Monday, July 30, 2018

Trapped in The Web

With the turn of the century, I graduated from inland letter cards to email; from landlines to mobiles; and from social visits to social media. Now, I am one of those who take pride in collecting “Likes” and “Comments” on facebook; on being the originator of discussion trails on WhatsApp; hash-tagging anything and everything on Twitter &c. In short, I would like to be known as a social media bug, rather than be called a slave to it, although both epithets are one and the same.

Reclining on the sofa after a long day, what is the first source of entertainment that I reach out for? - My smart-phone, of course. Four notifications against the Facebook icon give my spirits that much-needed fillip (I cannot imagine the depths to which they would have fallen had I seen none). On opening the application, my heart takes a leap as I see a friend request from a beautiful lady. But she is not someone I ever knew, not a friend of any one of my friends, and with a profile which is nondescript. Another of those fakes! My rising excitement sank like a stone in still water. I ignored the request. I scrolled through the other notifications: two likes for my recent post, birthdays for two of my friends and a group post. I am interested only in the “Likes”. But only two Likes? For a post which filled me with pride and self-admiration only a few hours ago? I am disappointed, and my self-esteem slightly deflated. Then I shake it off with a touch of disdain: “why should I care for anybody’s appreciation anyway?” Scrolling through the innumerable new posts from my innumerable “friends”, some of whom I cannot even recall ever meeting or interacting with in my life, I look for flippancy and mediocrity in the posts of others in a bid to convince myself of the superiority of erudition of my opinions, and thereby reassert myself in my own eyes. By and by, I come across the occasional post which does stimulate my interest, and sometimes even my admiration, but I refrain from clicking “Like” it or commenting on it just because that “friend” does not ever “Like” my posts. By the same principle, I impulsively click on “Like” for a post or comment which I would have otherwise dismissed as inane, stupid or irrelevant, but for the fact that this post belongs to a friend who regularly likes MY posts

This relationship of reciprocity has become the defining feature of friendships on social media, very similar to actual friendships in the physical world. Accordingly, as in societal relationships, in social media too objectivity and reason gives way to personal attachments in creating and sustaining friendship. There are many of our close relations who reside in the same city as us, and have resided thus for a long time now. Yet, some among them have moved farther from our lives than the most distant of lesser friends, owing to lack of reciprocity. I cannot convince my mother to visit her childhood friend who lives at a stone’s throw from our house. She is adamant that she will not make another visit until her visit last year is returned with a visit by that friend to our house. And until that happens, any news relating to that friend, barring that of the most catastrophic nature, will be anathema for my mother. But things will reverse most dramatically once that much awaited “visit” happens.

In today’s world, social media reflects the state of our relationships with the outside world. I can boast of tens of friends on my Facebook profile, but cannot say with confidence how many are actual friends. Every “Like” and comment on a post is a “visit” which is expected to be returned in kind, and until that is done, all further “visits” from the other party can well be discounted. So, in a profile with, say, hundred friends, it may be possible to keep visiting only about ten or twenty all the time, and so that’s what we are left with in the end. The others may well not care whether we remain their friends or not. To be the popular friend with an ever-buzzing social media drawing room, we must keep “Liking”, whether we actually like or not, just as we must call upon each of our friends once in a while, whether we have the time or appetite for it.

So the evening, like every other, ends with the mind still full of it, and I go to bed with my dear device still awake beside me, letting in more visitors through the night. Come morning, my fluttering eyelids will invariably open first into the drawing room to see how many visitors are in waiting, and the start to the day would be made or unmade by that number.

It is tough work being a socialite, even if it is just on the phone!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Great American Dream – Trumped?

The eighth day of November 2016 will be etched deeply in the memory of many a mind around the world for the fact that an event which was deemed possible but not probable in the remotest consideration was carved into reality by the American public – Donald John Trump had not just defeated the crowd favorite, Hillary Clinton in the race for the US Presidency, but virtually battered her out of contention long before the final results were out. Donald Trump, a man thus far known more for his brashness, misogyny and political incorrectness than for his achievements in the political arena, Trumped all contrary expectations, including those of a majority of Washingtonians, not to mention those of a battle-bruised media – impaled time and again by his unrelenting barbs, to become the President Elect of the most powerful nation of the world.

