One of my favorite writers is Arun Shourie and in one of his books he praised M.F. Hussein (the über painter who had to flee India and settle in the UAE for painting some major Hindu goddesses naked) instead of criticizing him (Arun Shourie is the so-called right-wing, anti-Muslim intellectual I don’t believe that). He said that by merely becoming a painter he has taken on the repressive tenets of Islam that forbid its followers from pursuing any form of art. Therefore, since he is already a pariah in his own community, there is no need for Hindus to chastise him.
This was a valid, and a little less schismatic this time, question raised by Shashi Tharoor (again, on Twitter). Personally, I have no problem with national holidays and if Im not wrong we just have 3 national holidays. Before we can answer whether we should have a holiday on the birthday of a person who worshipped work, we have to decide why in the first place we take a holiday on this day?
Ideally, this type of holiday should be taken so that we can sit aside for a day and think about the great soul. People should get together, whether online and offline, and talk about Mahatma Gandhi: his life, his philosophy, how he supposedly got us independence, his non-violent (and controversial) ways, and what he thought about the world in general (and about sex, according to this Tweet from Pritish Nandy). There should be neighborhood gatherings (do we still have those?) of kids and adults and hold discussions on Mahatma Gandhi. Do we do that? Hardly.
For instance, this time it was nothing but an extended weekend. People pack up their bags and go to visit places they can visit and come back by late Sunday evening. Or they simply laze around. You hear or read things about Gandhi only while casually browsing through TV news channels, Twitter streams and blogs. Music and entertainment channels start broadcasting Valentines-related or festival-related programs days in advance (so that people dont absentmindedly forget about spending their money on greeting cards, expensive gifts and themed dinners). They dont even show themed songs the way they, occasionally, do on Republic and Independence Days. So it just becomes a holiday. So should we have it?
This holiday should be scrapped. But instead of working or studying, people should do some brainstorming on how we can improve our country? When was the last time you constructively talked about making your country a better place to live? We all criticize and crib as regularly as we shit, but how many times we actually think about solutions and how to implement them? If the guys at BlogActionDay can organize blog action days year after year and motivate bloggers all over the world to write on relevant topics, why cannot we organize such days on Gandhi Jayanti? Senior managers and school/college principals should organize cleanliness drives where they visit neighboring places and clean them up. You may think what can be achieved by doing such things once a year? Not much. But do you think our country is so hopeless that if hundreds of thousands of people participate in this annual event, not even a few hundred will carry on the work for a few more days and in the process motivate more people?
Heres another website tracking the upcoming Lok Sabha Elections, called Vote Report India. It will basically report violations of the code of conduct happening all over India. The website packs lots of information and updates. The About page says:
Vote Report India will partner with citizens networks, human rights organizations, and journalists to contribute direct SMS, email and web reports on violations of the Election Commissions Model Code of Conduct (PDF). It will then aggregate these direct reports with news reports, blog posts, photos, videos and tweets related to the elections from all relevant sources, in one place, on an interactive map. The interactive map will allow tracking the irregularities in the campaigns leading up to the elections, the voting experience on the day of the elections, and the results themselves.
At one level, Vote Report India will serve as a critical initiative aimed at nurturing transparency and accountability in the Indian election process. At another level, the platform will provide the most complete picture of public opinion in India during the elections.
Vote Report India is a non-partisan all-volunteer collaboration between software developers, designers, academics, and other professionals to bring transparency to the 2009 Indian elections.
You can see the core team supporting the website here.
I guess that Iraqi journalist was a trendsetter. Taking inspiration from him a Dainik Jagran journalist Jarnail Singh threw his shoe at P. Chidambaran when Chidambaran refused to talk further about the clean chit given by the CBI to the two main accused of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Jagdish Tytle and Sajjan Kumar. In his typical suave style he tried to bully the journalist and got a shoe hurled at him for the chutzpah.
Jarnail Singh was let off in half-an-hour after questioning. Some Congress persons are saying that they are forgiving him, but the losers actually mean they have no choice due to the upcoming Lok Sabha elections (they need Sikh votes and Jarnail Singh has, deservedly, become a hero).
Google, in collaboration with Hindustan Times, has launched a mashup website on the upcoming Lok Sabha Elections in 2009. You can get all the updates and political news. If you select your area you can obtain candidate profiles, the demographics of the area like how many households have electricity and how many our below the poverty line etc.
But the shady aspect is that the website is mostly tailored to promote the HT agenda and in fact when I conducted a few searches the highlighted candidate profiles mostly belonged to the Congress. Even the news headlines from HT are colored. But this can be a nice inspiration for other parties and organizations to start such online information resources.