Saturday, December 24, 2016

Today's gratitude

is for this thought:


Write your sorrows in sand, and your gratitude in granite. Leave the sand on the beach and use the granite on your kitchen slab.



Sunday, December 18, 2016

पहेलियाँ

कौन सी दो बातें सब से ज़्यादा दुःख देती हैं?


१. किसी का हो कर भी न होना.
२. किसी का न हो कर भी हर समय होना.




What are the 2 greatest sorrows that we know?
1. Someone who is here, and still isn't.
2. Someone who is not here, and still is. Always.








कौन दो लोग सब से ज़्यादा दुःख देते हैं?
१. कोइ ऐसा जो हो कर भी न हो. 
२. कोइ ऐसा जो जीवन में नहीं है, पर मन में हर समय होता है. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Acknowledge that mental illness is not another malady

जैसे हम लोग ये मानते हैं कि AIDS या cancer जीवनघाती रोग है, terminal illness है, वैसे ही हमें ये भी स्वीकार करना चाहिए की अवसाद (depression) या और मानसिक रोग भी जीवन घाती (terminal illnesses) हैं.


इन रोगों को भी वही इज़्ज़त, या कम से कम वही acknowledgement तो मिलना चाहिए. लोगों को मालूम तो होना चाहिए की अगर किसी को अवसाद है, तो ये निश्चित नहीं की वो ठीक हो ही जाएगा.


जिस तरह हम कर्करोग या एड्स के मरीजों के अधिकारों में अपने जाने का समय चुनने के अधिकार की शिरकत करते हैं, यही शिरकत मानसिक रोग के रोगियों के लिए क्यों नहीं की जाती?


We speak about AIDS and cancer, and acknowledge the terminal nature of some of the cases of these illnesses. Why don't we accord the same seriousness and the same acknowledgement to mental illnesses?


We speak the right to die with dignity for patients who suffer from terminal illnesses of the body. Why don't we include that right among the rights of those affected by life long, terminal mental illnesses?

कतरनें

आज, बड़ी अजीब बात हुई. रेडियो पर, कोई  गानों को मिला कर, गा रहा था. और मेरे दिमाग में आया, की ये गाने, तुम्हे गाने चाहिए... ये बस तुम्हारी ही आवाज़ में अच्छे लगेंगे. इसी तरह , ठीक इसी बुनावट में. बस आवाज़ तुम्हारी हो.


*************


मैं रोज़ अच्छे कपडे पहनता हूँ. इत्र रोज़ लगता है. और बाल भी रोज़ संवरते हैं. लोग कहते हैं की लड़के इतने सजीले अमूमन होते नहीं हैं. पर तुम पता नहीं किस दिन मिल जाओ, यूँ ही, कहीं भी..


*********************

Thursday, December 08, 2016

RIP

I belong
to a world gone by
When it came to its expiry date
That world expired.
Leaving its inhabitants
out in the cold
The world did not know
that the expiry date of the world
is also
the expiry date
of its inhabitants
Someone, someplace
made a mistake
and now I live
well past my expiry date
in a world
that is no more.

The unlovables

We are
the unlovables. The ones
who
are
too aggressive
too demanding
too compulsive
too rigid.
we are
the unlovable ones

Friday, December 02, 2016

Friendships

Friendship is just a tag.


But its something.
In a world full of nothings
Its a very important something.

On social media and loneliness

शायद ऐसा ही होता है लोगों के साथ... शायद ऐसे ही शुरू होता है सब कुछ. चुप रहने का सिलसिला, चुप करा देने के सिलसिले से भी शुरू हो सकता है, और चुप होने से भी.


लोग सोचते नहीं, बोलते बहुत हैं. किसी चीज़ के बारे में विचार व्यक्त करने के लिए, उस चीज़ के बारे में जानना भी ज़रूरी है, ये कहाँ लिखा है?


 बिना सोचे बोलने वालों से मुझे सख्त चिढ़ हुआ करती थी. अब भी है.


फिर देखा, चारों ओर , लोगों की बातों का शोर. इतने लोग, इतनी बातें, ज़्यादातर वो बातें जिन्हें कहने की करने की, कोई ज़रुरत ही नहीं. और बातें भी, वो नहीं जो ऐसे ही दोंस्तों में की जाएँ। सारी दुनिया को सुनाई जाएँ और उन से टिपण्णी की उम्मीद भी हो.


