Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Of Names once again

Some parents just hate their kids. Their hatred is clearly evident the moment they name their kids,

Consider this : "Lovelykrishna"

Yes. That really is the name of a guy. Boy, did his parents make sure he never gets a girlfriend.

Which girl in her sane mind would say "Hi friends, meet my boyfriend Lovely. Isn't he lovely?"


It looks like the United Nations has had its bad share of names too. Consider the past few Secretary Generals:

1) Kofi Annan - I could do with some Kofi right now
2) Butros Butros Gaali -Does Butros mean "My name sucks"?
3) U Thant - His dad wanted to name him "Hugh Grant" , but ended up sneezing at the wrong time. And meet Mr. General Secretary, instead of a Hollywood hottie.

Keeping up with the tradition of bad names comes our latest UN Secretary General:

4) Ban Ki-Moon - Any takers for this one?

Oh boy! Lovelykrishna is surely a candidate in running for the UN General Secretary. He has one qualification I can see that makes him a good fit.

Cricket authorities have a great sense of humour too. Check out some of the players:

1) Chaminda Vaas - They selected him so they could say "Chaminda Vaas selected" . He vaas quite angry the newspapers printed it that way. He said "I vaas quite pissed. This vaas not what I expect from the newspapers"

Hmm...its ok Vaas, this vaas not meant to happen on purpose.

2) Mahendra Veeren Nagamootoo - Yes. He is our dear Thirunalveli Nagamuthu Shastri's long lost cousin.

3) Dwayne Bravo - I can understand when parents want to praise their kids. But our DJ's parents were so full of praise for their boy, they decided that anyone who calls him has to praise him.

I guess Lovelykrishna would also make a good cricketer going by the list of people selected. I can see one very good reason!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


So, when I use this word, who are you reminded of?

Mahmud Ghajini? or perhaps Alexander? Or perhaps king William?

I am reminded of the Call center lady who calls me up everyday in the faintest of the hope that I would take a personal loan, home loan or perhaps my 5th credit card.

"Good morning sir. I am calling from ICICI regarding personal loans"
"Sorry not interested" [ click ]

"Good afternoon sir. This is regarding personal loans sir. I am calling from ICICI bank"
"You just called me before sometime" [ click ]
"Good evening sir. Would you be interested in taking a personal loan from ICICI"
"I just told you not to disturb me a few hours ago" [ click ]

After being mauled with these questions over the past few months, I have now decided to have some fun.

So, today when the HDFC call center lady called me up:

CC Lady: "Good morning sir. I am calling from HDFC bank. We have an excellent offer for you sir. This is regarding a home loan which we are giving without any collateral"
Me : "Hmm, thats great , so does that mean I dont have to repay the loan?"
CCL : "Oh no sir. :). You have to repay the loan sir. But we dont take a collateral for the loan sir"
Me : "What is a collateral?"
CCL : "Sir in case you donot pay the loan amount we usually have an agreement to take into custody some of your existing property. We will not ask for any such thing now sir"
Me : "Then what will you do if I run off with your loan?"
CCL : "No sir. How will you do that"
Me : "You want a demonstration?"
CCL : "No sir. I meant we trust that you will not do that?"
Me : "Do you trust me?"
CCL : "Sir, no sir, the bank trusts you"
Me : "No I asked if YOU trust me"
CCL : "Sir I am confused. I dont know you sir"
Me : "Then what will you do if I run off with your loan?"
CCL : "Sir, the bank will lodge a police complaint against you in that case"
Me : "But what if the police never catch me. What will happen to you then? Will the bank not blame you for making me take this loan?"
CCL : "Sir it does not matter to me if you take loan or run away with the money. Nothing will happen to me"
Me : "Then why did you make the phone call in the first place"
CCL : [ click ]

Next day it was the turn of the Personal Loan woman from the ICICI bank:

CCL : "Good afternoon sir. I am calling from ICICI bank. This is regarding personal loan sir."
Me : "So what exactly is a personal loan?"
CCL : "Sir, you can use it for your personal purposes"
Me : "So how personal is it?"
CCL : "Sir? huh?"
Me : "What personal purposes exactly are you referring to?"
CCL : "Sir, you can buy anything with that money sir"
Me : "Hmm, I am looking at buying a helicopter. How much money do you give?"
CCL : "Sir, helicopter?...uh...wait a minute is not given in the list...(oops). Sir you can buy whatever you want sir. "
Me : "Ok give me 2 crores"
CCL : " Sir we can only give upto Rs. 1 lakh sir"
Me : "What? with 1 lakh I cant even fill up the gas in the helicopter"
CCL : "Sir, remaining amount you have to put in sir"
Me : "You just said that I can buy whatever I want. I want to buy a helicopter. You better provide me the loan needed for that or else I am suing you"
CCL : [ click ]

