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February 18, 2017 / subramanyam

Things Fall Apart — My Take.

Note : This book deals with colonialism.  I come from a nation that suffered for 200 years in the hands of British Colonialism, it is almost impossible for me to be unbiased on subject like this.  Hence my review might be biased, however that is how I feel and this is my opinion.  Request you to read the review with that perspective in mind.

“The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that hold us together and we have fallen apart.” These lines from page number 129 of the book have left an indelible impact on me. Before, I delve further, here is the synopsis of the book. (from its back cover)

Synopsis

“Okonkwo is the greatest wrestler and warrior alive, and his fame spreads throughout West Africa like a bush-fire in harmattan. But when he accidentally kills a clansman, things begin to fall apart. Then Okonkwo returns from exile to find missionaries and colonial governors have arrived in the village. With his world thrown radically off balance, he can only hurtle towards tragedy.”

We were told that Africa is a Dark Continent, in our history text books they tell us thatpmc4 Africans were warring tribes and it was the Colonization of Africa that brought some law and order in the place. At times we see people singing paeans about the work Missionaries, and the Colonialists have done in Africa.  We do not know as to how the people lived before the advent of missionaries in Africa. How were those people?  What was their culture?  How did the transformation happen?  It would be great to know about these things would it be?

Chinua Achebe in this book “Things Fall Apart” tries to give us a sneak peak into the pre-colonized Africa and the “way things were” before the foreigners went there. The protagonist Okonkwo belongs to one of the African tribes. He makes a name and fame for himself in the society he was living in.  Then his life takes an unexpected turn.

As the author narrates the story of the protagonist, he also tries to give us a glimpse of the society its values, its imperfections, etc… A good amount of the book (close to 60%) is devoted to this.  As described in the synopsis an unfortunate incident happens, and Okonkwo goes into exile, here we see the missionaries and colonial masters entering this society and the changes that come up due to them. In the end, we see the Old making way for the new and the way the native tribes lose out in the battle for power.

What did I like?

1. This is the first time that I am reading an African Side of things. I loved the freshness the other perspective brings in.

2. The author’s ability to tell so much in so little. The book is hardly 150 pages long, and the author conveys so much.

3. The way the author uses symbols and allegory to get his point through. Consider this statement from Chapter 7 of the book.

“And at last the locusts did descend. They settled on every tree and on every blade of grass; they settled on the roofs and covered the bare ground. Mighty tree branches broke away under them, and the whole country became the brown-earth color of the vast, hungry swarm.”

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The Author– Chinua Achebe

It’s anyone’s guess as to what the author was referring here. This paragraph comes quite ahead of the advent of the foreign troops yet so much gets conveyed.

4. The portrayal of imperfections. The author portrays the shortcomings of the African Society. The society has good things about it. However, it also has a lot of bad things. The misogyny, the way weakness is naturally attributed to women, women beating and all described in the book. Similarly, the way men or women were abandoned when they come in contact with incurable diseases too speak about the evils that probably existed then.

5. The conversation on God between Mr. Brown and a native priest.  That was indeed awesome.

What I did not like ?

I felt too little has been portrayed as a part of missionaries, I felt that it could have been a little more.  Enough space should have been given to the other side also.  Of the 150 pages, 100 get devoted to the set up, there could have been another 100 about the interaction with the missionaries also.

Conclusion

“The White Man’s burden” as it was fondly called during the 19th and 20th centuries was to civilize the world. Europeans became technically well equipped and they used this power to expand their territories. The imperial regimes and colonial masters left no stone unturned in annexing the countries in Asia and Africa. They destroyed cultures, killed people and imposed their thoughts, views, and religion (most of the times forcibly) on the natives. They called this “Civilizing people” and “The White Man’s Burden.”

In my opinion, the white men were too biased and did not even make an attempt to understand the lives, the culture and the practices of the natives. Due to this attitude many civilizations perished.  As the lines in the first paragraph of this review depict, the natives too have a story to tell.

