Tag Archives: Society

Why atheism doesn’t make sense to me

I’m not a religious person in the conventional sense. I’m not into rituals, I’m not into chanting of hymns or mantras on a regular basis and I can’t even remember the last time I visited a place of religion. When I was a teenager I used to take pride in the fact that I were an atheist, but as I grew up, I realized, even that too, in the conventional sense, I was not. While I believe in God, I don’t believe in the concept of “my God is better than your God”.

Not everything that has sustained over thousands of years is good and credible. There are many traditions that are inhuman and they need to be abolished and some of them, such as the practice of Sati (the burning of the widow along with the deceased husband on the pyre) in India. The practice of Sati is not a good example because it might not have been religious, but what I’m trying to say is, everything old and ancient doesn’t have to be right, so if people have been praying in front of various gods and goddesses even for thousands of years, it doesn’t have to be right. The gods and goddesses don’t have to exist simply because of that.

In India, especially in Hinduism, what I like is there is a god associated with every element found in the nature. So you have a rain god, you have a tree god, you have a wealth God, you have a destruction God, you have a creation God, you have river goddesses, and so on. For every action, for every blessing and for every malediction there is a God or a supreme being responsible for it. I like this, I mean I like the concept. This way you appreciate things. Trees give us life, and so does water, and so do various other things around them, and we should be grateful for them and we should take care not to exploit them, not to destroy them. I’m not saying that declaring them gods and shows their safety. For instance, in India cows are sacred, still they are treated inhumanly by the very same people. The jungles are sacred, but we saw recently what destruction their senseless cutting down wrought. Declaring everything as divine can be hypocritical sometimes.

Another downside of attributing everything to Gods is that then it becomes very easy to blame someone or something for our lack of effort and initiative. Very often people in India settle for a miserable existence thinking that this or that god is not happy with them, and hence, the misfortune.

Atheists, the sort of atheists we see protesting on the roads and in the conventions, are not protesting against gods, they are protesting against humans who have devised various practices to make people believe in certain gods. So it is not “not believing in God”, it is not believing in those practices and attitudes. Most people who become atheists are disgusted by the logic given by the so-called religious people. Many indescribable atrocities are committed in the name of religion all over the world. People are driven to ruin by the practitioners of this or that religion. Many countries have gone to war because of religion. Despite many benefits, there are also many disadvantages. Primarily this is why people become atheists.

Most people believe in science. When you believe in science, you’re mostly saying that everything came from the big bang. This is the beginning of time. Everything starts from the big bang. Really? Something must had triggered the big bang. Even if it was just a molecule, from where did that molecule come? If some force was applied, from where did that force come from?

Let us say you start reading a story. This story, just like the big bang, is the beginning of everything that is happening inside the story. The characters of the story cannot think beyond the first page, beyond the first sentence, beyond the first word, and beyond the first letter. But there you are, the possessor of the book, the turner of pages and the reader of words. There is an entire world around you. There are millions of books in the world. There have been millions of books in the world. Compared to the infinity of the universe, of course the infinity of the books cannot be compared, but on the human scale, you can say that the books are unlimited. Similarly, there can be millions of big bangs.

Something constantly triggers those big bangs. What is that thing? Things don’t come on their own. They originate. They don’t originate out of vacuum. According to this logic, we can never reach that primal entity because even for that primal entity, there has to be an entity before that to give birth to it. Does it ever end? Our current knowledge doesn’t answer that.

Atheists simply base their logic on science and at the most the big bang. This is silly and very narrow. Instead, they should say that they are against religion, not against God or at least the representation of God caricatured by the various religions of the world.

Simply earning lots of money doesn’t make you powerful

In the morning a client called and it was crystal clear from his tone that he is totally into bossing people around (he was making his secretary talk to me). He was trying to tell me how much he was going pay and when.

I politely asked his secretary to tell him that as a policy (so please don’t take this personally) I don’t alow my clients to dictate terms and it’s I who decides how much a client needs to pay and when. Deciding who decides my payment terms is not the main issue. The issue is, how a person thinks of himself or herself when he or she thinks that earning more means you are more powerful than the other person.

Power depends on lots of factors; of course money is one of them, but it is not the only factor that makes you powerful. Your power is gauged by the degree of influence you weild in this world.

Influence, and also independence. How powerful you are also is reflected by how independent you are. Suppose you think that you are powerful because you own an Audi? Then you sense of power depends on the fact that you own an expensive car or you have the means to own it.

A person who cannot afforf an Audi and doesn’t need an expensive car to feel powerful is much more powerful than you. I know this is rhetorical, because having money didn’t just mean owning an expensive car; it also means you can provide worldclass opportunities to your family in terms of education, medical care (when needed) and general quality of life. Just random thinking.