Then it was Citibanks turn :

CCL : "Good evening sir. I am calling from Citibank. We are issuing you a free Gold Credit card because you are our esteemed customer. Lifetime membership free sir"
Me : "How much carat gold are we talking about here? 24?"
CCL : "Sir, not that gold sir. Gold Card"
Me : "Ya, how much does it weigh?"
CCL : "Sir, you undestood wrongly. This is a credit card which is called Gold credit card"
Me : "Why do you call it Gold card if it is not made of Gold?"
CCL : "Sir one minute sir"
CCL : "Sir Gold card is called Gold because it is very valuable sir"
Me : "How is it valuable?"
CCL : "Sir using this card you can buy anything sir"
Me : "Hmm. So can I buy a shirt?"
CCL : "Of course sir"
Me : "A Pant?"
CCL : "Yes sir"
Me : "Both shirt and pant?"
CCL : "Yes sir"
Me : "How about vegetables?"
CCL : "Sir you can buy whatever you want sir."
Me : "A chair?"
CCL : "Yes sir"
Me : "Dining table" ?...
CCL :"Yes sir"
Me : "TV"
CCL : "Yes sir, yes sir yes sir. You can buy whatever you want sir"
Me : "Hmm, thats interesting. I am not interested. "
[ click ]

Finally I thought I was rid of the problem. Today morning I receieved a call:

Automated Voice at the other end:
"Hiiiiii . A very good day to you. This is the automated message from ICICI that allows you to choose from a set of options that we have to offer you. For personal loan please click 1. For home loan please click 2..."


Jokes apart, Man there should be some way we can specify to these banks not to bug us with these calls. I dont know how and why our phone numbers are shared within these banks and they make these cranky calls.

I think banks would get higher profits if they donot spend so much money on these phone calls.

Secondly , out of a humanitarian concern for these Call Center people I really do hope these things are not done. I am really sad about the thing people have to do or are made to do. I know that it provides employment to many people. I really wish I could suggest some brilliant ways to make use of the human capital. But is this true employment? Educated people made to call someone and ask if the want loans/credit cards? Is our country letting the brains rot? I am reminded of egyptian slaves. It is said that the Pharaohs had discoverd the secrets of the steam engine but kept it a secret from these slaves, lest they become lazy. They did not want the job done with the steam engine but rather preferred that slaves do the job.

And ya, last but definitely not the least:
ICICI/HDFC/Citibank --> I already have a home loan. I have 4 credit cards, 3 debit cards. I have a TV, Fridge and am not planning to marry in the next couple of years. With no offence to the poor people who call me, but with full offense to these corportates, please bugger off and dont disturb me.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

My MBA Journey - I

This is one side of my life that I have never blogged about. My MBA Journey. Two years into this journey I am getting more serious by the day.

I have rarely blogged about this aspect of my life partly because I am yet to achieve something in this area. But now I get the feeling that this is a big aspect of my life and I need to pen down some of my thoughts.

Being an Indian, competition is something I have faced right from the day I went for my Kinder Garden :). Believe it or not, if you are an Indian, if you dont grab the first bite, you dont get a second bite. Fierce competition would be an understatement.

This is most visible in the case of an admit to one of the top B Schools in India, namely the IIMs. I come one of the top colleges in India for engineering, i.e BITS Pilani, and have met some of the best brains in the country there. The BITSian culture has had a great impact on me, and becoming a big shot in the industry one day has sort of become my dream.

I always thought gaining some experience is a must before you get into a B school , and I still believe experience is something that is very valuable for an MBA. The reason is quite simple, if you are just fresh out of college, you donot know one bit about working in projects, being in a team, meeting deadlines, paying taxes, facing real life competition (mind you there is a difference between competition at college and competition at work, college it does not make much difference if you get an A grade or a B grade, but it hurts bad when someone says your work is anything but outstanding), and an exposure to industry and business in general. Also, one matures as one gains work experience and can really decide what one wants to do with his/her life.

