THE SKILL INDIA AD – A POSER

The SKILL INDIA advertisement featuring Sachin Tendulkar credits skill at the expense of dignity.

One sees Sachin sit on a chair while the carpenter sits on the floor as they talk and have tea. Why could both not be shown sitting on a chair and talking?

Apart from skill, personhood carries value too. Why hold anyone down whether skilled or not?

A patronising attitude carries an arrogance of superiority  which shifts attention to the symbolic generosity of a patron from the worth of the patronised and re-enforces the very inequality which it pretends to redress.

And if an ascribed status will continue despite achievement, as the advertisement suggests, what merit will inculcation of skill attain?

The advertisement presents status as an entrenched power and fails to present skill as being versatile.

Skill is meant to be assertive and itinerant unlike status which is inhibitive and immobile. The advertisement focusses on the status of the carpenter not his skill.

Skill is dynamic unlike status which is sterile and moribund. Yet it is precisely that which the last shot of the advertisement displays.

Skill has to be achieved but any effort in this direction will be futile unless there is a corresponding correction in attitude.

It is the right attitude (Tendulkar making the other sit on the chair) alone which can facilitate social mobility (symbolised in the carpenter also so sitting) to improve our cultural capital (recognition of the innate worth of a human being aside from skill trumping status) and unravel the social stratification which the advertisement puts on display.

 

Of Queen’s Counsels &”Seniors”

I feel there should be no Senior Advocates only advocates.

Endowment not habiliment is the test of a lawyer. He should be recognised by his performance not his robes and his identity should lie in his work not attire. The gown does not make a lawyer. An incompetent lawyer will only disgrace it while the competent should not need it.

As long as the system remains it is liable to be exploited. A lawyer who is not designated can be run down as being incapable and be unjustifiably compared unfavourably with another who is designated aside from being denied priority in appearance in court despite superior capacity while the incapable can perpetually hide their incapacity in their robes and get undeserved preference when in fact they should be denied an audience altogether.

There is a hike in fees immediately upon designation despite want of any improvement in the quality of work. A non-designated lawyer has to explain (often without success) even a warranted increase in his charges. This not only shoots the cost of litigation up without any corresponding improvement in the quality of practise but adversely affects the quality itself as more effort is placed on the race for designation through networking rather than working.

Preference is often shown to senior advocates in courts and in some it becomes the very condition for practise. Aside from being anti-merit this is also anti-democratic as it not only stifles potential it entrenches established interests.

It is a little known fact that Francis Bacon was the first person to be so appointed and that too for reasons having nothing to do with his undisputed versatility. Till his appointment the Attorney General, Solicitor General and King’s Sergeants were Kings Counsel in Ordinary. Queen Elizabeth appointed Francis Bacon Queen’s Counsel Extraordinary. The reason for this extraordinary honour was only political and intended to prevent him from acting against the Crown. The appointment as Kings Counsel therefore had nothing to do with the admitted capabilities of Bacon – a trend which continues till today.

Distinction never needs any dressing up. It is self-evident.

Merit is always humble. It makes a place for itself without having to be ushered in.

Ability requires no badge of honour. It attracts attention without a formal proclamation.

And true recognition lies not in formal acknowledgment but in voluntary appreciation.

So where do we fit designation of Senior Advocates?

Prince William, Kate, Diana Bench & Taj Mahal

I wonder why a request was made to remove the scaffolding from the pillars of Taj Mahal for Prince William-Kate Middleton photograph. The scaffolding was as much a symbol of love as the monument itself. After all the sentiment behind fixing what needs repairs (whether a monument or a relationship) can be love only!

But it seems those making the request had a different sense of both history and love.

William’s advice to the royal photographer who took their picture thus was, “I hope you got the symmetry right”! So symmetry can prevail over chemistry and can still be love. It is interesting to know, as has been written by Anant Kumar in Case Reports in Women’s Health (Volume 1-2, January-June 2014), that Mumtaz Mahal died of complications from repeated child-birth from what are preventable causes of maternal mortality many of which continue till today. Shah Jahan chose not to spend money to address those problems but built the monument instead. I doubt William was aware of it but in a way Taj can be symbolised in symmetry even after the chemistry is over!

Perhaps thats why there is a Diana Bench at Taj. The solitary figure of Diana sitting on the bench hinted loneliness and isolation and Diana separated from Charles just a few months later. I am sure Mumtaz Mahal would squirm in her grave when she sees that bench. Appropriately(?) a photoshoot on it is with one’s back to the Taj Mahal. In any case the dead are history. Why bother about them! The monument stands and symmetry counts.

