The last post in this blog, on the need for bipartisan politics, came into spotlight with
quotes from the eulogies to the late Arizona Senator John McCain and the emotional, angry, thought-provoking speech by his daughter, Meghan McCain.
It also evoked some interesting reactions. While many agreed, in emails or personal conversations, with the need for bipartisan politics in India some were uncomfortable with that conclusion. It made one thing obvious: Some agree with and admire Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his expressed views and stand, as I do; some others’ support for him is purely dogmatic, as they belong to his school of thought, just as the opposition to him by some is just because he belongs to another religion.
“I am not a Hindu, so I must oppose whatever he says and find fault with it,” they think just as the supporters think, “He stands for Hindutva, just as I do, so I must support him.”
It is for you to decide which of the two categories following e-mail from an ex-student (which explains the ‘sir’) belongs to
This was a wonderful piece. As usual bringing out a nuanced argument about the issue at hand.
I agree with the fact pointed out by McCain’s daughter … America was great always and need not be made
great again (as Trump wants to) but was immediately drawn to the potential to compare with India — Modi and his ilk trying to do it … India is great already … no need to do what is being unnecessarily pushed in the
name of development.
But reading this para … “The Arizona senator planned to make his death an extraordinary political moment that has elevated a national debate on the values on which the United States was founded. McCain’s funeral marked the largest gathering of the bipartisan political establishment… I could not help but wonder … why did you not throw in a comparison here with Vajpayee’s death and the funeral spectacle that was made.
The only difference is … McCain planned it and Vajpayee was in no position to do it. But had he been, he would not have done it.
Do you agree with the conclusion that Vajpayee, during whose regime relations with the
inimical Pakistan were the most friendly in 71 years of independent India and who did not hesitate to praise Indira Gandhi as goddess Durga when she took courageous action against an event that brought into India an influx of refugees never before experienced by any Western country, would not have advocated bipartisan politics – if he were not reduced to a vegetable existence in his last days perhaps due to Parkinson’s and/or dementia?
Would Vajpayee have decided to ignore the dynastic parties crying hoarse about ‘intolerance to Muslims’ just to create their vote banks without realising that educated, enlightened Muslims would see through the game?
Would Vajpayee have not called for a bipartisan stand when the so-called liberals shed tears for the Myanmar minority of Rohingya Muslims while they said nothing about the influx India faced during the Bangladesh war?
Would Vajpayee have not questioned the ‘liberals’ backing Kashmiri militants who threw out thousands of Pandits from their own land and are now demanding human rights and ‘independence’ for a land they forcibly occupied as invaders?
Had Hindus been not tolerant of other religions, would many countries where they left imprints of their culture and religion not have become Hindu countries when India itself, being partitioned on the basis of religion, chose to be secular?
The reason some supporters of the coalition ruling India feel embarrassed is that Modi too is considered a maverick rightist like with Donald Trump who, like Modi, is also an “outsider” (not in the ruling dynasty or a professional politician seeking power for self-aggrandizement) who got elected unexpectedly. Any comparison with Trump would lead to Modi’s ‘Hindutva’ stand being compared to Trump’s reliance on “redneck Bible-belt white supremacist’ support to come to power. Both are taking some not-very-popular strong decisions.
And it is grudged both are bringing to their countries economic prosperity and success.
A WORLD WITHOUT strife, warfare, hatred and mutual distrust is an ideal world. It is what visionaries dreamt human evolution would lead to. It will be the heaven all want — all who are normal, peace-loving humans, and not perverts or evil people.
And every thinking human being presumes he/she is a normal, peace-loving, good person and that everyone opposing him/her is a pervert, evil, self-seeking, bad person. The aim of all politics is harmony, well-being. All religions seek enlightenment, peace, bliss and happiness for every human being.
But more blood has been flown, more humans killed, more people subjected to misery and hardship in the name of religion and politics than any other cause, because of people who think their religion ALONE is right, their God ALONE is the Supreme God and their way of governance ALONE is the right way. Everything else is wrong. All else is to be changed, if necessary by violence, inflicting pain or even killing.
They do not realise the world is not just black or white. There are greys too.