वे लोग, जिनकी बातें अच्छी लगती हैं, धीरे धीरे काम बात करने लगे. फूहड़पन बेशर्म भी होता है. दानाई शर्मीली. बस  यही हुआ हमारी दुनिया के साथ. दानाई शर्मा गयी, फूहड़पन को मंच मिल गया..यही मंच आगे जा कर सोशल मीडिया बना. 


और अंदर की बातें? अंदर ही खो गयी कहीं. न कोई हमनवा, न हमराज़, न हमदम, न हबीब।

Monday, November 28, 2016

For you, Y

You and I, we will spend the rest of our lives burning in hell. We made our choices. Some choices were made for us. But now we have to live out the results of those choices. We chose to be true to the heart's desire. That is difficult for the lightest things. But for what our hearts desire, it is well nigh insane.


And so, my dear, we will spend our lives burning in hells of desires that cannot be fulfilled. This birth is not ours to know happiness. In this birth, we can only know pain. Endless, piercing pain. Perhaps it is our retribution for some acts of the past. But its our only reality now. For the rest of our lives. And we must make our peace with that idea.


So don't ask me what you should do. Because we cannot do it. We cannot undo it either - the cause of the pain.


When night falls, and all the masks fall off, one by one, as we prepare for bed, you and I will become aware, every single night, of a singular fact. That we are very grateful for everything we have. We are very, very privileged and we have enough to count our blessings by. But we are not happy. And we cannot hide behind gratitude to run away from that. Gratitude is not happiness. Meditation is not an antidote to this pain. And anti depressants cannot convert a lie into a truth. 





Saturday, November 26, 2016

Today


I would like to take today and bottle it
then age it
like premium wine
or good basmati rice
keep it for as long as possible
savor it on special occasions


But its ephemeral 
this thing called time
They are temporary
Them things called moments


They have to be gone
That's why
They are special
Here.
Now.
*****************


A little sunshine from today
will light up
a lot of days
ahead.
******************

कतरनें

वह:  तुम इंसानियत के नाते ही सुन सकते थे!


यह: इंसानियत के नाते?


वह: जब किसी दुसरे इंसान को तकलीफ होती है, तो इंसानियत के नाते ही उसका दुःख बांटा जा सकता है. मैं इतनी परेशान हूँ, पर तुम दो घडी नहीं बैठते मेरे पास!


यह: अगर दुःख तुम्हारा है, तो मेरे लिए बात इंसानी नहीं, ज़याती (personal) है।  

Monday, November 14, 2016

On Being a Sikh - Simple things that try to explain why the Sikhs are so different

In the recent past, a lot of people have posted pictures of Sikhs distributing food or tea to people otherwise stranded, or of Sikhs sending food to areas affected by natural calamities. Some others have shared how the Sikhs are less than 2% of the population but contribute a lot more to the national exchequer and are a major part of the Indian Defence Forces.




And many of my friends have very kindly sent these to me. I am grateful to them. But the thing is, these pictures don't tell us anything new. This is how we have lived. This is who we have always been. The world is just noticing this now. And honestly, its a little embarrassing for us to be recognised or praised for what we have always been. The Sikhs can't brag about it. Its just our way of life. When my son was very young, we got talking about religion and he asked me why he was not a Sikh if I was a Sikh. I kissed him on the forehead and said, "Sikhi Saukhi nahi (ਸਿੱਖੀ ਸੌਖੀ ਨਹੀਂ )." ( It is not easy to be a Sikh).


Many, many of you have asked me what makes the Sikhs the way they are. I am, here, trying to answer that, as humbly as I can. While the post itself is brief, it is the result of many years of introspection. The question was first posed to me by my friend, who finished reading a book by Khushwant Singh and asked me, "What makes you Sikhs the way you are? What do you do so right in raising your children?" God knows I have tried to answer her a lot of times, and failed miserably every single time. Here is one more effort.


  • Sarbat ka bhala / सरबत का भला 
You cannot imagine how early, and how completely this is fed into our heads. In the army, there is a very popular slogan - Sabse pehle Desh, Uske baad Unit, aakhir mein khud. The Sikhs are literally born with that idea.


