Word of the Week #78:

Bigotry

I remember sitting in my father’s study one day, towards the beginning of this millennium, rummaging through the cupboards, looking for something.

What I sought there must have been something ridiculously inconsequential, like a stapler or such, and what I happened to find was anything but that.

If I remember correctly, and I think I do, I stumbled upon a large, yellow notebook, uglier than most I have seen to this day. On the very first page, written in the familiar italic scrawl was a quote.

“Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves.”
― George Gordon Byron

Of course, I did not understand this the first time I read it. I was barely 7 or 8, after all. I did have a dictionary at hand, though, and I had at least managed to teach myself a new word.

I would not come to truly understand the full measure of human depravity for another couple of years or so.

You know, 2002

15 years have passed since then, and while one would expect the world to have learned quite a few things over this span, the reality forces you to pause for a moment, and try to understand just what went wrong. Just a brief scan of the news is enough to make you cringe.

How did we start the week?

Well, at supposedly one of the finest educational institutes in our country, students protesting sexual assault faced physically assault.

Yeah, you can’t make this stuff up…

And on the other side of the globe, a bloviating buffoon created a man-made disaster immediately after a series of natural disasters had just subsided, essentially declaring that protests against intolerance will not be tolerated.

The irony…

Looks like in the time I grew up, the world has gone completely senile.

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Word of the Week #77:

Credit

You know what I don’t get? Loans.

Well, yeah, I actually don’t get loans. You see, I don’t have any credentials or collateral to enable me to get one, but that is beside the point.

The real point here is that I don’t get loans. I just cannot understand the concept.

Really, you are just betting that you though even though you do not have the money now, you will have it someday. Of course, you won’t actually have that money because, well, you’ve spent it on the EMI.

Also, if you took the loan to buy, say, a new cell phone, or a car, or a nice TV, you must know that the item would hardly last as long as the term of your loan.

So, at the end of the day, you are bound to end up with neither the money nor the stuff, half-broken by the burden bearing down on your back.I will admit, there are times when you have to take a loan. You cannot be a doctor if you do not go to a medical college, and those things can be rather pricey. Here, at least you know you get to keep the degree. Same with houses and real estate and such stuff, at least unless you buy a sea-facing bungalow and, well, the rising sea level leaves it half-submerged. It can happen, you know…

And, of course, there are times when you just have to borrow, perhaps for a business venture. As they say, you need money to make money.

Or, perhaps you need it because your daughter needs an urgent surgery. You really cannot ask her to just sit tight while you earn that money with your own hands, right?

Some expenses are indeed unavoidable, and some burdens have to be borne.

So, in conclusion, I guess I do get loans.

I wonder why my government thinks otherwise…

Word of the Week #72:

Sovereignty

Well, yes, this is indeed a day for celebration.

The roads are filled with men and women waving the tricolour, and the screen with speeches and colourful highlights of our relatively young nation.

Yes, this is, for the most part, a day for celebration.

After all, in most respects, we have arguably come farther in these 70 years than any other country, with the exception of China. Of course, anyone who knows anything about China would know the exact reason for that.

And if you don’t know, just ask Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Oh wait, you can’t, can you?

Anyway, let us return to our own territory, and let us make merry, for this is a day for celebration.

However, as I’m sure a teacher of mine would have reminded us, it is also a day for introspection.

Yes, we have make far, but this is still not nearly far enough, is it?

To quote the very first speech made in Independent India, or was it the last one made prior to independence… Anyway, the quote is what matters, here.

“That future is not one of ease or resting but of incessant striving so that we may fulfil the pledges we have so often taken and the one we shall take today.”

— Jawaharlal Nehru, Tryst with Destiny

It is quite obvious that despite having achieved freedom from our colonial rulers, we haven’t yet succeeded in ridding our land of the plethora of problems that plague it.

Since I am not a JNU student, I probably wouldn’t just suddenly start chanting out the entire list. You live here, you know it as well as anyone else; if you don’t, you should probably be on the list…

Today, we stand at an undeniably interesting juncture in our planet’s history. A shift in the balance of power is already underway, and we have the opportunity to not just observe this historic moment, but mould it with our own will.

How exactly will that pan out? Time will tell, I suppose…

Word of the Week #70:

Dissent

As a kid, I was usually quite well liked by elders. You see, I have always been nice and cute and smart. People tend to like that in kids.

However, as I grew older and smarter, I found that there were a couple of aspect of my personality that seemed to prick certain grown-ups.