The welfare and progress of the majority is believed to be the goal of democracy. How that is determined, however, remains uncertain. The West has designed the 51:49 model which, for want of anything better, has been adopted by most countries, while some believed that a dictator or a king has the divine right to decide. So some want dynastic rule. In the Western model, if 51 say something and 49 something else, what the former says prevails.
The ancient Indian model of democracy is that of Adi Shankaracharya who traversed the length and breadth of the vast Indian sub-continent twice before he died in his thirties, to argue and convince by reasoning and logic, all those who questioned the Hindu philosophy and way of life. Ancient Indians believed in consensus, as against majority. One washerman doubting the chastity of Sita could make Rama ask her to prove it, though millions worshipped Rama and Sita.
Adi Shankara vanquished in his debate all but Mandana Mishra and agreed to have a debate with him. Who was to judge the winner? Mandana Mishra’s own wife, who was herself a great scholar. And when Shankara was adjudged by her as the winner, he accepted her contention that his victory was incomplete as she was the better half of Mandana Mishra and he should defeat her too.
He accepted that too, showing what space women (then) occupied in Indian thinking.
Listening to funeral orations on the death of one who is described as the American maverick, Arizona Senator John McCain — some brilliant, touching speeches made on Saturday (here in America) — one is struck by one word: Bipartisan.
Several of those who paid tributes to McCain, at the memorial service at Washington’s National Cathedral on Saturday, were from the opposition Democratic party. It was the departed leader’s own desire that they should deliver the eulogies. Several disagreed with his political goals. But none doubted his intentions, the sincerity of his beliefs, the genuineness of the man himself.
It took a grieving daughter to capture the spirit of the man. Meghan McCain spoke, often in tears and breaking down emotionally, of him as the “fierce conscience of the nation’s best self.” The “culmination of a uniquely political week of mourning,” as a channel put it, was the realisation that democracy was all about the wellbeing and happiness of a majority.
Meghan said: “We gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness. The real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly.” It is widely believed to be a reference to Donald Trump, President of the USA, who belongs to McCain’s own party
In “a stunning eulogy laced with grief, anger, pride and love” and a rebuttal to Trump, Meghan said, “the America of John McCain has no need to be made great again, because America was always great.” An outburst of spontaneous applause interrupted her eulogy.
Today there cannot be a consensus on everything. But rational thinking and debate can establish what is right and what is wrong. Democracy is believed to support this debate, this churning of minds to bring out the truth. Truth can be only one. If 51 out of 100 say (due to fear or offering of some sops in return) that black is white, it does not become so.
Under Narendra Modi, the Army’s surgical strike had to be criticised. His call for rural toilets and cleanliness is ridiculed. Demonetization to eradicate black money and his crusade against corruption are faulted. Efforts for a national identity citizenship card are fought. Vajpayee praised Indira Gandhi as goddess Durga for Bangladesh liberation, but politics had to be played on his ashes after cremation.
All to keep a dynasty in power.
McCain was eulogized for his courage, patriotic service, obstinacy, humor, reverence for freedom and contempt for bullies, the personification of America itself. John McCain was a senator, like a member of India’s Lok Sabha — not the President of Vice president of the party now in majority and ruling the country. He had contested in a party primary against President George Bush and in a presidential race against Barrack Obama.
And yet the nation celebrated him — something which India’s rulers till 2014 could never think of. The three non-dynasty Congress Prime Ministers who preceded Modi were only stop-gap arrangements tolerated by the Congressas long as the dynasty called the shots. Their role is belittled. They did not deserve memorials.Their portraits do not adorn the party dais.
The Arizona senator planned to make his death an extraordinary political moment that has elevated a national debate on the values on which the United States was founded. McCain’s funeral marked the largest gathering of the bipartisan political establishment.
Bipartisan politics, where the rivals agree on national issues, is a far cry in India.
INDIA, WORLD’S BIGGEST democracy was never as close to the world’s greatest democracy, the United States of America, as it is today.
The ‘comrades’ who drove the country into what was the Communist camp of the Soviet Union before it broke up, regret this. Political differences on the issue can be debated at length, and both sides can be right on some points.
But there can be no differences on the fact that we seem to always learn the wrong things from other countries and religions.
