Tuesday, March 17, 2015

From ‘Travels with Epicurus. Meditations from a Greek Island on the Pleasures of Old Age’ by Daniel Klein

It is not the young man who should be considered fortunate but the old man who has lived well, because the young man in his prime wanders much by chance, vacillating in his beliefs, while the old man has docked in the harbor, having safeguarded his true happiness.
-          Epicurus

Not what we have, but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance
-          Epicurus

The islanders say that on a man who has weathered challenging experiences, a finely seasoned face will emerge in old age. It is the face he has earned, and its raw beauty is in the fully lived life it expresses.

What Epicurus mainly had on his mind was the question of how to live the best possible life, especially considering that we only have one of them – Epicurus did not believe in an afterlife.

….Epicurus….aphorism…. “Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.”

Epicureans consider communal silence a hallmark of true friendship.

… [Epicurus] wrote, “Of all the things that wisdom provides to help one live one’s entire life in happiness, the greatest by far is the possession of friendship.”

…Epicurus believed that choosing with whom one eats dinner is far more significant than choosing what the menu should be. “Before you eat or drink anything, carefully consider with whom you eat or drink rather than what you eat or drink, because eating without a friend is the life of a lion or the wolf.”
By the joys of friendship, Epicurus meant a full range of human interactions ranging from intimate and often philosophical discussions with his dearest companions ….to impromptu exchanges with people, known and unknown, in the street. The education or social status of those with whom he conversed mattered not a whit; in fact the height of true friendship was to be accepted and loved for who one was, not what station in lie one had achieved. Loving and being loved affirmed one’s sense of self and conquered feelings of loneliness and alienation. It kept one sane.

Michel de Montaigne, the sixteenth-century French essayist….wrote, “And with Epicurus, I conceive that pleasures are to be avoided if greater pains be the consequence, and pains to be coveted that will terminate in greater pleasures.”

….Epicurus’s dying words to his friend Idomeneus: “On this blissful day, which is also the last of my life, I write this to you. My continual sufferings from strangury [bladder spasms] and dysentery are so great that nothing could increase them; but I set above them all the gladness of mind at the memory of our past conversations.”

In every real man a child is hidden who wants to play.
-          Friedrich Nietzsche

…the bedouin saying, “Beware of what you desire, for you shall always get it.” ….Oscar Wilde: “In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. The last is much the worst”

Memory is the mother of all wisdom
-          Aeschylus

Charles Dickens begins his masterwork David Copperfield, “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”

Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.
-          Jean-Paul Sartre

….Friedrich Nietzsche…wrote, “When marrying, ask yourself this question: Do you believe that you will be able to converse well with this person into your old age? Everything else in marriage is transitory.”

Kierkegaard….wrote, “To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.”

…Aristotle’s observation, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

The best remedy for anger is delay
-          Seneca

A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds to religion
-          Francis Bacon

Take more time, cover less ground

-          Thomas Merton

From ‘2014 The election that Changed India’ by Rajdeep Sardesai

In its original avatar as the Jana Sangh, the party had won just three seats and 3.1 per cent of the vote in the1952 elections. Now it had won 282 seats and 31 per cent of the national vote – astonishing figures when you consider that the BJP’s catchment area of winnable seats was less than 350 eats.

The BJP, bolstered by unflinching corporate support, easily outspent its rivals, but the more worrisome aspect is just the quantum of money that is now needed by every member of Parliament to win an election. Because, with every rupee donated, the IOUs need to be encashed post-election.
A candidate in Andhra Pradesh admitted to me that he needed ‘at least Rs 15 to 20 crore to just stay in the fight.’ …….

….1990 rath yatra ….Advani was the mascot, but the real stars were the Hindutva demagogues Sadhvi Rithambara and Uma Bharati. I shall never forget their speeches during the yatra, seeking Hindu mobilization and loaded with hate and invective against the minorities.

In early conversations, I never heard Modi speak of his caste background or his years in Vadnagar. He did speak, though, of his RSS mentors with great fondness. ‘Lakshman Inamdar… is a Maharashtrian like you, he guided me always….’

My verdict is that the Modi government was utterly incompetent because it was aware that the Godhra violence could set of a cycle of vengeance and yet did not do enough to stop it. In the places from where I reported in Ahmedabad, I just did not see enough of a police presence to act as a deterrent to the rioters. The violence only really began to ebb once the army stepped in….

What is probably true is that in February 2002, the real boss of Gujarat was not Modi but the VHP general secretary Praveen Togadia. If there was a ringmaster for the 2002 riots it was Togadia ….several ministers were beholden to him, and the street cadres were his loyalists. At the time, maybe even Modi feared him.
…..On the streets, the VHP’s foot soldiers were most visible and led the attacks against the minorities. In the Naroda Patiya massacre in Ahmedabad in which ninety-seven people were killed, the list of those arrested (and later convicted) included a roll call of prominent VHP members of the area …..

In a television interview after his surprise defeat in the 2004 general elections, Vajpayee admitted that not removing Modi at the time was a mistake.