You see, I was always an inquisitive kid. When someone would tell me something, or ask me to do something a certain way, I thought a very reasonable response was, “Why?”

At that age, it is bizarre to think I would not have actually intended to challenge the authority of the aforementioned elders. What kid ever thinks that way?

Now, as a few more years passed, this habit of mine evolved to the next level.

Now, not only was I completely unafraid of asking “Why?”, I was also assertive enough in the face of their floundering responses to say, “No.”

Needless to say, such behaviour was not without its consequences. Some teachers may have been convinced this disobedience needed to be flogged out of me, but corporal punishments were not in vogue anymore, and juvenile attempts at public shaming had to suffice. Some parents believed I was a bad influence on their kids.

I have always hoped people would look at this with equanimity and ask themselves who is a worse influence on impressionable minds: a child who seeks to understand before he obeys, and thereby chooses to disobey if he disagrees, or a supposed ‘grown-up’ who cannot even defend his beliefs to the aforementioned child, and thereby sees him as a threat.

“Inevitably it follows that anyone with an independent mind must become ‘one who resists or opposes an authority or established convention’: a rebel
And if enough people come to agree with—and follow—the REBEL, we now have a DEVIL.
Until, of course, still more people agree. And then, finally, we have… GREATNESS.”
― Nicholas Tharcher, Rebels and Devils: The Psychology of Liberation

The times have changed, since. We are the grown-ups now. It is time for us to shape the world we have inherited.

“Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

Do we want our children to stay silent, or do we want them to speak out?

It is now for us to decide.

Word of the Week #55:

Reservation

It is not often that I forget to reschedule a draft, leading to it being published erroneously. And, of all the posts, it had to be this one…

It is almost poetic, the way this happened, and quite frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, without further ado, let us talk about the elephant in the room; and might I add that any symbolism here is accidental but, once again, poetic.


Yeah, you probably do not need to check the dictionary to know what the word means, right?

But do you really know what it means?

As we head into the great season of Examinations and Admissions, we will find our Facebook feed filled with a very specific type of posts, most which go along these lines:

He got 92 marks
I got 192 marks

Now, he is in his IIT Hostel, enjoying ultra-high-speed-broadband
I am sitting at home, posting this using the Jio SIM whose days are now numbered

Okay, I admit, I am just paraphrasing, but it does touch a nerve, am I right?

But does reading such random spews of misguided anger help you understand the situation? I doubt it.

I must mention that, for several years, I have tried to ignore such posts, attributing them to sore losers polluting the internet with their petulance. There was a time, last year, when I did write a post on the topic, but I never published it, because… Well, I do have a book to sell, and I simply do not need the negativity.

However, over the past year or so, I have seen a rise in the voice of the aforementioned losers, and they have never had any strong, vocal opposition.

What worries me most is the fact that this rhetoric has been employed by seemingly intelligent, educated youth from affluent families.

Of course, the word “affluent” is highly relative. For the moment, let us employ it for every person reading this on a personal electronic device not bought through his/her personal income… Or a sold kidney or something…

Anyone, I think it is time for me to speak up on the matter because, as a man much greater than us all once said:

“If I were to remain silent, I’d be guilty of complicity.”
― Albert Einstein

Of course, now that I am speaking up, I would like to remain fair, although the same can no longer be said about my skin. To that end, I intend to equally hurt the sentiments of all the three sides of this debate.

1. To The Sore Loser:

“Those who plead their cause in the absence of an opponent can invent to their heart’s content, can pontificate without taking into account the opposite point of view and keep the best arguments for themselves, for aggressors are always quick to attack those who have no means of defence.”
― Christine de Pizan, The Letter of the God of Love

Let me begin by saying something that, unfortunately, needs to be said out loud:
CASTEISM STILL EXISTS.

Yes, one really cannot discuss a caste-based system without first discussing casteism, right…

Of course, it may no longer be as overt as it once was, particularly in the urbanised areas of our country, but it still does exist. Also, do note that two-thirds of our population still resides in villages and such, where the situation can be far direr.

Even a sideway glance at a newspaper would bring to your eye at least one incident of such discrimination any given week, but who has time for a newspaper these days, right?

I cannot, at this moment, dive into the nuanced topic of casteism. Still, I think the Khairlanji massacre from 2006 ought to be brought to your attention. I would not speak much about it, for the matter is still sub judice.