This book gives an opportunity to listen to the other side of the story. That makes the book a must-read. Do read the book.

Image Source :

https://fontsinuse.com/uses/6508/penguin-mini-modern-classics-book-covers

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/d6/64/21/

February 7, 2017 / subramanyam

History Under Your Feet — My Take

Before I start my review let me ask you a few questions.

We all know that Shivaji Maharaj was a great fighter, a man who fought and kept Mughals at bay, however, do we know that he is a great administrator too?

Or for that matter do we know that he can rightly be called as the father of Modern Indian Navy?history-under-your-feet_20951944

We all know about Param Vir Chakra and the significance that award carries in India, how many of know about the first man who earned that award with his supreme sacrifice for the nation?

Rana Pratap is a familiar name but how may of us know about Rana Sanga and other Maharanas who ruled Chittor and ensured that the Pride and Honor of Rajputs are held in High esteem.

We all would have visited the sacred Kashi Vishwanath Temple, how many of know about the great lady Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar who constructed it.

How many of know about Lachit and the Ahoms who repelled every Mughal attack and ensured that the Northeast remained Independent?

From Kashmir to Kanya Kumari and from Arunachal to Dwaraka we have our share of heroes who made their motherland proud, who constructed cities, established empires and lived & died for their dharma.

As the author, Sri Ratnakar Sadasyula says, “India is a nation where history literally lies under your feet, where every rock, nook and corner, has a story to tell.”

His book “History Under Your Feet” aims to look at the history behind some places and persons in India.

The book starts with Chatrapathi Shivaji Maharaj speaks about various Maratha rulers, Veer Chatrasaal and then the Ranas of Mewar. From here the author brings us to the modern era where we see the lives of Pritilata Wadedar, Shaheed Bhagat Singh and other freedom fighters before we getting into the details of INA and its heroes. We then learn about the social reformers like Kandukuri Vireshalingam Pantulu, Maharshi Karve and then take a plunge into the lives of Srinivasa Ramanujan and Yellapragada Subbarow. The author closes the book with the hair-raising tales of Indian Heroes in Operation Polo, Rezang La and the Kashmir war of 1947.

What did I like in the book?

ratnakar

The author –Ratnakar Sadasyula

1. I loved the research that went into the book. This is not the stuff that you get on Wikipedia. The author took great pains to bring the facts to light. I commend him for doing that.

2. This book covers the events and lives of great personalities in a short and sweet way. The chapters are neither too long nor too short. They are of ideal length, the reader can read them like one chapter a day.

3. The use of simple language. The author uses simple language to convey his thought. This makes the book more readable to one and all.

4. The author does not sanitize history. We see people trying to project one facet of a person and not the other ones. The author discusses the shortcomings of Subhash Babu, the mistakes done by Maharana Sangram Singh etc. If a person took a stand against conversion he brings it to light, I never knew Lalaji took a stand against the missionaries when they tried to use famine aid as a tool to conversion. That part was sanitized from History textbooks that I read.

5. The book instills interest; I now want to read more about Satyartha Prakash after reading about Swami Dayananda Saraswati. The author instills interest in us and then moves on. I loved that approach.

What did I not like?
I am a history buff anything on history is awesome for me. Honestly, I was not able to find any shortcomings in the book.

Conclusion
Please read the book and know about the history of India. I would say please discuss the stories of those great events and great heroes as dinner time tales with you kids. We ought to know about our past; we ought to know about the conditions that prevailed in the country and the way the heroes were born.

We ought to know the hardships that they faced and the way they rose up to the challenges of their times. We the people of Independent India are indebted to our ancestors who fought the tyranny of the invaders from the Middle East and Europe. We ought to learn lessons from history, for, people who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Please read this book and also make your friends and children read it.