Watching the funeral eulogies of Senator John McCain, who died on August 25, just 4 days before he was to turn 82, reminded me of how leaders of the Majlis Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (MIM) in Aurangabad Municipal Corporation opposed an obituary resolution on the death of one of India’s most successful and respected of Prime Ministers, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who died on August 16, just because he was a Hindu. They were thrashed and chased out by the Bharatiya Janata Party members.
McCain, a staunch Republican who lost a primary contest to President George Bush and a presidential race to President Barack Obama, had just before his desired that his funeral eulogies should be delivered by George Bush, Barack Obama and the Democratic Vice-president of Obama regime, Joe Biden.
This brings into focus what I just heard in an audiobook (in preparation for the coming blindness) by Joe Biden on the death of his son Bo ‘Promise Me, Dad – A Year of Hope, Hardship And Purpose’. In the touching narration of his son’s last days of battle with cancer and his own dilemma over contesting for presidentship after Obama, Biden says the Republicans were just his rivals and not enemies.
Both parties have their own vision of a united America, its people’s aspirations and values and their beliefs. Contesting against Obama in the primaries and against Bush in the presidential race were just democratic actions, not a war.
He has his own values but accepts the rivals’ right to their own values and goals. And he was all praise for McCain’s sincerity and beliefs, though he differed.
True, I sat through in Parliament in Press gallery, when leaders of all parties paid tributes to departed MPs of all parties in many ‘obituary references’. But they were all mere formal rituals None sounded so true as the eulogies by Biden or Obama. Not one was memorable.
The political culture nurtured by decades of Congress party rule in India is one in which the political rivals are enemies, some parties are deemed “untouchable” and dynastic rule is sought to be made legitimate. What Modi says has to be opposed even if right and in people’s interest. You can align with Muslim League and MIM, put up candidates on the basis of caste and religion, organise genocide of one community and regularise refugees of one faith to build religion-based vote banks. But those who talk of the majority Hindus are ‘communal’!
Even after 71 years of Independence, Indian polity is yet to mature
KERALA, THE MOST LITERATE state in India has experienced its worst calamity in over 100 years. And India responded with full sympathy in rushing aid to the state. Heavy rains and floods have killed hundreds of people and displaced lakhs of them.
Rehabilitating the affected people is a herculean task. The entire nation and even Indians living abroad – Kerala has a very large number of them – are contributing generously to the relief and rehabilitation work in Kerala.
But then came relief politics. Rescue, relief and rehabilitation — the three Rs of disaster management– were pushed into the background in the state thatcourtesy Sikh Siayasat News was always first in India in the “3Rs” of education – reading writing and arithmetic (popular as ‘3 Rs’ though only one of them starts with an R).
It started with someone posting on WhatsApp and other social media pictures of workers of Seva Bharati, the RSS disaster management wing, engaged in rescue and relief work in the troubled state, with a request to forward the posts to others as “the paid-news presstitute” mainstream media would not let the world know of their contribution. The posts vent viral.
This has obviously irked the Congress and its “comrades” of the Communist Party of India and the CPI Marxist who rule the state. They countered it with posts denigrating the RSS group’s work. Very few know that Seva Bharati has been doing commendable relief work in every disaster-struck area in the country without any publicity. In my forays into social work I was involved in disaster management after the earthquake in Latur and have seen the quiet, self-less service of Seva Bharati volunteers.
This time someone wanted to publicise it and the anti-BJP parties thought politics was more important than relief and that this was a good stick to beat the BJP-led coalition in power at the Centre.
The Central government announced an advance assistance of Rs 600 crores while the state demanded several times that amount. The state also announced that the United Arab Emirates announced an aid of Rs 700 crores. Media persons searching for some reason to criticise the Centre took it up as a big issue.
A news channel host, always at the forefront of this brigade, made it a big issue, saying the Centre was giving less that the aid offered by UAE which was not being accepted by the BJP rulers.
Embarrassing that loudmouthed news anchor, the UAE Ambassador in India announced that officially no amount of aid was decided on and that the Centre had thanked UAE for its offer to help. It was the earlier Congress regime which decided that as a policy, no relief from abroad should be accepted. Had the NDA government accepted the aid the same Congress would have attacked it for lowering the country’s selfrespect.
