Saturday, August 22, 2009

From ‘Avadhoot of Arbudachal. Biography of Vimala Thakar’ by Kaiser Irani

One day my elder brother was talking with my father about someone, and said that boy was very bad. He told father: “I will never go to see him.” And father replied to him: “See Sudhakar, a human being can spend his whole life trying to understand himself, and in one hour you can make a judgement upon someone?” That one sentence of father has had a great impact on me. It touched me very deeply, and afterwards it never occurred to me to judge others by my values.

Brahmacharya is a word that has been treated with utter cruelty, distortion, twisting………..God only knows what made the human beings identify it and equate it with physical celibacy. Brahma – the ultimate Reality, Brahmane – charaiveti-charaiveti-iti-brahmachari – one who lives in that ultimate reality, one who lives in the awareness of that non duality of live, one who lives in the awareness of the unity of life is a Brahmacharin…….The meaning of the word got limited to celibacy, countenance, refraining from sex life………Dedication to the awareness of Divinity, dedication to the understanding of Divinity can be possible even in a married life. Married life or sexual relationship, if it is not distorted, if it is not compulsive sex, obsessive sexuality, if it is a normal, sane, healthy part of human life, then marriage is not an obstacle, it cannot be an obstacle to the dedication to the truth of life. This is how Vimala sees it.

Let the enquiry ripen, let fearlessness prevail, let there be the willingness to offer psycho-physical life at the altar of exploration, and then the Meeting with a master is bound to happen. It is the field of happening and not doing. It is the field of humility or surrender of the ego, the sacred effortlessness of meditation.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

On Goa, Portugal and the brutal past

From ‘India in Slow Motion’ by Mark Tully

Goans enthusiasm for their church is perhaps surprising because it was fear not faith which originally converted them. Father Alexander Valignano, a 16th century Jesuit who served as Visitor of the Province of the East Indies admitted, ‘Conversions were not commonly done by preaching and doctrine but by right methods as for example preventing idolatry or punishing by merciful rigour those who practiced it, denying them such favours as could rightly be denied and conferring such favours on the new converts, honouring, helping and protecting them so that the others might be converted with this.’

It was only when threatened by the independence movement across the border in India that the Portugese government sought allies among the Hindu community by giving them opportunities which had been almost entirely restricted to Christians.

……….Basilica of Bom Jesus, the shrine of St. Francis Xavier, revered by the Roman Catholic Church as the Apostle of the Indies and Japan and the Patron of Foreign Missions…….He regarded the Portugese government as the secular arm of the church, invited the king to establish the inquisition in Goa, and was renowned for having no interest in Indian religions or indeed any religion except his own. But attendance at the mass confirmed that he is still Goa’s most popular saint.

The Portugese did their best to dig up those Indian roots. An edict of the Inquisition published in 1736 more than 200 years after the Portugese established Christianity in Goa, prohibited specific Hindu practices creeping into Catholicism. Anointing brides and bridegrooms with a mixture of milk and coconut oil, or touching their foreheads with grains of raw rice were banned from marriage rites. After a death the walls of a house were not to be plastered with cow dung and the clothes of the dead person were not to be thrown into the river or the sea which are sacred to the Hindus……..The living were strictly prohibited from wearing ‘Hindu clothes’.

Even when the Portugese left it took the Vatican a long time to accept that the Goan church must be Indian.

……………..In Portugese Goa the church lived with caste. The higher castes were members of the confrarias, or committees which controlled the village churches. They sat in the front pews at mass and they organized and played the prominent roles in annual festivals. Upper caste families had a tradition of sending one son into the church so that they dominated the diocesan clergy too.

From ‘Empire of the Soul. Some Journeys in India’ by Paul William Roberts

In a small island near this, called Divari, the Portugese, in order to build the city, have destroyed an ancient temple…which was built with marvelous art and with ancient figures wrought to the greatest perfection, in a certain black stone, some of which remain standing, ruined and shattered, because these Portugese care nothing about them. If I can come by one of these shattered images, I will send it to your Lordship, that you may perceive how much in old times sculpture was esteemed in every part of the world.

