Have we all played into the hands of a master-publicist? 6 months ago, there was a perfectly executed publicity stunt to promote a film. There was enough written about that little incident. I, too, got conned into writing about it, though there were some people even then who suspected that this was nothing but a means of promoting the film. Now, on a much grander scale, we see the master-puppeteer at work again. It is my opinion that he has timed this controversy brilliantly, and we – the citizens, the state, the media – all have trampled over ourselves to ensure unprecedented publicity for the film.

Hats off to the man. Not only has he come out of this smelling good, he’ll also end up with some additional millions of our money. Money that we’ll spend watching a film where the lead character seems to have been written keeping our patriotic friend’s histrionic style and abilities in mind.

It’s another matter entirely that his role in the film has been dwarfed by two Oscar-worthy performances in real life.

*

Having said that, I must admit that this whole tamasha over the last few days has been paisa-vasool, and the film will find it difficult to match the entertainment quotient that this spectacle provided.

On 26 November 1949, the Constituent Assembly unanimously adopted the Constitution of India. In the debate leading up to that event, Dr. B.R Ambedkar, as Chairman of the Drafting Committee, spoke at length about the way the committee went about preparing the draft for the document that was to be the Constitution of India. But he also, in the latter part of his remarkable speech, made a few incredible observations that ring truer today than at any time in the past. Dr. Ambedkar, quite apart from being an extremely erudite man, also had great foresight.

For example, he wondered if India would lose its independence again, and said: “What perturbs me greatly is the fact that not only has India once before lost her independence, but she lost it by the infidelity and treachery of her own people”. He cited quite a few instances in our glorious history to underline this point.

And then he went on to say: “….in addition to our old enemies in the form of castes and creeds we are going to have many political parties with diverse and opposing political creeds. Will Indians place their country above creed or will they place creed above country? I do not know, but this much is certain that if the parties place creed above country, our independence will be put in jeopardy a second time and probably be lost for ever.

He listed three things that he felt were essential for the preservation of our constitutional democracy:

The first thing in my judgment we must do is hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives…..it means we must abandon the methods of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha……these methods are nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy….

The second thing we must do is observe the caution which John Stuart Mill has given to all who are interested in the maintenance of democracy, namely, not to lay their liberties at the feet of even a great man, or to trust him with powers which enable him to subvert their institutions…..This caution is far more necessary in the case of India than in the case of any other country. For in India, Bhakti or what may be called the path of devotion or hero-worship, plays a part in its politics unequalled in magnitude by the part it plays in the politics of any other country in the world. Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul. But in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.

The third point he made in this connection was how critical it was to integrate and incorporate the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity in our democracy. And not just by mouthing platitudes.

Dr. Rajendra Prasad, as President of the Constituent Assembly, said in his speech that followed Dr. Ambedkar’s: “…..I would have liked to have some qualifications for members of the legislatures. It is anomalous that we should insist upon high qualifications for those who administer or help in administering the law but none for those who make it except that they are elected. A law giver requires intellectual equipment but even more than that capacity to take a balanced view of things, to act independently and above all to be true to those fundamental things of life – in one word – to have character. It is not possible to devise any yardstick for measuring the moral qualities of a man, and so long as that is not possible, our Constitution will remain defective”.

The rising trend of politicians and parties to relegate the larger interest to the garbage bin and focus on self-aggrandisement instead, the increasing prevalence and acceptance of unconstitutional and usually violent means of protest and of making your voice heard,  the growing cult of nepotism, dynastic succession & absolute power as well as our apathetic surrender of the reins of the country to those whose place is actually in prison –  all in the name of the will of the people – this was foreseen, more than sixty years ago, by those who gave us our freedom and our constitution.

Eerily prophetic, both of them. Our country truly misses leaders of this calibre.

*

If eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, we sure as hell haven’t paid for ours.

Every once in a while, you come across a story that really makes you feel good. That makes you believe in what people call ‘the triumph of the human spirit’.

The medals of Vijender Kumar and Sushil Kumar are triumphs in the face of official apathy and indifference, and these guys deserve every last bit of the praise they get. They have run harder and longer than most others to get to this stage. But for me, the defining story has to be that of Natalie du Toit. A swimmer with an amputated leg, she not only qualified for the Summer Olympics (a first), she also competed in what people call the toughest swimming event, the 10 km open water race. And she finished 16th, a minute and twenty-two seconds behind the winner, and ahead of 9 other able-bodied Olympic-level swimmers, including the winner at the Pan American games of 2007.

These are true parables of dreams and determination. And amidst the well-deserved accolades that Phelps and Bolt have got, let us remember the odds that were stacked against Vijender and Sushil. And let us also recognise the uplifting story of one woman’s spirit, her fight and triumph.