The advantage of doing an MBA without work-ex is perhaps that one might still be in touch with the education process (studying long hours etc.) , and the math would be strong. But the actual value that one derives out of the course I believe is lesser for a non-experienced.

Anyways, my journey began while I was into roughly a couple of years of experience. I belong to a very common background - a middle class, engineering graduate with IT experience. I started out by taking the Common Admissions Test (an entrance to some of the TOP colleges in India). My journey started by attending classes to crack the CAT at the TIME institute at Hyderabad.
The very first impression I had when I joined the training was that Math was going to be a nightmare in clearing the CAT exam.

I prepared hard for the Math part of it (we call it Quantitative, and Data Interpretation). I have a decent hold in my English abilities, so I did not spend too much time for preparing for the English part of it. I used to score somewhere in the top 3 odd percentile of students writing the exam and I Was fairly confident of my clearing the entrance.

The D day came. Nov 20 2004. The test : Objective type 150 odd marks. CAT is always known to spring surprises and there was a big bombshell waiting to explode that year. They had introduced a differential marking scheme. Till the year before it was always one markers.

We had to take a spot decision whether to go for low risk low yield 1 markers or high risk high yield 2 markers. I took a higher risk in the English as I was always good at it, and took the low risk route in the Math. My scores finally read : Quantitative : 97 percentile. Data Interpretation : 99 percentile. English : 89 percentile. Overall : 98.43 percentile.

With two years of experience in a multinational, I thought I would certainly get atleast 2-3 calls from the IIMs (I did not try for the lower rung colleges in India, because I did not think their programs were a good fit for me). I got 0 calls. I was even more surprised that year, when many people managed to get a call from these institutes even though their overall score was much less than mine. I could not find out where I really missed out and it left a very bad taste after almost 6 months of practising for the exams went down the drain.

However, I had gained a lot of experience from this exam. I gave another attempt at it. Nov 21 2005. Another bombshell. Too less questions. Tougher exam, and increased ambiguity in some of the English questions. From the earlier experience, I decided to go into spending more time in English, as they seemed to give more preference to it and that was the costly mistake I did in this paper, because apparently, this year I should have given lesser importance to it since it was of very high difficulty level.

Another blotched attempt. My score read Quantitative : 96. DI 92 English 92 and overall 97

But surprise came in the form of an interview call from arguably one of the best institutes in India , the IIM B. I gave it a good shot. Got great recommendations from my seniors. Wrote well thought out essays. And was quite well prepared on the day of the interview. But somehow I could not get will try once more....

More to continue.....

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

My take on Reservation

For a long time I have not blogged and I wanted to start with a decent topic :)...what better one to choose than the one that we have argued so much about....

My opinion on reservation is pretty straightforward : Reservation is an oxymoron and people who think reservation would help alleviate poverty/reduce caste based discrimination/give an equal opportunity etc. are morons.

Arguments which make me give out the above line:

1) First of all let us see why Reservation will not help alleviate poverty :

Consider Rural Poverty First:
a) I have a teammate who tells me that he is from a remote village in UP and he does not even know that there is a college called IIM or for that matter IIT until he finished his B.E (from a college in Mathura). Much of Indias populace is in Rural India, and much of the poverty is in these places.

For the fact oriented people, refer the following link1 , link 2 , link 3

It says:
"However, ruralpoverty remains stubbornly persistent, with the headcount ratio being 42.7 per cent in 1993/94(Dubey and Gangopadhyay 1998). More troubling is the concentration of rural poverty in India in the ‘scheduled caste’ (SC) and ‘scheduled tribe’( ST) population. Though striking, it may not besurprising, since the scheduled groups have historically faced discrimination. Since 1950,affirmative action programs have been at the core of Indian social policy towards the these twosocial groups. According to the 1991 Census of India, scheduled castes and scheduled tribescomprise 16.5 percent and 8.1 percent respectively of India’s population, yet about 43.53 per centof India’s rural poor are concentrated in these two social groups. The proportion of SC and ST households below the poverty line were 49.0 and 49.5 per cent respectively, as compared to a poverty rate of 32.8 per cent for non-scheduled households. There exists a gap in the proportion living in poverty (a ‘ poverty gap’) of 16.2 percent (=49.0-32.8)between SC and non-scheduled households, and a ‘poverty gap’ of 16.7 percent (=49.5-32.8)between ST and non-scheduled households. One major task in the fight to reduce rural poverty is,therefore, to close the gap in poverty rates between scheduled castes and tribes and the nonscheduledgroup."

