Thursday, September 14, 2006

Of glib talk and substance

There is a beautiful article by Jonathan Freedland of Guardian in todays Hindu - 'Lesson of Gore ecofilm — don't vote on personality' in which he talks about Al Gore's (Yes, the former Veep of US) and his film 'An Inconvenient Truth'.

Freedland says, "Yet the film somehow gets right to your gut. Methodically, using graphics, photographs and the odd bit of computer animation, the former U.S. Vice-President sets out the case that the climate is changing, with human activity the most obvious culprit."

This posting is not about Al Gore or the film. Or even ecology. But about our personality-centred life. Anyone who can talk well and is "charming and easy" is regarded as perfect. We see this everywhere. Someone like Al Gore, who is supposed to be "stiff, unnatural, oddly robotic, a creature of 24/7 politics, unable to speak fluent human" gets nowhere.

Freedland concludes: "The film leaves a more direct political thought. You watch and you curse the single vote on the U.S. Supreme Court that denied this man — passionate, well-informed and right — the Presidency of the U.S. in favour of George W. Bush. You realise what a different world we would live in now if just a few hundred votes had gone to Mr. Gore (rather than, say, Ralph Nader) that fateful day.

"But you also remember what that election turned on. The conventional wisdom held that Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush were so similar on policy — Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, the pundits said — that the election was about personality. On that measure, Mr. Bush had the edge. Sure, he couldn't name any world leader, but the polls gave him a higher likeability rating. If you had to have a beer with one of them, who would you choose? Americans said Mr. Bush, every time.

"Even that was not enough to give Mr. Bush a greater number of votes: remember, Mr. Gore got more of those. But it got him closer than he should have been. And the world has been living with the consequences ever since.

"Perhaps Britons should bear that in mind at our next election. If the choice is between Tory leader David Cameron and likely Labour leader Gordon Brown — and, given the events of last week, that is now a serious if — then polls will show, as they have already, Mr. Cameron ahead on the affability index. Mr. Brown, like Mr. Gore before him, will seem stiff, unnatural, oddly robotic, a creature of 24/7 politics, unable to speak fluent human.

Mr. Cameron, like Mr. Bush, will be charming and easy. He won't make odd grimaces when he speaks.

But we should ask ourselves: is this any basis for choosing a leader? Surely we should choose the man of substance, no matter how he looks in a fleece or how breezily he can talk about his iPod. America made that mistake already and we are all paying the price. Let us not repeat it."

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

The world would be a better place with less hot air and noise, if we start recognising the merits of a person by his actions, and not by his speech and mannerisms.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Vande Mataram controversy

Another posting from my friend Maya's blog (

Was anyway.. planning to vent out the same sentiments. This one reached me by mail. Almost the same idea....

We are Hindu or Muslim or of any other religion because our parents follow that religion. There is no contribution on our part ! The religion which doesn't respect Mother Earth has no right to stay on that land. Also religion that does not respect or supress women can only produce terrorist! God is one we gave different name to them. God does not tell anyone to do something.

When master artist Bismillah Khan fell ill, all over India many Hindus performed 'havan' and 'yagna' for his speedy recovery. Similarly, a seven-year-old Muslim girl from Agra, Praveen, was on fast for seven days to appease Hindu God Indra - so as to get rains.We often hear about Muslims taking care of Hindu temples and Hindus managing tombs of Muslim saints. At many places, Muslims make effigies of Ravana and also help organize Ganesh festivals.

Our President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam pays obeisance in temples and gurudwaras. The hymns sung in praise of Hindu gods and goddesses by the legendary Mohammad Rafi have left remarkable impressions in our minds. All this is due to the common culture and civilization of India, a country of Kabir and Rahim. It is not astonishing if a Muslims sings Hindu religious songs and a Hindu pays homage to Muslim saint.

But if we view all this through narrow prism, then we may be violating so-called Islamic law or even Hindu culture."Vande Mataram" is a song that in status equals the national anthem. It is a prayer to Mother India, in Sanskrit. Some so-called custodians of Islam in India are claiming that the song violates Islamic law.