Trump’s election rallies leading up to that phenomenal victory were flush with promises of resurrection of America in the eyes of the world (under the assumption that it had fallen from that pedestal, a theory which many would vehemently contest), and to give back to Americans which had so far been denied them due to a liberal immigration policy and outsourcing of jobs to non-Americans elsewhere in the world. By campaigning for Americans, Trump was also not bashful in being seen as a protagonist mainly for white Americans, and in making speeches discriminatory to non-white American citizens and immigrants (that he mentioned his affinity for “Hindus” once or twice seemed more like an expression of casual fancy and counted for nothing in his overall racist rhetoric). In the same context, when the whole world has been loath to associate global terrorism with any particular religion, he minced no words in giving terrorism the brand name of Islam and promising to make all Muslims persona-non-grata in the US if he came to power. It is all very well to design an election campaign with bohemian promises and declarations to cater to the interests and emotions of a certain section of the laity, which is not uncommon even in our own country, and promises during such campaigns are always taken with more than their allocated pinch of salt. However, it is far from common to see a politician actually get about fulfilling each and every promise, that too with such amazing alacrity, even before the dust of a furious election campaign had hardly settled down. Donald Trump is very unlike many of his predecessors, in that he is a man hard to read, and harder to predict. In keeping with this character, he is throwing up one surprise after another, as he goes on an order-signing spree, with all the impetuosity of a charging bull. He started with the cancellation of Obamacare – the high profile social health mission launched by the outgoing president, which in itself was not such a bad thing perhaps, in the eyes of many Americans, but the actions that subsequently followed began ruffling feathers everywhere – at home and abroad alike – as he launched into diplomatic offensives against countries he perceived to be a either burdens or inimical to the interests of America. First on his radar was China, whom he has all but branded enemy number one, as he threw an open challenge to the Asian giant over its claims over the South China Sea, as also its influence over Taiwan. Then he signed an order to put into action his much-vaunted election promise of banning entry of Muslims into the US, as he signed a blanket executive order banning visas to all citizens of five Muslim majority countries, one of which was Iran. It has come as a surprise to many that Iran has featured higher on the potential terror list, ahead of countries with greater potential on that front – namely, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. But it seems like there is a system to Trump’s “madness”, even as his actions betray a definite lack of political understanding. This is more emphasized in the fact that even strong American allies such as Japan and Austrailia had to face the brunt of his coarse diplomacy – Japan being chided for its lack of contribution towards American welfare, and the Australian PM reproached for being an intransigent ally in Trump’s racially and communally disintegrating policies. It is now becoming ominously clear that Donald Trump’s politics and diplomacy are guided solely by his personal likes, dislikes and prejudices rather than by any factual evidence to boot. In the midst of all the pandemonium, however, India has managed to hold its ground, somewhat vindicated – on the terrorism front, somewhat relieved – in the hope of Trump being less of a patron for Pakistan, yet somewhat mortified, given Trump’s assertions on immigrant workers “snatching” the jobs that rightly belonged to native Americans.

Coming to the bigger picture in the context of the US of A, perhaps the biggest cause for concern is Trump’s utter disregard for public opinion in respect of his policies, and his presumptive arrogance in labeling all those who oppose his actions, including a vast majority of the print and visual media, as stooges propped up by his political foes to derail his “vision” for America. Yet, the most important and indisputable fact that has eluded his consciousness till this point is that America is a land built upon a foundation of it being a country of immigrants, who have lent their blood and sweat to build the many edifices of democratic  and mutual co-existence that America is so proud of; of it being a country where people are at a greater liberty to live the life of their choice and express their opinions than most other parts of the world; and most of all, it being a land where the divides of race, color and religion are not to erode the values of civil liberty that America stands for – all of which are enshrined in the American Constitution and have gone a long way towards realizing the Great American Dream as visualized by the illustrious ancestors of the great nation. Has Donald Trump given a thought to what might happen to this dream in the pursuit of his own, contrarian dreams? America, with all its innate flaws such as racial discrimination and religious intolerances, has been a country of right-thinking citizens, who have all been continually striving to make American society free of such evils, which is what makes it a country worthy of emulation. It certainly can do without a person, that too one who occupies its highest office, from embarking upon such misadventures which are likely to tarnish that carefully nurtured image. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Nehru Vs Bose – Clash of the Icons