On the following points, I and the government agree.
1) Rural Poverty is very high (as compared to urban...urban poverty I will visit soon). - I accept
2) Rural poverty is more concentrated toward the SC and STs. - I accept

Now my question:
1) The reservation has been done for if the poverty concentration is more toward SCs and STs...where did the OBCs come into picture...although...I am still against reserving for the SC and STs too in the IIMs/AIIMs/and IITs because of point 2
2) These people who are in the village dont even KNOW these colleges exist. I have some rural relatives, who think passing the 10th class is a significant achievement, while in my house, anything but getting top ranks in some of the best institutes is considered mediocre.

The rural poor, about whom I am talking are the ones, who
4) They donot know how to put their signature
5) They just know one language, their mother tongue, and that too only to speak in it

If you go and ask them who is Mahatma Gandhi, there is a good chance that 50% of these people don't know him. Yes. It may seem surprising, but it is true. Now if you RESERVE some seats in the IIMs/IITs/AIIMs, does it benefit these poor people who form nearly 50% of India's population?

There is a tremendous divide between the rural and the urban people and believe me I have seen it with my eyes.

My "Kula Deivam" i.e my hereditary deity is in a remote village called Ukkadai in Tamil Nadu. It is close to Madurai. In that village the head priest of the temple there has children and grandchildren attending school. They go to a school which is roughly 30 KMs in a town called Ammapettai. There is no school in that 30SQ KM area. They go in a bullock cart and get back in the same.

Whenever I visit the place our car goes through rough roads to reach the village, and the Summer can be extremely punishing if you go in a open bullock cart carrying a school bag daily to school. Those kids, who have rarely seen a 4 wheeler start running behind our car and chase us :) whenever we go there. After we reach the place, I give those kids a ride in our AC car, and they get very excited by that. It gives me great pleasure to see the smile on their face when I give them a ride in our car. To expect these people to know what an IIM is, is truly laughable.

I grew up in Chennai for the most part of my life. I myself heard of BITS Pilani for the first time when I reached my 12th class because my father was discussing the various options I have for education with some of his friends. These villagers , believe me, don't know shit about IIT/IIM etc...they think going to a college is a great achievement. The divide is much much more than what we urban people can really comprehend. Reserving a bunch of seats in these institutes is a laugh in the face of efforts to reduce poverty.

b) Next is the lack of Primary and Secondary education. What has the government done to improve these? I have seen in a serial called "Visu's Arattai Arangam", umpteen number of times, that there are no schools in many of the villages. If at all they need to get education, they need to travel many kilometers to the nearest big town where there is a school. To reach that town , they donot have proper roads/buses etc running. During harsh weather , reaching the school becomes impossible for these people. What has the government done to first educate these poor? In NDTV 24*7 this is what Infosys, Narayanamurthy was mentioning in the serial called BIG Fight and I fully agree with him.

c) Even with these odds, some brightest minds do manage to score a decent enough score to manage a seat in some of these colleges. I am full of appreciation for them and words are not enough to appreciate their sincerity. But....and it is a big but....their trouble does not end with acquiring a seat. There is a great difference between a Rank 1 from a village and a Rank 100 in a school like DAV in Chennai. Once these two people are put in the same college, I have seen many professors who oppose reservation tell in their interviews to various news channels that the people coming through reservation really struggle to get the grades necessary to pass their course. Most colleges follow a relative grading process, and quality of Urban education will take its toll on the poor quality of the rural education.

To sum up We have seen that the rural poor donot benefit from reservation because of the following reasons:
a) Lack of knowledge about these institutes in the first place
b) Lack of proper Primary education/Secondary education
c) Even those that manage to make use of the reservation, find difficulty to finish their course in these top colleges

Now to the Urban Poor:

Except for the fact that these people have managed to come to the cities, points about their ignorance of these institutes still holds good. Though they have a better access to quality schooling, i.e great primary schools may be available in every street, they still donot have enough money to send their kids to school and thereby point b still stays. And here too, those that stay hungry but go to school and manage to utilise the reservation from the government, feel very out of place in these institutes not because this time it is because of the diffculty of the course, but because they cannot afford to live like their richer counterparts in these very institutes. There have been incidences of suicides because students go into tremendous mental pressure because of their poor background and they decide to take these extreme steps.

So to sum up, the poor are not really benefitted, and even if a very small franction do get benefitted, reservation is the slowest way among any other policy which the government can frame toward alleviating poverty.