February 5, 2017 / subramanyam

Indra’s Net :: My Take

A Little Background 

Sanatana Dharma is rooted in diversity; you can be a staunch Sri Vaishnavaite and be a Hindu, you can be a Shaivaite and be Hindu, you can follow the Advaita Vedanta of Sri AdiShankara and be a Hindu, you can be a follower of Dvaita Vedanta and be Hindu, you can follow a Guru who follows Sastra Pramana and be a Hindu. Moksha, the ultimate Aim of Sanatana Dharma, can be obtained in any of these ways.

Since this religion is different from the religions that follow one God, one book, one Prophet and only one way to salvation, there are many people in the west who do not want to call this a religion. There are many people who want to see this religion disappear from the globe. They want this culture to get fossilized and forgotten. Now some of them have started accusing Swami Vivekananda of manufacturing Hinduism. What makes the matter worse is the fact that some are using teachings of Adi Shankara, concocting and misinterpreting them to come up with a preposterous claim that Swami Vivekananda came up with a new religion. This book is a rebuttal to all the people who question the inherent Philosophical Unity of Hinduism. Here is the synopsis of the book.

Synopsis of the book 

Defending Hinduisms Philosophical Unity, it is fashionable among intellectuals to assert that 91j0mrpsdildharma traditions lacked any semblance of unity before the British period and that the contours of contemporary Hinduism were bequeathed to us by our colonial masters. Such arguments routinely target Swami Vivekananda, a key interlocutor who shattered many deeply rooted prejudices against Indian civilization. They accuse him of having camouflaged various alleged contradictions within traditional Hinduism and charge him with having appropriated the principles of Western religion to manufacture a coherent and unified worldview and set of practices known today as Hinduism. Indras Net: Defending Hinduisms Philosophical Unity provides a foundation for theories that slander contemporary Hinduism as illegitimate, ascribing sinister motives to its existence and characterizing its fabric as oppressive. Rajiv Malhotra offers a detailed, systematic rejoinder to such views and articulates the multidimensional, holographic understanding of reality that grounds Hindu dharma. He also argues that Vivekananda’s creative interpretations of Hindu dharma informed and influenced many Western intellectual movements of the post-modern era. Indeed, as he cites with many insightful examples, appropriations from Hinduism have provided a foundation for cutting-edge discoveries in several fields, including cognitive science and neuroscience.

The book starts with the Purva Paksha where Rajiv Malhotra explains the myths that need to be challenged. Some myths that are widely in circulation are
(i) Hinduism is manufactured
(ii)Hinduism doesnot have any coherence
(iii) Hinduism is founded on oppression
(iv) Seva (service to others) is a concept that Hindus adopted from the west
(v) Yoga was not treated as a path to salvation by Hindus and Hindus copied it from western science etc ..

Then he brings to light the stands taken by various Western Indologists. He speaks about the arguments of Paul Hacker, Agehananda Bharti, Ursula King, Rambachan, Richard King, Brian Pennington, Peter Van der Veer, Sheldon Pollock and others. He speaks about the hidden agenda and the larger picture that comes from it.

The way the works of these people support each other and the way all of them overlook a lot of historical facts are brought to light in a systematic way. The author dwells on “Anubhava” Vs “Sruti Pramana” in these sections. We get to see wonderful arguments in the offing when we read about Rambachan, the position he takes on Swami Vivekananda and Rajiv’s argument that expose the fallacies in Rambachan’s line.

The second part of the book deals (Uttara Paksha) brings to light Rajiv ji’s full-fledged rebuttal to the Western Indologists. Rajiv ji brings to light the pre-colonial unifies of Hinduism like Vijnanabhikshu. He attacks the lies that the Indologists present and propagate regarding Seva, altruism and Yoga, Adi Shankara’s position on Yoga. He even gives references where the West incorporated ideals from Hinduism (particularly regarding Seva etc.), and it was not the other way round.

The author presents numerous examples of the way Shankara did respect yoga and way both can complement each other and help a sadhaka in the path of Liberation. The way Shankara’s work is presented deserves a special mention it is very well researched and well presented.