What happened to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose? How did he die, and when? The answers to these two questions have been shrouded in a dark cloak of mystery for close to seven decades now. The only piece of information that was released for public consumption was that Netaji died in a plane crash on 18th August 1945. This particular explanation has been dismissed by many, including one of the members of the committee (Shah Nawaz Committee, 1956) which submitted the report, as farcical. Two more commissions of inquiry happened at subsequent times under different governments but the actual truth of Netaji’s disappearance and death remained elusive to the laity. Yet, the truth exists, although it lies hidden from public view in the confidence of the Indian State. And the currently raging row about the Nehru government’s snooping on Bose’s kin, that too for two decades after Netaji’s death, is making it increasingly harder for the government to conceal the truth any further, on whatever pretext (ostensible or real).

Although the suddenness and the strangeness with which Subhas Bose met his end shocked and troubled the nation for long, the country had moved on. Jawaharlal Nehru became the first Prime Minister of Independent India and went on to rule the nation for sixteen long years. His name is now firmly entrenched in the history books as one of India’s foremost national icons, whose name is uttered in deference to the halo of virtue and patriotism that shrouds every national figure of India’s fight for Independence. Yet, the very inviolability of that aura has been put to scrutiny in an unlikely era so far removed from Nehru’s own, and due to the opening of another chapter in the continual saga of intrigue that surrounds the death of one of the greatest figures of India’s Freedom struggle. The recent de-classification and uploading into the national archives of a section of the Bose files raises pertinent yet uncomfortable questions about the role of the then Nehru government in keeping the activities of Bose’s family and relations under secret surveillance for as many as sixteen years and by the Indira government for another four years after Bose’s reported demise in a plane crash.

The revelations in the declassified document have not just reignited emotions pent up in many over the unsolved mystery of Netaji’s disappearance, but have also brought back in focus the fact that Indian History has been less than just to a man who was perhaps equally, if not more instrumental in liberating India from the British than even Mahatma Gandhi. It is a well known fact, acknowledged by historians internationally, that the British would not have left India in such a hurry had it not been for the danger posed to it by the Indian National Army, of which Subhas Bose was the founder. Clement Attlee, the then Prime Minister of Great Britain, admitted in 1947 that they (the British) were left with no other choice but to leave the country in the face of the deep divisions created within the Royal Army due to open affiliations of certain sections of the army for Bose’s INA. Yet, Indian History is silent on most of Netaji’s exploits. The INA finds no place of pride in its pages. The thousands of Indians who sacrificed their lives for the country as members of the INA are but pariahs in the anthology of Indian Independence. Now, as the actual details of Bose’s disappearance begin to trickle out of the vault of secrecy, albeit in driblets, History will be questioned anew, and might well be shaken to correct itself.

As far as historical records go, Nehru and Bose harbored no apparent animosity towards each other, and it would be presumptuous to believe that Nehru had any reason to view Netaji as a political rival or a potential usurper, as the many inferences from the current disclosures would have us believe. Yet, his pushing for the “plane crash” theory against all odds and the secret surveillance of Bose’s close relations by Indian intelligence agencies for sixteen years, assuming Nehru was privy to it, which it is hard to believe he wasn’t, reeks of something more than the eye could see. The recent disclosures have brought all those questions to the fore again, raised newer ones, and hardened the determination of all those affected in this case to fight for revelation of the truth with renewed vigor. The premise upon which successive governments have taken shelter in to justify the secrecy - to prevent straining of diplomatic relations with a friendly nation – is now beginning to sound more and more unconvincing. Instead, it has given rise to a suspicion that the effect of the revelations would be more domestic than international. Here again, Nehru comes back into focus. Is it that the disclosures will lend substance to perception, and darken Pandit Nehru’s so far unblemished image in a lesser light? Was this the real reason why Netaji’s last days were consigned to the realm of oblivion, and his memories sought to be erased from public memory?