….Modi used the Gaurav Yatra …. In every speech, he would refer to ‘Miyan’ Musharraf …..the message was really aimed at local Muslim groups…
The distinctly communal edge to the Gaurav Yatra surfaced in its most vitriolic form during a rally in Becharji on 9 September. This is where Modi referred to the riot relief camps as ‘baby-producing centres’ with him infamous one-liner, ‘Hum paanch, hamare pachhees’ …..The tone of Modi’s speeches was set by the fragility of communal relations and the climate of fear and hate that had been sparked off by the violence.

That verdict was delivered on 13 December 2002…. The BJP won an impressive 126 seats …That evening at the BJP headquarters, Modi agreed to do a ‘live’ interview with me. The mood amongst the cadres was not just jubilant but vengeful too. ….Surrounded by his supporters, Modi was an intimidating sight – steely eyes, a finger pointing at the camera, the face impassive. It was one of the most difficult interviews I have ever done.

Yes, Gujarat has also seen more successful prosecution, but many of these were achieved only because of the tireless work done by a Supreme Court-supervised Special Investigating Team (SIT) and indomitable activists like Setalvad, and not because of the Gujarat police. Honest police officers who testified against the government were hounded. Lawyers who appeared for the victims, like the late Mukul Sinha, were ostracized.

When Modi was re-elected Gujarat chief minister in 2002, he gave [Amit] Shah multiple portfolios, including the crucial home portfolio. The home ministry was critical because it gave Modi control over the police. In the backdrop of the riots and charges of conspiracy being made against the chief minister’s office, Modi needed someone in the home ministry who would be totally faithful to him, Modi trusted very few individuals – Shah was the one politician he felt a certain comfort factor with…..
It was during his tenure as home minister of Gujarat that [Amit] Shah courted controversy. Between 2003 and 2007, there were a series of encounter killings in Gujarat in which several young Muslims were killed. Shah claimed they were ‘terrorists’, some of whom wanted to kill the chief minister… Human rights activists argued that many of the encounters were ‘fake’….
In 2010, Shah was arrested by the CBI and accused of killing a criminal, Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife Kauser Bi and their associate Tulsiram Prajapati, in a staged encounter….Shah got bail three months after his arrest but was told he would have to leave Gujarat for fear that he would influence the investigation….

….did the political parties of UP, especially the BJP, stoke the communal fires to derive political beneit? That BJP leaders were present at a ‘maha’ panchayat where a call was made to avenge the killings and to demand justice for Jat bahu-betis is undeniable. That one of them, an MLA called Sangeet Som, put out a false video on Facebook showing an alleged lynching of Hindu boys is also true. At a Modi rally in Agra in November, the BJP leadership even felicitated its MLAs who had been charged with inciting violence. Two of its leaders named in the riot FIRs were given tickets, and one of them, Sanjeev Balyan, would eventually become a Union Minister.
….it is a fact that local Muslim leaders from the Congress, SP and BSP…were caught on tape delivering inflammatory speeches. …..the collective bankruptcy of a political class that was seeking votes over dead bodies.

Anna decided to go on another fast, this time calling for an FIR to be registered against fifteen UPA ministers. On day nine of the fast, he made a public appeal to Kejriwal to form a political party. Kejriwal, who had realized that the politics of fasts and dharnas was subject to diminishing returns, was excited at the prospect. Two days later, Anna backed out of the proposal, leading to complete confusion in the ranks. ‘We had made all the plans and then Anna ditched us,’ is how one Kejriwal aide described it.

….Gautambhai [Adani] had struck friendships with politicians from different parties. He kept a steady equation with Congress leaders in Gujarat and beyond ….Perhaps his closest friend in politics was NCP leader and UPA minister, Sharad Pawar. …The two would often dine at each other’s houses….

Generally, parties like the Congress and the BJP have a ‘graded’ system – ‘winnable’ candidates are provided a sum of around Rs 2 crore from the party funds, while the next category gets Rs 1 crore. The balance amount is expected to be raised by the candidates, with Rs 5 to 10 crore being the average cost for fighting an election (in states like Andhra and Maharashtra, it can go up to rs 15 and 20 crore, but it is less in north and east India; while urban seats are more expensive than rural ones).

Only a few business houses have set up official electoral trusts to give money by cheque. Most of the election money is generated through cash-rich businesses like real estate, liquor, stockbroking and mining.
At a rate of around Rs 8 to 10 crore per ‘winnable’ constituency plus other campaign expenses, the BJP had raised anywhere between Rs 4000 to 5000 crore – at least that’s my hunch…. The Congress was probably a few thousand crores behind in the race this time.

….NDTV is seen as occupying a politically left-liberal space….

Some of the most abusive Twitter activists seemed to be linked to either pro-BJP websites or even individual party members…..The campaign was much too organized for it not to have at least some level of endorsement from the leadership. The ‘HDL’, or Hindu Defence League, on Twitter was like a swarm of bees that would sting anyone who questioned their political beliefs. This wasnt healthy debate – it was vile abuse being spewed under the c