21 December 2011
18 December 2011
- Though religion was a unifying factor, language and culture were divisive factors. The Bengalis in East Pakistan had greater affinity to the Hindu Bengalis of India than fellow Muslims in Pakistan. Pakistan failed to play the unifying card and alienated Bengalis by attempting to make Urdu spoken in West Pakistan as the national language. The alienation was so strong that in a provincial election, Muslim League, the national party won just 9 out of 304 seats!
- Bengalis did not have a role in national politics despite constituting 55% of Pakistan’s population. People from Punjab and Sindh in the western half dominated national politics. (Pakistan’s politics did not provide a role for people in the western half either; it was ruled by military dictatorship or by a sham democracy that did not hold one general election at national level until 1970!).
- Bengalis did not have a role in provincial government either. Most of the top jobs in civil service went to people originating from West Pakistan.
- Bengalis had a different view on international relations. Bengalis depended upon trade with India and nursed no animosity against India. (When Mujib was egged by GWC to accept Chinese friendship, Mujib retorted: “Friendship against whom? I have no dispute with India. Why should I need China’s help and assistance?”) National leadership, dominated by the western half, nursed an animosity against India because of its stronger affinity to Kashmir. GWC concedes in his book that “Pakistan’s hands were not clean in Kashmir or in the Mizo unrest in Assam”.
- Bengalis did not enjoy a fair share of public revenue, foreign aid or government jobs. Most of these went to West Pakistan. (To be fair, most of the revenue/aid went to the army; not West Pakistan; however that is a technical detail for the average Bengali).
- The Bengalis did not have their fair share of economic growth as a result. In 1960 West’s GDP was 32% bigger than East’s. In 1970, West’s GDP was 61% bigger than East’s.
- Politicians from West Pakistan were not willing to let power go to Bengalis.
- Mujib-ur-Rahman’s intentions were not clear. Though he proposed a six point agenda demanding provincial autonomy, and was not talking of secession there was widespread suspicion that his real intent was secession.
Posted by T R Santhanakrishnan at 7:05 PM
11 December 2011
This 1993 Merchant Ivory movie (of course scripted by Ruth Jhabvala) is an excellent epitome of the "mamihlapinatapai" feeling. The movie is based on Kazuo Ishiguro's book about the ambiguous relationship between a stoic perfectionist English butler (Anthony Hopkins) and a warm housekeeper (Emma Thompson). One can sense the love between them; their reluctance to express it first; and their keen desire that the other should express first. The housekeeper leaves to marry someone else. Fortune offers another chance twenty years later only to be lost again.
Anthony Hopkins' Mr Stevens is the perfect butler a master could hope for. He runs the house with dedication and commitment; is laconic and polite with his master and with his staff. He manages everything for his master and yet "vanishes into the wall paper" even as leaders of the era visit his master's house to architect a European unity between the first and the second world war. He sees nothing; hears nothing and talks nothing and offers no opinion even when the house guests seek his opinion on worldly issues. Quite a contrast to Isaac Asimov's Henry (the butler serving the Black Widowers) who "engages" with impressive intelligence in the affairs of his guests.
Emma Thompson's Miss Kenton is a polite and proper lady. She is slightly warmer than Stevens; slightly less repressed and very subtle in expressing her emotions (be it love or be it anger). She lets her emotions get through on two occasions: one, when she teases Stevens by enquiring whether he is reading a scandalous book that could hurt her character; another when she cries in her room after announcing her decision to marry Tom. On both occasions, Stevens "misses the bus" in understanding and reciprocating the feelings.
You feel like intervening into the movie to break the ice. That is the feeling Kazuo Ishiguro, Ruth Jhabvala, Ismail Merchant and James Ivory wanted you to be left with.
I would rather regret doing something than regret not having done something. Excellent movie.
Posted by T R Santhanakrishnan at 4:55 AM
27 November 2011
- Yes, he tampered balls. His excuse: everyone did it and winning is important. Not cricket.
- Yes, he partied a lot. Yes, there were girls. No he did not rape.
- No, he did not fake injuries. He genuinely suffered. His commitment to play bearing his pain with fortitude has not been appreciated.
- No, Pakistan cricket administration was not supportive. One was not assured of one’s place in the team unless the non-playing administrators were pampered.
- Yes, the team knitted well during good days. No, the team did not knit well during bad days. On balance, there was more internal strife and hostility than esprit de corps.
- Yes, there was match fixing. He did not indulge in one though he was approached.