Lord William Bentinck apparently felt the same way much before the Diana Bench. If he had had his way the Taj Mahal would have been dismantled in 1835 and its marble auctioned. Besides nothing that is native is important. Just like the 50 million lives lost to famines under British Raj. Bentinck had no qualms about dismantling the whole edifice. So William’s generation’s lack of concern for the minarets should not be much of a surprise.

In any event history does not necessarily mean going back in time! Surely not when you are a Royal.

A possible explanation  for the request is the distortion of the time-space continuum. It presumed we are still in colonial times and the Queen of England is the Empress of India. Or perhaps there was movement forward in time with Prince William becoming not only King but the ruler of India. After all Royals can do no wrong and in fact can do anything – time travel included.

There can be however another charitable explanation. Buckingham Palace, which is about 300 years old itself, was requiring urgent repairs for a long time but the the same were being deferred. It was reported that when a plumber entered the Queen’s bathroom to repair to the old-fashioned chain-pulled cistern he while trying to fix the problem leaned against the lavatory and part of the structure came away from the wall. If the former imperialist government can go slow on repair of the Palace why cannot the former colony do the same with Taj Mahal?

I wonder if the Diana Bench will be re-named now. Let Mumtaz Mahal ponder while we await the next generation of royals and another photo-shoot.

Sedition decoded Sorabjee Style!

Indian Express reported Mr Soli Sorabjee describing the JNU President’s arrest “deplorable”. It is interesting to read the reasons for his opinion. I found them incongruous.

In the existing scheme of things the presumption is I am wrong (and prejudiced) in not condemning the arrest. I therefore read the comments again but unfortunately(?) it only confirmed my original opinion (which makes me rabidly communal, casteist and unpatriotic?). Please judge for yourself.

Mr Sorabjee said, “What did he do? Did he merely shout slogans like Pakistan zindabad? arresting him for that? I mean thats deplorable”! The “he” incidentally is an Indian citizen, and the comment appears to suggest that it is right for any Indian to shout Pakistan Zindabad and acting against him outrages any sensible Indian’s (like Mr Sorabjee’s) sensibilities. I realised I do not fit the category of a sensible Indian because I cannot shout Pakistan Zindabad nor accept its being shouted in my presence or find any restraint on the shouting “deplorable.”

The comment which follows makes the situation clearer still (or does it?) and fills me with self-loathing. Mr Sorabjee next says “Even if you say Hindustan murdabad its a boderline case since these words have the tendency to create a law and order problem.” Thus even Mr Sorabjee agrees that where there is a tendency to create a law an order problem we may consider making the act criminal; of-course, in his opinion, there will be no law and order problem if you shout Pakistan Zindabad(as it is not a “borderline case” like Hindustan Murdabad but a clearly a non-issue)  – and an acceptable war cry of any Indian! I now realise that apart from not being sensible enough to know there cannot possibly be a law and order problem if Pakistan Zindabad is shouted, I am not patriotic enough to shout it or tolerate its being shouted.

Anyway coming back to Mr Sorabjee. He is sure that Pakistan zindabad is not sedition but he is not sure if Hindustan murdabad is sedition. This creates a piquant situation but only for a stupid, irrational, unwise and unpatriotic a person like me. Please consider the consequences. An Indian (according to Mr Sorabjee) is immune against action if he shouts Pakistan Zindabad but if he shouts Hindustan Murdabad its impropriety needs to be debated. And debate is protected! But if debate is protected how can that which is being debated (Hindustan Murdabad) be the cause of arrest? Arrest thus will be unwarranted in both cases whether you shout Pakistan Zindabad or Hindustan Murdabad! Indians can thus travel the length and breadth of the country either shouting Pakistan Zindabad or Hindustan Murdabad. Here comes the catch. If I protest against either I am liable to be arrested for objecting to legitimate political action. Hence I am not just not sensible or not patriotic but I am a criminal in addition uneducated in basic constitutional values!!

Why then make any distinction between the two? Thats the point. It shows the offence of sedition should not be on the statute book! It is indeed pointless. Pakistan Zindabad Hindustan Murdabad is acceptable political discourse and truly legitimate.

And dare I object. “We should take things”, said Mr Sorabjee, “in the right perspective” and not “overreact”. My reaction to Pakistan Zindabad and Hindustan Murdabad will always be an “overreaction” because I lack the “right perspective” to tolerate it. So my mind-set is bad and my way of looking at things wrong. I am communal, irrational and unpatriotic and need to be punished for such deviance. I am after all an Indian who will never shout Pakistan Zindabad or Hindustan Murdabad.