Ritu thinks my blog is brilliant.

No, seriously. She does, and she’s given me an award to prove it. Woo-hoo!

So thank you Ritu! Now, according to the rules (dere’s allus dem damn rulz!), I need to write a post with my own list of 7 brilliant blogs, and notify each of the lucky winners by leaving a comment on their sites …..each of whom has to then contact seven others and so on…..comprends?

Trivia for the mathematically inclined – a little delving into memories of schooldays past tells me that this is an example of a divergent geometric series which, to the best of my knowledge, does not have a finite sum. Specifically, it is of the form ∑xⁿ where x ε I, x>1 and n ε I, n≥0, x being the number of people whose blogs are nominated in each round – 7 in this case – and n the number of rounds, and xⁿ thus giving the number of happy bloggers in round n.

For the rest of us mere mortals, what this means is that if all goes according to plan, round 8 of these awards should mean that a total of 5,764,801 happy bloggers would have been told their blogs are brilliant. If we assume a consistent ‘leakage’ of approximately a third of each person’s 7 respondents never carrying this forward, we still have 2,441,406 bloggers who would have been given the good news at the end of round 9. That’s a seriously large number of happy bloggers! (That must take care of every blogger around – and her aunt!)

So let’s all aim to make Blogosphere a happier place. As my contribution to this quest, here are the 7 blogs (in alphabetical order) that I think are brilliant. I have chosen blogs that are not part of my blogroll, because if you’re part of my blogroll, it already means I think your blog is brilliant!

Abha – hi-octane mum

Anshul – cartoon man

Balu – quiet blogger from Bangalore

Dave and Jenny – two New Yorkers in The Dally!

Liam and Conall – humour from the UK and humor from the USA

Rambodoc – funny medicine that packs a wallop

Vaibhav – tech tips and more

Congratulations, people! Go out and spread the cheer.


Never thought I’d say this, but our esteemed health minister has finally made a good suggestion. Hallelujah! And since I’ve been quick to pounce on his follies, it’s only fair I tip my hat when he proposes something that actually makes sense.

Dr. Ramadoss, like many of us, believes that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code must go. (Section 377 makes sex between two men a criminal offence.) Of course, the scrapping of this section falls outside the purview of his ministry, but for whatever it’s worth, his support is important. Here’s to more judicious ideas from our enlightened rulers, rather than the ones we’ve been used to seeing!

Jenny and Dave, of Our Delhi Struggle, are running a fund-raising project with the objective of bringing sanitary pads to poor women in rural India who risk vaginal and urinary tract infections (and thus illness, incontinence, and infertility) during every period from puberty to menopause. Please check it out at http://ragstopads.com/ and spread the word.

I don’t like Lewis Hamilton. And the team he drives for. That’s an understatement. This was evident in my last post. My dislike of the man has nothing to do with his being black. Surprisingly, two comments – from people whose thinking I respect – did bring up the black angle, which left me wondering if, in today’s world, expressions of personal likes or dislikes – without any demographic connotations or aspersions – are nevertheless measured against the demographic profile of the individual being spoken about. In other words, I can’t pan Hamilton and say that he is, as far as the world of F1 goes, an extremely privileged individual who has had the best of F1 opportunity handed to him on a platter, without someone being pained by the fact that I criticized the first black in F1. Forget the fact that his race was never a factor in my opinion of him. Disregard the fact that no one remembers that Lewis is to the manor-of-F1 born. And that no one would have blinked an eyelid if I had said the same about any other (non-black) driver.

Are we in an era of an extreme level of political correctness? And before anyone takes umbrage, let me clarify – I am all for political correctness. But are we approaching a point where we have to take our positions only at either end of the spectrum? Are we at a point where the rule is “if you’re not with us, you’re with them”? Is any criticism to be seen only in the broad context of the demographic profile of the person, and not in the immediate context of the criticism itself? Does the demographic profile of the person dictate our views of her? And if we only look at the broader demographic context, what happens when you suddenly have to choose between members of two marginalized groups?

I then remembered having come across this very insightful article on the recently-concluded Democratic primary. The author writes that Hillary got the short end of the stick, and was the victim of blatant misogyny. In contrast, as another article mentions, the attacks on Obama were apparently not blatantly racist . This is something that many people may not acknowledge. Of course, there were so many other factors involved in the Hillary-Barack battle that I may be guilty of reductionism myself. But one can’t help wondering if in the gender versus race factor, some white American Democrats preferred erring on the side of race.

Could the reason for this be a misplaced sense of political correctness? Could it be that this misplaced sense of political correctness dictated that charges of alleged misogyny were preferable to charges of alleged racial bias?

I have only the questions. Perhaps some of you could provide the answers.