Posted by T R Santhanakrishnan at 6:57 PM
16 September 2011
Posted by T R Santhanakrishnan at 9:01 AM
13 June 2011
Inder Gujral, Prime Minister of India, top diplomat prior to that and an intellectual surprises us twice: One, Gujral expresses his views in a refreshingly honest way; does not hold back. Two, Gujral stays away from discussing any substantive issue India faced/faces.
Gujral's candid biography provides an insider view of the main actors and the games they played in Indian politics for 33 years between 1966 and 1999:
1. Indira Gandhi, to Gujral, cannot be counted upon. Gujral (along with Dinesh Singh and Uma Shankar Dixit) was part of the coterie that helped Indira Gandhi become PM in 1966. Yet she dumped them quite quickly. Gujral had to “fight” to get a ministerial birth in her 1967 administration.
2. Indira Gandhi, to Gujral, was a split and complex personality. Gujral says "She could be mean, petty and vicious; and large hearted, gracious and charming”
3. Indira’s ethics, to Gujral, is suspect. Her Yoga Guru Dhirendra Brahmachari applied pressure on Gujral to get a prime property in Delhi from the Government. Gujral declined. Indira Gandhi demoted Gujral and got the land transferred to Brahmachari. Additionally, Gujral thinks the untimely death of L N Mishra ("the man who knew too much") in a bomb blast raised a few suspicions.
4. Indira Gandhi’s suspension of democracy in India in 1975 was, to Gujral, her worst blunder. “Small men with small minds captured power, and well equipped demolition squads were destroying democratic institutions and suppress or even get rid of Individuals with moral stature and ethical values”. The misadventure was traceable to her affection for son Sanjay Gandhi, unwise advisers such as P N Haksar and sycophants such as N D Tiwari and Shyama Charan Shukla. Soviet Union’s Nikolai M Pegoy regretted to Gujral that “Indira Gandhi must understand that she is a leader first and a mother second”. Her reinvigoration of democracy by calling for elections was because of a misjudgment that she had “smothered opposition and Sanjay has been accepted by a prostrate electorate”. As late as 1984, Pranab Mukherjee and Vasant Sathe in Indira’s cabinet were working on amending the Constitution to a Presidential system with strong limits on the role of opposition!
5. Indira Gandhi’s ordering troops into the Golden Temple was, to Gujral, her second biggest blunder. Congressmen, under Indira Gandhi, created Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale to play one faction against another for electoral purposes; in the end Bhindranwale went out of control. Indira paid with her life. Her son Rajiv’s era began with an anti-Sikh riot that haunts the nation even today.
6. Gujral's deposition to Shah Commission investigating Emergency excesses was a tussle between loyalty and honesty. Arun Shourie best described it as “Gujral trying to please both his present and past masters”.
7. President Sanjiva Reddy, in a visit to Soviet Union (during the days Gujral was India’s diplomat in Moscow), was not keen on discussing any political or economic issue with Soviet leaders. He was keen to take his family out shopping!
8. Ramakrishna Hegde, Chandrasekar and V P Singh deserve credit, according to Gujral, for the formation of Janata Dal in 1988. Hegde lost his parity because of (as Gujral so nicely articulates) “his proclivity for sybaritic comfort and affinity for glitter and glamour” ruptured his image!
9. V P Singh, to Gujral, was “stubborn in not heeding the advice of his colleagues and indecisive till a situation went out of control; he easily played into the hands of sectarian leaders who alienated him from his support base and the media”. Singh’s support to expand quota of “other” backward castes in Government jobs from 22% to 49% (based on recommendations of Mandal Commission) was one such incident that led to the fall of the government within a year.
10. Chandrasekar formed his government in Nov 1990 (with unreliable support from Congress party) that made “the Hindujas, the Ambanis and the Birlas jubilant”. Gujral declined to join Chandrasekar’s cabinet. The Government did not last long.
11. Janata Dal which lost the 1991 elections to Narasimha Rao was dysfunctional; state bosses without any moral compunction gained power over national leaders. Gujral contested this election from Bihar and was shocked to get an offer for “polling booth services” to ensure victory for a price of Rs 150,000 and 50 bullets! Gujral declined. Nor was Gujral impressed by V P Singh asking Gujral to not contest elections and look after a “large sum donated by an unnamed source” to Janata Dal. He declined that offer too.
