Discordant note

Discordant note

Famous, upcoming and promising relatively young (36 years old) male South Indian Carnatic Classical Music vocalist Shri. T.M. Krishna had penned an Op. Ed in THE HINDU on the suitability (or, otherwise) of Shri. Narendra Modi and Shri. Rahul Gandhi for the role of the Prime Minister of India. You can find the article here.

This was an email response I had sent him:

Dear Shri. Krishna,

I read your article in THE HINDU published in the last couple of days, with great interest. I wanted to offer you a different perspective.
At the outset, let me congratulate you for revealing another dimension to an already multi-faceted personality. You think of issues that go beyond music. No doubt, it is evident in some of the social causes that you already support. You had the courage to articulate it.
Further, you are a relatively young musician. I will be completing 50 years in October. As a musician, your talent is immense and your future is bright.
You have constantly been in search of innovation and creativity in musical expressions. Further, you have striven to popularise Carnatic music by taking music back into the temples, by visiting places like Jaffna, by writing books on music and musicians, etc.
Clearly, here is a well rounded human being, let alone a musician of prodigious talent.
Therefore, we have all come to expect nothing but the highest standards of rigour and honesty from you. Perhaps, the article that you wrote in and for THE HINDU falls well short of these benchmarks.
While you had made an attempt to appear to offer a balanced critique of both Shri. NM and Shri RG, you had reserved your venom and belligerence for the former while you generously label Shri. RG as the philosopher.
Most of us write arm-chair Op.-Eds. I should know. I have been writing them since 1996. But, that is a lot easier than ascertaining facts on the ground. You have  just added one more proof to this well-known empirical fact.
Here are some facts for you to consider:
(1) Gujarat has had a riot-free ten + years. This is one of the longest, if not the longest, spell of communal peace in the State. It has not happened before, under Congress Governments. You take little note of that in your Op.-Ed.
(2) Many learned judges and investigators  – the SIT in particular, have not come across solid evidence that Shri. NM had a hand in the riots.
(3) However, if you have to accuse him of incompetence in that  case, his track record of 11 years of communal peace since then, lends very poor support to such a charge.
(4) More importantly, the terrorist attack on Akshardam temple was a grave provocation to communal peace in Gujarat. Not a single incident happened or was allowed to happen in the aftermath of that attack. That was the highest state of preparedness which blunts the criticism of incompetence
(5) In a democracy, voters decide on competence. Not Op. – Ed. writers. They have made their judgement clear on more than one occasion and, as intelligent human beings, it behoves us to take that into consideration. Arm-chair experts have this habit of talking down to real people and you have, unintentionally, done that.
Substantial number of Muslims have voted for him. Many Muslims stand behind Shri. NM and a leading female activist and Muslim quit the Congress Party and joined BJP. Pl. read the reports I refer to in point (10) below. Are they all blind?
(6) Figures of number of Muslim casualties and stories of disembowelment have been shown to be lies by courts. You should check them up.
(7) Many Congress workers and leaders participated in the riots and in the killing of Muslims. Have you unleashed your wrath on them? Why not?
(8) Communal riots were not new to Gujarat. It is not a NM production. Pl. check out this post for a better understanding of history:
(9) If you wanted to hold Shri. NM responsible for the death of Muslims, then perhaps you should hold him responsible for the death of Hindus too. Hundreds of Hindus too died in the riots. Why do you give them short shrift?
(10) Unlike many of us who play plaintiffs, prosecutors and jury comfortably in the case of Shri. NM, some one like Madhu Kishwar, who has no axe to grind, had camped in Gujarat and written up a five-part report. If you are interested, I can send that to you. You may not agree with her. IF so, then you must do what she does. Go and see for yourself, ask for yourself and rebut her.
(11) In the last nine years, India’s economic growth has been brought down to the levels that prevailed for the most part, up to the 1980s. Cost of living is spiralling. There are power cuts. We are now called a rape nation and Delhi is the capital of this nation. Tourism declines. Jobs are lost. Incomes vanish. Mines are shut. Miners lose jobs. People go back below poverty line. Public money has been looted by the thousands of crores. These human costs are equally colossal, if not more.  How have you come to the conclusion that these human costs are far lighter than the ones for which you unleash a scathing criticism of Modi.
All of these have happened under the Congress government. Shri. RG had nothing to say on any of these. A philosopher offers guidance and does not ramble.
Social conscience is one thing. Political and governance intelligence are another thing. You need to know clearly where your competence lies and what your calling is.
Best wishes to you as a musician.
V. Anantha Nageswaran (from Singapore)

Only some additional points I had made in our private correspondence are presented here. His responses are removed.

(1) The State of Gujarat brought riots under control in three days. That is a faster response than was the case in other States. Modi’s government was barely four months old, at that time.
(2) As for UPA being people’s choice too, let us not operate in a fact-free world. The UPA was a post-poll alliance. It did not have a majority. It was cobbled up after the election results and that too with the so-called outside support of Marxists. People did not vote for Marxists in 2009 in the Parliamentary elections and later in the State of West Bengal.
(3) In 2009 too, it was an alliance of convenience and that is what shows up in the ease with which allies are picked and dropped and allies pick and drop the Congress. UPA is a political contrivance and not a democratic representation.
(4) The point about examining other governments’ performance is that democracy is about choosing between the available options. Second, if you compared the record of other governments in their response to such situations, the pre-conceived judgement over Modi’s handling of the riots can be placed in a better perspective.
(5) In any case, it is HE who has determined or will determine the fate of this nation (as HE does, for all of us).