The author then moves on to give a framework in which Hindu thought can dwell and empower itself. The open architecture, the common tool box, the poison pills, porcupine defense and Astika -Nastika distinction are proposed by the author as a way forward for all Hindus.

What did I like ?
1. The extensive research and the way the problem and solutions have been described.

2. The Purva Paksha, most of us don’t  read about the way in which Hinduism is being targeted by various groups, we fall into the trap of believing every argument that

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Rajiv Malhotra ji

comes our way, more so, if it comes from a westerner. Rajiv Ji shows us the double-sidedness of some of these Western intellectuals.

3. The open architecture, Poison Pills, and Porcupine defense. Rajiv Ji does not leave it with questions, he gives a lot of answers, and that is important. I loved the way he gave answers and strategies to save our religion from digestion.

4. The concept of Indra’s Net itself where everything is in itself the whole and also the part of it.  That’s a fantastic concept that I did not know before.

What did I not like ?
1. I did not read the book “Being Different” till now. In fact, this is the first book of Rajiv Ji that I read. Many a time he refers to what was said in Being Different, this made reading a little tough for me.

2. This is purely my personal problem; I was not able to read Purva Paksha. All those arguments against Swami Vivekananda were things I could not digest. As I was reading those pages, I was praying for them to be over and was wanting Uttara Paksha to start. Probably the Hindu in me was finding all these things unpalatable.

Conclusion
A must read for all Hindus. Please read the book. We ought to know the games of these Western Indologists and the ways and means in which our Dharma is being attacked.  Digestion is one of the biggest threats to our religion today. The Open Architecture, the poison pills and porcupine defense are indeed innovative methodologies that Rajiv ji proposes.

You might agree with Rajiv Ji or you might disagree, however, the threat we Hindus are facing from these academicians of the west is real.  We ought to wake up and think of ways and means to counter it.  This book serves as a good starting point.

Please do read the book, you would have done yourself a great favor by reading this book.

 

January 31, 2017 / subramanyam

Our Chief Guest and Pak’s Envy

We had the Crown Prince of UAE  HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan as the chief guest for the Republic Day this year.  The visit also meant that India got more than 75 Billion dollars in terms of investment.

As ever, this did not get the coverage it deserved.  Most media channels had other issues that they wanted to run after.   (There are a few honorable exceptions though.)

Then we had the Burj Khalifa being lit up in the Tri-Colour.  A proud moment for all Indians.  This was share widely in the Twitter too.  However, we sorely missed out on the debate of why some one from the middle was chosen for the Republic Day celebrations.

The significance of this visit was not lost on our neighbors.  Look at the way the channels were analyzing this news.  You see jealousy some times and some genuine admiration too. (Am I being too optimistic :-))   Do listen to the debates.

Here is an article in Firstpost that discusses the importance of having some one like the Crown Prince of UAE as the Chief Guest.

http://www.firstpost.com/world/abu-dhabi-crown-prince-sheikh-mohamed-bin-zayed-al-nahyan-is-the-ideal-republic-day-chief-guest-3031216.html

Note :

I am not very much in favor of using the word Porki while referring to Pakistanis.  I do feel that it insults the people of that country and condemn the usage of it.

 

January 23, 2017 / subramanyam

A.P. Special Status

To all friends in Andhra Pradesh, please read this 12 page document before agitating for special category status. Please understand the truth before making statements. AP got good stuff, it was a well-thought-out formula. Please know the truth before joining protests. There are a lot of things the channels are not telling you. Many people are making this an emotive issue. Please don’t fall prey to the vested interests of a few people.

Here is a pdf that explains what AP got and what it did not get in a very effective way.  Click on the link ap-special-package to get the pdf.