12. The United Front, a coalition led by dark horse candidate Deve Gowda was beset by unreliable support from Congress party. During this period, Lalu Prasad Yadav loses his seat in Bihar State Legislature thanks to a “fodder scam scandal”. Gujral seems to have helped Lalu to run the state by proxy by helping Lalu’s wife succeed him as CM!
Gujral became Prime Minister in 1997 when Sitaram Kesri (“the old man in a hurry”) withdrew Congress support to Deve Gowda). However, within a short period, Gujral faced significant pressure from Congress party to drop coalition partner DMK from Government (because of allegations against them in Jain Commission investigation of Rajiv Gandhi assassination). Gujral refused to oblige and preferred to resign; in a rare display of timber in Indian politics.
The most shocking (but not surprising) revelation: Karunanidhi sent Minister Aladi Aruna to pressurize Gujral to appoint a preferred candidate as the head of Chennai's port (a lucrative job if one is corrupt) but told the public in TN that the trip was to lobby for TN interests in Kaveri river water dispute between TN and Karnataka! The shock is not about corruption in DMK; the shock is about trivialisation of the fortune of TN farmers!
Gujral may not have intended it; but ends up highlighting the darker side of Indian politicians quite vividly.
Posted by T R Santhanakrishnan at 12:53 AM
12 April 2011
A sixer that barely escaped a catch. A century. A young girl in love. A woman who is not inhibited. A cricketer who can hit. A man who is not afraid to be shy and embarrassed. Cadbury daily milk chocolate. Seven things that create the "joie de vivere" mood.
Yes. It is official. This is my favorite ad.
Posted by T R Santhanakrishnan at 5:09 AM
19 March 2011
This book by UK politician Patrick French is junk.
One, the author says India's independence movement would not have worked under Stalin's Russia since Gandhi/Nehru would have been summarily executed. By this logic, Britain would not have had magna carta if Attila the Hun was its King at Runnymede!
Two, the author says that a few "volunteers" and not Pakistan Army invaded Kashmir in 1948. Is this still in dispute? Really? So passe.
Unfortunately I bought Patrick French's 2010 book on India last week; allegedly a history of a billion people. Now, am apprehensive. What is the focus this time? Two billion arm pits?
Posted by T R Santhanakrishnan at 3:07 AM
13 March 2011
Pakistan is an idea that was born out of pride in the past and fear of the future; it would neither stabilize nor disintegrate but remain in its current toxic state says M J Akbar, renown author and newsmagazine editor in his book tracing the fascinating story of the birth and growth of Pakistan.
Akbar quotes Maulana Abul Kalam Azad from an interview given to a Lahore magazine in 1946: "After the initial euphoria dies down, divisive pressures would become assertive in Pakistan; the two wings will separate; and regional identities, fueled by outside interference, will result in balkanization. Incompetent political leadership will pave way for military rule; neo rich will loot national wealth and Pakistan will end up being controlled by international conspirators". Quiet a prescient man, Azad was.
What gave rise to Pakistan? Muslim pride and Muslim fear.
The pride of the Indian Muslim is justified. Muslims wielded power in India for 665 years from 1192 to 1857 AD. Though the rulers were Muslim, it was not an Islamic rule. Both the Delhi Sultans and the Moghuls (except an odd Aurangazeb) kept their faith away from statecraft and co-opted Hindu nobility and warriors to add depth and sustainability to their rule. The Muslim population in India too was significantly influenced by the tolerant and compassionate Sufi philosophy.
The fear set in with the gradual weakening and eventual decline of Moghul empire.
Muslim response to this fear of insecurity differed: the Deoband Madrassa, the Barelvis and the Jamat-i-Islami wanted the British out and were willing to live in peace with Hindus in a untied India; the Aligarh Muslim University set up by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan sought to co-operate with the British to carve out special treatment for Muslims including special electorates in provincial and central legislatures.
Muslim politics had five swivel moments eventually leading to the birth of Pakistan:
One, in 1916 Muslims under Jinnah leadership secured Congress agreement for separate electorates (and a united fight against the British)
Two, in 1919 Muslims were outraged by British taking away Islam’s holy mosques from the Ottoman caliph, trusted Gandhi to lead the jihad against the British (only to be disillusioned by Gandhi’s abandonment of the Khilafat movement after a violent incident in Chauri Chaura).
Three, in 1927 Jinnah failed to bridge the gap with Congress when an opportunity arose to draft a Constitution for India. After this the British kept deepening the wedge between Hindus and Muslims.