An anchor more loudmouthed than the critic of BJP got a chance to out-shout him and point out that the UAE government did NOT announce more than the Central aid and also that what the Centre announced was just the first instalment or advance. The state’s ability to spend thousands of crores at once was also questioned
“Can Kerala government spend thousands of crores on a single day? Or will it put the money in FDs?” a Facebook post taunted. Another concluded that the BJP/Centre was anti-Kerala as it was ruled by the Communists.Congress leaders pointed out the earlier decision (not to accept foreign aid) referred only to relief and not rehabilitation.
He was obviously unaware that rehabilitation comes much after rescue and relief. He also did not object to a Sikh group from Chicago, Khalsa Aid, sending relief supplies and setting up langars in Kerala – all parts of rescue and relief that, as per his party, should not be accepted. “Khalsa Aid CEO Ravi Singh told BBC that the humanitarian aid group will expand its operations in Kerala to help the distressed people,” Sikh Siyasat News reported.
There was a post saying a pro-RSS teacher, whose legs were cut off by the Marxists years ago, was doing rescue work in the floods when he was again attacked by CPM and his artificial legs broken. There were also reports of the CPI-collected relief supplies being carted away by force by the CPM to its own relief centres.
When it came to relief politics the Marxists had no allies – Congress or CPI.
The Chief Minister’s Office in Kerala joined the fray in attacking the Centre for rejecting the UAE aid. It also said in a statement that the controversial Shashi Tharoor, the Congress MP spending time in Geneva when the state that elected him to Parliament was in distress, was not an authorised spokesman of the Kerala Government when he made statements about the disaster in foreign forums and media.
The flood disaster has not only taken political colour but also a communal one. One tweet said Shah Rukh Khan gave away Rs. 5 crores for relief. Another said Salman Khan gave Rs 12 crores with no publicity for the Kerala flood victims. A third questioned if Amitabh Bachchan donated to flood relief at all. The tweets came from members of one community.
The man who tweeted that the BJP was anti-Kerala was asked, “Do you think only the Vatican and UAE are concerned about Kerala? The man’s community is obvious – as was his bias.
Kerala has very large number of Muslims and Christians and both play a major role in the politics of that state – reason why the BJP has been unable to make any headway there.
It turned out that SRK gave only Rs.21 lakhs and that too from Meer Trust he controlled. What Salman Khan gave is still not known, but his track record is of high donations. Amitabh Bachchan gave not only Rs 51 lakhs from his own money but also six cartons of clothes, 40 pairs of shoes and other material.
The film industry joined the rest of the country is coming to Kerala’s aid. Kunal Kapoor and Randeep Hooda have been actively helping the Kerala flood victims through various crowd-funding projects. Sunny Leone sent 1200 kilograms of rice and dal for the victims. Kangana Ranaut donned Rs. 10 Lakh towards Kerala CM’s Relief Fund. Sushant Singh Rajput has been supporting the cause and has “gone the extra mile and donated Rs. 1 crore to the state”.
Singer-songwriter A.R. Rahman paid a special tribute to the flood victims. In a recent concert at California, he replaced ‘Mustafa‘ with ‘Kerala’ in the lyrics of his famous song. He also sang ‘Don’t Worry Kerala‘.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the flood damage would be much more than the primary estimate of Rs 20,000 crore, ”Rehabilitation process of the displaced is progressing in the right direction,” he said. He rejected criticism of the rehabilitation and relief work, by the Congress-led UDF opposition.
Having worked in the field of disaster relief and reduction I recollect that every time there was a major disaster in any state in the country, the Centre allotted only a fraction of what the state demanded – whichever party was in power in the two places. In fact, I had spoken at some forums on why the Press exaggerated the seriousness of a disaster and why the loss figures are always much higher than the real ones.
The scaling-up is done to ensure that more come to the rescue of those affected and that the aid is stepped up. After Latur I had also warned against the affected people becoming dole-dependent and being reduced to being beggars.
Kerala is one state that would never face these problems as its people have high self-respect and would never be dole-dependent. There is, perhaps, no region in India which does not have some Karaites as they are prepared to go anywhere and work hard.