When objectivity turns into conspiracy mongering

I normally avoid writing blog posts in response to other blog posts (by other bloggers) but there is a blogger I really respect (I think there are just a couple of bloggers I keep a conscious effort to follow) and when he wrote on Anna Hazare I was compelled to write this short blog post as a response. For what he has written, please read Anna Hazardous.

As such, the blog post by Sandeep has nothing new to say and easily qualifies as one of those “spinner” anti-Anna Hazare articles being published with great zeal, with so much repetition that it has metamorphosed into chain mail activity.

First a quick observation. All these the so-called experts on Indian democracy and the parliamentary system share the following attitudinal traits:

  • They hate candlelight marches
  • They think the Indian maudlin middle class is totally hopeless and even if it comes out once or twice a year it is a total sham
  • A protest is no protest unless you burn buses, people are lathi-charged and there is a general state of destruction and disharmony
  • What-if and why-now are their favourite refrains
  • Intriguingly, maybe this is a whimsicality, they also nurture an inveterate disliking for activists, global warming advocates, NGOs and social workers

So maybe the recent reaction to the Anna Hazare movement is simply a manifestation of the above-mentioned peculiarities. Having said that, since in the beginning I wrote that I am specifically writing this blog post in reaction to what Sandeep has written on his blog and since I eagerly await his blog posts, in this case, and for the sake of writing this blog post, I assume that it is more than a whimsicality.

Now, I’m not saying here that I am completely aware of the situation. I will be sincere here: I didn’t know about Anna Hazare much. The first time I read about him was when he received the Magsaysay award. And to be more sincere, I would also like to mention that people associated with him during this current movement, barring Kiran Bedi, have shady backgrounds especially Swami Agnivesh and Mallika Sarabhai. This out of the way, let me come back to what Sandeep has written and I would like to provide my point of view beneath that.

After quoting Shakespeare for no particular context he says:

–Enter Baba Ramdev whose rally in November 2010 is hugely successful. The English media dutifully relegates it to Column 4, Page 5.

–Enter Anna Hazare who on April 5 2011 begins a fast-unto-death-until-something-is-done-about-corruption “movement.” It picks up steam, is graced by various “civil society” eminences, and is generally declared a blockbuster.

Well too bad if Baba Ramdev couldn’t sell himself (or his idea) the way Anna Hazare could. Of course there was a strategy involved and I found him quite shrewd in the way he handled the entire affair. But how does that make him a villain? We obviously need smart people in the country who can manipulate circumstances for the betterment of the country. Kautilya would have appreciated that.

Regarding the role of media if media were so powerful then Rahul Gandhi would have been the “youth icon” (nothing short of a nuclear disaster) and not Anna Hazare. Media, especially Times Now and IBN7, surely played a constructive role, but they couldn’t have gone beyond a particular point.

–On April 6 2011, newspapers gleefully announce that Anna Hazare “tasted his first victory on Wednesday, the second day of his fast unto death, when Maratha strongman and NCP chief Sharad Pawar quit the group of ministers (GoM) on the anti-corruption bill.” What a slap! The nation is delirious with joy.

I don’t know what newspapers he read because every right minded person knows that in no way it was a victory but a small step towards the envisaged victory. It was a perfunctory action performed by a guileful politician who knew that nothing much was to lose. It would have been a small victory on the other hand if he had resigned altogether.

–On April 8 2011, the Queen graciously bows down to the wishes of this gentle Gandhian and on April 9 2011, the Government of India issues a Gazette of India notification to form a joint committee to draft the Lok Pal Bill.

The Queen was simply trying to be “begani shadi me Abdulla diwana” as more than 99% Congresswalas habitually do. They simply wanted to leverage the entire state of affairs and I personally feel, for the moment, it was sort of a dampener.

–For lack of information to the contrary, I do believe Anna Hazare to be a man of integrity whose commitment is genuine and has done good work in the past. But many things don’t quite add up and unless there are some convincing answers the nag of suspicion will persist.

Well, for lack of information you can doubt everybody. If doubting is the game of the day then first of all let us start doubting the credentials of all those experts who are doubting the intentions of Anna Hazare. I would like to doubt the credentials of all those who kept quiet when scams of thousands of crores emerging right left and center and now they are breast beating about extraconstitutional thingies and the hypocritical middle-class that doesn’t vote. I would like to tell these writers that it is this middle-class that mostly consumes their misplaced opinions, and not those villagers in tattered clothes whose only concern is the next meal.

–Cut back to the Spectacular Socialist Seventies when Mrs. Gandhi had all of India in her iron fist. What that alsomeans is that conditions so horrid that corruption was just one of the grave issues: we were pretty much under an authoritarian regime where inconvenient people simply disappeared, Indira was India, and so on. What’s the record of Anna Hazare’s fight against corruption and these grave national issues back then?