ALL of our scripture, all of our discourses, every single one of our stories, point to the idea that so long as even one is in danger, we are all in danger. So long as even one is poor, we are all poor. It is put into the prayer 3 times a day. It is actioned in the langar 24*7. Every single Gurudwara, before it completes its building, will have a dispensary, where very accomplished doctors will come and offer either free or heavily subsidised service. They will run programs for the poor, irrespective of religion or caste.


One of the first hymns we hear is " देह शिवा बर मोहे इहे, शुभ कर्मण ते कबहुँ न टरौ " (O Lord, grant me only this boon, that I should never shy from doing a good deed.) In my house, the key stand has this quote with a picture of Guru Gobind Singh. So this is the last thing you will read as you leave the house - Shubh Karman te Kabhun na Tarau. It is by design. I am the only Sikh in the house, but its still the last thing you will read as you leave the house, so that when you leave the house, you leave with the thought of doing a good deed.


There really is NO concept of "them" in Sikhism. Nothing in our scripture speaks about differentiation on any basis other than justice. The ONLY villain in our books is someone who is troubling others or denying them their honest due. There is no image to hate. Seriously. We only hate lies and injustice. That's a very powerful idea. We have nothing else to hate!! 


  • मीरी पीरी की तलवार (the sword of riches and spirituality)
If you are not a Sikh, this can be a little hard to get. This concept means that your might, and power, will never be without a spiritual base. You will never raise your hand except to protect the downtrodden. You will never use power for anything except the common good. It comes from the Gurus, who did become reasonably powerful in the Punjab region, but also understood that power can corrupt. So the Gurus ensured that we all understood the spiritual component of strength. And of all the Sikh concepts, this one, imho, was totally brilliant because it ensured that we remain humble in the face of great power and wealth.
  • No fear of Death
When you open your eyes (I mean, as an infant), and you hear hymns like " जो तौ प्रेम खिलन का चाव , सिर धर तली गली मोरी आओ "(If you want to participate in the sport of universal affection, you must come as if you are already beheaded)  and "इत  मार्ग पैर धरीजै , सिर दीजे कांड ना कीजे। " (If you step on this path, you may lose your head, but you must not show your back)


OR this:
देह शिवा बर मोहे ईहे, शुभ कर्मन ते कभुं न टरूं
न डरौं अरि सौं जब जाय लड़ौं, निश्चय कर अपनी जीत करौं,
अरु सिख हों आपने ही मन कौ इह लालच हउ गुन तउ उचरों,
जब आव की अउध निदान बनै अति ही रन मै तब जूझ मरों




Grant me , O Lord, only one boon: That I should not shy away from doing a good deed.
That I shall not fear when I go into combat. And with determination I will be victorious. That I may teach myself this creed alone, to speak only of Thy (allmighty lord Waheguru) praises. And when the last days of my life come, I may die in the might of the lord. (Die fighting, as against, die as an old person)


What do you expect? Then they tell us stories of the 4 Sahibzadas, of the many, many people who gave up their lives for the sake of justice, Banda Singh Bahadur ji, Baba Buddha Singh ji.... and any love you have for your mortal remains just vanishes in thin air.


We are fed on such a fertile feed of stories, hymns and prayers that focus on the fact that you may not be alive, but you must, at all times, be just and brave. They put it in the Ardaas - 3 times a day we hear this. Honest to God, we have no fear of death if it means to die in the path of justice. And as I tell The Other: "You should be very scared of someone who is not afraid to die."


In teaching children that it is ok to die if its for a good cause, we raise adults who are truly fearless. Its a very, very powerful way to live - to not value your breaths, but to value what you stand for. It cannot be explained. Or taught. You just have to inherit it as part of your growing up.
  • मन नीवा ते मत्त उच्ची 
This literally means - Let your ideals/intellect be high and your heart be humble.
But translated, it means: Do not Brag. Do not think, for a moment, that you are responsible for any good that you are doing. It is the will of God being done through you. (मेरा मुझ में कुछ नहीं, जो कुछ है सो तेरा ) - Nothing in me is mine, it is all of the God.


So this doctrine, repeated often enough, relieves us of any grandiose self concept that we might have. If nothing is mine and I am just an instrument, what's with the pride?


