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Ambedkar, Governance, India, Politics / 26.07.2008

Let us put the big question on the table. Modern democracy as a form of governance has evolved following the emergence of the belief that “all men are created equal.”  How do we look at Indian democracy in this context? Do Indians believe today that all men are created equal? If not, how does it affect the nature of democracy in India? In the West it took social revolutions to force the acceptance that all men were created equal. So the sequence of events was the following: the emergence of a realization that all men should be equal; a social revolution overthrowing the hierarchical aristocratic order to force the recognition of that equality; the gradual emergence of representative governance (the franchise was extended very slowly with women becoming “equal” much later than men) as the form of governance most compatible with a society comprised of individuals equal...

Ambedkar, Democracy/Governance, India, Modernity, Politics / 26.07.2008

Let us put the big question on the table. Modern democracy as a form of governance has evolved following the emergence of the belief that “all men are created equal.”  How do we look at Indian democracy in this context? Do Indians believe today that all men are created equal? If not, how does it affect the nature of democracy in India? In the West it took social revolutions to force the acceptance that all men were created equal. So the sequence of events was the following: the emergence of a realization that all men should be equal; a social revolution overthrowing the hierarchical aristocratic order to force the recognition of that equality; the gradual emergence of representative governance (the franchise was extended very slowly with women becoming “equal” much later than men) as the form of governance most compatible with a society comprised of individuals equal...

Ghalib / 25.07.2008

One thing sometimes does lead to another. Our post on Milton and Ghalib has culminated in a partnership with the blog Mehr-i-Niimroz (the noonday sun). Every week or so we will together select a couplet from Ghalib: Mehr-i-Niimroz will provide a translation and commentary; The South Asian Idea will use the couplet to pose questions and start a discussion. The objective will be to explore how much we can learn from Ghalib about the world we live in. We launched this series with the following couplet: vafaadaarii ba shart-e-ustuvaarii asl-e-iimaaN hai marey butkhaane meN to kaabe meN gaaRho barahmin ko Faithfulness, as long as it is firm, is the essence/root of religion/faith If he dies in the temple (idol-house) bury the Brahmin in the Ka’ba The commentary is HERE and the questions HERE. This week’s couplet is the following (note the common word vafaadaarii – faithfulness): nahiiN kuchh subbha-o zunnaar ke phanday meN...

Novel / 25.07.2008

Chapter 6         The Terrain of Interpretation  6.1 In September, Harold packed his bags for Grindelwald and India. He’d failed to accomplish much over the summer, though Harold was by now better acquainted with the literature surrounding the Sahityashastra. Asha had agreed to help. After Ajit’s death, it was evident that they weren’t faced with mere muggings and accidents. A chain of three closely linked deaths was no coincidence. Even the police’s occasional doubts about the matter were now quelled, vindicating Harold’s initial claims. Bits and scraps of insights into Meghnad’s project and the enigma of the Sahityashastra spurred Harold and Asha on. Among other things, Harold packed two pairs of white cotton kurta pajamas for India. He looked forward to wearing them. There was also his only Nehru jacket, in black raw silk. For Grindelwald, he folded some sweaters and a parka. He also included a couple of...

Leadership, Politics / 24.07.2008

Ardeshir Cowasjee is the doyen of Pakistani opinion-makers having been around forever as the leading light of Dawn. For many years now, with great regularity, Mr. Cowasjee has been making a seemingly provocative statement on behalf of Mr. Jinnah. For some reason, this statement has sparked no discussion whatsoever. Here is one version of the statement as expressed in his column of May 25, 2008: “That man of great perception (there were no others to follow him) our founder and maker, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, once prophesied shortly after the making of his country, realising the calibre of men and women around and about him, that each successive government of Pakistan would be worse than its preceding one. This prediction, made 60 years ago, has been eerily correct, and continues to be so.” Every time I have read this statement I have been plagued with doubts. Does Mr. Cowasjee...

Novel / 22.07.2008

Chapter 5            The Idea of the Postmodern 5.1 The room—one of the many informal meeting areas in the offices of ZEC, a Palo Alto software company—was a long and narrow rectangle. Its new carpet gave the place a buoyant look. The wide windows let in washes of light. It was a setting that conveyed a sense of contrasting shades and proportions, of a binary interior that matched the binary computer-related work that was usually carried out in it. Four men were gathered at a large round table at one end. It was lunchtime on Tuesday the 29th of June, and three of the men had brought bread and tins of vegetables with them. Kamal viewed the room smugly. Ashok, Mohan, and Kiran were his products, engineers, like him, but ten years younger. He had spent the last year pouring various ideas into their ears. Ashok had in fact...

Democracy/Governance, Governance, India, Politics / 20.07.2008

The BBC is doing a fine job in India reporting events that compel readers to think about the broader implications of the story. We had earlier picked up a story about the threat by purists to mixed religious communities. The post (Hindu-Muslim or Muslim-Hindu?) has become quite popular on the blog suggesting that readers enjoy being engaged by challenging questions. Now the BBC has reported on the goings-on preceding the July 22 vote of confidence in the Indian parliament. This too raises some interesting questions about the nature of democracy in India. The story itself states very clearly: “When India is described as 'the world's biggest democracy' it remains strictly true.” A story like this in Pakistan would most likely have found the reporter on the first plane out of the country. So there is no doubt that in relative terms governance in India has a much better...

Democracy/Governance, India, Politics / 20.07.2008

The BBC is doing a fine job in India reporting events that compel readers to think about the broader implications of the story. We had earlier picked up a story about the threat by purists to mixed religious communities. The post (Hindu-Muslim or Muslim-Hindu?) has become quite popular on the blog suggesting that readers enjoy being engaged by challenging questions. Now the BBC has reported on the goings-on preceding the July 22 vote of confidence in the Indian parliament. This too raises some interesting questions about the nature of democracy in India. The story itself states very clearly: “When India is described as 'the world's biggest democracy' it remains strictly true.” A story like this in Pakistan would most likely have found the reporter on the first plane out of the country. So there is no doubt that in relative terms governance in India has a much better...

Novel / 20.07.2008

Chapter 4            A New Form of Life  4.1 Cambridge looked graceful in the late afternoon as sunlight streaked across the snow, creating bands of light and dark. Swathed in parkas, pedestrians on Massachusetts Avenue walked warily to avoid puddles. It wasn’t windy, but it was cold, a kind of bracing, clean cold that stung your ears, stretched your skin, and made your nose run. The whoosh of cars interrupted the stillness, leaving tracks in the slush. The two great universities of the world, MIT and Harvard, stood resplendent in the light, a mile apart, at either end of the street. It was said that at MIT you learned more and more about less and less until you knew everything about nothing. At Harvard, on the other hand, you learned less and less about more and more until you knew nothing about everything—the tragicomic, un-Faustian constraints on knowledge in...