It is like saying why did the Indian cricket team win the World Cup this time? What was it doing 4 years ago when it lost? Or maybe something like why didn’t Sandeep share his brilliant ideas back in the days when there was no blogging but there were newspapers and magazines (I don’t know, he could have been writing, but I’m just using the Anna Hazare conjecture that he used — we don’t know much about him so we can easily doubt him)? I think it is a ridiculous argument even if Anna Hazare didn’t do something purposely. Maybe nothing moved him. Maybe he was too bogged down by his own personal problems. Maybe back then he wasn’t motivated enough. Who the hell cares? That time is gone, it is not going to come back, so why worry about that?

–The one thing that I see amiss is not the nature of his fight—it’s noble etc—but the timing. Why now? Why not say, when Madhu Koda looted his state for what it was worth or during the Adarsh scam that happened in Hazare’s own state or against Kalmadi or against Raja as soon these scams erupted? Is there some gold standard of corruption that had to be met before he launched his movement? Now, there was a lull from April 2 to April 8. If you want me to spell that out here goes: April 2 was when India proudly lifted the cricket world cup. April 8 is when the first IPL match for 2011 was held. Now go back to the papers and news channels between April 5 thru April 8. Nonstop drumming about the “movement” on television and relentless front-page assault. Now read #7 again. On which page does Anna Hazare’s news figure in the papers now?

Rhetorical. If we start the “why not this” and “why not that” we can go back to the thousands years of Indian history. No reforms in India can take place simply because these reforms haven’t taken place yet. We can never do anything constructive simply because we have been so destructive.

I think it was an astute move even if it was based on the cricket season. People were already charged up after winning the World Cup and there was a strong sense of nationalism brewing in the country. It was like hitting the iron when it is hot. Good strategy. Even if the movement was abruptly stopped before the IPL matches the organisers knew the fickle-mindedness of the Indian masses, especially the middle class.

And every news, I’m pretty much sure it also happened when we got independence, eventually is relegated to the inner pages

–We wonder what the selfsame media was doing when Baba Ramdev launched his protest. Or is it the fact that Ramdev didn’t go on a huger strike? Or the fact that he didn’t have celebrity societal conscience-keepers like Agnivesh, Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal, and Jayaprakash Narayan who jumped on board the Anna Hazare ship barely before the anchor was dropped?

Just wondering. Would he have found the movement against corruption legitimate had it’s been Baba Ramdev’s successful campaign?

I totally agree that some opportunists conveniently latched onto the Anna Hazare bandwagon including Agnivesh, Medha Patkar (I don’t dislike her per se because I have never seen her openly expressing her views) and Mallika Sarabhai.

Regarding Baba Ramdev, again, I don’t know much about him but he does seem a bit queer, but then again it is my personal view (my parents respect him). Again, if his movement against corruption didn’t catch on than perhaps he did it in the wrong way. Let’s face it, it’s the reality of our time, everything has to be marketed through proper channels. Our generation sucks, I know, but we have to accept the reality and make the best of it.

–Had Anna Hazare undertaken a Bosesque “movement” instead of the Gandhian garden variety, what’s your bet how the government would’ve reacted? He and his supporters would’ve been arrested, lathi-charges galore would’ve ensued and the rest. The worst? Not one candle-kisser would’ve turned up because the occasion would’ve evinced not kissing candles but getting middle-class-asses kicked and lathi-charged.

What is this fetish about getting lathi-charged and ass-kicked? Cannot we ever rise above such animal behaviour? I am pretty much sure that had the movement been violent most of the people wouldn’t have gone and there is a psychology involved in this. Politics in our country is basically goondagardi. Go to any political rally and you will either come across villagers who have been paid by the organisers or you will see their musclemen. There are rarely “normal” people in these gatherings. And by normal people I mean people who can bring along their kids (even in their prams), their grandparents, their grandkids, their spouses, and girlfriends and boyfriends and go back home without being jostled, groped, molested, shot at or killed. My wife attended the sit-in at Jantar Mantar twice and she amazingly said that not even a single shoulder pressed against her shoulder and everybody was so respectful. What is wrong in that? Why are we always seeking maar-peet and janglipana in anything that can be called a socio-political movement. As our civilisation progresses, whether you believe it or not, more and more protests will be of such form.

–And so we repeat: why did the Queen agree to all his demands, and so soon?

So what if she did? Do you think people in our government have a backbone? They are the greatest cowards we have ever seen ruling the country so far. They must have seen protesters emerging from every part of the country and they were worried about getting things out of control. People had already started saying that they would attack the Parliament if something happened to Anna Hazare during his fast.

And who knows, maybe it was also something related to IPL. They wanted to wrap things up before the matches started so that there was no revenue loss especially to people like Sharad Pawar. Doesn’t matter what was the reason and who did what. The only thing that matters is things turned out to be the way people wanted it. Maybe it was stage-managed, but it was something really positive for the country.

