Monday, August 24, 2009

The Bigger They Are.......

As I watched the delirious celebrations of the English Cricket team after it outlasted the Australian team to win the Ashes, a certain amount of vicarious pleasure buoyed my spirits as well. Strangely, though, I also felt an unusual sense of pity for the Australian team members. The heady days of Australian dominance when they battered the wits out of every team on the planet are yet to fade from memory even as the team stood with forlorn faces staring at the excruciating result of a series that was purported to be one of sweet revenge. The arrogance and conceit that had made Australia the Bete Noire of world cricket with that undisputed aura of invincibility have suddenly been ground to dust. Ricky Ponting’s men looked just so vulnerable in defeat that pity was but a natural and spontaneous emotion that welled up in me at that moment. The Australian game of aggression, intimidation and mental disintegration had claimed many a foe with uncanny precision, and an innocuous English team was yet the softer of the many targets they have had the pleasure of impaling in their impeccable history of conquests galore. As the series gathered momentum, the Australians turned on the heat on their seemingly hapless counterparts, both on and off the field. Yet, wonder of wonders, they could do little to dampen England’s inexorable march towards destiny. The fear of failure dogged the great Australians more than the underdogs, and the desperation that is borne of such fear has, more often than not, presaged the fall of many a Goliath.

Life is indeed a great leveler, and cricket, in many ways embodies that great quality in its truest form. No team, no individual, has ever succeeded in rising higher in stature than the game itself. The Australians have chosen to learn the lesson the hard way. In spite of all its failings, we may yet see the great team rise from the ashes to mesmerize the world once again, but sans the traits that led to its fall, one prays.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Incorrigibles - Here They Go Again

No sooner had I got over my sordid musings about racists and racism by venting them out in this space (“The Color of Equality”, 14th August), I am confronted with more of the same. The news of Shah Rukh Khan being detained and questioned on suspicion of being a terrorist by the Newark police for two hours flashed disturbingly across TV channels in India. I am no great fan of SRK’s acting abilities nor have I been influenced in any degree by his charismatic sway over the masses. Yet, I found the news disquieting. It is just that the egregiousness of intent on the part of the American security staff is so starkly visible in the episode. The bristles from the impudent behavior of the staff of United Airlines’ flight to Newark towards our former president, Dr. Abdul Kalam are still fresh in the mind of every proud Indian when this new tale of White American arrogance made the headlines. Both the instances of effrontery were cleverly camouflaged under the pretext of “national security guidelines”, which gives the American security agencies the Carte Blanche to infringe upon the privacy, self-esteem and modesty of any individual on the planet. Strangely, however, no white man has ever had to undergo the humiliation of questioning and detention under the same security guidelines. The dignity and privacy of white people are considered sacrosanct and as such, cannot be defiled. Case in point is the guy (Mr Walker) caught in action fighting for the Taliban against the American forces during the post 9/11 war in Afghanistan. Even as thousands of Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters captured during the war were sent to Guantanamo Bay and other such inhuman confinements, Walker was sent home to his parents for “reform and rehabilitation”. The American security agencies did not have the heart to put Mr Walker through the same barbaric torture processes that are the order of the day for all non-white prisoners. The same “flexibility” in the security guidelines were not deemed necessary to be exercised in the case of well known Indian personalities such as Dr. Abdul Kalam and SRK. This is the newest form of racism, subtle and effective, that Americans, and many other white nations, have been taking recourse to, of late, to give vent to some of their pent up feelings against Asians, and Indians in particular.

The solution to such attitude lies in adopting one ourselves. If we can’t win them, we join them. Talking of security requirements, what is stopping the Indian government from putting Americans visiting India through similar security checks in the interest of national security? Are Americans considered above board so far as involvement in terrorist activities are concerned? Are terrorism and barbarity the sole preserves of non-white races? Is not the CIA responsible for much turmoil in many a foreign land? India has a culture laden with politeness, kindness, compassion and many such virtues that sometimes tend to weaken our resolve to act with professional toughness, especially when dealing with white westerners, who always seem to get away with wielding an aura of exclusivity that prevents us from even looking at them suspiciously, leave alone asking insinuating questions of them. Maybe time has come for Indians to change their attitude with the times. After all, India’s national security is no less important to us than America’s is to Americans. If that’s the game they are going to play, we must be good at it too.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Bridled Independence

As an Indian, the completion of the sixty-second year of my country’s Independence evokes in me a mixture of emotions. The country has indeed moved on. From being an underdeveloped nation with an uncertain future, India today has risen in stature to be one of the powers to be reckoned with on the world stage. Industry and intellect have combined to transform a country of hope into one of fiery ambition to be a major protagonist in the affairs of the continent. Yet, I say a mixture of emotions because in spite of all the achievements over the last six decades, the nation hasn’t moved as far forward as is desirable. We have certainly freed ourselves from the reins of a foreign monarchy, but can we say that we are independent in the true sense of the term? How can a country gain Independence if it is still hopelessly dependent on the following?