  • जो बोले सो निहाल, सत श्री अकाल 
Whether you are sending off your daughter to her marital home, or sending a child to war. Whether you are saying goodbye to your dear departed father, or celebrating the success of a friend, you will always do it with the same words - "He is blessed who utters these words - Only the Timeless One is the Truth". And you will always utter these words with a strong, powerful voice. Grieving has no place in our tradition. Nor does jubilation. At all times, we remember that we are all in it together, and we are all just instruments of Truth. I was so amazed to see this at my own father's funeral and at the doli of a cousin. There were no tears. There was just quiet strength. A lot of it.


  • The Egalitarianism
Again, this can be hard to get if you are not a Sikh. But you cannot tell the gender of the person by their first name. Every single Sikh name can and is used by both men and women. The Gatka is learnt by both boys and girls. While you are dreaming of a female pope , a female Mahant, or a female Imam (What?!). Sikhism has already had its highest administrative seat been taken by a woman. TWICE. The Gurus knew that egalitarianism does not come easily to human beings. So they ensured gender and race parity by ensuring that all Sikh men will have the same surname - Singh, and all Sikh women will have the same surname - Kaur. We are a long way off from effecting this - but the Gurus tried and by and large, its a very egalitarian society.


***************


The thing is, these and a lot of other Sikh ideas, they are necessary, to make us who we are. Because essentially, there cannot be a lot of Sikhs. The Sikhs will always be a minority. We understand that, and in all humility, we accept that. We have no goals to go to except doing good. We have no aspirations except to be humble in the face of success, and we have no fear except the fear that we may not live up to our ideals.







Wednesday, November 09, 2016

कतरनें

वह: तुम जादूगरनी हो!


यह: नहीं.


वह: नहीं?


यह: जादूगरनी को जादू करने के लिए किसी चीज़ का सहारा चाहिए. मैं तो आप ही माया हूँ.


वह: तो क्या? मोहोगी??


यह: नहीं. भंग हो जाऊंगी एक दिन. जब तक अवसर हो, भोग लो.

कतरनें

वह: तुम्हारी आँखों में बहुत उदासी है।


यह: अंदर धंसी हुई हैं. कोई नहीं देखता।


वह: पर मैं तो देखता हूँ?


यह: देखते तो आप जलियांवाला बाग़ का कुआं भी हैं.  कुछ कर पाते हैं क्या?

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Longings

Some longings
take on
a life of their own.
Independent
of whatever it was
that induced them.


Like shadows
they respond
to the various phases of light (or darkness)
but they never
go away.



Friday, November 04, 2016

Crop Burning is NOT responsible for your pollution.

So, after reading A LOT about the contribution of burning fields to the pollution of the megapolis, i was forced to read facts, as opposed to very well informed opinions that one gets on facebook.

One thing i do know is that stubble burning is standard agricultural practice since the Indus Valley Civilisation at least, and its widely prevalant all over the globe as a standard post harvest practice.

And you will find others.
 
Being from a farming family 3 generations ago (who stopped agriculture once they moved to India after partition), i was told that the ash from the burning goes back into the soil to make it more fertile. But in my current research, it didnt come up anywhere, except from the mouth of a farmer who actually tried it after being discouraged a lot, and found that its true:

http://scripts.farmradio.fm/radio-resource-packs/package-91-soil-health/are-burning-crop-residues-and-grass-good-for-soil-health-and-fertility-views-from-a-farmer-and-an-agricultural-researcher/

But that's not the point of this post. The point is, a practice that is thousands of years old, cannot suddenly precipitate your pollution and smog. 

Please stop blaming things that do not merit being blamed and start looking for changes that you can make. Of course, you could go lend a hand to the farmers by helping them to manage the stubble. Consider that before you consider opening that big mouth wide. If you want to speak for someone, walk 10 miles in their shoes first.

For most of us food wasting, armchair innovation spouting activist citizens of India, 1 mile in a farmer's or a soldier's shoes will not be possible. So please focus on the crackers and keep that wide mouth shut. Thank you!

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

1984

Day 3 of the carnage. #Neverforget1984

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Film Review: 31st October




I know this film will be off the screens tomorrow morning, but for what its worth, sharing the review:
31st October, 1984 is not a day to be easily forgotten - in the subcontinent, and elsewhere. Oct 31 to Nov 4, the capital city of India turned into a case study of state sponsored genocide.