–Developments after the Hazare Fast Circus ended only point to the fact that the Congress party has more than a sinister hand in the whole affair. This news item reports that Anna has asked Kapil Sibal to quit the newly-formed Panel of Pushers. Here’s a rescued-from-obscurity Gandhian who has suddenly “found” widespread fame, now dictating terms to a government elected by the people of India, all nice and Constitutional.

I think it is the way he talks. He doesn’t mince words. Even before starting the hunger strike he was just like that, if people paid attention back then. It is not about having confidence or finding widespread fame. He is just being himself.

We shouldn’t give too much credit to the intelligence of the Congress party and assume that it was stage-managed by these dumbwits. It was apparent by their body language and facial expressions that they were being screwed from behind and they could do nothing about it.

–Alleging that Uttar Pradesh is the most corrupt of all states, the Congress today asked social activist Anna Hazare to start a movement from the state if he wanted to start a state-based campaign.

Just so that it suits our argument we are now going to quote whatever bullshit is said about Anna Hazare and by whoever. Very convenient.

–Draw your own conclusions. I think that Anna Hazare is a well-meaning and committed individual but that he’s just being used. Is there someone who’s feeling threatened by Baba Ramdev’s growing and massive popularity and the fact that he’s promised to reveal ugly secrets of a certain party?

Frankly, I pretty much believe that Anna Hazare is quite prone to being used by all sorts of shady people and political parties and this is a worry. About Baba Ramdev’s “growing and massive popularity” I would say let the time decide if the Baba is sincere and deft. If he plays his cards well nobody can hold him back, especially the Congress party who is in power only due to the bizarre lack of alternatives (the BJP is a sorry excuse of an opposition party).

–Anyway, the circus has pretty much ended and the tents have been packed. The middle class has again deluded itself, which is how it should be because it deserves the illusion of power that the government is letting it have from time to time because it’s still not time for the middle class to realize the brutal truth that candle-kissing and assembling in parks doesn’t hurt the middle class and that lasting change is not achieved without cuts and bruises and broken bones.

Here again, coming back to the violence fetish. Whereas I totally agree that our middle class is quite fickle I absolutely don’t agree with the fact that you need broken bones and dead people to make significant social changes. Remember when people used to die because there were no medicines? Now we have medicines and the average life expectancy rate has risen. Similarly, we have different forms of protests. Things change, the way people behave and react changes. There was a time when decapitating people was normal and now it is considered barbaric.

Finally, I agree to some points and there are definitely some shades of conspiracy if you are hellbent upon finding them, but by choice I’m not an alarmist. I think candle marches and peaceful sit-ins have great potential provided they are used as mass movements, they will never work as isolated occurrences. Our strength is in our numbers are not in the way we express and protest. Even if you just sit together in multiple cities and do nothing it can be an effective protest. Even if we just wear black bands around our arms and then carry on with our day-to-day activities it can be a potent form of protest. We shouldn’t underplay such phenomena just because we cannot comprehend such things.

Arun Shourie’s thoughts on M.F. Hussein

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.

Big Boss 3 to include one of the viewers – what about accessibility?

Yesterday both my wife and I were watching the opening episode of Big Boss 3 on Colors and in the end when Amitabh Bachchan announced that someone among the viewers may be invited to live in the house among the 13 present guests, my wife suggested that I should try. “The sort of guru ghantaal you are, you might even win.” The prize this time is 10 crore. “They’ll have to make the entire house disabled friendly,” I replied and we both laughed. “Then if they refuse you can sue them for Rs. 100 crores,” she said.

Got me thinking. When they announced, did they even in their wildest dreams think that a visually, hearing or physically challenged person may take part in the contest and win? Why leave mentally challenged? Well, I didn’t include this category because some of the contestants already seemed…

In a totally inclusive society that would be taken care of. I’ll welcome feedback from my friends living in the first world countries where disability laws are quite inclusive and stringent but what about such reality programs there? Would they include a disabled person if such a case scenario arises, and can they be persecuted if they are unable to make provisions?

When it comes to accessibility and inclusiveness my opinion is that it’s more about minority and majority than disability. A majority community is always, traditionally, insensitive towards the problems faced by the minority community. Among thousands of people, you come across just one or two persons who require assistive adjustments on the staircases, bathrooms and shopping counters. That’s why they’re “adjustments” and not a part of the architecture, the way it should be. It took a Stephen Hawking to visit India and sensitize the government about making Taj Mahal wheelchair accessible, although of late some NGOs have been doing stellar job at making other tourist places accessible, including Qutub Minar.

Coming back to Big Boss 3, I think such shows can revolutionize the concept of inclusive society if by default they keep the format of the program in such a manner that anybody can participate, irrespective of his or her abilities and disabilities.