2) The point I want to discuss is about the utter absurdity of reservation: Take the following excerpt from a newspaper

"According to National Sample Survey's 1999-2000 round around 36 per cent of the country's population is defined as belonging to the Other Backward Classes (OBC). The proportion falls to 32 per cent on excluding Muslim OBCs. A survey conducted in 1998 by National Family Health Statistics (NFHS) puts the proportion of non-Muslim OBCs as 29.8 per cent"

So , we have some 27 odd percentage + the 5 odd percent existing already for OBCs, and added together that makes it 32%. So the government says , for the 32% of the people we reserve 32% of the seats.

Wow, that is just great. That means that in any subset of student pool of any batch, roughly 32% of the students would be OBCs and they all now have seats, provided as many seats are there.

The absurdity that I talk about will make a clearer sense if you take this example:

Consider that about 98% of the people belong to OBC (which would mean the whole country is backward....nothing could be more pathetic). And assume government says that 98% of the seats are reserved for this community.

So? What does this really achieve. Nothing. Except that the remaining 2 % of the population may not get any seat because potentially that could also be eaten by the remaining 98%. You are in fact killing the remaining 2 % by doing this. Also, the 98% does not get benefitted much, because they compete with THEMSELVES.

There were roughly 26 castes identified under Backward caste in Tamil Nadu during independence. Now the list has 273 castes. Tomorrow it will be 20000. How is the government going to really identify who is backward and who is not? Reservation spurs casteism more than it does to remove it.

50 odd percent of the country is either BC or OBC , and 50% seats are reserved. What nonsense is this? This year, in the Post Graduation medical exam in Andhra, only the state 1st rank (who was from a forward caste), was able to manage the seat. The STATE BLOODY second rank could not get the seat. How pathetic is this?

3) The next absurdity about reservation is that it helps alleviate caste based discrimination. Bull Shit. In villages, this still goes on. Your giving reservation in IITs and IIMs is not going to change the way the poor dalits are treated in the villages.

Coming to think of it, the dalits are not the ones given reservation, it is rather the OBCs. Which in itself is another farce.

Even if this does eliminate discrimination, all it does is sow the seeds of anger and desperation in the hearts of those really capable students who were denied a seat due to reservation. These people will be the next generation dalits.

So this really is going to be a chain rather than eliminating discrimination.

Untouchability and reservation in IITs are rubber and glue. Totally unrelated. Even the extremely innocent people will not buy this argument. To eliminate untouchability, the government has to take other steps....not reserve seats in some colleges.

4) Nowadays, there is an overwhelming majority of Backward classes in Politics, and they seem to be the ones doing the oppression of Forward castes now. It is really a reveral of roles, and what happened many years ago is not happening the other way round.

5) Ok, lets forget about all this, and get back to the point of oppression that was followed for 1000s of years as claimed by these so called pundits.

Let me take my own example:

I am a forward caste. My great grand parents/grand parents used to live in a place called RajaPaiyyan Chaavadi (a remote village in TN). There was no electricity in their house. There was no means of transport but for bullock cart, which they also borrowed whenever they visit the neighbouring village. They used a "Hurricane Lamp", and they were also poor farmers. What crap ass discrimination makes them forward caste, and what greater benefits did they enjoy than these so called OBCs, who also perhaps stayed in a mud hut, and did pretty much the same things.

The amount of entertainment that can be bought today with money is very much more compared to that in those days. Though I accept there were cruel things carried out such as not allowing dalits inside temples, not allowing them to use water etc, ECONOMICALLY the divide was not huge. In fact it really was not there. Both pretty much were farmers or potters etc. In fact, a few generations back, (I am a brahmin), brahmins used to BEG FOR THEIR FOOD. So if brahmins are called forward castes, my God, are they the most pathetic of the lot. Their ancestors were beggars for like 4000 years . And now they continute to beg for seats to this day :)

Reservation is now causing an economic divide as well. The people who benefit from OBC/BC/SC/ST quotas are the third generation of people benefitting from the same.

I have seen with my eyes, a student getting into IIT with a horrible score. His dad got into a great Manager job in Telecom, and his grand dad was a doctor. How is this justified?

6) Another interesting thing is that, we had this discussion once in an official lunch, (with my teammates). All of them seemed to oppose reservation, and I asked "How many of you are BC's", and believe me, half of them raised their hands. Even they feel there is no need for reservation once a generation has benefitted. Moreover, the divide is very less and nobody, atleast in Urban areas can tell the difference of castes unless someone tells it out openly.