Over the years, I have read multiple books, seen countless documentaries and read endless reports to understand, as much as possible, what happened there. This is one more real life account. But one very under-represented aspect of that pogrom, was the brave neighbours who risked their own life, their property and families, to save their Sikh friends and neighbours. This film tells that story rather well.


Also, this is a rare story of survival. The other films I saw were  films of death alone. This family survived, thanks to the humanity of their friends, who crossed a city on fire to come and get them.
What is great about the film (other than, of course, the fact that its  a real story), is the art direction. I love the small lanes with drains on the side, the décor in the houses, the use of old scooters with 3
digit numberplates. Also, the costume design deserves special mention.


In the first half of the film, the suddenness of the entire episode is played out beautifully. It really was like that - people went out to get groceries and suddenly realised they could not go home alive.


But where the movie fails its audience is in its representation. The editing, as the other reviewers have pointed out, is the weakest aspect of the film.


The second is the pace of the film. It drags, and how.


The third weak aspect of the film is that the actual violence was wayyyyyyy more than what is depicted in the film. The violence appears very benign compared to what actually happened. No one was safe inside their house because the rioters had electoral lists in their hands and knew exactly where to go.


The fourth weakness is the music. Seriously, Sonu Nigam singing elegies is as far removed from the needs of the script as can be. The background music could have borrowed from rich Punjabi folk music, but it went back to predictable Opera music.


But is it worth it? You bet! The movie gently speaks some ugly truths that deserve to be spoken. Some things that will make everyone squirm - the victims and the perpetrators. The movie is not a history lesson. Its just a very extraordinary thing that happened to very ordinary people. And that's why, this is a real story that deserves to be told.

Saturday, October 22, 2016


That moment when you get up early in the morning to work, but spend 2 hours reading blogs instead :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Sohni

मैं ओ सोहनी
जेडी दरिया विच कुद्द पैंदी
पांवे घड़ा होवे
या ना होवे
पालदी
महिवाल नहीं
पूरी चेनाब
मैं दरिया विच तां डुल्दी
क्यूंकि दरिया वगदा !


I am the Sohni
Who jumps into the Chenab
whether or not
she has the floating pot
My objective is not
to meet Mahiwal
I jump into the river
because the river is
and it flows.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Heart Attack

दिल का दौरा
अचानक नहीं पड़ता।
बड़े दौरों से गुज़रता है दिल
 एक दिल का दौरा पड़ने से पहले.

Challa... Because i love it!

If there are 2 songs that you can hear any number of times and not get bored, for me, they are Challa and Jugni... The formats lend themselves to expressing everything from everyday folk wisdom to love and the unique Punjabi spirituality...


Presenting.. My personal favorite Challas...


No prizes for guessing that Gurdas Mann original comes first:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5aZaEbrl1-Y&spfreload=5


And this version... OMG!!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxB5wejrgfE




जावो नी कोई मोड़ लियाओ, मेरे नाल गया आज लड़ के...






And this version from a Yash Raj film: (Jab Tak Hai jaan)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9a4izd3Rvdw


I just LOVE LOVE LOVE the lyrics of this one...


http://www.indicine.com/movies/lyrics/challa-lyrics-jab-tak-hai-jaan/






न विसाल होया, ना जुदाई होइ,
इश्क़ दे क़ैदी दी, ना रिहाई होई
लोको सुफ़ने विच मिलने दा वादा उसदा
सारी सारी रात ना आँख लगदी।
मेरे साह वी थोड़े थोड़े घट आउंदे
मेरी नब्ज़ वी थोड़ी घट वाजदी  ..
************************
यारो आसे पासे वसदा है यार मेरा
दिसदा नहीं ओदी खुशबूआं लब्दा है
***********************



Sunday, October 09, 2016

कतरनें

वह: क्या ढूंढ रहे हो तुम?




यह : (कुछ कहता नहीं, घर भर में खोज जारी रखता है)




वह: ओफ्फो! कहाँ कहाँ फ़ोलते फिर रहे हो? कह रही हूँ न! मुझे सब पता है की इस घर में क्या छोटी सी चीज़ कहाँ रखी है! बता क्यों नहीं देते? मैं बता दूँगी कहाँ रखा है! क्या ढूंढ रहे हो?