But the tendency of members of a community praising contribution of celebrities of their own community and political parties trying to distract attention by politicizing relief work is, to say the least, unfortunate.
Politicians only reaped a rich harvest of corruption from floods and drought as pointed out inP. Sainath’s book ‘Everybody Loves a Good Drought’
Kerala,the birthplace of Adi Shankara, has enough of politics and religious rifts. What it needs is relief.
HUUMOUR, THEY SAY 😊, is a serious business. Or, has this too become a cliche and so not funny any more?
A sense of humour is a prized possession every man wants to be known for. Women find it more attractive than appearance or affluence. In a mixed company, a sense of humour gets more appreciation than any other attribute.
Never does the difficulty of writing humour become so obvious than when you are trying to be humorous on purpose, without the humour coming from your inner self, when you are not being natural and when it is contrived or “made to order”. Very few have the ability to write humour when their own thoughts are bordering on pathos, like the poet Thomas Hood (‘Bridge of Sighs‘, ‘On Her Deathbed‘ and several other poems born of despair and tragedy) who, it is said, wrote ‘lighter stuff’ and humorous lyrics for a living.
I always held that the greatest pleasure of knowing the English language was being able to read and understand P. G. Wodehouse. For those who want legal humour, there is Henry Cecil (No Bail for The Judge, Brothers in Law) and Richard Gordon (‘Doctor in Love, Doctor at Sea) for medical humour.
But then, humour and pathos are believed to be closely related. Natya Shastra (the ancient Indian treatise on the science of drama, dance or make-believe) holds that humour is born out of pathos, Pu. La. Deshpande, the great Marathi humourist, told me in an interview around 1961. He explained it at great length.
Humour is a safety spring of life that absorbs the knocks and bruises life causes. Life is a tragedy you can survive only by enjoying its humour, I recall him saying decades ago. The humour of PuLa and of Sharad Joshi, the Hindi humourist who read prose at every important humorous poets’ gathering (Hasya Kavi Sammelan) and was applauded for it, was of a more enduring, impacting brand. It had depth and subtlety which many others, who believed in slap-stick or banana-peel humour, lacked.
In Raj Kapoor’s magnum opus, Mera Naam Joker, the circus joker, making everyone laugh, was a melancholy character. It was too subtle for the Indian audience of last century, as proved by its failure at the box-office — a big blow to the master showman. Another great showman, Charlie Champlin with whom he was often compared, tried to bring out the tragedy of contemporary life through comedy in films like Modern Times, King in New York, The Kid, The Great Dictator, Limelight and The Tramp.
Chaplin is said to be the only comedian who could make you cry when he laughed and laugh when he cried. That reminds me of the role of Johnny Walker in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s classic Anand. Known only for slapstick, brainless, not-so-subtle humour, Johnny plays a drama actor who humours Anand (Rajesh Khanna) on his deathbed and realising that Anand was aware all along that he was dying, keeps up the pretence. He then runs out crying that he would not let the curtain fall. Even recollecting the scene brings tears.
Many great writers have used humour to take up social issues, like T.P Kailasam (1884-1946) and BeeChi (Rayasam Bheemasena Rao, 1913-1980) in Kannada as did Gurajada Apparao (‘Kanyashulkam’-1892) Mokkapati Narasimha Sastry (‘Barrister Parvateesham’-1924), in Telugu. ‘Kalki’ Krishnamurthy (1899-1954) lives in the Tamil magazine that shares his pen name today. In Gujarat, Tarak Mehta, who died last year, had a cult following in Hindi serials with his “Oolta Chashma” comedy serial, while some like Vinod Dave and Narsinh Mehta had combined journalism with humour. Hindi had a great shortage of humour writers but by the time I met Harishankar Parsai at Jabalpur in 1966, he was already a known Communist sympathiser working for his ideology.
In every language, humour has been used to draw people’s attention to social issues and motivate change for good. Humour has played a great rule in the success of many films but in most Indian-language mainstream films, like ‘Ganget Ghoda Nhala‘ (Marathi) of Raja Paranjape (1910-1979), it remains very crude and often vulgar.