ప్రియమైన మిత్రులకు, దయచేసి ఈ పది పేజీలు చదవండి.  ఆంధ్రాకి ప్రత్యేక ప్యాకేజ్ వలన  ఏం వచ్చాయో, ప్రత్యేక హోదా వలన మనకి ఎమి వస్తుందో తెలుసుకోండి. మనకి రావలసినవి చాలా వచ్చాయి, రాని వాటి గురించి ఉద్యమిద్దాం, ఈ చానెళ్ళ ఉచ్చులో పడి ప్రత్యేక హోదా అంటూ ఉన్నవి పోగొట్టుకోవద్దు.

క్రింద లింక్ ని క్లిక్ చేయండి

ap-special-package

January 19, 2017 / subramanyam

Saluting the Spirit of Tamils

I am loving the way people of TamilNadu are defending Jallikattu.  The way they are defending their viewpoint in the debates on the national TV is awesome.   For the first time, I am seeing the anchors search for words.

Coming to Jallikattu,  till a few days ago many people thought that it was bull fight akin to the ones done in Spain.  It was after series of debates and articles many non-Tamils (me included) understood what it is all about.  It is a game where a man needs to cling on to the hump of a bull till it stops running.  The danger is more on the side of the man than the bull.  No bull is harmed or killed in the process.  In fact, most of the bulls are reared by women who belong to the farming community.  They make money if their bulls win.

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In many cases women rear the bulls

How does a bull win?

A bull wins if it does not allow the man to stay on its back.  It begins the run; a man tries to catch it at the hump, if it does not let him do it it wins.

How do the bull owners make money if a bull wins?

A bull needs to be very agile to win.  Now once it wins the owner will not receive any monetary award.  Instead, farmers who come to see the game will pay money to the bull

owner so that they can use this bull for their cows.   This way they get good, agile calfs and the indigenous variety of cattle are preserved.  Farmers pay decent amount of money to get good bulls.  Thus, the people who rear these bulls (they too are farmers again) make some money from the stud bulls and have a motivation to rear them.

India had 130+ indigenous cattle breeds at the time of independence.  Now it is down to 30+ breeds.  However,  Tamilnadu has preserved 5 out of 6 indigenous breeds that come from the state.   They credit Jallikattu for that.

Is there widespread cruelty against the animals?

No, no bull deaths have been reported because of Jallika

ttu.  In fact in some areas, people rear bulls like their own children.  There is an emotional bond between the owner and the bull.

However, there are and there will be a few stray incidents (less than 10) where norms would have been flouted.  Sometimes people bring in egos and the tradition takes a hit.  There are videos where animals have been hurt.  However, these cases have been very few.  If the cruelty was indeed wide spread the event in itself would not have survived 4000 years.

Why PETA fighting this?
Now, when we have an event in 1000 villages, and you have 5-10 stray incidents whom would you blame?  The ones who crossed the line or the entire tradition?

We ought to understand the sentiments attached to festivals and traditions.  It is not just pure economics. While researching the topic, I came across people who just wanted their bull to win; they did not care for the money.   He is my child sir; I want him to win.  That’s more than enough for me is what few farmers say.  More than economics its

bull

People love their bulls and consider them as family.

tradition and the love for it.

If PETA really cared for these animals, they would have asked for stricter guidelines and implementation of norms.  Instead, they pushed for a blanket ban which does more harm than good.   Today when a Tamil guy asks as to why only Jallikattu is targeted for violence against animals while the horse races, slaughter houses and mass killing of animals for festivals like Bakrid are not considered violence against animals?  Organizations like PETA limit themselves to rhetoric and speeches in these cases.

I am not saying that they are doing nothing regarding this, they might have protested or something, but when they go after only one section of the population, it is quite natural that one feels that they are biased.

My friend  Shefali Vaidya asked the same question on Twitter a week ago.

Interestingly there was no response from PETA on this.  Then we have these allegations against them.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nathan-j-winograd/peta-kills-puppies-kittens_b_2979220.html?