- Andre Corsalli to Giuliano de Medici. January 6, 1516

Just like the mullahs who had marched into Goa two hundred years before with the Bahamani sultans, these Catholic clergy were prepared to go to any lengths to spread their faith. Initially they pestered the Portugese king for special powers, and then they pestered the pope to pester the king on their behalf

The first of these special powers arrived in 1540 when the viceroy received authority to “destroy all Hindu temples, not leaving a single one in any of the islands, and to confiscate the estates of these temples for the maintenance of the churches which are to be erected in their places”. Five years later, the Italian cleric Father Nicolau Lancilotto reported that “there was not a single temple to be seen on the island.” The island in question was Teeswadi………

………This Olympiad of Christianization scared the hell out of the locals, and thousands of families – particularly high-caste Hindus – fled across the river………a saying still exists in Konkani, the language of Goa: Hanv polthandi vaitam (I’m leaving for the other bank), one half of its double meaning implying to this day that a person is rejecting Christianity.

The Hindus who remained………….they continued to practice their religion in secret. More extreme methods were therefore instituted………Hindu festivities were forbidden; Hindu priests were prevented from entering Goa; makers of idols were severely punished; public jobs were given only to Christians.

…it was announced that it had become a crime for Hindus to practice their religion at all, even in the privacy of their own homes. The penalty was decreed to be the confiscation of all property. Those who informed on such crimes were to receive half the property confiscated………..Finally, in 1560, all the Brahmins who were left were simply kicked out.

………..there had been once more than two hundred temples on the islands, and although every single one had been demolished, some of the idols had been saved. These were hauled out to the dense jungles of Bicholim and Ponda, beyond the borders of Goa, and installed in new temples.

……….Since houses were frequently searched without warning, Hindus started making paper cutouts of their gods, which could be speedily destroyed if the need arose. To this day, during the great Ganesh festival…..instead of the terra-cotta idols……..the Manai Kamats of Panjim use paper silhouttes

Even those Goans who had converted still clung to aspects of their old religion. According to Richard Lannoy, Goa’s cultural historian, the chapels that can be found in most Goanese Christian homes “are direct derivations from the culture of family shrines in Hindu homes.” And the old Hindu caste system continued on, Christians who had once been from high-caste families rarely socializing with those who had belonged to lower castes. To this day, members of low and high castes almost never intermarry. Many descendants of those lofty Brahmin families who had converted even continued the traditional practice of giving annual donations to those temples that necessity had forced the Hindus to establish beyond Portugese territory…..the Miranda family of Loutulim dispatching a sack of rice and a heap of coconuts each year to the Kavalem Shanta-Durga temple. The Gomes Pereiras, pillars of Panjim society, do much the same for the Fatorpa Mahamayi temple.

………the Dominicans, who were keener about the Inquisition than the other orders were – and the other orders were hardly apathetic – took a special interest in the revertidos, the backsliders with their cutout idols and the furtive cremations. The culprits would be tracked down and burned alive. Auto-da-fe – act of faith – was the lofty title given to this inhuman practice. Far from disapproving of the burnings, the viceroy, the man who had outlawed sati, attended them in pomp and ceremony with his entire retinue

……..Far from being interested in learning the Konkani spoken by their subjects, the conquistadores swiftly set about burning everything written in the language on the off chance it might contain “precepts and doctrines of idolatry.”

……to start a reign of terror to frighten the savages into submission……..the Inquisition was headed by a judge dispatched from Portugal……..he interpreted rules he himself made up………………..Children were flogged and slowly dismembered in front of their parents, whose eyelids had been sliced off to make sure they missed nothing. Extremities were amputated carefully, so that a person could remain conscious even when all that remained was a torso and head. Male genitals were removed and burned in front of wives, breasts hacked off and vaginas penetrated by swords while husbands were forced to watch.

