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2013 : The Year That Was!

Some experiences are terse through a decade while sometimes a year-long experience is prolix. To my mind, 2013 is one such year. Cramped across this time-space were events pregnant with pessimism & possibilities.

2013 has witnessed changes in the politico-social power apparatus in India and efforts of various groups this year will reflect in General Elections – 2014.

I seek to examine few broad trends at various levels that particularly interest me.

  • Rise of Social-media: With organized media organizations increasingly seen as propaganda vehicles for political parties or certain classes, common-man found his voice through social-media. Long dismissed as a urban-phenomenon with no ground influence, social-media sought redemption through AAP’s success in Delhi, largely credited to its effective social-media campaigning where volunteering efforts tipped the scale in its favor. This comes with a rider though - what appeals to masses needn’t necessary be good in long-term. Quick-information isn’t a substitute to refined wisdom. Without sufficient understanding of politics and economics, even the best intentions for good governance can go wary. Short-lived success of Arab Spring is a testimony that revolution needn’t necessarily pave way for evolution – that requires proper channelizing of efforts. The road to hell, after all, is full of good intentions.
  • Conventional media in mess: The improved credibility of social-media notwithstanding its crowdsourcing nature and lack of expert revision also comes from how disgracefully many media organizations have been found functioning. The Tarun Tejpal episode revealed those who thrive on sensational new-bytes with questionable forms of investigative journalism, weren’t above the very groups they were criticizing and further were found wanting in basic workplace ethics. The comparative coverage of Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi is a text-book case study of media discrimination which has been amply criticized elsewhere and doesn’t require elaboration here. The media response to Ahmedabad Court’s upholding of clean chit to Modi is adequate to plumb the depths to which our media has gone in maligning a man of reasons best known to them, but generally understood by masses now.
  • The Modi Wave: A classic case of how things can backfire, media found out a bit too late that needless fixation on one person, far from decimating him, led him to national stage. The more the media used fanciful adjectives to describe him (fascist, feku, mass murderer, merchant of death, common criminal, fundamentalist to name only a few), people became more interested in whole affair and brought back the case of 1984 from burial grounds to question media’s excessive focus on one riot as if no other had ever occurred in independent India. SIT commission’s observations on media’s and other groups’ actions during and after 2002 amply demonstrated that far from seeking justice, vested interests appear to have motivated the overzealous judicial activism. The preoccupation with Modi owes its origin to the fact that he’s an outsider to Delhi left-liberal elite and he has both the ambition and ability to shake their hegemony. Few media persons have long taken off their disguise of objectivity and have concentrated on maligning him full-time. With speeches nationwide, Modi has given hope to masses and the extent of its influence will be seen in 2014. 
  • Telangana Tangle Continues: That Telangana will be formed appears to be the consensus although no timeframe has been announced. The decision is visibly guided by electoral calculations for Congress now cannot hope for much in a state that almost single-handedly helped it form UPA2 with whopping 33 MPs. Lack of clarity is an understatement to convey UPA’s chaotic and random decisions without any semblance to thought (or is it really as simple?). 2014 may see a decisive verdict from Telangana people to TRS, but the point is will they party fulfill their promise? We have seen a volte-face earlier, and we genuinely hope this proves different. Post BJP’s rise, Congress’ road to Delhi has always been via Hyderabad and it remains to be seen how AP influences national verdict this time.
  • Bollywood in retro-form with Southern Spice: Before Khans fully consolidated their supremacy, Bollywood offerings mostly included mass-entertaining elements, purportedly a villain, a simple girl, item song, mindless comedy etc. Salman’s ‘Wanted’ started the trend of recreating South movies type action entertainers and this year, Shah Rukh Khan who was primarily responsible for Bollywood moving away from macho hero, reinvented himself in hero-centric action genre. Dhoom 3, Chennai Express and Krissh 3 – all action movies ruled the roost and Bollywood set a new benchmark of fastest 200 crore box office collection with Chennai Express.


All-time Hits

The Controversial Caste System of Hinduism

Imagine concepts like feudal system, slavery, capitalistic exploitation and anti-Semitism being used to define the core of Christianity! Christians will be outraged at this inappropriate mixing of the core universal values of Christians and societal & historical aspects which merely existed in a Christian world.
Now this raises the question – why is caste system defined as the core of Hinduism? Especially as “caste” itself is a western construct. Sounds irrelevant?
Okay. Now imagine concepts like slave-trade, war on infidels, brutal subjugation of masses, temple destruction, and forceful conversions marking the core of Islam.
It is considered sensible to first understand what the core scriptures speak about the religion and its universal values. The ills of the community & its societal aspects are differentiated from its core philosophy.
Now, this brings us to the most interesting question – why is Caste System (caste based on birth) propagated to be the defining feature of Hindu…

Chetan Bhagat : His Literary Style and Criticism

Chetan Bhagat’s (CB) recent column created a furore, chiefly because of his audacity to speak for Muslim community and what many people conflate with his support for Narendra Modi’s Prime Ministerial ambitions.  
But what interested me most - and what this post would focus on - is questioning of his literary merit (or lack of it). Many journalists ridicule CB’s style of writing and his oversimplistic portrayals of characters sans nuance or sophistication. But I suspect this has more to do with the fact that his readers alone far outnumber the combined readers of many journalists - a point that many don’t appear capable of digesting.
No takers for layman’s language!
When Tulsidas rewrote Ramayana in Avadhi (a local contemporary dialect then), many conservative sections of society came down heavily upon him for defiling the sanctity of a much revered epic (originally written in Sanskrit). When Quran was first translated in Urdu (by Shah Abdul Qadir in 1798), it faced intense opposition by …

The concept of Dharma in Ramayana

The concept of Dharma is not adequately understood by Hindus themselves, not to mention others. Dharma is not a set of do’s and don’t’s or a simplistic evaluation of good and bad. It requires considerable intellectual exertion to even begin understanding Dharma, let alone mastering its use.

Is Dharma Translatable?
Few words of a language cannot be faithfully translated into another without injuring its meaning, context & spirit. English translations of Dharma are blurred and yield words like religion, sense of righteousness, discrimination between good and bad, morals and ethics or that which is lawful. All these fall short of fully grasping the essence of Dharma.
Every language has an ecosystem of words, categories and grammar which allow a user to stitch words together to maximum effect such that meaning permeates the text without necessarily being explicitly explained at each point. Sanskrit words such dharma, karma, sloka, mantra, guru etc., now incorporated in English, lose thei…

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