DIRTY POLITICS: The biggest scourge of the country yet. Politics in its ugliest form has continuously deprived the laity of its fair share of education, nutrition, equality of religion and caste, freedom of speech and even the right to life and property at times. The poor are being trampled upon for the gains of a mighty few. How long will the politics of flagrant inequity rule our land?

CORRUPTION: The Late Rajiv Gandhi confessed that ninety five paise out of every one Rupee sanctioned for the needy is lost on the way due to corruption in the system. How long will it take to turn that same statistic upside down?

MONSOON: Every year we look up to the rain gods to save our economy from destruction. Just how long will this country be at the mercy of the monsoon clouds?

USA: Even today, we cannot dare to make a move against our cross-border enemies without the approval of the United States. We have to think a thousand times before we can develop our nuclear arsenal, lest we offend the Global Cop that is the USA. We dare not express our friendship for our natural and traditional friends such as Iran because such countries are on USA’s list of enemies.

CHINA: We cannot dream of speaking ill of China in spite of its excesses in Tibet and its incursions into Indian territory because China is one of our chief trade partners, in addition to it being a massive military power. Are we ever going to be free of China’s military and economic hegemony?

OBSESSION FOR ALL THINGS WESTERN: We continue to be attracted to anything with a western hue, so much so that we have developed a deep-rooted inferiority complex for western people, western merchandise and their lifestyles. As a consequence, we have ended up being copycats rather than aspiring to be trendsetters. How long is it going to take for us to be unshackled of our subservience towards all things western?

Are we ready to fight another war of Independence to rid ourselves of all the vices and evils that shackle us even today? If the answer to this question is anything other than an imperative YES, India’s dream of becoming an economic superpower will drift farther away than ever. Complacency will yet be the curse of the nation if it does not wake up to its deficiencies with utmost urgency. If and when that does come about, Independence will have arrived in its truest form.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Color of Equality

Close to two decades have elapsed since Apartheid was officially pronounced dead in South Africa. People of the planet rejoiced at the advent into this world of secularity and equality in the fullest sense. However, many wondered whether a political resolution and a declaration on paper would have sufficed to cleanse the evil of racial prejudice from the hearts and minds of countless people who believed themselves to be “better” creations of God thus far. As is evident from incidents reported with increasing frequency from various corners of the “white” world, racism is far from dead. It continues to thrive and prosper in the minds of fair-skinned egotists who still believe that the color of the skin supersedes every other quality in a human being. Even the most powerful of people are not secure from this deep-rooted evil. The case of US president Barack Obama is worthy of note in this regard. Obama minced no words in his criticism of a certain police officer who humiliated a well known Black professor by arresting him for some offence without any evidence. Obama rightly accused the officer of being racially prejudiced in the incident. The incident would have evoked reactions in support of the president’s emotions in any other country, maybe even in America, had the victim been a member of the more privileged White community. However, Americans were vociferous in their expression of sympathy for the “unfair” chastisement of a police officer who was merely doing his “duty”. Certain sections of the political class started out on a mission of revenge against Obama. Suddenly, a person no less than the President of the United States was confronted with vitriolic attacks from all quarters. Questions have been raised over the authenticity of his birth certificate. The “avengers” claimed that Obama was not born in America and as such, he automatically forfeits his right to occupy the office of the President of US of A. No doubt, the matter will be settled in favor of the President in the end, but it is hard to ignore the undertones of racial arrogance in the whole affair. This incident is only one among thousands that occur every day, in which humanity and human values continue to be desecrated by die-hard sadists who owe allegiance to the cult of racism. The recent attacks on Indians in Australia are just another case in point.

Racism has officially been denounced across the globe but it continues to exist and thrive in the minds of thousands as a morphed version of the original that is equally pernicious to the peace and harmony among fellow human beings. Such unholy prejudices can be effectually expunged from the human world if, and only if, coming generations of humans are bred in a culture of equality, goodwill and togetherness in the true sense of the terms. Easier said than done. Genetic evils do not disappear with the swish of a wand. It may take a few more generations and many more crusades before the superiority of color becomes a thing of the past. For the time being, however, colored people living and working with their white brethren will have to live with the fact that equality comes in various shades, and theirs is the lesser one.

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...