यह: (उसकी ओर मुड़ते हुए): तुम्हे।
 तुम आजकल मिलती नहीं हो. रहती यहीं  हो,दिखती भी हो, पर होती नहीं हो।  तुम्हे पाने के लिए, कहाँ खोजूं?




Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Myth of modern feminism

This is a scene from a very conservative family - less than 40 years ago. A young man walks into the house, with a smirk. His mother is at her usual place - near the entrance, on her “Diwan”, overseeing the running of the house.

The young man makes a comment about a girl from the colony. The mother looks at him sternly and gives him a piece of her mind for talking about a girl disrespectfully. “This is not what we have taught you. Daughters belong to everyone. You will never talk about a young girl like this again. You have sisters in the house. You dont want anyone to disrespect them.”

The young man makes his exit, duly chastised. He may still harbor his thoughts. But they will not translate into actions or words in a hurry again.

That won’t happen today. Not in a metro, educated household. In our bid to be progressive, we have undermined and systematically killed an entire social structure which existed to protect the rights of the girl. We believed that we were harbingers of a modern era.

Let me correct that perception a little bit. The first Western study around sexuality happened in the 20th century. In the Kamasutra, both men and women are classified - according to (take a guess) - NOT their experience, NOT how much sexual activity is expected from them, NOT their social or economic class. The classification exists for BOTH genders - men and women. And the basis of that classification is - the inherent libido of the person. That’s an important thing to note. Contrast that with our world, where we believe that all men are forever ready for intercourse and all women must act shy or women do not have a libido as high as men. Vatsayayan would tell you thats bumkum. Many thousand years ago. The needs of the woman were studied and documented as diligently as the needs of the man. And in the gunas that we match during the wedding, one of them is the libido of the bride and the groom. We know about sexual compatibility and its importance in a marriage. We just don’t know that we know.

But let’s not go back that many years. Is 40 years close enough to your reality? The same boys who today have the courage to pass comments, would have been chastised by their parents, the neighbors, the onlooker, anyone at all. Because of the firm belief that daughters belong to all. It was a collective social pressure - that worked to ensure that no one can speak ill of a girl in front of the elders. “Ghar mein maa behan nahi hai kya?” Was a common response to eve teasing. You do not want anyone to speak disrespectfully about your family, don’t do that to another person’s family. Does putting it in English make it easy to understand ?

OR, go back a couple of generations. Who does not know the shameless, nose poking grandmothers who speak about sexual positions, frequency et al, among themselves and with new brides and young girls, with a nonchalant comfort that would put Cosmopolitan to shame? THAT is the culture we left behind. Where sex was openly discussed, young men and women were duly chastised, but the needs of everyone were considered. When a young girl came of age, no one pretended that her sexual needs did not exist.

Was everything great in that system? Of course not! But instead of borrowing what was good and leaving behind what needed correction ( aka assimilation), we did alienation. We created a parallel Victorian culture. We denounced everything Desi and wanted the hinterlands to abandon their entire value system to adopt ours.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we have failed. That, is why movies like Pink don’t talk to the hinterland.

Maybe its time for us to take responsibility and change the dialog. Perhaps its time for us to consider the fact that the first Indian female NASA astronaut came from a village in Haraya that is ruled by the Khaps. In my view, those social systems have strengths that need to be acknowledged and used. When we work with communities, we work with their existing frameworks to bring change. Maybe its time for us to understand, adapt and assimilate, and not uniformly condemn.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A new change.org petition

The word "Liberal" has just initiated a Change.org petition against its misuse to denote people who should actually be classified under "Stupid and anti national".

The word further goes on to state that just because another word does not exist to mean this adjective combination, the world has no right to sully its good name. Currently, suggestions are being invited for a term to describe this group.

What's your suggestion?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Ananya Vajpeyi's slander piece in World Policy Journal, and why it made me angry

When an international "policy journal" run by Duke University Press, focusing on "thought leadership and new ideas" publishes a piece full of pure slander, I invest 30 minutes in writing out a rebuttal on why this is all wrong.