Four, in 1937 Muslim fear of Hindu domination arose after a provincial election when the victorious Congress declined to form a coalition with the defeated Muslim League. Jinnah swore to convert the dispersed provincial identities and regional leaderships into a “national minority”.
Five, in 1946 Muslims were disappointed at Congress, fearful of balkanization, reversing its decision to adopt a federal structure constitution for a united India. This resulted in partition and the birth of Pakistan unavoidable and in the best interest of everyone.
Post partition, Pakistan lived up to Azad’s predictions.
The ruling class co-opted faith into politics; sabotaged weak attempts at land reform; and left people in poverty. Jinnah’s dream of a secular state with muslim majority was ignored. Instead, as dreamt by Maulana Maudidi, theocratic urges were patched into legislative framework.
The emergence of Pakistan as an Islamic state was gradual. In 1949 the Constitutional Assembly subjected the young state to principles of Islamic faith. In 1956 the new Constitution made the country an Islamic republic. In 1962 General Ayub Khan added the Islamiyat curriculum that distorted history glorifying Arab invaders and identifying Pakistan with the invaders. In 1973/74 Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto introduced a new constitution that reaffirmed Pakistan as an Islamic republic; reserved President and PM positions to Muslims, reinforced teaching Islamiyat in schools, set up an initiative to ensure every law was in harmony with the faith; paid government salaries to imams of mosques; moved weekends to Fridays; banned night clubs, gambling and liquor; triggered movement to Sharia and declared Ahmadiyas as non-Muslims although none of this eventually won him popular support. In 1977-85 General Zia completed Islamisation process. He passed Hudood laws; imposed Zakat and made blasphemy a crime punishable with death. Finally a new constitution was adopted in 1985 that enshrined supremacy for Islam in the governance of Pakistan.
Pakistan went on to become a frontline warrior state for Islam. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto held the first Islamic summit in 1974 setting up the Organization of Islamic States; started a nuclear program that had tacit funding and support from Arab states; nurtured and funded Burhanuddin Rabani’s mujahideen in Afghanistan as early as 1972. Zia funded/supported jihadi warriors against Soviet rule in Afghanistan and Indian rule in Kashmir. Musharraf's "running with the hare and hunting with the hound" policy turned the jihadists against Pakistan.
The erosion of political framework was also gradual: In 1953 Governor General Ghulam Mohammed dismissed an elected government; installed a puppet government; and dismissed the puppet government too. An obliging Chief Justice Munir upheld Ghulam’s actions by inventing the dubious “doctrine of necessity” that would eventually destroy Pakistan’s democracy. In 1956 President Iskander Mirza (an erstwhile General) weakened civil government by dismissing elected governments four times in 30 months with power shifting slowly and firmly to the army. In 1958 General Ayub Khan set up the first military rule. In 1974 Bhutto turned to army to maintain law and order. General Zia-ul-Haq declined to help; set up the second military rule and moved Bhutto to prison/death. In 1999 Pervez Musharraf removed Nawaz Sharif and set up the third military coup and dictatorship. Pakistan alternated between military dictatorships and corrupt civil governments.
End result: Pakistan became a military dictatorship financed by US (and Saudi Arabia) administering a theology based law, pursuing terrorism as a state policy, in possession of a nuclear device, and an infrastructure that creates a large pool of terrorists with designs to take over the State.
Akbar thinks Pakistan will not disintegrate. However, the odds seem to favour Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.
Posted by T R Santhanakrishnan at 11:44 PM
10 March 2011
Reason: Soothing emotions expressed in awesome lyrics. Kannadasan’s imagination, choice of words and ability to express emotions are awesome.
The plot is simple: He tells us of the progress of his love for her through various phases: Attraction, Expectation, Hesitation, Consummation and yearning for the union of souls not just body.
Here goes my understanding of what I consider to be one of the best songs ever written in Tamil:
பாடாத பாட்டெல்லாம் பாட வந்தாள்
காணாத கண்களைக் காண வந்தாள்
She came to sing tunes that she never sang before; implying that this is a first for her. She came to see eyes that have never seen before; implying she expects this to be my puppy love too.
பேசாத மொழியெல்லாம் பேச வந்தாள்
பெண் பாவை நெஞ்சிலே ஆடி நின்றாள்
Yet she came to say stuff she never said before; implying an intention to cross the rubicon! I am hooked!
மேலாடை தென்றலில் ஆ ஆ ஆ
பூவாடை வந்ததே ம் ம் ம்
Her upper garment. Gentle breeze. Wow!