So notorious was the Inquisition in Portugese India that word of its horrors even reached home.

………the abominations continued until a brief respite in 1774…….the marquis of pombal…..ordered the Inquisition abolished. Four years later, he….was driven out from his office and the evil immediately resumed, continuing, almost incredibly, until June 16, 1812. At that point, British pressure put an end to the terror……

India has always been a bighearted, forgiving land……………With the death of Salazar……..and the reinstatement of parliamentary democracy in Portugal, the two nations soon became friends and equals.

Perhaps it is its brutal past that has made Goa a far more lenient and understanding place than anywhere else in India.

From ‘Empire of the Soul. Some Journeys in India’ by Paul William Roberts

I have spent some of the happiest days of my life in India, as well as some of the most bizarre. No other country in the world has ever made me laugh so much, or cry so much.

And though I have discarded much of past tradition and custom, and am anxious that India should rid herself of all shackles that bind and constrain her and divide her people, and suppress vast numbers of them, and prevent free development of the body and the spirit, though I seek all this, yet I do not wish to cut myself off from the past completely. I am proud of that great inheritance that has been, and is, ours, and I am conscious that I too, like all of us, am a link in that unbroken chain which goes back to the dawn of history in the immemorial past of India. That chain I would not break, for I treasure it and seek inspiration from it. And as a witness of this desire of mine and my last homage to India’s cultural inheritance, I am making this request that a handful of my ashes be thrown into the Ganges at Allahabad to be carried to the great ocean that washes India’s shore

- Jawaharlal Nehru, last will and testament

How can the mind take hold of such a country? Generations of invaders have tried, but they remain in exile

- E.M.Forster, A Passage to India

Saints explain that the soul is a drop of the Divine Ocean. Separate from her source, she has become caught in the net of illusion and has taken the mind as her companion. The mind, however, is in the grip of the senses and dances to their tune. Whatever it does under their influence, the soul has also to reap the consequences

- Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Discourses

No culture on earth ascribes such power to female sexuality as the Indian. Countless myths and fables revolve around men fighting over a woman; and that greatest of all Indian epics, the Ramayana itself, unfolds from and around this theme.
In many tales the gods find themselves threatened by a mortal who has seemingly mastered his desires and now progresses up toward their immortal realm by a kind of point system of selfless achievements. Usually, the gods’ solution for this cosmic social climber is to beam down a heavenly nymph, he cannot resist. Like Olympic judges, the gods gleefully look on as some poor ascetic who’s spent his life in a lonely cave eating weeds and meditating suddenly has the equivalent of Uma Thurman in a gossamer sari draping herself over his bony old body. Even the emission of a single drop of semen is deemed a catastrophic failure, banishing him back into the communal cesspit of carnal humanity.

So long as the mind remains away from the philosopher’s stone, it remains lost and absorbed in family and friends, it is continually tossed about by the waves of lust and anger; remains engulfed in the lure of wealth and possessions, and misses the golden opportunity of cleansing and transmuting itself. The instinct of love which God granted us for devotion to Him, we dissipate in sensuous pleasures. The mind keeps us away from the goal and never uncovers the Reality which it keeps hidden. The mind is the great slayer of the Real, and a true devotee must slay the slayer.

- Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Discourses

Indians are punctual and fussy eaters, incapable of missing a proper meal. They are also deeply suspicious of food cooked by others.

I saw no light save that which came from within my heart. Much as I battered my head in the mosque and looked for it in the temple

- Bahadur Shah Zafar

From the extravagant enigma of Sathya Sai Baba to the perverse and baffling actions of many Zen masters, spiritual teachers tend to defy our expectations for them. they may act in ways that can be deliberately offputting (the alcoholism of Chogyam Trungpa) or repugnantly antisocial (the cruel humor of George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff). But our own expectations for such teachers are yet more conditioned mental baggage from which their teachings are designed to liberate us. The Hindus view the playfulness of Krishna or the bloodthirsty violence of Kali as lila – a divine game.

