect that every time there was a major disaster in any state in the country, the Centre allotted only a fraction of what the state demanded – whichever party was in power in the two places. In fact, I had spoken at some forums on why the Press exaggerated the seriousness of the disaster and why the loss figures are always much higher than the real ones.
The scaling-up is done to ensure that more come to the rescue of the affected and that the aid is stepped up. After Latur I had also warned against the affected people becoming dole-dependent and being reduced to being beggars. Kerala is one state that would never face these problems as its people have high self-respect and would never become dole-dependent. There is, perhaps, no region in India which does not have some Karaites as they are prepared to go anywhere and work hard.
But the tendency of members of a community praising contribution of celebrities of their own community and political parties trying to distract attention by politicizing relief work is, to say the least, unfortunate. Politicians only reaped a rich harvest of corruption from floods and drought as pointed out by the book ‘Everybody Loves a Good Drought’ by P. Sainath
Kerala has enough of politics and religious rifts. What it needs is relief.
He was born on Christmas Day celebrated all over the world – even by thousands of non-Christians. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was kept alive artificially on Inida’s Independence Day, August 15 and the life support was switched off only the next day, August 16 evening (as the I-Day for Indians living in the USA was still on India’s Aug.16 morning).
He could not have wanted to spoil the festivities on India’s Independence Day. That was typically Vajpayee, almost 94 years old.
This blog reported several deaths, but not repeating what was already available on the Internet or other sources but with personal glimpses. So let us continue that tradition.
Taking a group of 52 students of the Department of Mass Communication, Nagpur Universithy as one of the teachers accompanying them on a Delhi ‘study tour’ I was keen that it should not end up another pleasure trip of shopping event, which it usually did. So I prepared them for each visit, be it to a news channel, media house,embassy, politiciasn, Rashtrapatyi Bhavan or news agency office.
Then I remembered that one of my ex-students was working on the personal staff of the ex-Prime Minister and then Leader of the Opposition, A. B. Vajjpayee. We did not have an appointment. I asked the ex-student to find out if Atalji would meet us if we drop in unscheduled.
Vajpayee not only agreed and spent time with the boys and girls, some of them later journalists, but treated them to tea, asnwered their questions and made them proud to have wanted to become journalists – the profession he belonged to.
At the end, responding to a student who remembered him as a poet, he even recited one of his poems. A journalist by calling and a politician with a purpose, he was a poet at heart. And he distinguished himself in all these fields.
In sharp contrast to the present day politics of hatred, when Congress leaders vie with each other in abusing an belittling (neech aadmi, chairwala, hahhaha) Prime Minister Narendra Modi — one of Vajyapee’s discoveries — the late leader praised Indira Gandhi, when she liberated Bangladesh, as an incarnation of Goddess Durga.
That was Atalji. At a time when the Indian media, bereft of credibility, ethcs and social commitment, are seen at their lowest-ever level, he makes me (and many journbalists of yester-years) proud that thety belong to the profession of the former editor of Rashtra Dharma, Swaraj (Gwalior) and Panchajanya, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Scores of readers criticised the Patel community (Patidars) for raising ₹150 crores in just three hours, to erect one more community temple in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad city. And Patels, who own most of the motels in the USA, have huge properties abroad and are a dominant community, are fighting for reservations and a backward tag.
The Congress is backing the agitation just to embarrass Narendra Modi as he is from Gujarat.
It prompted my blog calling for a moratorium on building of new temples, churches and mosques till the country has a society where no one goes hungry, there are no more homeless people and no one dies for lack of medical aid.
Iskcon (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) popularly known as Hare Krishna movement, has built Krishna temples all over India and abroad costing millions of rupees each. Every one of them is a tourist attraction and has thousands visiting them every day.
Having a large number of foreigners as devotees, Iscon has also started an organisation, Akshaya Patra, which has huge facilities with machines to cook hygeienically food for lakhs of school children.
A recent post (picture above) said the government has asked the Hare Krishna movement to feed the poor at centres run by the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation.
Bangalore Iskcon Akshaya Patra has been such a resounding success that the government almost handed over the school mid-day meal scheme to it.
Akshaya Patra has scores of vehicles transporting the meals to the schools with departures so timed as to ensure hot food reaches the children in time, irrespective of their religion or caste. Watching the scheme run smoothly is a great experience.
There are temples in India which get cores of rupees as offerings. Why not make it compulsory for them to spend most of it for providing shelter for the homeless, free meals for the hungry and world-class medical facilities? Or build rural schools or toilets?