7) I read this interesting thing in Wikipedia:

"Reservationists argument of great inequalities in the society is totally wrong. GINI index is the term used to measure inequality. GINI index for India is healthy 0.32(As per CIA fact book).GINI index in India is much lesser than many European countries,USA,Singapore and communist countries like China,Russia etc. "

When there is so less an inequality then wots the point of reservation? Whether or not all are equally pathetic or well off is another question altogether.

8) Wikipedia has many other interesting points to offer. I am pasting them from there:

a) Reservation decisions in India are never taken with scientific basis.Independent surveys indicate Lingayats and Vokkaligas of Karnataka,Jats of Rajastan,Nadars of Tamilnadu are economically sound than forward caste clan. So always reservation decisions are taken keeping political interests in mind
b) that allocating quotas on the basis of caste is a form of racial discrimination which is contrary to the right to equality.
c) that as a consequence, legislation for providing reservation for Christians and Muslim religious minorities in all government education institutions will be introduced, which is contrary to the ideas of secularism, and is a form of discrimination on the basis of religion.
d) .that most often, only the economically sound people (and rather rich) from the so-called lower castes will make use of most of the reserved the seats, thus making the aim a total failure. Political parties know reservations are no way to improve the lot of the poor and the backward. They support them because of self-interest of the “creamy layer”, who use the reservations to further their own family interests, and as a political flag of ‘achievement’ during election campaigns.[11] In fact, several studies show that the OBC class is quite comparable with the general caste in terms of annual per capita consumption expenditure, and the top strata of OBC is ahead in a host of consumption areas.
e) that the quality of these elite institutes may go down, because merit is severely being compromised by reserving seats for certain caste-based communities.

Would you prefer a Backward caste student who scored 40% marks in medical entrance to perform the heart operation of your mother or a 98% student who was denied admission.

f) that the government is dividing people on the basis of castes for political advantages
g) that this can also lead to prolonged reservation system indefinitely.
h) that, the caste system is kept alive through these measures. Instead of coming up with alternative innovative ideas which make sure equal representation at the same time making the caste system irrelevant, the decision is only fortifying the caste system.
i) that the autonomy of the educational institutes are lost
j) that not everyone from the so-called upper class are rich, and not all from so called lower classes are poor
k) that this policy of the government will also increase the phenomenon of Brain Drain from India and the under graduates and graduates will start moving to foreign universities for higher education.This will be in such a case a great set back and will have the most devastating affects on Indian education and economy
l) that multi-national companies will be deterred by this action of the government,and foreign investment in India may dry down, hurting the growth of the Indian economy. Doubtless, urgent actions to improve the lot of the majority, which has not benefited from development — not achieved after 55 years of reservations for scheduled castes — are essential. But this must not hazard improving the economy’s competitiveness in a very competitive world.
m) there are already talks of reservations in the private sector.If even after providing so many facilities to reserved categories during education, if there is no adequate representation of those people in the work force, there must be some problems with the education system. Unfortunatley, in India government never seems to address real issues involved.

Well, for now I think I have already said a lot of things. I am pretty much exhausted with this huge post, I think this is one of the biggest I have typed. I would come back with more later once I get some other relevant points.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Patriotism - What is it? - II

Hmm, I got a reply from KoPoS on this. A lot of valid points were mentioned in that.

Now clubbing together what I have said and Kopos has mentioned, let me try my hand at this topic once more.

As we try to define this particular word, we now come across a lot more confusion.

One definition we came at was: "Patriotism is an emotion, an attitude. Either you have it or you dont. And of course, as per me patriotism is just a sense of belonging to the state and more importantly that of that state belonging to you. Its about the rights but mainly in the responsibilities."

Is this not very close to something called "Religion" ? Religion too may be defined along these lines and said that it is an emotion. An Attitude. We have it or we dont. So if people who donot follow any religion, or who donot know if God exists or not, call themselves "Agnostics" and some who think God does not exist call themselves "Atheists" and still go about their daily lives without any issues, what then do we call people who donot believe in the concept of a nation/patriotism?

Jesus Christ was of this notion, so was Leo Tolstoy and so are so many monks today. In fact near Pondicherry there is an Ashram called as Auroville, where sand from various parts of the world is brought and a huge meditation center in the form of a globe is constructed. To stay there and be a part of Auroville means that you are declaring that you are a world citizen and one who has no allegiance to any specific nation whatsoever and are a brother of the whole world.