The supreme bliss is found only by the tranquil yogi, whose passions have been stilled. His desires washed away, the yogi easily achieves union with the Eternal. He sees his Self in all beings, and all beings in his Self, for his heart is steady in Yoga.

Who sees me in all things, and all things in me, he is never far from me, and I am never far from him

- The Bhagavad Gita

India has two aspects – in one she is the householder, in the other a wandering ascetic. The former refuses to budge from the cozy nook, the latter has no home at all. I find both of these within me. I want to roam about and see all the wide world, yet I also yearn for a sheltered little nook, like a bird with its tiny nest for a dwelling and the vast sky for flight.

- Rabindranath Tagore

When a clod of earth, a stone, and gold become alike, serenity is achieved

- The Bhagavad Gita

The One God manifests Himself in two aspects so that the world may be sustained and fostered, improved and cleansed. These two – the terrible and the tender – are the characteristics found together in every single thing on earth, for are they not all parts of the selfsame God

- Sathya Sai Baba

……the point of ritual is that it is action and inaction at once – action outside time, thus timeless or meaningless, depending on how you view it. According to Hindu scriptures, its very lack of meaning is what gives it meaning – it is freed from motivations of ego, and thus is pure, selfless devotion. God likes that sort of thing.

Everywhere you looked in India, there was evidence of a past that had attained mythical heights. From philosophy to architecture, few civilizations have left such an awesome record. It was reputed to have made even the gods jealous of humanity

Great teachers, whether the Buddha or the Christ, have come, they have accepted faith, making themselves, perhaps, free from confusion and sorrow. But they have never prevented sorrow, they have never stopped confusion. Confusion goes on, sorrow goes on. If you, seeing this misery, withdraw into what is called the religious life and abandon the world, you may feel that you are joining these great teachers, but the world goes on with its chaos, its misery and destruction, the everlasting suffering of its rich and poor. So our problem, yours and mine, is whether we can step out of this misery instantaneously.

- J. Krishnamurti, The First and Last Freedom

There is no stable principle of evil in Vedic philosophy. There is no infernal realm for sinners. Its nondualism is really beyond monotheism – which creates a fundamental duality of God and man. Evil is not envisaged as a quality opposed to good. It is the absence of good, just as darkness is the absence of light, not its opposite quality.

There is no real sadness about death in Hinduism………It is part of an endless cycle. The Vedic idea that life implies death – is life’s only absolute certainty – also implies that there is no cause for grief. For death also implies life.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Work-Life Balance......Whats That??

Click on this link.

Why does it take a foreigner to point out to us how uncivilized we are in our working habits. The article reproduced below is from Naomi Canton's blog
Why is India still on a six-day working week?

I was working in the office on Sunday when a journalist telephoned a contact and said in a loud voice: “I don’t want to call him on a Sunday, as I know he has a life and a family, unlike us journalists, who don’t….so….”

And it struck a chord. Why should a journalist not ‘have a life?’ In fact why should any employee not have a life? After all, we work to live, not the other way round. Don’t we? Then as I went onto my email that night, an advert flashed up on Rediffmail saying: ‘Heart attack cases in India to double by 2015. (PTI Rediffmail).’

Then I thought about the people I know in Mumbai, in a variety of professions, and everyone seems to be working weekdays, weekends, 24/7. Since when was that normal?
And it got me thinking. India, or at least, Mumbai does not understand the concept of a work-life balance.

The only people that seem to ‘have a life’ in Mumbai are the struggling actors and models who sit in Café Coffee Day all day, alongside the college students.

Where is the understanding of hobbies for employed professionals? By that I mean taking up an interest, that has nothing to do with your work, and pursuing it passionately outside work? It could be learning a foreign language, amateur theatre, gardening, script-writing, creative writing, learning about the stock market, whatever. Evening classes in the UK are packed with people doing such things. When I meet someone I want to know what else they do beyond their job.

What about married couples? How often do they see each other? It is no wonder some married people in Mumbai are having affairs.