And, I was close enough to smell her fragrance. Ahem!
கையோடு வளையலும் கல் கல் கல்
கண்ணோடு பேசவா சொல் சொல் சொல்
Physical proximity is nice but I yearn for proximity of minds where spoken word is not necessary; where one can communicate with eyes.
அச்சமா நாணமா இன்னும் வேண்டுமா
அஞ்சினால் நெஞ்சிலே காதல் தோன்றுமா
I sense hesitation still. Is this due to fear (and therefore I need to go slow) or shyness (and therefore I need to hasten)? Can we ever make an omelette without cracking an egg? Will she open up?
மிச்சமா மீதமா இந்த நாடகம்
மென்மையே பெண்மையே வா வா வா
Is the residual hesitation a useless remainder (like food left in the plate) or useful remainder (like food left in the buffet)? Should I take a step back or a step forward? I don’t know. I would just make an appeal.
இரவிலே நிலவிலே சேதி வந்ததா
உறவிலே உறவிலே ஆசை வந்ததா
Oh yes. What made her move forward? Did the ambience trigger passion?
மறைவிலே மறைவிலே ஆடலாகுமா
அருகிலே அருகிலே வந்து பேசம்மா
Now that the physical union is consummated, I yearn for union of mind and soul. Come my friend, let us chat.
P B Srinivas, in his best years then, does full justice to Kannadaasan’s lyrics. S Janaki’s humming demonstrates how a composer adds to lyrics without writing a word.
In my younger days, there was no TV. We had to do with radios. We had the luxury of hearing a song and doing our own visualization. Nowadays when this song is telecast, I close my eyes (to not let the poor quality visual affect the excellent image I carry in my mind from childhood) and enjoy.
There is a far older poem in Tamil that goes:
செவ்விது செவ்விது பெண்மை ஆ
செவ்விது செவ்விது காதல்
A critic in that century said that the word that packed maximum meaning in the entire poem was the fourth one!
All I can say about Kannadasan's song is: "ஆ! ஆ! ஆ!"
Posted by T R Santhanakrishnan at 10:33 AM
13 February 2011
Taking you to far away places and letting you have a first hand insight into unfolding events and making you feel you are a part of the ambience is not something new to Jamsheed Marker. He was a cricket commentator in those TV less days when the spoken word was the only way to vicarious enjoyment of a match.
Jamsheed Marker had a long and colorful innings as a diplomat. He was Pakistan’s ambassador to the Soviet Union when Bangladesh seceded from Pakistan. He was ambassador to the United States when US sponsored Mujahideen fought against Soviet forces in Afghanistan.
Jamsheed does not disappoint. His prose is entertaining and insight engaging.
Some interesting snippets:
One: When you move from Anglophone West Africa to Francophone West Africa, according to the author, the cuisine improves and plumbing worsens.
Two: The President of Cote d’Ivoire observed that when you send a young African to Paris he returns a Marxist; when you send him to Moscow, he returns a conservative!
Three: After inviting Sekou Toure of Guinea to speak, unaware that the microphone was still on, Indira Gandhi said in Hindi “Oh dear, this man is going to speak forever”!
Four: Desmond Tutu said that when the missionaries came to Africa, they had the bible and the Africans had the land. After the Africans joined the prayers and opened their eyes, the Africans had the bible and the missionaries had the land!
Five: Voltaire said that the best form of government is a benevolent despotism, tempered by the occasional assassination.
Six: Kissinger told Yahya Khan that for a military dictator, Yahya ran a lousy election!
Seven: When a translator conveyed Gromyko’s message to Pakistan’s ambassador to “please not take any action that would oblige us to fulfill our obligation to a country with whom we have a Treaty of Friendship”, Gromyko intervened and clarified that he did not use the word “Please”.
Eight: Helmut Schmidt said that “Moscow’s concept of settled frontiers was to have Soviet troops stationed on both sides of the border”.
However, the book suffers from two major deficiencies: One, it is too sanitized. All people appear nice, hold nice thoughts and say nice words. Two, Jamsheed steers clear of the strategic thinking behind Pakistan’s foreign policy.
Pakistan has had a good innings in international relations by positioning itself as the frontier for the free world in the past; and the trench line to protect Islam recently. The success and implied perils of such thinking merited some commentary from the pavilion but is missing.
Posted by T R Santhanakrishnan at 5:39 AM