RAHUL GANDHI at JNU -Some questions

“Dont let these bullies push you around. They are terrified of poor, weak Indian people getting a voice. Question them at every single step.” Thus spoke the Original Wise Man (Rahul Gandhi) at JNU.

I took the sage advice given by Rahul Gandhi. I am not “poor” or “weak” but I am an Indian and I feel a right to question is available to all. Rahul Gandhi being an original thinker will surely agree with this proposition.

Rahul Gandhi did not include himself in the category of “bullies” but the exclusion notwithstanding he can yet be questioned. Rahul, being wise, can have no objection.

And as the question can be raised at every single step I am definitely not late in questioning. Rahul Gandhi is surely man enough to accept it.

Using Rahul Gandhi repeatedly can be tedious and Original Wise Man though appropriate is too long so I will substitute both expressions with the pronoun “you” – an expression which will assume significance for different reasons later in this article.

You asked a question about “who anti-national people are” and answered yourself that they are the ones “suppressing the voice of JNU”. What according to you is the “voice of JNU”?  Is it of the students who eulogise Afzal Guru and pray for India’s disintegration or those who oppose this point of view? Why did you not address this question while dealing with a very pertinent issue of defining “anti-national people”?

You talked about the “real Indian people” but chose not to elaborate about who constitutes this class. Why did you fight shy of developing the concept? Were you afraid of un-personing those who do not share your point of view or are only those people “real Indians” whom you approve and certify. I feel Kanhaiya who is accused, among other things, of shouting anti-India slogans can justifiably  be tried for sedition under the Indian Penal Code. Does that take me out of the category of a “real Indian”?

You said that in “crushing you” they will make “you stronger”. Who is the “you” here and who are “they”? “You” is a pronoun and refers to the ones being addressed. Does it follow only those who listen to you and cheer you are the ones who should be empowered and made “stronger”? Was the free and enthusiastic crowd (the “you”) cheering you (without inverted commas) yelling approval to what you (not the other “you”) spoke a “crushed” people?  I will not cheer you for what you did in JNU but will roundly condemn you. I am part of “they”. Are you suggesting I am for that reason any less Indian?

You also said “they feel fear”.  It is obvious in your scheme of things I am “they”. But I feel no fear when you talk the way you do. I feel disgust. And I feel pain. And while I am not “crushed” – not because you have spared any effort but because my spirit is vigorous than your resolve – I will yet be strong to secure my country which for you is merely a slogan.

If anyone is “terrified” its not “they” (I mean me) but you (not the “you”) and the speech appears only an attempt by you to rationalise for yourself your own rejection. You claim to speak for the “real Indian people who have a voice”. It is a false claim. The real Indian people voted your party out of power. Or is it that you feel they are not “people” or are they not “real people” or that they are a people who should be denied a “voice”? 

There is an essay “In Praise of Folly” which was a attack on certain traditions of the European society and Church in which “Folly “praises itself. “Folly” in that essay is nursed by “ignorance” and has “flattery”, “self-love” and “madness” as companions with “intemperance” as God. I feel you read it for the literal meaning. The essay was meant to be a satire. And being a satire the expression was meant to be different from if not opposite to what was suggested.

Which brings me to the final question. Will we now have an encore? Or do you feel you are not to be questioned!

 

YAKUB MEMON AND SELF BLAME

The mourning on Memon hanging is an attempt to create irrational guilt at an unconscious level and demonise India. It’s a variant of Victim Blaming! Should we be happy terrorists kill brutalise destroy desecrate and maim because AFTER the mayhem they share information about involvement of Pakistan which we otherwise anyway know? Should we be sensitive to their requirements because they have OBLIGED us by surrendering to obviate arrest which otherwise is warranted while their kin continue the same nefarious designs under protection of their masters – all the conspirators remaining at large and immunised from an appropriate punishment? Should we feel indebted to terrorists and treat terror as a noble deed and one of supreme sacrifice that we need to afford terrorists protection not available to an ordinary Indian and at tax-payers cost activate the legal machinery at 3am in the morning to find ways to save them from punishment? Should we feel terrorists are more human than those who terrorise and justify their acts by lampooning ourselves as the cause of such extreme heinousness and dispute the very justification of punishment suggesting that terrorism is warranted and that we deserve to be in a mess? Should we be depressed and anxious upon the imposition of punishment distorting the national psyche to discredit the system which imposed the punishment and condemn ourselves after we have been damned by terrorism? Should we divide the country on communal lines to save a terrorist who killed not members of one community alone but Indians irrespective of their religious affiliation? Self-Blame when one is a victim is a mental disorder. Let’s stop it.