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By Anjum Altaf I am reading Yehudi Menuhin’s autobiography (Unfinished Journey) and sharing with readers what appeals to me. These thoughts on nationalism I feel are particularly meaningful for South Asians. As a musician, well aware that art must have local roots if it is to convey universal meaning, I view evidences of cultural difference, even the perhaps insignificant ones I have cited, with approval as well as interest. The yearning to preserve a distinctive culture which sets the Basque against Madrid, the Scot against Westminster, the American Indian against Washington (however vastly these examples differ in degree), wins my sympathy. Undeniably the aspiration is legitimate and worthy. But is it possible, given human nature, to separate good from bad, the wish for cultural autonomy from the wish to impose one’s way of life on one’s neighbours?
It is sad that the history we are taught in our countries is so one-dimensional that even the thought that the 'Other' might be semi-intelligent (let alone great) makes people catatonic. The predictable reaction is either to impugn the motives of the writer or to find selective evidence to prove that the real blame rests entirely on the ‘Other.’ The alternative of sifting through the arguments on their merits remains alien, unacceptable, impossible, or just too tiresome. The reason Jaswant Singh’s book has made such a splash is because he is a front ranking politician with a very high reputation for integrity (for which, read Strobe Talbott's Engaging India) and belongs to the BJP, all of which make the story impossible to ignore. Otherwise, this is an argument that has been made before and forgotten.
By Anjum Altaf What is the difference between the yarmulke and the burqa besides the fact that one is minimally small and the other is maximally large? By now the controversy over the burqa is well known. In France, President Sarkozy has said: “The burqa is not a religious sign. It is a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement... It will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic…. In our country we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity.” In Cairo, President Obama has said: “I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal…. and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice.”
The South Asian Idea began in the very last days of 2007 and January 2008 was its first full month in existence. I had intended it to be one-year pilot. The fact that it is still around means that, on balance, I feel optimistic about its utility. This post is an attempt to take stock of the successes and the failures and to chart out a vision for the future. First, I think we got the basic model right. Given the gaping holes in the social science education of most of us, we needed a mechanism to start repairing the damage. But given the limitations of our comprehension, themselves a function of our imbalanced education, this could not have been achieved by making available expert opinion on any subject – we would have been setting ourselves up against Wikipedia which was freely available to all. We opted for a different model:  original content structured around issues of local interest and designed to be conversation starters – the learning, if any, was supposed to occur during the ensuing conversations as we argued with each other
China has a problem in Tibet. What can South Asians learn from it? A lot, if we want and can keep our prejudices out of the way. Reflect on the following: There is no enemy country intervening in Tibet. There are no militants infiltrating from across international borders into Tibet. There are no Muslims in Tibet. There are no rogue leaders in Tibet. China has poured immense amount of development money into Tibet. And yet, there is a problem in Tibet. Why? Is it because Tibetans are ignorant, ungrateful and unaware of what is good for them?
Here we have another example of the ability of Ghalib to couch a very modern thought in a very traditional idiom while simultaneously subverting the intent of the tradition: go vaaN nahiiN pah vaaN ke nikaale hue to haiN kaabe se in butoN ko bhii nisbat hai duur ki though they are not there, still that is where they were expelled from these idols too have a distant kinship with the ka’bah This is modern evolutionary biology – whatever our differences, we are descended from a common gene.

By Anjum Altaf Religion is so central to life that its impact on society needs to be studied quite independently of the beliefs of the analyst. Religion has both individual and collective dimensions. At the individual level, it can provide a sense of meaning and predictability and...

By Viswam Kumar When I look back to see what shaped me - I can see how much I am shaped by serendipitous circumstances and encounters with people. Mental Discipline is perhaps the foundational trait behind all my meager achievements. I have the discipline required in focusing, concentrating and working hard to achieve a goal. This goal can be anything from finishing a project at work successfully to sticking with a fitness regime. This discipline has been a result of the grooming from my parents. They have always spoken highly about hard work and discipline and extolled these virtues. Over time, I have learnt that Discipline is something that adds to the quality of life, even if it is not materially rewarding - which was the initial motive for adopting discipline. I have learnt that it can give the courage needed to pursue goals that seem difficult to others. This foundational quality has enabled me to diligently pursue interests that have also contributed to shaping my life.
A Pakistani journalist has recorded his observations from a visit to Sri Lanka. He has asked a lot of questions but not provided too many answers; and some of the answers can be debated. I am extracting parts of the article that are of interest to us and hoping that readers would enrich the arguments and fill in the gaps. On the regional bond: Everything told me this was still South Asia, that Colombo was not very different from Lahore, that somehow our regional bond held. Yet, something was very different, and I was struggling to pinpoint it. Note: Why do we feel this regional bond in Colombo but not in Bangkok or Teheran?