Questions, all of these, to which there have been very few answers, if any. The million-dollar question, if there ever was one, is whether the long-sought declassification of the Bose story will finally happen. There have been many upsurges of emotion, many instances of hopes rekindled on this issue in the past without any fruitful consequence. After several commissions of inquiry failed to clear up the mystery, rather obfuscated it further, will the threads of reality finally unravel? With Netaji’s surviving kin looking more determined than ever, and PM Modi assenting to discuss the issue in all seriousness, hope shines bright at the end of the tunnel, and India may yet get to know the truth about one of its greatest (if not THE greatest) sons, without the accoutrements of secrecy.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Modi - The Master Communicator

Narendra Modi – the enigma surrounding the man, and the thought processes that drive his indefatigable existence, have confounded the best of political and social pundits - both in India and abroad. While Modi is fast developing into a symbol of India for the World, and a symbol of change and development for the vast majority of the Indian polity, he is still looked upon as a symbol of divisiveness and authoritarianism by his political opponents, many of whom were unabashed and crude in the expression of this view before and during the elections, but are now forced to constrain their opinions after Modi became PM. One thing that everyone will agree upon however, although some may reserve this opinion to themselves, is that there is no one in the Indian political scene today who can match Modi in terms of oratory, diligence and incorruptibility.  

Ever since Modi was unanimously chosen as BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate back in September 2013, his political career has been on a steep upswing, largely due to his impeccable oratory, and his unbelievable connect with the masses. He is a natural speaker, and one who connects with his audience with effortless ease. The content of his speeches is aimed at the audience he addresses, and he knows exactly what needs to be said to strike a chord with his listeners. The fact that Modi addressed more than four hundred rallies during the epic general elections of 2014, and that each rally was a resounding success in terms of attendance and enthusiasm is sufficient testimony to this stamina and oratorical prowess. His speeches are object lessons in mass communication, insofar that they are so well organized - in spite of being extempore – and so natural and convincing in their delivery that the audience is held in a trance every time he speaks. This, combined with his convincing push for efficient and corruption-free governance, and his innovative ideas for a better India, has already established him as one of the most popular leaders the country has seen.

Modi’s critics accuse him of being a lofty speaker without substance, but he has in a space of a few months achieved what his predecessor could not achieve in 10 years. He has made huge strides in strengthening India’s relationship with her neighbors Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh. Relations with Japan and US have been taken to all time highs. His stoic stance towards border aggression has meant that China and Pakistan are now more wary of making indiscreet advances than ever before. The economy has started picking up, inflation has started moderating. S&P has already upgraded India’s outlook from negative to stable. Surely, one would think that all this cannot be achieved by mere lofty talk.

All through his campaign for the general elections, and the four months so far of his Prime Ministership, Modi has made it his prime agenda to maintain, and enhance his connect with the people. He is always seen to be making newer and newer efforts to raise his equity among the masses, be it through his unfettered delivery from the Red Fort without the customary bullet-proof glass enclosure; or by his fervent appeal to all people to help him make India a clean country by 2019; or by his innovative interaction with the people through Twitter, Facebook and the official government website; or, as most recently, by interacting with the people through All India Radio.

His communication skills have held him in good stead on the international front as well. What has amazed political watchers, citizens, analysts, critics and even his own party men is the ease with which Narendra Modi has adapted to an unfamiliar role of overseas diplomacy. He not only went through all his engagements without faltering even for a moment, which many of his critics expected him to do more than once, but he did it with a sense of aplomb and poise that has made every Indian proud. His engagements with various world leaders at the BRICS summit showcased India’s newfound assertiveness on the world scene. His successful visits to Bhutan, Nepal and Japan where he displayed great bargaining skills and yet maintain a friendly stance catapulted India’s image into prominence in the international scene. His deft ploy of pre-empting any hostility towards the new government from neighboring nations by inviting all heads of SAARC nations to his swearing in ceremony, including Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif, who was rightly taken aback by the surprise invitation, has exhibited the astuteness of his diplomacy on the international front. The greatest coup however, has been his visit to the USA, which was touted to be the most critical, and the grand finale in this series of foreign engagements of the Prime Minister. If the expectations from this trip were high, and expectedly, they were certainly not anticipated to reach the heights they eventually did. Right from the moment Modi disembarked Air India One and set foot on American soil, to the time he waved goodbye four days later, the mood among the Indo-American community in the US was one of ecstasy, euphoria, and at times even bordering on hysteria wherever Modi made an appearance or was anywhere in the vicinity. The way vociferously chanting crowds lined up the street to have a glimpse of the Indian PM as his cavalcade passed by; the way the crowds at Madison Square Garden cheered his every sentence and his every nuance; the way people celebrated with traditional attires and cultural functions on the lawns in front of the White House even as Modi held discussions with Obama, it was Modi-fever all the way, with the charismatic Prime Minister taking America by storm. Even the uneventful meeting between Obama and Modi, which could not resolve outstanding issues such as WTO trade facilitation, nuclear trade and America’s Pakistan policy among others, the camaraderie and warmth with which Obama interacted with Modi was a sight for sore eyes, and a reflection of Modi’s ability to connect personally with Obama in spite of all the differences.