Hindi TV comedian Kapil Sharma’s life has been turning into a tragedy and cricketer-turned-comedian-turned-minister Navjot Singh Siddhu is resorting to buffoonery in Pakistan in his third role – as a politician.
Comedians becoming mere jokers will turn humour into tragedy.
Thousands of journalists, political leaders and people in public life condoled his death — some of them not even knowing the names of his 15 books or his name itself. Former Shiv Sena leader and now Maharashtra Congress president Sanjay Nirupam tweeted “Veteran journalist Shri Kuldeep Nayer’sdemise is a big loss to Indian journalism. He was a peace activist & a great nationalist. Have fond memories of working with him in Rajya Sabha. Beyond The Line & India after Nehru were his most popular books. My condolences to his wife Bharti.”
Nirupam does not know that Kuldeep spelt his name as Nayar, unlike most Punjabi Nayyars and one Punjabi who adopted the Malayalam version, Hollywood film-maker Meera Nair.
And his most famous book on (the then) current affairs was ‘Between The Lines’ not ‘Beyond The Line’ as mentioned by Nirupam, who perhaps did not read Kuldeep’s bylined column of the same name. The condoelnce served only to remind readers that he, Sanjay, was a member of Rajya Sabha.
A Pakistani daily, The Express Tribune, distorted RIP (Requisit in Pace or Rest In Peace as commonly understood) to ‘Rest in Power’. Had he hankered after power, he would have cashed his job as IO in Press Information Bureau, later, or as Press Secretary to Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri.
Anyone who is 80 and waiting near the exit gate of life, for it to open, is likely to read most obituaries and write on them. Sticking to my practice of writing only personal recollections when eminent people die – and not what is already in public domain or on Internet– I recall meeting him several times.
As the Editor-in-Chief he visited The Indian Express daily ( undivide then) at an edition which I had launched as the first chief sub-editor. Talking to him I mentioned his student days in the USA.
A close friend, the late Dr Singammal Iyengar, told me that when she went to the USA for the second time for her doctoral studies at the Northwestern University at Evanston near Chicago, he was in the prestigious Medeil School of journalism at the university. As a ‘senior’ she bossed over all the Indian students, helping overcome their culture shock and teaching them the expected basic behaviour.
Her contact with journalism was minimal: she thought the United News of India (UNI) news agency which he headed when she ttold me about “that boy Kuldeep”, was a part of the United Nations!
A look at Kuldip Nayar even in his later days shows he must have been a very handsome, tall, Punjabi youth. Many girls wanted to be noticed by him and told Dr Iyengar that he never socialised (that is, dated) and vanished after classes.
So Singammal summoned him to the canteen and asked why. He told her that as soon as “school” ended, he went to work for his pocket money. Educational loans were unheard of in India then and most Indian students worked, some even in restaurents and motels. This led to a joke by Dr Laxmanswami Mudaliar (or his twin brother Dr Laxmanswami), who as Vice-Chancellor at a convocation where Chester Bowles, the then famous US Ambassador in India, said in his welcome speech, “I am told in America, you give degrees for dishwashing.”
The intended pun was to say that American universities had degrees even in subjects like dishwashing, with a dig at students getting degrees after washing dishes in a restaurent.
Kuldeep, very quick on the uptake, guessed that I was referring to the incident narrated by Dr Iyengar. He laughed it away, saying, “Oh, in those days, I had no money and had to work.” Having started his journalistic career in Urdu newspapers, he never wrote to show off his knowledge of English and even admitted wirting was not his forte.
But humility certainly was. At least twice I took students of the journalism departrment, as a teacher in charge of their Delhi ‘study tour’, to his house and he spent quality time with them. I remember him chiding the Head of Department for bringing the students late. “You must teach them to keep time,” he had said.
I regret that in my book on Indian journalism I wrote as a joke, (while mentioning that he was a hihgly respected journalist in India) about Kuldeep’s arrest by Indira Gandhi during the Emergency and said some described him as “Journalist-in-law”. He was the son-in-law of Bhimsen Sachar, the first Chief Minister of Bombay Presidency (before states were reorganised) and brother-in-law of the late Justice Rajendra Sachar.
But then who would remember such trivia? I hope journalism students would remember at least Kuldeep Nayar