Now, statutory maternity leave in India is three months. In the UK it is one year (nine months paid).

How can a mother possibly return to work after three months (and that is assuming she worked right up to the day she gave birth) – since she would still be breast-feeding then? Why do white-collar mothers in India have to be punished and forced to leave their careers when many have put so much into them and are very talented?

In Sweden and Norway you get 16 months paid maternity leave and in Germany, Estonia and Bulgaria, Spain you get three years unpaid leave as well.

Another problem working mums face in India is there are no qualified childminders or nannies, and crèches are not state regulated, leaving working mums with no option other than to leave their children with an unqualified maid or their in-laws.

Many countries offer paid paternity leave or the right of parents to share maternity leave.
There is also a worrying culture here of not using privileged leave and accumulating it as cash. It’s madness. Why would you not want to use your leave and go off and see the world, or at least visit your relatives and friends in other parts of India? I have been travelling since I was two and been to most countries in the world because I always avail of my leave.

Is the reason to impress the boss – that wow, you are such a loyal employee you don’t take leave? Is there a social pressure on employees not to take vacations? What an odd boss to be impressed by that? How can someone be good at their job if they never relax and never take leave…? What knowledge of the world would they have? How would they be able to “connect” with say, a foreign client? Incidentally connecting with a whole range of people, from all walks of life, is especially important for a journalist. The worst journalists, in my opinion, are those who never meet anyone, never go anywhere, just sit at their desk all day – on google.

A journalist out and about is far more likely to get stories and be able to network successfully. Who knows they might find a story on the beach in Barabados – and even if they don’t, that holiday will somehow help them grow as a person, and probably as a writer. The same applies to people in every profession. Maybe next week a businessman who went to Barbados on vacation will do business with someone from Barbados and that holiday will help create common ground.
If your job involves entertaining clients, you need knowledge of films, books, countries – otherwise how can you have interesting conversations with your clients? Who knows what business contacts you might make in the amateur drama group? Business is all about building relation ships.

The six-day working week needs to be abolished in India. Perhaps you would argue that this will lead to a slowdown and the reason the west is in decline is because they have a five day working week. But there was a time when the west boomed on a five day working week and I don’t think it is the reason for the current downturn – that can be blamed on the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the scale of credit taken in the US.

Why is a six-day working week the norm in India? I don’t know any other country where this is the case. In the rest of the world it is five days.

In India the average person works an 11 hour day six days a week = 66 hours a week !! Compare that to France where a 35 hour week is mandatory.

The Japanese are renowned workaholics and have been working themselves into the ground for decades hence the word ‘karoshi’ or death by overwork. Maybe Indian companies should look at Japan and take lessons of what not to do from them.

As for people that employ drivers, nannies and cooks for seven days, they should be ashamed of themselves. How can anyone be expected to work seven days, week in , week out? This should be made illegal.

“It is not enough to have a colourful office with balloons hanging around to ensure the work environment is stress-free,” says Sharit Bhowmick, sociologist with Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), who writes about workplace pressures.

He has a point.

The solution is that the Indian Government brings the whole nation down on to a five-day working week, as France has done, and also makes a seven day working week illegal.

Then Indian private companies should start implementing work life balance policies such as:-
- Offering childcare financial assistance and/or on-site crèches
- Giving staff free membership of a company health club
- Compelling people to take a holiday
- Flexitime – offering flexible start and finish times provided the employee works the core hours - Job share/part -time working
- Paid paternity leave
- Relocation – allowing employees to relocate to any branch in India or overseas to suit their personal circumstances e.g. if they get married
- Self managed working – employees manage their own working pattern and time to deliver outputs
- Allowing staff to work from home
- Term-time contracts – offering contractual working hours during school terms only and allowing parents not to work during school holidays

How long can we go on deluding ourselves about our 'progress'?????

