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Showing posts from 2016

Book Review: Half Lion - How PV Narasimha Rao Transformed India

At a time Bharatavarsha was largely fragmented with Greek invaders still lurking around, a brahmin scholar masterminded their expulsion and reinstated a powerful Indian empire using the military strength of Chandragupta Maurya. Mired in myths, the name Chanakya, invokes to this day, the image of a scheming strategist who used realpolitik as a necessary means to common good.
Two millenniums later, the modern nation-state of India found itself in more dire conditions. Four decades of socialist governance brought the nation to the cusp of economic collapse, separatist movements in Punjab, Kashmir, North-East and even Tamil Nadu threatened the democracy, India’s supporter in the world-stage (USSR) was at the brink of breakdown, and the nation just lost its charismatic leader in suicide bomb. Just when it appeared all hope was lost, destiny intervened and brought a scholar-politician on the verge of retirement back to the corridors of power – to the country’s top job.
Vinay Sitapati’s “Half…

The case for an idle summer vacation

As a child, the onset of monsoon was a sad reminder that the summer vacation was coming to an end. Our entire year revolved around it – yearning for it before its arrival, praying for its eternity while there and overcoming the deep denial mode when it’s gone. Even as I recollect them now, it overwhelms me with nostalgic pleasure.
Rudely awakened in the present, I am alarmed to see young parents determined to deprive their kid of the wanton joys of summer vacations by putting them through “productive” endeavors. Not to be left behind the school’s grind, parents take up its role zealously, lest they – oh, the shame – underperform in comparison. “Competition ka zamana hai”, they hurl towards anyone suggesting that their child is best left alone at this (st)age. In a way, it’s not their fault. Many (if not most) in this demographic have vivid recollections of their humble backgrounds and how their parents’ struggled to meet ends. Their deep-seated insecurities are still lodged in the rece…

Hegelian Dialectic as an instrument of social engineering

After long I return to western philosophers (staple of my early works), for I accidentally stumbled upon a hitherto unexplored interpretation of philosopher Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s famous dialectic philosophy. The man is long dead, but his philosophical ground sprouted thoughts that stormed the world. Karl Marx, the most influential thinker of modern times, was inspired by Hegel.
Hegelian Dialectic Explained
So, the Hegel’s dialectic philosophy is about three stages of development:
Thesis + Anti-thesis = Synthesis
This leads to diametrically-opposite interpretations, Sanction of status-quo (present being considered as synthesis)Revolution against status-quo (present being interpreted as thesis, to which anti-thesis is legitimate reaction).
On the surface this appears to be a discovery tool: trying to make sense of history using these categories.
For example: Capitalism (thesis) + Communism (anti-thesis) = Mixed economy (synthesis)
Not so with Karl Marx who famously quipped: “The philosopher…

The Obama legacy on race

Even those not particular about following political speeches were moved to tears listening to the now famous Yes, we can!” victory speech by Barack Obama in 2008.  I remember having printed copies of the speech and distributing them to my study-circle.  
US had come a long way since abolition of slavery, since Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement and the final nail on the racial coffin was the election of a black to the topmost position in the nation. Since, any further criticism on the continuing poor treatment of blacks is rebuffed with: “How can you talk about racism any longer, when a black man is the president, the most powerful human being on earth?”  At least this is how legitimate concerns about the enduring racial discrimination are papered down, feels author Richard Crasta.
In his latest offering The Many Faces of Barack Obama and Race in America: An Immigrant's View the author of the path-breaking Impressing the Whites: The New International Slavery, reviews the l…

The unity in diversity of Hinduism

Listening to a popular Telugu speaker on Hindu spiritualism on television, I was slightly shaken when he chided those taking sides in the Vaishnava-Shaiva rivalry and went on to suggest that Hindus do not need external enemies when we are so divided between ourselves.
This reminded me of a chance encounter with an elderly, learned person few years ago, whose home could be mistaken for a library if other signs of family life weren’t so apparent. For few moments, we had a discussion about the books – mainly Hindu philosophical works – and he was making a powerful case for his chosen (belonged to Madhva sect) theory of Dvaita philosophy as against others, notably Advaita (my inherited line). He also claimed that whereas Advaita philosophy lulled Hindus into other-worldliness, rendering them susceptible to Islamic invasions, Dvaita philosophy gave rise to the powerful Vijayanagara Empire (more on this part later). While he was pretty strong in his choice of worlds, calling Adi Sankara a cr…

The origin of Vijayanagara Empire

Let’s test our knowledge of history: name 10 Hindu kings of India, quick!
If you’re able to do so, you’ve have my admiration. But if you find yourself unequal to this task, don’t curse yourself, for this was the way our ‘eminent historians’ (Arun Shourie’s term for left-leaning historians who force-fitted history into their ideological template) designed the system. That Indians have no sense of their rich historical heritage, except when it can be used to shame them into disowning it as with caste system, sati, etc.
In school curriculum, we (I speak of CBSE syllabus) had one chapter each for Moghul emperors with detailed description of the social, cultural and political scenario; we barely had equivalent treatment of the pre-Islamic India. While medieval history is detail-rich on the exploits of Delhi Sultanate and Moghul Empire, many southern empires are reduced to a footnote.  But nothing explains the shoddy portrayal of the one the most important empires of South India whose legacy…