Here is the article: http://wpj.dukejournals.org/content/33/3/45.full

And here is my response to the editors. More than the author, I am angry with the editorial board that claims to run a prestigious  publication and allows such trash to be published: (My writeup refers to the article in a lot of places, but I have reproduced content here, so if you want, you can go back and read there, or read here. Both are fine) :


If this is a scholarly publication, or claims to be, the least it can do is verify the veracity of its publications. This is an  article that does not deserve to be in a tabloid, much less in a "scholarly" publication. "About us" of your publications mentions " Fresh Ideas" - I am guessing that fact does not have to be absolutely discounted in presenting these fresh ideas.

If you are a publication in the pursuit of propaganda, please let me know and I will correct my feedback immediately. But it appears to me that that is not the case.

I cannot even start to point out the sheer factual inaccuracies in this article. The very first paragraph had me laughing. So I will share my first chuckle with you:

"For at least the past two and half millennia, Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists have considered the sign auspicious. But in the 1920s, the National Socialist Party in Germany adopted it, rotating it to give it a diagonal orientation. Ever since, outside of Asian ritual settings, the association with Nazis has stigmatized the symbol."
- Outside Asian ritual settings? Are you insane? A symbol that is auspicious and good for 2500 years will be sullied for all 7 bn people of the world because one party in one country adopted it ? And you decide what the perception of the population is? I am sorry.. where did you get that information? I don't recall. I don't think it was quoted in the article. How the Swastika is viewed in the Western world does not determine how, and in what context, it is viewed in the Eastern, Southern and Northern world. (and you cannot presume the West's perception either. Unless you run a poll and ask people what they associate the symbol with. That's data. And you don't have it)

"And so, until recently, Sanskrit had settled into a kind of quiescence (seemingly even an obsolescence)".
- As FIJ goes, presumed non action by the state, that too on one data point, goes into the realm of judgement (that means: An opinion expressed completely unsubstantiated by data). I will readily provide data that indicates the no. of students that actively learnt Sanskrit - both as part of the mandatory (state driven) school curriculum and voluntarily, but that would be doing the homework of the editorial team for you. And I am not getting paid for that. You are. So tell me, what was the verification you did before allowing an article to use a word like "Obsolescence?"

"Only in the past two to three years, with the rise of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has Sanskrit re-entered the public imagination as part of the “culture wars” between the Hindu right and secular left."
- Please substantiate this statement. How have you decided that there is a cultural war in place here? Allow me to explain. The left, by its own admission, has no subscription to any culture. Therefore, its war can be ideological. Not cultural. IF such a "war" exists (and your editorial team should have a way to explain this war, because even in the capital of the country, I don't see it), you have to also specify how Sanskrit was "a part of" - was it a weapon? Was it an ideological debate? Is an ideological debate of the inclusion or lack thereof, of a language, by itself a bad thing? Is debate a negative word in the definition of the author and the editorial board?

"The ruling party is now fighting to legitimate the two cornerstones of its interpretation of Hindu culture: caste and Sanskrit. These ideas constitute an assault on the more egalitarian, pluralist, participatory, and progressive visions of political modernity that have prevailed since India’s founding. "
- Really? If this is not slander, I would like to know what is. If I was a part of the government, I would send you a legal notice for slander. Please do not make accusations that you cannot substantiate. And you cannot. I live in India, and am a fairly aware citizen. This is not in the grey area of opinion. This is in that black hole of pure slander. Once again, if I was paid to be on the editorial team, I would provide you with evidence of legislative measures that have been taken to work against the caste divide (which, by the way, has a history of its own - that I am not paid to educate you on. So I won't). So if that lawsuit of slander comes up, you are likely to lose it. Because you did not do your homework.

"The ghosts of the caste system and of Sanskrit have now returned to haunt the Indian polity.  "
- And just like that, in one sentence, she equates the caste system with Sanskrit. And your editors were doing ...what?

"The point is to prove that Hinduism pre-dates not only all of the Semitic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) but also all other Indic religions (Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism). "
- Please check your history on this sentence. It is too ridiculous for me to even make a comment. Read a few books on ancient Indian history. Check a few manuscripts with our excellent museums. Or ask your authors to do that and send evidence to you. It is one thing to interpret history in one way and arrive at a different conclusion based on the same facts. Quite another to discount facts entirely and arrive at a guess of what the government or some imagined "enemy" is trying to do.