Tirupati is reputed to have crossed the Vatican in its wealth. Puttaparthi Satya Sai Baba Prshantinilayam too has huge resources. True Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) and the Satya Sai Ashram have some welfare schemes, especially the latter which runs some excellent hospitals and educational institutions. But a major part of the wealth of TTD and other temples gies to rituals and spreading religion.
Money pours into temples, but little comes in for building schools or poor homes.
Churches receive huge funding from prosperous Western countries and mosques from Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia – but only for converting more people to their religions. To suit their ends they have also back politics in states like Kerala.
Proselitising may be their compulsion and their present methods are better than than crusades and inquisition of Christianity and Islam’s Jehad against kaafirs, but at least Hinduism, with no such goals, should live up to its slogan that Manava seva (service of humans) is the same as Madhavaseva (service of God).
On the other hand, Hindu godmen have amassed more wealth and got involved in more criminal cases than any corrupt politician,businessman or official.
It is unfortunate that the present BJP-led coalition has to depend on fringe elements in Hinduism which believe in Santana Dharma and ritualism. The groups will oppose a government bid to make temples spend for the poor as other religions are not subjected to such restrictions.
They should learn from Sikhs whose Gurudwaras run langars which feed all. And they should remember that it was C. Rajagopalacari (CR as he was known) heading Madras presidency, which included all southern states, and not a BJP government, which brought all big Hindu temples under the government’s endowments department in South India.
A NEWS ITEM headlined “Patidars pledge Rs 150 crore in 3 hours for temple in Ahmedabad” drew scores of comments opposing such lavish spend when there was so much poverty and suffering in the world, especially by a community agitating to get labelled as poor and backward.
True, temples, mosques and churches did contribute to the growth of art, architecture and craftsmanship. But, it appears that their contribution to the growth of higher human values and spiritually is, unfortunately, not proportionate. Building them may contribute to employment, but in the past they were the products more of slavery, exploitation or forced labour.
Human race still faces the problems of wars, killing, extreme cruelty and deliberate deprivation, which would have been eliminated had spiritual and mental growth of human race kept pace with that of science and technology.
Instead, technology led to making of deadlier weapons of mass destruction and greater human suffering. Many terrorists of today have high technical skills and so called ‘education’.
And this when ALL religions preach compassion, benevolence, kindness and other acclaimed virtues so sadly absent now. Only religions believing in proseletisation through crusades or Jehad dominate the world.
Fringe elements of even a religion that sought Vasudhaiva kutumbajam (world as one family) preach violence.
It is time an embargo is imposed on building more temples, mosques and churches. Man should focus more on urgent issues like disarmament, climate change or disease eradication.
As far back as the 1950s, Socialus leader Dr Ram Manohar Lohia wrote (‘Intervel inPolitics’) that what Benaras (now Vanarasi) needed was not one more temple (as was being planned then) but a drive to clean the sacred Ganga.
Over 50 years later, that has not been done yet. And more temples, churches and mosques are coming up.
“YOU CALL ME PAPPU but I don’t hate you,” Congress chief Rahul Gandhi is said to have told Prime Minister Modi yesterday during the ‘no confidence’ motion in Lok Sabha which his party spearheaded.
He did that after walking up to the PM from the Opposition benches and hugging him.
A very noble act indeed, reinforcing the theory that political differences should not degenerate into personal enmity – a sentiment I reiterated in a blog weeks ago.
Then he gave himself away by facing the House and winking. This was one more case of the Congress self-goals. The wicked wink not only proved that the hug was NOT an act of affection or love, but a childlike statement that he meant the opposite.
Children often cross their fingers or wink when they say the opposite of what they mean. So he not only said he was Pappu but also proved he was childish.
The act, which drew a reprimand from the motherly Speaker of Lok Sabha, amounts to a self-goal as it exposes his hatred and childishness.
And it also raises a question: When did Modi call him Pappu? I don’t recall a single speech in which the PM did that or spoke of anything other than political differences. In fact he never failed to greet Rahul and his mother Sonia on their birthdays. He congratulated the party when it won in Karnataka.
If anyone heard him call Rahul Pappu in public, please say when and where, with a video as proof.
If Rahul did get called Pappu by many it was because of his own statements and acts like visits to Bangkok (known more for sex tourism) for meditation, talking of a potato making machine or not knowing rudiments of farming and now admitting publicly that he is known as Pappu.
Making self-goals appears to be the primary qualification for being in Congress: calling Modi a chaiwala, asking Pakistan tohelp remove him, saying a video by a staffer cost 30 ‘lambs’ (lakhs), or presuming that he meant Renuka Choudary laughed like Surphanaka in Ramayana when, in fact, he did not say it at all. Many more can be listed.
Rahul Gandhi, with all these acts, did prove that he would certainly be the Prime Minister soon, perhaps in 2019.