Are the Murthys', Premjis', Mahindras', Ambanis', Godrejs' listening or is our 'vision' only in one direction? A giant social movement needs to stamp out this shortsightedness and barbarism in the Indian corporate environment

Saturday, August 1, 2009

From ‘An Anthropologist Among the Marxists and other essays’ by Ramachandra Guha

…….The appeal of Marxism was enhanced by the fact that Indian scholars and activists have been overwhelmingly from the middle class. The guilt they felt about their own relative privilege could be best assuaged by adherence to a philosophy which assured them they were on the right side, and that soon they would not be so privileged anyway.

……….Thinking Indians were attracted to Gandhi, but not to all sides of him. They rejected his idiosyncratic views on sex and diet. They respected his religious tolerance but wondered why he made such a show of his own personal Hindu faith. And they sensed that his economics was largely irrelevant to the contemporary world. These limitations made them turn away from Gandhi – back, perhaps, to Marx.

The writing of sketches and portraits, long or short, does not come easily to Indians. Does this, I wonder, have something to do with our dominant religion? The historian David Cannadine has written that biography is ‘the only certain form of life after death’. Perhaps in Britain, but hardly so in a land where minutes after the heart stops beating the soul transmigrates to another life form. Why pay tribute to a dead man if he has already been reborn?

……..Samar Sen recently described a Bengali intellectual to me as one who ‘At fifteen has written his first poem. At seventeen has burnt his first tram. At nineteen has joined the [Communist] Party. At twenty-one has left the Party. At twenty-three has written his last poem. At twenty-five has joined the World Bank – and at thirty has left it to rejoin the Party’

…….the affinity of the Bengali intellectual with Marxism.

The first is the consistent denigration by the British of the lack of physical prowess among the bhadralok. The Bengali, a high colonial official once remarked, ‘has the intellect of a Greek and the grit of a rabbit’. This prejudice led to Bengalis being designated a ‘non-martial race’, a characterization keenly felt by its victims. A number of historians have shown that the Bengali response to this slight took the form, on the one hand, of extolling physical exercise – as in the famous gymnasium movement of the late nineteenth century – and more strikingly so, by an adherence to political radicalism. From the nationalist terrorists of the early years of this century to the Maoist revolutionaries of the present day, the cult of violence has had a pervasive political influence in Bengal.

………….The second factor is the sense of political marginality among the Bengali elite. This dates at least to the year 1911, when the capital of British India shifted from Calcutta to New Delhi. Thereafter, the locus of the Indian freedom struggle shifted from west to east, especially with the advent of Mahatma Gandhi, a man who has not yet been forgiven in Bengal for thwarting the late challenge to his leadership of the Congress party by the Calcutta firebrand Subhas Chandra Bose. The Bengali middle class cannot reconcile itself to this loss of political power; and the rise to power of the CPI(M) must be interpreted at least in part, as an assertion of regional feeling against the political centre.

Swaminathan remarks………….’that sensation-monger and wizard of the box office’ – Richard Attenborough. For ‘Attenborough’s Ben Kingsley disguised as Gandhi is a stuffed dummy set up for floral offerings, which could equally serve and has actually been used, for target practice by the opponents of non-violence who abound in America, Iran and elsewhere. There is no Rama without Sita, Lakshmana, Hanuman and so on. [But] Attenborough’s Gandhi is a Titan among dwarfs, an eagle among sparrows, a mere caricature unrelated to reality’

‘Charismatic leaders’, he writes, ‘momentary meteors like Hitler, Mussolini and Khomeini, gain followers and lead movements by making others feel week, helpless and dependant on those towering tyrants. But as V.S.Srinivasa Sastri, Gandhi’s life-long friend and frequent opponent, used to say, “Gandhi does not want blind or timid followers; he wants clear-eyed, courageous fellow travellers”

………………’Gandhi’s literary style’, he remarks,

is a natural expression of his democratic temper. There is no conscious ornamentation, no obtrusive trick of style calling attention to itself. The style is a blend of the modern manner of an individual sharing his ideas and experiences with his readers, and the impersonal manner of the Indian tradition in which the thought is more important than the person expounding it. The sense of equality with the common man is at the mark of Gandhi’s style and the burden of his teaching. To feel and appreciate this essence of Gandhi the man, in his writings and speeches, is the best education for true democracy.