Perhaps, these custodians are not aware of the Ganga-Yamuna culture, the culture that unites. These few custodians put out meaningless statements that isolate Indian Muslims. Hundreds of thousands of Muslim children get education in English medium schools run by Christian missionaries where the prayer taught is inspired by Christianity. How many Muslim children refuse to learn it?"Jana Gana Mana..." and "Vande Mataram" pay homage to our motherland. These are not songs of any religion or community but are inspirational songs that give us pride.
Every Indian is proud of them and will remain so.

It is the fundamentalists and religionists who pollute the pleasant atmosphere by their controversial, useless and baseless statements. These few people have no right to stop Muslim children from learning or singing "Vande Mataram". By doing so they affront Indian Muslims and give more fuel to Muslim bashers.It is said that some parts of "Vande Mataram" are against Islamic law.

But Islamic law needs to be seen in the context of Indian civilization and culture. Our Indian culture has a peculiar place in the world. India is the only country where Hindu caretakers can be seen at tombs of Muslim saints and Muslims sing in praise of Hindu gods. It would be a great misfortune for Muslims and India if our laws do not take such circumstances into consideration.

The so-called custodians of Islamic law must learn a lesson from Indian Hindus, who worship Muslim saints just like their own gods and goddesses. Islamic law in India cannot work as it has been adopted in Arab countries. It may be that those who obey Islamic law in Arab countries prefer Islam to patriotism. But that can never be said of India.

Hindus don't place their religion above their country.If we agree with these so-called custodians of religious law, then emperor Akbar was against these laws. President Kalam's going to temples and gurudwaras is also against Islamic law. Dilip Kumar, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Aamir Khan are also against these laws. So are the music of Naushad and the poems of Shakeel Badayuni and Janisar Akhtar. The art of Meena Kumari and Waheeda Rehman will be pitted against Islamic law. If the fundamentalists are to be obeyed, A.R. Rahman committed a great sin by giving a new and attractive tune to "Vande Mataram"!

Indian Muslims have separate recognition in the world and are proud of Indian civilization and culture. They were proud of it and will remain proud of it. It was in India that the All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board gave full support to the singing of "Vande Mataram". It will be better if the opponents of "Vande Mataram", instead of advising Muslim children not to sing it, inspire their own kids to read and render the national songs.

Such children, when they grow up, will not need certificates of patriotism from any Hindu group. Nobody will dare to see such children through suspicious eyes. People of all religions and communities in India must learn "Vande Mataram". Vande Mataram!

Vande Mataram

This is a posting from my friend Maya's blog Here's the full version of Vande Mataram, which many do not know. As far as I know, the only organisation which makes it a point to sing the full version every time in all its meetings is the RSS and other organisations under it.

Here's Maya's posting:

Rarely has a composition given rise to such a diverse range of debates or has been subjected to such a close scrutiny as India's National Song Vande Mataram.
Glorified by many as the last word in patriotic manifestation, the song was composed by Bankim Chandra in an inspired moment and was set to tune and sung by nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore.
It has been translated into all major Indian languages and set to music by Rabindranath Tagore and recently by A R Rahman.

Know your Vande Mataram. Given below are the lyrics:

Vande maataram, vande maataram,
sujalam suphalam malayaja sheetalam
shasyashyamalam maataram - vande mataram

Shubhra jyotsna pulakitayaaminim,
phulla kusumita drumadalashobhinim
suhaasinim sumadhurabhaashhinim
sukhadaam varadaam maataram - vande mataram

sapta koti kantha kalakalaninaada karale
nisapta koti bhujaidhruta karakarvalea
balakeno maa eto bale bahubaladhaarinim
namaami tarinim ripudalavarinim maataram- vande maataram

tvam hi durga dashapraharanadhaarini
kamala kamaladala vihaarini vaani vidyaadaayini,
namaami tvam namaami kamalam amalam
atulamsujalam suphalam maataram
shyamalam saralam susmitam bhooshhitam
dharinim bharanim maataram, vande maataram