Friday, February 5, 2010

The elephant , the tiger , the cellphone and my musings – III – The Finale..

This is my final post on this splendid book. It is a culmination of what would first come to my mind when I think of it.

In one of the first few chapters of the book ,Mr Tharoor speaks about the “soft power” of a nation. For the uninitiated, this means the bargaining or influencing power that a country has earned through its actions. For Eg :- India ,Mr Tharoor says has lost its soft power in speaking about the minorites in Pakistan or Sri Lanka because of Kandhamal , Babri Masjid, Godhra etc etc. Similarly he says that movies play a big role in influencing international perception. He gives the example of one of the Indiana Jones movies in which India is shown as a land where children are mercilessly killed to satisfy a deity and as a land of monkey brain eaters. Mr Tharoor says that this movie did considerable damage to India’s soft power in the eyes of the Westerners, who simply believed what they saw. I am eager to know what Mr Tharoor thinks of Slumdog Millionaire and all its worldwide glory. After all, the movie portrays several gory aspects of India.

The final essay in the book is about Mr Tharoor’s visit to the Ajanta and Ellora Caves. Here he writes elaborately on the beauty of ancient Indian monuments. However he also  takes us through the most common scenes in such tourist spots – young children trying to sell Camera film rolls , people providing palanquin service for elders and tourist guides providing great guided tours.

One of the highlights of the book is about the emphasis that Mr Tharoor has given to ancient Indian science. Essay after essay he reminds us that several concepts such as gravity ,  planetary motion etc were known to early Indians centuries before the apple fell on Newton’s head or Copernicus got a telescope in his hand. Although I remember reading this in my school, I never appreciated it much or gave much thought to it, because year after year, syllabus after syllabus we were reading the same thing and it seemed pretty normal. However at this point in my life, I am really beginning to appreciate the richness of Indian civilization; Maybe more so because I don’t have to worry about remembering these for an exam.

People who attacked Mr Tharoor for his cattle class comment should have read this book and the chapter on Political humour. It is clear that Mr Tharoor loves humour (of course those that are in good taste). While most of India would remember Sarojini Naidu as the nightingale of India, I remember her for her famous comment on Gandhiji’s austerity – “if only he knew how much it costs us to keep him in poverty”
I am pasting the link to one of ST’s article in Hindu where he speaks about Indians’ sense of humour and the lack of it.

To summarize, I’ve had a great time reading this book. I am eager to follow up by reading several of his other books. I end this article with one of the best phrases I came across in the book – “India is not a developing country. It is a developed country in an advanced state of decay”.


Monday, February 1, 2010

The elephant , the tiger , the cellphone and my musings - II The two sides of the Vindhyas..

I’ll continue with opinions on ST’s “the elephant , the tiger and the cellphone”. Mr Tharoor several times in his book states that he sees only South India making economic progress. He feels that it is South India that is India’s economic engine and is carrying the baggage of the rest of the country! Mr Tharoor , being in the government must surely have his facts right when he says this but somehow my opinion on this issue differs from his.
North India has produced some of India’s finest businessmen. These business leaders have generated wealth and employment for Indians. This fact certainly cannot be ignored. It is widely accepted that Gujarat has contributed more to the country’s economy than any other state could even imagine. Gujarati’s have gone on to assume important positions in several countries. Gujarat contributes to a major share of India’s diamond exports. The Gujarati and Punjabi Community in the USA have contributed a great deal in improving ties between the US and India. That is one of the reasons we are seeing so many NRI’s being awarded by the Padma Bushan. The current government’s mantra is simple – Anyone who helps improve India’s standing in the world would be awarded. The Sikh community has a significant presence in the UK and have generated ample employment and revenue. It is after looking at these facts that I am surprised with the stand taken by Mr Tharoor.

Another fact that cannot be ignored is that people from the north of the Vidhyas assume significant positions in the government machinery. The enthusiasm to join the IAS is greater among the youth in Bihar than in any other state. So it is important that Mr Tharoor clearly defines a metric with which he measures a state’s contribution to a country. In my opinion, it cannot be simply measured by the number of jobs generated by the Information Technology Sector, something that Mr Tharoor does. After all , the IT sector only caters to a million jobs in a country of 1.3 billion.

Another fact that cannot be ignored is that India allows the free movement of people. Hence it is impossible to state that South India’s progress or North India’s progress is only fuelled by people of that region. The Reliance and the Tata empires are run by some of the brightest minds from South India while some of the brightest engineers from north India contribute to the IT sector growth in Bangalore.
If you have read thus far, you would assume that I am a person from North India and hence my opinions. No I am what most people would call a “Madarasi” and I call myself a “Bangalorean”.

It would have been very glad if the whole concept of North Indians and South Indians and their respective contributions to the country would not have featured in the book. After all we are all Indians first.
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