enjoying the foliage

Archive for August 2008

“Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice.” – Thoreau

<!– @page { size: 8.5in 11in; margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } –>

So at the end of the Olympic closing ceremony the handover to London was made. Now, generally speaking I care very little about sports, but what was really interesting was that their little girl-representative of choice was some brown kid. It’s particularly what I’ve come to enjoy about watching reruns of cricket games that are held in England – fans of both sides could very much be from anywhere. Some announcer made the statement after a particularly excellent hit that ‘class is class, no matter what uniform’ and that seems to be a statement so sorely lacking here.

While watching the 3rd ODI in the 5-game series between India and Sri Lanka, the latter were getting hammered. Captain Jayawardene came up to bat for the Sri Lankans, and put forth an extremely valiant effort to make what would obviously be a loss a respectable loss at least. My sister and I rapidly wound up rooting for the guy to score a hundred, because he’d been up there slogging away for so long, but my aunt and uncle were very much hoping every strike would be caught out, even though it was clear that even if he did score a century there were simply not enough balls left to make a run for the win.

In any case, the thing that came across so repeatedly here is that so many people are bound up in petty hero-worship and inane patriotic mutterings. This is the same country where more than 50 bloody percent of the populace don’t have safe drinking water. How about instead of state governments that run area that Bhindra isn’t from spend money on that rather than giving the wealthy scion of an industrialist clan a bunch of extra cash? Who, it should be noted, already had the cash to spend training in other countries? I don’t want to knock the guy – he won a gold and that’s good on him, but it’s pretty much irrelevant to the five youths who took poison to protest against some minister being sacked from their state legilature.

Which brings me to the next point – this maha world’s largest secular democracy business. Sure it’s true, but it’s definitely a case of an obstacle-filled road an an unequal start. The number of close relatives I’ve run into who’ll prattle on about the greatness of the system but who couldn’t be bothered to register themselves as voters is ridiculous.

On the flipside, there are some extremely cool relatives – particularly the ones in the 40-55 age range, who seem to be young enough to be cynical but old enough to not be fanatical about it. I suppose they would have been born in the stage right after the euphoria of independence was starting to wear a bit thin on the separatists and the poor and the ill-treated and the excluded and so on. Lots of funny stories coming from there. Speaking of funny stories, can anyone imagine a Dalton McGuinty fanclub? I mean, I know of the political groups on facebook and the like, but an honest to goodness fanclub? Nevermind McGuinty, one of the two I read about here is more like a Mike Harris fanclub.

To go with the cool relatives, there are cool people too. It’d be a mistake to make generalisations about a country with over a billion citizens, around 1642 dialects and languages, and at least two distinct civilisations dating back over 2000 years. One thing that’s nice about Mysore this time is I see a lot more people who are obviously immigrants – many presumably from the Northeast, but really in general. It also seems that I’ve come across fewer beggars and drastically ill, but that might be incidental.

But really, we’re talking about a country in which very different societies exist alongside and between each other. The Barristas and Coffee Days compared to the Mukundas are far more drastically distanced than Starbucks and Second Cup compared to the Henry’s. And they’ve got their very own Rockefeller myth to drive them on with vain hopes – the son of the selff made billionaire has commissioned a 27-foor condominium building for private use. That says nothing about the glory of the New India, it just shows off the putrid underbelly of self-centredness that’s common everywhere.

I think I would be much more okay with the whole situation if it didn’t exude this air of tacit disapproval for its ‘wayward’ children. NRIs, PIOs – something’s wrong with the lot of them. People not singing and tearing up every time they see the flag? Lynching’s too good for that lot!

I really think that the Boondocks episode with MLK, Jr. could translate directly with Ghandi, or even Nehru for that matter. Satyagraha and respect for all labour? Nope. Modernisation and harnessing the intellect? Only a very few.

Still and all, I think it’d be unfair to cast any sort of final judgement. And there are some nice things too. The food has been, for the most part, both superb and varied. I think it’s very easy for those of us in our non-dense and immigrant-oriented nations to overlook just how very dissimilar most of India is. After all, there were over 400 minor states. This thing that’s India today just happens to be a collection of them that was made distinct from other collections of them. It should be noted that the British – who in all likelihood spurred the development of a national conscious – as ridiculous as any other national consciousness – considered their India to consist of everything from the eastern edge of Burma to the western edge of Pakistan, and I believe west of that as well, and from the north of both those to the southern tip of Sri Lanka. That the area came to become the nations we have today is probably at least in some measure rather random. But yes, dissimilar – the problems a country like India has in terms of pluralism are largely incomparable to those of, say, the USA, simply because in the former case that multitude of cultures has just simply been there for centuries if not a couple of millenia. There was never a chance at a fresh start, and no single culture ever achieved dominance over the rest as happened across the Himalayas.

Interesting times are ahead, friends.

So I have lots of things to say about being in old country, but what I feel like mentioning briefly right now is the matrimonials section of one of the large papers here.

Yes, yes, it’s a meatmarket, and totally plays to the stereotype. It’s pretty ridiculous. Kind of comical. What is deeply, deeply, interesting however, is how much sheer diversity there is. It’s almost a billion people so there must be, of course. But how many times do you read of a 30 year old female Muslim officer in the Indian military?

I tell you, personal ads are a great way to keep one’s finger on the pulse of society.


Coming back from where a sloppy and ill-composed picture taken any random place while bouncing around on horseback comes out like this, it’s hard to figure out whether I’m dreaming that I’m back in civilization, or whether the dream was the jungle foray.