With his redoubtable communication skills, Modi has won several battles leading up to his coronation as PM, and after. Yet the war, which is still to be won, is the one that will determine whether or not his name will be taken in the same breath as of the greatest personalities that Indian history has known. The road to greatness will not be traversed without passing through tough tests, and tribulations, for sure. But that is what great history is all about, after all. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

My Encounter with Lucy

It’s been a while since I have had either the reason or the motivation to pick up a pen and write; write with a cause, and an enthusiasm to lend expression to my deepest feelings. Very rare has been the occasion when I felt words and sentences taking birth in the deepest corners of my heart and flowing spontaneously to the tips of my fingers.

Very seldom, if ever, does an imagined perception of goodness, beauty or virtue manifest itself in real life in the form that it was imagined or dreamt of. Even the magnificent Yarrow could not live up to Wordsworth’s imagination ("Yarrow Unvisited" & "Yarrow Visited "). When such a thing does happen, however, it happens unexpectedly, as in this case, in the unlikeliest of times and places, and it would be a sheer waste not to record the priceless sentiments of such an occasion for the sake of posterity.

My most recent encounter, a sweet tryst in a dreary environment, reminds me of Wordsworth’s Lucy. Lucy inspired Wordsworth (“She Dwelt Among The Untrodden Ways”) and Wordsworth’s poignant eulogisation of Lucy has always fascinated me. The great poet’s sentiments echo in my own soul today, and I cannot ever believe in them more than I do now. The striking similarity of the contrasting environments which occasioned the encounter so vividly described by the poet and the one which affected me in no different way made me wonder, at the sheer unpredictability of life and at the potential for wonderful surprises that it possesses. I have deliberated within myself as to the most apposite expression that my thoughts should take, and convinced myself that only Poetry, which is the sole medium that transcends all forms of prosaic expression, can lend the subtlety deserving of such a subject; and so it is poetry that must be the vehicle of my expression.

The scene is the watery wilderness of the Indian Ocean, and the location – a gigantic ship, which reeks of metal, metal and more metal: 

Cast away, far from shore, on this gigantic craft
Gazing into the sea, my face meets a pleasant draft
Amid sounds of steel and a deafening hum, I stare
With wandering thoughts, into the dark, misty air

Lo! What is this transformation in the haze?
Do I see a winsome face, in this God-forsaken place?
Unbelieving as I stared, my senses all in a twist,
A fairy t'was in the mist; my feet were unsteady, as if the ship was a'list

She smiled so bright, it shattered the dark,
A voice so clear, she could’ve been a lark,
Countenance so serene, like some divine art
And a manner so simple, it caressed the heart

Was I swaying between reality and sleep?
Was it but a vision, of my feelings so deep?
Can the creature of the world of dreams
Walk the hard ground of reality's realms?

Then she spoke, and enraptured I listened so
Then she sang, and enchanted I listened more
The world seemed to float up to the skies
The sights around seem’d to drown in her eyes

Time was long lost, Sleep was forgotten,
Duty and Responsibility were now step-children
Worries n Cares were banished from Earth
The air was so full of fun, so drenched in mirth

The morn approached fast, methinks just too fast
The good times were not destined to last
She wafted into the dissolving dark, leaving a trail of silver light 
The noise came back, the hum returned, reality was back in sight

Wistful we stood, my solitude and me
The playful waves were dancing in glee
The whispering breeze was saying to me
Your own dreams are still yours, so mourn not thee