Pushing back against this insistence on the centrality of Sanskrit are Indian secularists (for whom the language’s overwhelmingly Hindu baggage weighs it down), liberals (who are uncomfortable with its non-modern provenance), leftists (who object to the ideologies of social inequality embedded in Sanskrit texts), feminists (who deem it a repository of patriarchal values), and Dalits (formerly known as Untouchables, who see Sanskrit as inseparable from the caste system, the language of Brahmin domination over the rest of Hindu society).
- Source of this data please. These are opinions expressed on behalf of a group of people. I am not sure if this kind of unsolicited representation of the opinion of vast groups of people is allowed. I would not do it. In at least 3 cases, the author is equating content of texts with the language - I am not sure if I can hold English responsible for the actions of the British Empire. Are you? Is English responsible for the content available in that language? Is English responsible for what was written in it 2500 years ago? I don't think so. Neither is Sanskrit.  The language is not the content. Basic logical fallacy.

Even many of those who know and appreciate the Sanskrit corpus for the wealth of its knowledge systems, the aesthetics of its literary genres, the beauty of its poetry, the brilliance of its thought, the regularity of its grammar, and the profundity of its insights have a hard time defending it against the charges leveled by its many detractors.
- Who wants to defend? And why?

"Since Modi came to power, the BJP government has made Sanskrit a key component of its goal to recast the secular Republic of India as the “Hindu Rashtra”—"
- to this I have the greatest objection. Please produce the government document that even mentions the idea of a Hindu Rashtra. This is slander against the government of India.

Guru Utsav”—literally “Festival of the Guru" ” a name with strong Hindu connotations.
- So what exactly is the word "Guru" doing in the Oxford English Dictionary? Did we Hindu-ise the Oxford Dictionary in the last 3 years? I don't think so.. the word was an English word long before then. The word has Indian origins and we cannot deny the word its origin. Nor can we fault the word for where it came from. Can we say that calling it Teacher's Day smacks of an effort to make India a British colony?

"By encouraging Sanskrit studies at the IITs, Modi’s party wants to drive home the “modern,” “rational,” and “scientific” capacities of Sanskrit, thereby dislodging it from its received status as an artifact of the ancient world, and instead project it as the most appropriate and empowering idiom for 21st century India. "
- Once again, dear Editorial Team, do some homework. "received status" - received from whom? The author? How can a language have a received status? What is the received status of Tamil? Hebrew? English?

"Today Sanskrit has come out of the ivory tower and descended onto the cultural battlefield. It’s time that scholars and academics did the same."
- Thank you, dear author and the editorial team, for the unnecessary invitation. There was no ivory tower for Sanskrit except in your own head. There is no cultural battlefield except in your article. And if I asked you to even define both these terms and the context in which they have been used in this article, my guess is that words and data would both fail you. 

Therefore, dear editors - please correct my understanding. Are you a scholarly journal, or are you a political agenda tabloid? Because as the Indian book on public administration says - politics is not the same as policy. But this article - falls neither under good politics, nor input to policy. This is propaganda. And I have invested 30 precious minutes to give you this feedback, assuming that you are a publication that cares about feedback. If this helps you improve your editorial practices and get back to authors with improved guidelines, it will help everyone - most of all, the readers who might come to this journal looking for thought leadership, not slander.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Sanskrit Gamification

Today, I learnt a new way to teach my son Sanskrit. Its a new game.


He first asked, why is Sanskrit so important?


Mater: Think of a noun. Any noun. What are all the ways in which you can use it? The first dimension is obviously, how many - the number - is it 1, or two, or many?


That's one dimension..






Then, the second dimension.. where all can you use this noun?


For example, you can say, The Boy DID this - where he is the Doer.. then, he did this to his sister - so here, there are 2 uses. Then, he did this for, through.. and so on.. these, in English, are called parts of speech. 


So, that's the second dimension...



Understanding Sanskrit Vibhakti in Shabd Roop
And now, we keep these 8*3 blocks in a toy box with 3 boxes - Male, Female and Neutral.


How does Shabd Roop fit into the overall language structure
So we have a toy box which has 3 boxes. Each Box has many, many nouns, but each of them follows a similar 8*3 block, so it looks like this:
Now