The morning after...

Rain-drenched flags. A PM who speaks about the same old things. Why should we live up to the dreams of our freedom fighters? Are we not entitled to our own dreams? Why talk about the sacrifices of our soldiers and farmers, when both are pushed into it - one due to skirmishes with outside forces (or to contain the anger that spills over within our own borders) and the other because they are forced to commit suicide. Yet he talks about a Green Revolution; he talks about security. 

And, of course, the economy. The world looks to us, at us...

Those scam-stained blokes who are in jail will be dealt with. Indeed. 

I think these Independence Day speeches should move to a new venue. Maybe Davos or somewhere. 

- - -

I was hoping to be disturbed by loud music. The road beyond my lane has another lane. It is where slumdwellers set up a music system and disco lights. I anticipated the usual Mahendra Kapoor and Lata Mangeshkar songs with a sudden burst of "Dhinka Chikka".  There was silence. Until, lazily at around 10 AM or so, a whimper was heard: "Mere desh ki dharti sona ugley..."

I checked the bullion rate. It had hit Rs. 26,000 or so. 

The next speech of the PM should be from the gold souk or something. 

- - -

One gets the usual greetings. This time, not much. What I received instead was a response to my post Cameron's "culture of fear" from my Hindutva party contact. It makes for interesting reading and, naturally, I will share my reply. 


Dear Farzanaji,

I am not sure if Cameron has linked the present riots to the multi-cultural programme. He has, however, said that multi-culturalism has failed much before the riots, and he was talking in the sense of the non-integration of the Muslims community with the mainstream society. This lament has been expressed by other European leaders with respect to
their own countries.

On multi-culturalism my thoughts are as follows.

The primary problem is that the term culture is not properly defined. In common parlance it would be a secular term, and would normally have a geographical connotation. Thus we can have an Iraqi culture, or an Iranian culture, or an Indoensian culture, or an Egyptian culture. But to lump all of them in a common term of Islamic culture would be wrong. I am sure that no Indonesian would accept that in culture and civilisational terms he has anything common with a Turk.

Similarly, on the Christian side, I do not think that a French would accept that he has the same culture as the English, or a German with an Italian. Nor would a Welshman agree that he has the same culture as an Englishman. In Germany, the Bavarians really think they should be a separate country. As do the Basques in case of Spain.

However, if one were to see that the participants in the programme are those that represent the religion of Islam and Christianity, but you will not see one who represents Somalia. Nor do you see anyone who represents the Welsh, for example.

Hence, you see that the programme should be rightly called multi-religion and not multi-culture. Because of the confusion of the
definition, the programme is not going anywhere to come to even close to solving the problems that the society is encountering. And if the problem of a follower of Islam not being able to fit into a secular society is broght, it is brushed aside since the position taken is that the programme deals with culture and not religion. On the other hand, those who are invited to participate are not those who can talk about their culture.

My Reply

Dear X-ji:

Thank you for the response. Cameron has not said the riots were a part of multiculturalism. He cannot possibly do so. But, given the nature of the reaction, it was obvious that the government was unconcerned. When does a government show such slackness? When it knows that the indigenous populations are safe.

Therefore, the multiculturalism bogey is anti-immigrant. That is the reason my piece took off from the example of South Asian victims and Cameron's special words for them. It was a shrewd move. They want our best talent. That's it.

Where Islam is concerned - and since many people are concerned about Islam to the exclusion of all else! - it is really a part of this mixed bag that has appeared on their shores. The reaction is extreme because the current situation internationally is geared towards fighting a 'war on terror'. Due to the obvious jihadi groups, it becomes convenient. I am speaking here purely from the multi-culti perspective.

A lot has been said about the difference in reaction of Norway's leader and what could possibly be the US position following the attacks by Breivik. The insistence of the media to not brand him a terrorist is part of the multiculturalist ethos.

I understand your differentiating between religion and culture. However, the issue is about the 'other' here. It could be geographical, cultural or religious.

Think about anti-immigrant stand of some people in Mumbai. It was based on outsiders. So, it was geographical but with it comes language, and sometimes religion. Will we not also club them as 'culture'?

Culture has a larger connotation and includes various aspects of living. The London riots are being seen as economic protests, which is one part of the story. Race is another and then within that there are the chosen few as opposed to the not acceptable.

A bit like good Taliban, bad Taliban that transformed into good Muslim and bad Muslim. Ironically the good Muslim in political terms is one who is not toeing a religious line.

I am not sure what mainstream means because there is no single British idea (think Ireland) and most certainly no single Indian one. So what stream is the main one? Even politically, which means how the country is run, there are several disparate ideas.

Yet, for an outsider, there is something called Indian culture. It is based solely on India as a nation and what they see of it. It could be the Taj Mahal or the ghats in Varanasi or the churches or Ayurveda.

This is the real mainstream. All else is manufactured to belong, like a newly-wed bride in her new home.

Happy Independence Day.

- - -

The media had fun. Every few minutes, TV actors would pipe up with the national anthem. The saffron, white and green was splashed around.

Kaun Banega Crorepati started rather tepidly. Amitabh Bachchan, usually well-dressed, wore some band-gala type jacket, which did not have a band-gala but a purple scarf tucked into the neck. Whatever it was, it was ill-fitting and creased unbecomingly at the chest.

The first contestant had a dream. If he won he'd go to Malaysia and get all possible massages by beautiful women. He did a good job for Malaysia tourism, though little for the Indian economic utopia we are marketing.

- - -

I told you, August 15 came and went, and I woke up to a picture that says more about India than a lot of speeches and writeups.

See this:

Its title was, "Yahoo opens new window". Huh? It shows a film actress on her way to the Banganga crematorium for Shammi Kapoor's last rites. We do know that in the song from the film Junglee he utters a loud "Yahoo!" but how does it open a new window now?  Anyhow, I give up on these careless smarts.

There are people clicking pictures of celebrities at the funeral. Nothing dies because it is business as usual. I won't judge these camera-happy folks. They don't get to see the famous often. And the fact that they have mobile phones that they know how to use well is part of our consumerist society. Every ad tells us this - the poor can reach out.

There are the urban poor and the rest. Cellphones can only take you so far. What is it that people can connect to? A soldier video conferences with his lady love and enquires about a spot on her beautiful face; the villager hollers at someone back home; the young and old have instruments in their hands. Do they have power?

Do they even have dreams? 


  1. That headline because may be Shammi Kapoor was into technology and the internet and he made yahoo popular. so, yahoo opens a new window...

  2. Abhishek:

    I am afraid, it does not fit in with the picture, the occasion, and your reasoning too does not work in this case. This was at his funeral, so how does the Yahoo have to open a new window? He was dead. If they really wanted to play on the window-Yahoo connection, it would have been more apt to say that a Yahoo window closes, although that too would be in bad taste.

    But, then, since his passing coincided with Independence Day, there was a surfeit of reports that mentioned how he broke shackles of Nehruvian socialism, without reference to the context.


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