Coming back to the topic, let us discuss your most popular arguments…

1. The ‘Reserved vs Deserved’ Argument

This one, let me tell you, drips with the rankest sort of social prejudice, and quite frankly, does not even deserve our time.

However, let me just say that while meritocracy may seem like a tempting idea, always remember a very simple fact. If you cannot make it now, you will not make it then.

2. It goes against Equality

Well, guess what? Affirmative action, which is the correct term, is not meant to create Equality directly or by itself. Instead, it is meant to ensure participation of every oppressed minority group in the society, through easier access to education and employment opportunities.

Inequalities created through millennia of discrimination cannot be undone in some 70 years.

Nonetheless, data indicates that India has grown closer towards socio-economic equality than it has ever been in the recorded history.

Of course, a lot still needs to be done.

3. Nobody else does it

Well, just because you do not know something does not make it true.

You should probably read about the implementation of Affirmative action in the US, and elsewhere, in one form or the other.

It is also noteworthy that their actions are often in response to oppression lasting a couple of centuries, not a couple of millennia. Hence, their measures need not be as drastic as ours.

Yes, it is not exactly a quota system, and I don’t see how that is better. Without the quotas defined and declared, the admission officer could probably just say, “Hmm! I feel like having Mexican, today…”

4. It is inefficient

So are diesel-powered vehicles… But they are still prevalent in India, are they not?

Just because a scheme is inefficient, or ineffective, or insufficient, does not mean we totally scrap it.

Try to learn about the ObamaCare hullabaloo, when you get a moment.

And, until you do, let me offer the following analogy:
If you are expecting to have a child and decide your current residence is inadequate, would you first sell the current house before finding another more suitable?

Now, this scenario is tough enough for a nuclear family… Imagine the predicament faced by the head of a family of 1.2 billion people.

What other arguments are there? I cannot remember them all. There is only a limited amount of nonsense a human mind can contain, and I like to keep mine reserved for the fictional kind. Looks like, even here, you fail to make the cut.

Of course, whenever further arguments keep cropping up, I will keep updating the post.

Now, one can only hope that you try to accept facts as they are, understand the underlying reasons, and stop whining. But you probably won’t do that, would you?

2. To The Smug Beneficiary:

“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
― John F. Kennedy

Yes, you are well within your rights to claim this opportunity to safeguard your future, and only a fool would let that go… Right?

Well, that might be true for now, and granted, the literacy rates and representation in public sector jobs has increased in the past few decades, but is that enough?

Have the benefits of these schemes truly permeated throughout the community, or are they now being hoarded by certain families, generation after generation?

Soon, this would create a bigger gap between the lower and middle class, which would lead to class struggles and greater segregation.

This was, after all, meant to be a temporary crutch for a community crippled by generations of injustice. What happens when it is time to remove the crutch? Can the community stand on its own feet? If not, can it lean on your shoulders?

After all, one must admit that the system has its flaws, and a consensus cannot be reached when only one side is making all the noise.

But hey! You got yours, so why bother…

3. To The Silent Bystander:

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

I can understand the preference for silence. After all, that has been my own stance for as long as I can remember. However, I do believe that there do come certain points in history when every individual has to take a stand.

We have all read about our Independence Movement, the French Revolution, the American Civil Rights Movement, and other few events that changed the course of history, largely for the better of humanity.

Another change is on the horizon.

Where do you stand?

Word of the Week #54:

Precedent

Judiciary is fun. Especially when you are the one judging others.

And, in an astounding judgement earlier this week, the Bombay High Court found that a man was not guilty of murdering his wife for the rather peculiar reason that the man wanted to burn his wife, but did not intend to kill her.

To be fair, I should add that the accused was found guilty of “manslaughter without intent” and would have to serve a sentence of 10 years of imprisonment.

So, basically the same length of time as it would take for his appeal to be heard by the Supreme Court.
Continue reading Word of the Week #54:

Word of the Week #52:

Mercurial

Look. When people start using the same adjectives that commentators for decades have held in reserve for Shahid Afridi to describe you, it does make you question the entire universe, and your place in it.

Is it weird that I keep bringing him up?

To be very honest, he has been a major part of all our childhoods, has he not? Maybe not so much the impact as the sheer span of his presence.

Anyway, let us shift away from this topic before the Nationalist Brigade breaks into my house to confiscate my passport right on the eve of this fairly moderate, but nonetheless noteworthy, landmark.

Continue reading Word of the Week #52: