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Posts from the ‘History’ Category

The misplaced romantic notions of yearning for a dangerously flawed system.

I followed the celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of the Berlin wall with great interest and curiosity. I remember reading about the fall of the wall (doesn’t it have a nice rhyme to it?) with eyes wide open, as a little kid who had never been outside his country. To me Berlin was just a cold, foreign land where people were white, large, and wore suits all the time. I was too young to comprehend the words Iron curtain, Communism, Cold war, etc. I saw thousands of people on TV breaking a wall…may be there were some kids my age there; perhaps it meant the world to them. (one of my German friends who is just a little older than me, confirmed that indeed meant the world to him) 

And here I am, a few hours train ride away from Berlin. You would think I understand the meaning if it all now. Well, mostly yes, but there are still un answered questions for the future. 

One of the most interesting, but worrying trends I have noted is a series of articles, interviews, and voices suggesting that perhaps the end of communism wasn’t such a terrible thing after all. Apart from the usual suspects from the maniacal Indian left, there were views from around the world on this topic.

 The arguments run roughly like this: 

  1. The free market driven majority of the world is in the middle of a terrible economic recession
  2. Colonialism and feudalism have given way to corporate imperialism, but the enemies of the poor remain in a different form
  3. The country that is bucking the global trend and emerging as an economic and political powerhouse, is a communist China
  4. So perhaps communism wasn’t such a terrible thing after all, and we should revive this romantic, utopian notion of communism. 

To me this is a dangerous trend. The fight between Capitalism & Democracy vs. Communism & One party rule has gone on for a long time, and has seen much bloodshed on either side in the name of ideology. Perhaps, I don’t have any credentials to talk about that. And capitalistic democracies have their share of massive problems and grievances too. 

But I just wanted to take the example of one film, set in Communist controlled GDR (East Germany) to highlight why this kind of thinking is dangerous. 

I had the privilege of seeing with English sub titles, the German film called “Das Leben Der Anderen” (The lives of others). It’s a strong recommend for each and everybody if you could get your hands on a DVD. 

Made in 2006 by a German team & cast, it was written and directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. It is the story of communist controlled East Berlin. During that time, monitoring of cultural performers / groups / writers in East Berlin, by Stasi was a norm. Stasi was the communist GDR’s state police that had complete authority over East Berlin. The film is really powerful, even if it showed the totalitarian excesses of the state in a very subtle way, and did not depict a brutal reality. But in spite of the subtlety, it managed to convey the message about oppression, lack of free speech, political manipulation, during the communist regime. It won the 2007 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. 

It’s incredible that Germany can look back at its troubled recent history, introspect, and come out with meaningful literature and cinema about it. This kind of candid and critical look at our history is not something we are used to in India. But, only somebody that has witnessed communist & totalitarian brutality can tell you how it chokes you at the best of times, and kills masses in the worst of times. Those who still worship Lenin, Stalin & Mao would do will to take notice of such stories. 

Yes, we are in the middle of a recession (we refers to a large section of the free markets & states, democracies of the world such as US, UK, Europe, India, Japan); yes, people have lost jobs even as the greedy prosper; yes, money and development does not reach a  section of the society.

 But, there are ways and means for us to express our anger, voice our concerns, fight our causes, and make our changes. China may have rapid growth, strong reserves, large dams, modern cities and infrastructure, and roads / train lines into remote lands.

But China is a black box, and a pseudo communist country. Its economic policies are capitalistic, and its control over the free speech of the people is communist. Thus, it combines the worst of both worlds. Nobody has any clue as to the millions displaced / left behind / brutally killed to achieve its development or for showing dissent. As for the Cubas, Venezuelas of the world, the less said the better. 

Totalitarianism of any form – left or right wing, curtails of free speech, and the absence of democracy, are evils that misplaced romantics that dream of an equal world tend to ignore for their convenience.

You cannot dream of correcting our current failures by going back to a failed and even more terrible system. 

Cheers!

Vasu

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Excerpts from Ramachandra Guha’s “India after Gandhi”. Reproduced from Outlook magazine

http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?234562.

This is one of the best books I’ve read that discusses India’s modern history and role in the world. I may not agree to all the points made, but I strongly admire the central themes of Indian democracy, pluralism, and ability to cater to the needs of a significantly diverse population, in the face of complexities of the magnititude not witnessed anywhere else in the world.

The book is a strong recommendation for any Indian / person interested in India. At the very least, you can try to read & absorb this article 🙂

Cheers!

Vasu

Us and them

Over the last many years, I have had some opportunities to travel to far away lands. Though I have only been to a few countries and had fairly short stays, it was eye opening in many ways. In every conversation, interaction, or moment of solitude on a snow clad peak, I would constantly reflect on how much more cultures can grow stronger by increased exposure to a different way of life. As the Indian Diaspora expands into every nook and corner of the world, (yes I mean it – I have seen Indians in the least expected places!), all of us would notice a few changes in the world around us and how we respond. Even if you have never stepped outside the shores, you would find yourself reacting to people in your family such as a Gelf settled engineer, the IT geek from South who propagates consumption of Thayir Saadham in a Tex- Mex place, or the Punjabi dhaba owner in Cannedda or UK.  Whether you like and accept some of the changes or not, you cannot ignore the fact that it influences you.

I guess some of my plans worked well in life, and I was lucky enough to lead a “best of both worlds” life. I have seen India grow, change and evolve significantly and I have been privileged to have been at the core of this fascinating part our history. I feel a lot of 2nd generation Indians, NRIs, and people who moved out a while back for studies or work, have missed being a part of this. As a result, a large section of these people tend to be fairly surprised at the “development and change”, when they visit folks and friends back home. On the other extreme, we have people who have rarely travelled abroad, which is not a sin at all, but are blind to the country’s problems and live in a false sense of  a superior culture, and strongly believe that  “we are like this only”. I guess I can take a middle path and comment on where we can change for the better, where we should not change, and where we should lead the way. 

So the narrative I attempt to build, and get your views on, is a personalized account, in 3 parts on:

  1. What are the changes in society, I would wish India (US) embraces from other countries (THEM – refers to the few parts of US, Europe, Far East that I have visited, could be extrapolated to denote the “developed world”)
  2. Where we should stop aping them, and pursue what we have been doing all along instead, and
  3. What are the areas, where we can lead the way

 For the sake of a focused discussion, I wanted to restrict the number of I topics to specific number. I went for the number eight – for no random reason. I want to stress again that this is highly personalized, and I am not expecting everybody to agree with my list. There are some topics I care about, and there are some that I don’t care so much about. For example, I do not have a very strong personal feeling or opinion on the topic of homosexuality in India. I have nothing against homosexuals, and I think its okay, but I would not be holding up a banner and marching for gay rights either. But if there is a need to make a protest march on some of the topics below, then I would gladly do so!

If you are reading this, chances are that I sent you this link, and hence I think you can contribute from your experiences. I am fairly curious to find out what people’s opinion is on the topics I listed, and what the #1 topic you personally feel should be added. 

So after a really long introduction, let’s get right to the core of the blog:

  1. Have a life beyond the office cubicle, the laptop, and the blackberries
  2. Dress smart
  3. Take a vacation
  4. Public display of affection (PDA)
  5. Know your country / history
  6. If there are some rules & processes, follow them, or don’t bother having them in the first place
  7. Can we have some genuinely funny TV show please?
  8. KISS – Keep it short and sweet!
  9. Show creativity in “creative” fields (cinemas, literature, and music) and stop ripping off!

I’ll soon publish detailed views on each of the topics above.

Cheers!

Vasu

Hello world!

Hello world!

This is not my first blog, but it’s my first at word press. After irrationally switching blogs from different sites just to see if I am more active with it, I am here!

Sounds fairly stupid, but what is a life without any stupidity or silly acts?

My “About me” section is not going to tell you anything, and most probably a few good friends would be the only people to read his blog to start with, so I thought I would start with a short intro and a long list of topics I want to write about.

I am an Indian man, in late twenties, single, working in business consulting, and living in Europe after seeing a few snippets of other countries. The rest, you either know if you are a friend, or would know if and when you read my blogs.

So without further ado, here is a very ambitious list of topics close to my heart that I have strong views on, and where I wish to write, and get critical feedback on: 

  1. The story of my experiments with charting my own path to life:
  2. Role models:
  3. Indian politics and social issues
  4. Religion & faith
    • Religious, ideological and cultural dogmas that ail the world
    • Can you be rational, liberal and not a communist
    • Can you be a believer, spiritual, and not religious?
    • The supremely powerful entity called I
  5. Globalization: the Good, the bad, and the Ugly
  6. Us and them: Impact of globalization on India:
  7. Relationships
    • Why do we complicate, essentially simple things?
    • Inter cultural relationships: why I find the concept so exciting!
    • From an Indian perspective: why are most Indian men jeans wearing patriarchs?  Family system and feudal mindset vs. western inspired romantic and sexual awakening: where is this clash going?
  8. Travelogues from planned and spontaneous, long, and short trips, to faraway lands, or nearby villages
  9. Funny / light hearted tales from everyday life
  10. The life of an expat
  11. Movies I have loved and watched over and over again
  12. My bucket list of whims and fancies that posses me, what I managed to do, and what are still pipe dreams: Ranging from owning  a German Shepherd, to making a film,  to climbing Everest
  13. Epics and mythologies: what we can learn from them, and what should be taken with a pinch of salt
  14. The big, bad, virtual world: How a lot of us have learnt a lot using the internet vs. how stunted our social skills could become due to / in spite of social networking
  15. Links to interesting blogs / articles / videos  that I have an opinion on, or that I find just plain funny
  16. Quotes and statements that resonate with me 

That’s it for the lofty plan! 

I have started at this website by sharing links to a few select blogs I wrote earlier, and are dated pretty much mid 2007

Cheers!

Vasu

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