So is it that Patriotism is then a "Notion". A notion that has been nurtured and developed over a period of time so that a "Group" of people get together and try to prosper in a structured way. The concept of the whole is more than sum of parts may be of use here. i.e, when 4 people get together and form a team , then they tend to perform better than 4 indivuduals separately.

ok, so we have a definition of patriotism as a matter of convenience for general welfare and upliftment of a group of indivuduals. These indivuduals who swear allegiance to a group then call themselves as members of the nation.

Now, in this kind of a formation it is very fruitful, if by chance/through revolution, the members have a "Common Link", so that they can identify themselves with that link. The link could be that of religion (as in the case of Arab Nations), or it could be that of a common tongue (Chinese), or it could be a common ancestral civilisation and a history of togetherness in geography (Britain).

Now throughout the world, we see that there is a problem when this "Common Link" is missing . That is when we face issues. Take Yogoslavia. Take Sri Lanka. Take Israel/Palestine.

However, there are countries where the common link is missing, and yet still stand united.

For these nations what I ask is, "Is it then a question of time before they break apart ?" - We have seen that during the storm Katrina , in the US, Blacks and Whites clearly stood separated black and white. What we saw in France during the recent communal riots, was an indication that perhaps civilisation is nothing but a set of barbarians eating with Fork and Spoon. In a matter of days riots are breaking out. People of different religion or tongue quarrel.

Coming to the case of India....there are lot of things which we can discuss here as well.

Now if we take common ancestry , I do agree that we had a large part of the nation influenced by the Indus Valley civilisation. But then, why are Pakistan/Bhutan/Nepal/Myanmar and Bangaldesh not part of this nation. They ought to be. If we consider the geography, they were ruled atleast in part during history by Mauryas and Mughals.

In fact, Chola Traders had very good relations with Malays, and to this day Tamil is one of Malaysias Official languages.

So as of the present, history and geography donot completely provide a complete justification for Indias present boundary. In fact, after the 70s war with Pakistan and China, China conquered thousands of square kilometers of J& K and handed them over to Pak, and it even captured parts of Arunachal and Assam ,which it has handed it over back to us. Now, what of those lands? Do they not atleast "Rightfully" belong to India?

The reason for the whole conflict in the J&K would be that the Hindu Rulers during the independence swore allegiance with India, but the populace was largely Muslim, and Pak wants a bite of the cake. I dont take a stand on this issue, saying that either of them is correct, but my question is more toward the concept of "Boundary" and a "Nation".

Israel has taken a mountain peak from Syria and refuses to hand it who does it belong to? is it Israel because it has military might? or is it Syria because of a historical claim to the land?

Tamils want a portion of Lanka and Sinhala claims it is their motherland and no share would be given to anyone.

So are we then seeing a failure of the concept of nations?

We saw USSR break apart. We saw so many other nations disintegrating to smaller ones....

Are we to learn some lesson from that? Is Big necessarily Better?

I would attribute a part of Indias success as a democracy to its concept of States and a State Government. A state government is a sort of mini government within a government which is providing the much needed identity to a person. The concept of a state in a sense comforts people that they too are being fairly represented and are being noticed.

Even here we saw what has happened to Uttaranchal, Jharkand and Chattisgarh and what could potentially happen to Telengana.

So we see that the success of a nation lies in an "Identity" for its members. Its members need to feel safe. Need to feel noticed. Need to see that they too matter in the whole. If that does not happen, then a nation tends to fail.

When a nation/state neglects a part of its populace, a struggle for a separate identity ensues, and what results is either a new state or a nation. There is absolutely no business of saying that there is a sort of a "Feeling" of oneness. When you are hungry, you want food first. Next you think of development. Nobody says, "All right, I will remain hungry , and let the nation prosper". As Bharatiyar says "If one man is hungry, may the whole world stay hungry". So as long as the last man in a nation is not hungry, the nation is potentially capable of falling apart at any point of time and patriotism along with it.

In the end, the way I would define this word is perhaps : Patriotism is a notion of togetherness that is created for convenience and for common good and prosperity of the group that calls itself one.

As long as it is a positive attitude that says "All right, I will try to improve by working hard to raise myself" , rather than a negative one of "All right, I will try to improve by working hard to lower others", it would do good. The moment that rule is violated, we will see many more Lankas/Kashmirs and Israels.