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Great American Conspiracy

December is a month Indians will begin to dread every year from now on, and not without reason. Last year in December the nation was put through the agony, the travails of the aftermath, and eventual death of a girl who was the victim of the most inhuman form of rape the county has ever known. This December, something of a similar nature has happened to yet another Indian lady, this time an Indian diplomat on foreign shores, at the hands of the Administration of supposedly the “the most civilized nation on earth”, the US of A. Last year’s gruesome crime in Delhi took months of civilian protest and uncountable debates in and off the courtroom to finally come to a decisive climax in the form of death sentences to the accused (barring one who escaped punishment due to his “tender age”). This year’s equally appalling crime by a bunch of thoughtless, racist individuals in the US State Department and the US Police has evoked similar scenes of protest and animated debate across the country, but is yet to reach an end that will restore the dignity of the diplomat and will repair the veritable affront the Indian tricolor has been subjected to as a result. The infringement upon the dignity of Dr. Devyani Khobragade, - a 1999 batch IFS officer, and a senior Indian diplomat to the United States - which has rocked the very foundation of US-India relations, must be considered not just a molestation of feminine dignity, but also a blatant example of the prevailing undercurrent of vitriolic racism and unscrupulous abuse of human rights in a country which proclaims itself to be the ultimate protector and preserver of human rights and liberty. This statement of fact can be averred without the least sense of unfairness, knowing that similar cases of arrest and interrogation of diplomats from “white” countries in the USA have been undertaken without resorting to the despicable and beastly “standard procedures” such as strip search and cavity search applied in the case of Dr Devyani, just because those diplomats were of a fairer origin. Even as the facts of this case begin to unfold every minute, it is now emerging with greater and greater clarity that Devyani has been the unfortunate object of a sinister American plot, the details of which are yet to be fully unraveled, to insult and humiliate her, and in the process, humiliate our nation, its judicial system and its polity. Yet, there may be more to this case than meets the public eye, and it would hardly come as any big surprise if it turns out to be another instance of America’s notoriety in meddling with the affairs of other nations and acting self-righteously to protect its own interests all over the world in the vicious garb of a universal cop with the ostensible intent of erasing injustice and unfairness on the planet. The greatest irony of the whole forgettable episode is perhaps the fact that the man who has now emerged as the architect this foul plot, the US Attorney Mr Preetinder Bharara, is a man of Indian origin, now looking up in reverence to his masters in his adopted country, in an attempt to prove his loyalty to the US flag (and his contempt for the country of his origin)

While it is yet unclear as to the substantial measures and steps the Indian government is taking through diplomatic channels to address the issue (other than the removal of barricades in front of the US Embassy and other cosmetic actions to alleviate the angst and anger amongst the media and general public), there can be little doubt in anybody’s mind as to the necessity of initiation of the following actions without any dithering whatsoever: (1) demand of the US government a full investigation into the details of the arrest of Dr Devyani Khobragade and the justification thereof as well as of the procedures adopted by the US marshals post the arrest, (2) full investigation of the role of the US Attorney Mr Preetinder Bharara in evacuating the maid Mrs Sangeeta Richard and her family from India without the permission of the Indian Government while criminal proceedings were undergoing against the family in Delhi High Court (3) immediate dropping of all charges against Devyani Khobragade pending a full investigation of the case and (4) adequate compensation to Ms Devyani for the trauma that the indignity has caused her.

However, Indian foreign policy has been always weak-kneed in the face of pugnacious posturing of powerful countries such as USA and China, and it is only the relentless pressure from the media and social activists that has always goaded our politicians into acting on behalf of our country and our citizens. This time, India is confronted with an arrogant nation disdainful of the laws, customs and principles of any other country but its own, especially of countries in the Third World, with whom it is okay for America to do trade and earn moolah for its citizens but is also okay to maintain its stance of condescension and veiled racism towards the citizens of these countries. This is amply exemplified by the deafening silence on the part of the US President, who has considered this episode not worth even a mention in his press statement before he left for his weekend getaway.