In some ways the most intense, interesting and long-running of these debates was between Gandhi and Ambedkar. Gandhi wished to save Hinduism by abolishing untouchability, whereas Ambedkar saw a solution for his people outside the fold of the dominant religion of the Indian people. Gandhi was a rural romantic, who wished to make the self-governing village the bedrock of free India; Ambedkar an admirer of city life and modern technology who dismissed the Indian village as a den of social inequity. Gandhi was a crypto-anarchist who favoured non-violent protest while being suspicious of the state; Ambedkar a steadfast constitutionalist, who worked within the state and sought solutions to social problems with the aid of the state

………….Ambedkar came to represent a dangerously subversive threat to the authoritative, and sometimes authoritarian, equation: Gandhi = Congress = Nation.

Here then is the stuff of epic drama………Recent accounts represent it as a fight between a hero and a villain, the writer’s caste position generally determining who gets cast as hero, who as villain. In truth, both figures should be seen as heroes, albeit tragic ones.

The tragedy from Gandhi’s point of view, was that his colleagues in the national movement either did not understand his concern with untouchability or even actively deplored it…………Congressmen in general thought Harijan work came in the way of an all-out effort for national freedom………… meant that Gandhi had perforce to move slowly, and in stages.

The remarkable thing is that fifty years after independence, the only politician, dead or alive, who has a truly pan-Indian appeal is B.R.Ambedkar. Where Gandhi is forgotten in his native Gujarat, and Nehru vilified in his native Kashmir, Ambedkar is worshipped in hamlets all across the land. For Dalits everywhere he is the symbol of their struggle, the scholar, theoretician and activist whose own life represented a stirring triumph over the barriers of caste.

Mrs Gandhi’s singular contribution to Indian political discourse was the idea of the ‘foreign hand.’ The nationality of this hand is difficult to establish, although one presumes it was coloured white.

……….Thompson wrote with feeling of how, despite spending years in British jails, Nehru could still befriend Englishmen: ‘One would have to go rather far back in British history to find an article of that quality: to find persons willing to undergo years of imprisonment, and to emerge with unflagging intellectual vitality and with so little bitterness.’ This was a civilized human being and, as his years in office showed, a democrat.

The Mumbai columnist C.P.Surendran has written evocatively of what Tendulkar means to this nation of losers. Every time he walks to the wicket, ‘a whole nation, tatters and all, marches with him to the battle arena. A pauper people pleading for relief, remission from the lifelong anxiety of being Indian……..seeking a moment’s liberation from their India-bondage through the exhilarating grace of one accidental bat.’

…………..there is no socialism in the US because there is no soccer in the US.

Simply put, the game of soccer is too collective, too participatory, and too democratic for the achievement and profit-oriented Americans. They like golf and tennis because these individual sports are governed by the capitalist ethic of ‘winner takes all’. They like basketball because the numbers satisfy their immodest appetites – if the Chicago Bulls win a match, it is because Michael Jordan has scored no less than 38 points.

They like baseball because in this team game the result is decided by a home run hit by a single batter or a series of no strikes thrown, again, by an individual pitcher; whereas in soccer the goal that decides the game can never be attributed solely to the striker.

………………It might be claimed that the love of American football invalidates this argument. True, this is a team sport, but with a level of physical contact and intimidation that more readily satisfies a warlike people, preparing them for real combat in the sands of Iraq or the fortress of Vietnam……….Moreover in this version of football there is a clear hierarchy. The quarterback is the boss with the brains, the running forwards the followers with brawn or speed of foot. Only one man gives the orders. We can recognize (and respect) the managing director of this firm. That the quarterback is almost always a white male only binds the game more firmly to American ideals of the successful and all-conquering society.