Bernanke is the guru for seekers

Last evening, met with a friend and his colleagues. We do that once every six months, to exchange notes on financial markets. At the end of it, when we both threw our hands up on financial markets and their manipulation by central banks (most major ones), he then wondered how one could really do financial or portfolio planning in this milieu. I agreed with him and said that these central bankers are doing us one service. They are making us realise that we are powerless and that only Gods could help us. Hence, they are here to teach us the philosophy of surrender and bhakti. Thank you, Bernanke, Draghi, King and Kuroda.

(cross-posted at http://tgs.nationalinterest.in)

P.B. Sreenivas – R.I.P

This afternoon, I was driving to the NPS International School in Singapore when I heard on the radio that the noted playback singer of yesteryears, P.B. Sreenivas had passed away the day before in Chennai. He was 82. Could not help feeling a lump in my throat and some tears welled up in my eyes. What a great singer. The world is now at least short of one person who brought about love, calm, tranquility and reflection in fellow humans. May his soul rest in blissful peace even as we get transient piece from his songs. THE HINDU has some lovely pictures.

Golden ego

On 14th April, I had sent a Tamil New Year greeting to friends borrowing lines from Subramanya Bharati’s composition, ‘Nalla Kaalam Varuguthu’. The composition is that of the auspicious predictions that a soothsayer makes. The soothsayer wishes the person in front of him good health (by wishing him a flat tummy). He also predicts the growth of Dharma and the vanquishing of old fetishes and prejudices (the poet wrote actually that ‘old madness clears up’). To these lines, I added another prayer that that let Goddess Parvathi and Maheswaran wish us all will-power suffused with wisdom.

Since I had been rather proud of my call on the price of gold from 2002, I was chaffing visibly at the recent inexplicable deep dive in the price of gold. My wife reminded me that God was only granting my  New Year prayer! Well said.

How do I achieve the goals of this blog – a journey to non-identity? I guess God is showing a way.

Incidentally, listen to this beautiful explanation by Shri. Vijay Siva, Carnatic vocalist, on ego and quality of life.


On optimism

On Saturday morning, I woke up determined to locate a few sentences on ‘optimism’ that I had used for my ‘signature’ in email messages. I had shown it to a friend few days earlier. I thought I had used them in 2011. Turned out that I had used them in 2010 and hence I could not locate it until I remembered good friend Shekhar Gupta’s email that helped me identify the author of those lines as ‘Julian Baggini’, editor of ‘The Philosophers’ magazine’ and author of a book called ‘Complaint’. I had not read the book. I then searched on ‘Julian Baggini’ and found a page of quotes attributed to him. Several of them were interesting. Sample two below:

Every time we recall an event, we must reconstruct the memory, and with every recollection the memory may be changed … Truth and reality, when seen through the filter of our memories, are not objective facts but subjective, interpretive realities.

Many philosophers have argued that we are constituted by a psychologically continuous web of thoughts, feelings, beliefs and memories. Dementia says, well, okay, let’s pick that web apart, piece by piece and see if anything of you remains.

Then, I found that he has a TED talk on an interesting topic, ‘Is there a real you?’ Must listen to it. Here are his lines on the distinction between being positive in an intelligent sort of way and being positive for the sake of it:

The issue, …., is whether we start with the facts or with our attitudes. What positive psychology gets right is that when we confront reality, we always have some control over how we then respond to it, and that a lot of misery is avoidable if we try to make the best rather than the worst of things. In practice, however, this sensible advice often degenerates into an excessive optimism, in which reality is whatever we think it to be. But you can’t make the best of a bad situation if you pretend it’s really just a good one in disguise.

These lines appear towards the end of an interesting review of four interesting books on the cult of optimism and happiness. The book review is worth a read. I had picked up the book by Ehrenreich some two years ago but yet to read it!

Hence, the Saturday morning hunt for a quote returned a treasure.

History with pride

Shri. S. Gurumurthy-ji had penned a good piece in ‘New Indian Express’ on the importance of remembering India’s past heritage and success. It is true that many travellers had recorded boundless prosperity. History of Civilisation – Vol (i) by Will Durant is devoted to the Orient. It covers China, India and Mesopotamia. There are nine chapters on India. The naysayers must read them. I read them on my IPAD on a E-readers called Kobo. All the annotations I had made were wiped out when the software upgraded itself to a new version!  If I can retrieve some of the annotations, I shall post relevant paragraphs on the overflowing prosperity in Indian cities, documented by historians and visitors to India. Hence, it was doubly disappointing to read that P. Chidambaram had made some remarks about India’s history of poverty.

That reminds me, once more, of the excellent work of few individuals in creating a course, designing a curriculum and assembling the content for an elective course on India’s traditional knowledge systems for Classes XI and XII in CBSE schools. My good friend Michel Danino played an instrumental role in the project. Here is the CBSE circular on the introduction of the elective. Savour it.