The Devyani episode will be an acid test of India’s assertiveness in the international arena. It has brought us to a cross-road in our march to prominence in the international field; and may well prove to be an inflexion point in our ascent to a point of recognition as a power that matters. Whether that inflexion is for the better or for the worse, so far as our stature in the world is concerned, will depend on the firmness (or absence of it) in our response in this matter. India can either chose to assert its intolerance to any violation of human rights and dignity, and stand firm in its resolve to support one of its own in a foreign land, which it can do by not budging on its just demand for an apology from the United States government, and in ensuring justice and adequate compensation for Devyani, or it can chose to let this affair disintegrate with time, swallowing all the hurt and humiliation in the process, in a bid to protect its trade and military relations with Uncle Sam. In the latter case it runs a major risk of causing irreparable damage to its image in the eyes of the world and to its credibility in the minds of its own people.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Do We Really Care?

Humankind is deemed to be God’s supreme creation, purportedly at least, with all the versatile faculties at its disposal. Our intelligence, our powers of understanding and analytical thinking have lifted us above other creatures, to a level of superiority that is by now virtually unsurpassable. However, with power comes responsibility, and with intelligence comes empathy and kindness, all of which are necessary to keep the balance of life on earth at a sustainable level. We, as the species appointed for the care, nurture and protection of the lesser creations of God, be it the flora or the fauna, need to exercise our power and intelligence in such a way as to make co-habitation of man and animal harmonious on our planet. Many civilizations have realized the importance of this tenet, and have successfully developed and infused in their peoples a culture of kindness towards animals, so much so that animals in many developed nations are treated almost at par with humans. Today, the level of human development in a country can be aptly gauged by the amount of respect and kindness that its animals are treated with.

Yet, the fact remains that the world is a conglomeration of variegated races – some in a mature state of civilization, and others which are still on the road to that destination, and it is in the areas inhabited by the latter species of humankind that the other creatures of this earth are always at peril; peril of indiscriminate slaughter for monetary profit; peril of being expunged from existence. Sadly, with precious animals falling to poachers in brutal fashion every other day, India today is finding it increasingly hard to convince the world that its economic development has not outpaced its human development index. There is hardly a day that passes by without some news of an animal being killed by poachers in some part of the country. A Rhino killed every other day in the most brutal manner possible in Assam; a tiger killed in some reserve in Maharashtra, an elephant cruelly killed and shorn of its tusks; migratory birds gunned down in large numbers as they descend unsuspectingly upon mud flats and green fields; and many more such instances of cruelty to animals. The heart cries out for the animals in empathy for the pain they must have felt in their cruel deaths, and in the angst at the continual depletion of precious species that adorn our forests. Frustratingly, for all right-thinking citizens and animal-lovers of our great nation, the belligerence of the poachers and the level of cruelty of the killings show no signs of abatement, and, most exasperating of all, the authorities seem much less perturbed by the rising menace than would have been expected of them. Knowing that the grey market for Rhino horns, elephant tusks and tiger skins is a billion dollar business, the lack of sufficient action on the part of the powers-that-be reeks of a greater reach of the poaching conglomerate than meets the eye.
With the state of affairs as they are today, it seems highly unlikely that the environment for animals in India and other countries of the kind will improve sufficiently to ensure their safety and security even in their rightful havens, the forests. At a time when money power rules the roost in society, and even the value of human life is being relegated to insignificance, it will be harder by the day to keep organized and determined poachers off the limits of the forests and reserves. International organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund and national societies for the cause of animals such as PETA do not have the teeth to fight this menace, and words of protest alone are hardly the wind that can ruffle the feathers of the killer forces. The fauna of the world are not the exclusive property of the countries that human borders enclose. Animals belong to the world at large, and as such the responsibility for preservation of any species of fauna should be shared by all the countries on earth. It would be a great pity to allow such beautiful creations of God to vanish from this world for ever just because one particular country was unable to prevent a few elements of the nether world from destroying the species. Perhaps, the need of the hour is to create a responsible international organization, with powers and jurisdictions similar to the United Nations, to ensure that animal rights around the world are protected, and that no animal, irrespective of the part of the world it belongs to, will ever face the threat of extinction due to humans overcome by greed.
We, as citizens of the world, and as cohabitants of this great planet, need to pause and think at times – do we really care what goes on in the wilds far from our homes? Does it matter to us whether a rhino, an elephant, a tiger, or for that matter any animal species lives or dies? We should really take time out and think about this.

Trapped in The Web

With the turn of the century, I graduated from inland letter cards to email; from landlines to mobiles; and from social visits to socia...