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/madurai/HC-permits-jallikattu-during-church-festival/articleshow/11657912.cms

http://www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=11830

PETA has a lot of explaining to do, however, that’s for another post.
For now a  big salute to the people of Tamilnadu who have picked up the cudgels for their cause and are fighting it out to save their culture.  Hoping to see the ban lifted soon.

January 12, 2017 / subramanyam

Why not debate ? Dear Devdutt

I respect  Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik.   I bought about 5 of his books, read a few of them, wrote reviews and did watch some of his videos and I did recommend some of them to my friends.

This morning I was shocked to see some tweets from him that were mocking Brahmins.  I went to his Twitter page and saw that he was making a lot of comments against Brahmins and some people in the Twitterati were giving it back to him.  I googled a little more and found an interesting story behind all this.  Here is the story, I am also giving my opinion on this.

Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik wrote the book “My Gita” some time ago. (I too bought the book and read a few chapters of it).  In this book, he gives his version of meaning for the Sanskrit slokas and develops his interpretation of SrimadBhagavat Gita.   This book, “My Gita” is in wide circulation now.  A  person called Nityanand Misra found some inaccuracies in the way the Sanskrit Slokas have been interpreted in the book.  Nityanand Misra wrote a Facebook post as to how Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik made some elementary mistakes while interpreting Sanskrit words.  Here is what Nityanand Misra says about Devdutt.

“He confuses the short vowel अ with the long vowel आ, the unaspirated consonant द with the aspirated consonant ध, and the dental consonant न with the retroflex consonant ण.”

Here is the full Facebook post of Nityanand Misra.

 

 

It would have been great had Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik given a full rebuttal by citing his sources and explaining his standpoint.  However, Devdutt evaded it begin with.   Here is one his responses.

 

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1482277471785096&id=166495080030015&hc_location=ufi

 

 

Nityanand came up with more inaccuracies from Devdutt’s works.

 

Devdutt then took the caste route to blame Misra.  Here is what he wrote.  He started blaming Brahmins en-masse.

Here is a  satirical take.

He was questioning the place of residence of Mishra.

 

A Diversionary tactic again.

 

Here is what he wrote about Jnanshwari.

The irony is Jnaneshwara was himself a Brahmin.  Yes, his thoughts were radical but he and his books are worshiped and read by one and all including Brahmins.

 

He even resorted to peddling lies .  Here is what he wrote about an Odiya Poet.

 

Then he speaks about the persecution of all saints in the hands of Brahmins.  Again, some of these people were Brahmins.

https://twitter.com/devduttmyth/status/818824089422987264

He deleted the tweet on Tulasidas, Tukaram and others later.

Then he started taking on Brahmins whole sale.

 

Then he says that Brahmins lack wisdom.  Man!!.. are you serious.

https://twitter.com/devduttmyth/status/819034371789176832

When someone complained about generalizing, this is what  Devdutt Tweeted.

https://twitter.com/devduttmyth/status/819068498332844032

Looks like he deleted it now.  I am sure Devdutt deleted some of his tweets.  Here is a tweet to which Shefali Vaidya responded, however, this too has been deleted.

He was unhappy as many twitteratti were asking questions. See this tweet.

 

My argument

Nityanand Misra pointed out some factual inaccuracies  in Devdutt’s work.  Ideally Devdutt should counter in factually.  Instead he is is going all over the place saying all different things, to me this is not correct.

One of the greatest strengths of Hinduism is Debate, the greats like Adi Shankanra, Bhagawad Ramanuja, Madhwacharya and others have always engaged in debates with the people who questioned their ideology.  Many of their followers too did the same when questions were raised on the interpretations that they gave to the world.

“Vaada” is a best way to resolve differences.  Instead of doing that if you start blaming Brahmins , bring in Caste , question nationality and start speaking Mumbo-Jumbo; this is not going to help the cause.

Dare to Debate Dear Devdutt, thats the best thing to do.  If you are indeed correct and Nityanand got it wrong prove it via debate. Prove it logically. Please don’t lower yourself in the eyes of others with these diversionary tactics.