After I say all this, I tend to think that a World Economy may perhaps not be a great solution in one sense, that it would again tend to break apart due to the "Identity crisis" I have mentioned earlier. Perhaps only when all men completely believe that they all came from the same mother at some point of time will this concept tend to succeed. If not, it may remain just a wishful thought.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Patriotism - What is it?

A lot of times I have wondered about the answer to this question . I have had a lot of arguments with some of my friends about this topic. Some of them believed that Patriotism very much exists while others just thought it was nothing but bull shit.

Is patriotism all about just singing your national anthem, and supporting your country in sports?

What exactly is the definition of this word?

Wikipedia defines it as this:

Patriotism denotes positive attitudes by a individuals to their own nation, to its national homeland, its culture, its members, and to its interests. The word is derived from the Latin patria, fatherland, which has a much broader meaning than a geographical territory.

Dictionary definition of a nation is something along the lines of "love of country and willingness to sacrifice for it"

So as we see, both these definitions involve the concept of a "Nation"...

Now my doubt in the definition of Patriotism first lies in the definition of Nation.

Wiki says here that:

One of the most influential doctrines in history is that all humans are divided into groups called nations. It is an ethical and philosophical doctrine in itself, and is the starting point for the ideology of nationalism. The nationals (the members of the "nation") are distinguished by a common identity, and almost always by a common origin, in the sense of ancestry, parentage or descent. The national identity refers both to the distinguishing features of the group, and to the individual’s sense of belonging to it. A very wide range of criteria is used, with very different application. Small differences in pronunciation may be enough to categorise someone as a member of another nation. On the other hand, two people may be separated by difference in personalities, belief systems, geographical locations, time and even spoken language, yet regard themselves and be seen by others, as members of the same nation. Nationals are considered to share certain traits and norms of behaviour, certain duties toward other members, and certain responsibilities for the actions of the members of the same nation.

So we see that there is a mention of a "Common Link" among the members of a nation. Now I can understand this quite easily if I am a citizen of a country that is as small as , lets say Iceland.

On the lighter side, My great grandfather was perhaps a viking and viking blood might in fact flow in me as well .

But what if I am the citizen of USA or India for that matter. The whole country is made up of so many different cultures, so many different people and so many different languages that the above definition would surely not encompass such nations. A tamilian is ENTIRELY different in his way of life and looks and language from an Assamese. No way are they related.

So my question is this, "Does it really make sense to call the Tamilian and an Assamese as belonging to the same nation"?

I donot want to hurt any sentiments by asking these questions, but it is just that I am personally not convinced about the fact, that someone somewhere decided "Ok, so let us take this geographical mass , and call it a country"...and Lo , we have India.

If such diversity could still call itself one nation, then why not we include the whole world into one spectrum and be done with a world Nation.

Atleast some Indians could say they are related by the Indus Valley civilisation and that they all have some kind of a common ancestry. But what of the USA. They have Red Indians who are their actual natives. They have Great grandsons and daughters of British settlers, African slaves labourers, Chinese merchants, Indian Software programmers and what not?

Now does it even make sense to call such a diverse mix as having anything in common? They dont even have a common ancestry for that matter.

The greatest comedy about the whole thing is that a huge mass in this world goes about their daily duties without even perhaps realizing that they have a false identity. When someone says "I am a citizen of such and such country", does he realize that that piece of land has until now seen atleast a 1000 different rulers, and a 1000 different languages and cultures since the time Man was born.

Let us take India for example:

If we say common ancestry as the unifying factor, then we ought to have Pakistan United with us...should we not? Why then do many of us have an ill feeling towards them?

In an England Pakistan match, why do we rather feel better if England wins? That is the saddest thing that could ever take place. England has dominated us and has ruled us for centuries just because they were technologically more advanced, and we want England to win a cricket match than Pakistan. (Although a cricket match in no way defines patriotism, but it is all these small things together which perhaps goes to define the big picture).

Another question is, Who has the right to define the borders of a country? Also why should I listen or obey to some rules that were set God knows how long ago and are still being followed.

Ask me , and I would break down all barriers in the world and opt for a world economy. One where we are just a human country.

I do know if what I say may be feasible in a practical sense, but I think it is high time one gave a thought about these things.

Donot just assume that you are a country member just because someone told you so or because you were born in a piece of land whose borders were drawn some 100 years before you even opened your eyes for the first time. Question those who have drawn the border and ask why that is so....