The Babu : never good enough !

From someone who has been there and seen it mostly.A good read that is both honest and sympathetic.yet critical.https://medium.com/@kbssidhu1961/ias-individually-brilliant-but-collectively-mediocre-4a7085428235

I would have, however, firstly liked to hear on the popular failing of the love for power and lack of scruples of quite a few – especially those looking to make easy money in the past four-odd decades generally speaking.
Secondly, in the post-independence years, a large cross-section of communities, regions, areas, languages with various levels of development finding merited representation upon selection how well have they integrated themselves with the purported indigenous elite or delivered catering to the job description.
Thirdly, one is also interested in the performance of those from the science or technical streams compared with the more popular recruitments from the social sciences.

Notwithstanding, the current policy of the present dispensation for a certain number of lateral entries at Joint Secretaries level by direct recruitment has made the relevance and likely impact of this elite service even more intriguing.
I have deliberately kept the intra-service Central Services disputes or contentions out of the observations or remarks made primarily because, for me, they are but family quarrels
likely to resolve themselves by default after the larger “threat” now at its privileged and closed doors – what with the corporate experienced, expertly educated and exposed managerially trained paradropped entries.

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The seduction of the working class in India and beyond

These https://www.epw.in//engage/article/how-globalisation-diluted-workers-rights are arguments wherein you notice the polemical debate within the socialist world globally trying to understand its own defeats or weaknesses.They acknowledge the intelligent adjustment or structural updations being made by market capitalism in the new age of advanced and specialised technologies.

As an aside the modern tariff wars and the Chinese welcoming of multilateralism and globalisation and willing implementation of existing international laws and agreements also seems to be a belated negotiation with a reworked capitalist ideology.But whether or not it is pro- international labour or working classes and instead is a developing and inverted protective nationalist model are questions that also emerge disconcertingly.

However,personally these collated opinions gives me hope that there are academician-activists still who believe in not just understanding histories but are also committed to the struggles of changing it.
A serious read surely.🔆

Perfect Crimes

The author, a practicing lawyer for over three decades puts all his experience on the line to piece together the shady world of dispensing justice in his expose”Great Judicial Tamasha”.Careful about not taking names, he narrates events and instances in great detail which the professionals can identify, the laity can get scandalized about and the protagonists squirm or ignore.Like it or not, you shall hate the guts of this brave, no-nonsense man.An Insiders expose of the murky interiors of the corridors of justice, it is.

Bravo, to begin with, I must say!
The able lawyer makes you laugh at the Theatre of the Absurd, not the macabre, being enacted as the noose gets to the thickly layered dark necks of the fat and fluffy. He makes you see how Alibaba and his forty thieves enter the cave of limitless fortune only to leave with the entire treasure each day to the comforts of a home, wife, children or who knows; to little dens of forbidden pleasure.Sanguine.Protected.Secure.These are some of your honorable dignitaries also known as “Judges.” Contrary to the Arabian Nights, there are no secrets, no conspiracies or mysteries.They do by the day which you shudder to think by night. The cynical, however, just shrug with a tongue in cheek aside. All remain nude in the public harem and who cares!
The author is appalled like all honest: few and far between as they might be. Does he mock at our own ignorance in being invited to a Stand-Up Comedy? Or does he scream, in terror and disgust at the blatant trade of lives and livelihoods of the common, of big money and illicit exchanges between thieves or on the institutionalized falsehoods that keep the myth of people’s democracy alive and well? I will never know. I shall wait for the innocent to rise out of the learning’s of a systemic rot, on the why’s and what’s. I would be relieved, not happy if the elaborate and heart rending narrative illuminates enough to awaken the singed and harmed for they are countless… Lest the humor in the day’s work of sweat, toil and hope are lost in the alleyways of the tragic and farcical.

Ms Romila Thapar,Why do dreams Die?

On the matter of the recent book and the article in Deccan Chronicle, I shall come to later. I rather hurriedly post this link only to make up for the surprise, shock, disbelief and utter dismay at the disgraceful conduct shown by the Directors of the Sameeksha Trust(EPW) in having capitulated to the “corporate bullying” without any visible sign of resistance vocal or otherwise.They have not only gone on to admit, tacitly that Adani’s and their kind are invincible but also that the so-called leaders of the academia and the intellectual world had better save their books from burning: by implication, their jobs.
(The article which is in the crosshairs for having been brought down or removed is this one.)
But why this extravagant sense of hopelessness and frustration?Personally, Romila Thapar, Andre Beteille, the two Directors,(the former was at JNU and the Latter at Delhi School of Social Work in the mid seventies) part of this now infamous Board were my childhood memories of intellectual sovereignty, of inspiring moral courage and impeccable integrity in the face of naked power, authority, and aggression.I continued adoring them as I have aged to be over sixty years of age, when I used to read their scholarly articles,in various newspapers, magazines both Indian and foreign,Podcasts and Video recordings on the You Tube, well held rational and scientific views on history and its various interpretations, the need for independent research and methodologies, religion, communities on the margins and of regressive nationalism and many such things.Romila Thapar had refused governmental recognition of any kind to avoid being stigmatized as a “Sarkari historian.”And now during their watch, the already fragile fort of defiance has crumbled.As someone said even before the sound of “boo” was even heard.The Editor of Economic and Political Weekly, Mr Paranjoy Guha Thakurta
was literally shown the door for having eye balled the mighty corporate in a manner of speaking.In fact, he was the person who had exposed the systematic penetration into governmental power mechanisms and patronage by the Ambani’s, the collusion of greedy bureaucrats, corrupt politicians, international cartels in the “Gas Wars”, causing mega losses of precious public money ; the publishing of which also had run into serious trouble.
The Board of Directors of Sameeksha Trust, since have gone into a kind of geriatric damage control which is neither convincing nor spirited.But my concern here is what happened to my childhood icons?Are they as feeble as all of us, who went about spreading the message of hope, faith, rights, and justice? or worse still, have those intellectuals now become stale and old to retain even the spunk necessary to shake a hand…Much less to help him/her to rise? I dread to search for cowards anymore.The complicity of the idols is a tragedy.Heroes are once again difficult to come by.
So what of this book now! I have not read it.All that one reads are extended extracts of the review of this book by the editors of Organiser,(the RSS Mouth or foot-speak) given free advertisement by The Deccan Chronicle, in their daily.At least, one gets to read, as of now, about what was Nationalism instead of what it should be.

Smart Histories

Well, my teachers have correctly taught me that getting closer to the truth is all about inter-disciplinary studies.The more we get to the interconnections of different subjects like history, economics, politics, archaeology, sociology, anthropology including the physical sciences, different developments of technology the clearer we are about the relative or objective truths.Yes, there are no absolute truths!
Britain has withdrawn from the European Union while Trump’s arrival almost puts a stamp of approval on the dark days ahead of globalisation! This private research and analysis were done by the Barclays trace an interesting storyline of the why’s and how’s of a business story which is over a century and a half old, in a typical corporatorial think-tank way.The article, in fact, highlights the fault lines of a very specialised and limited scan of facts essentially restricted to advancements in transportation, technology, communication and such others to foretell or prognosticate on the future of globalisation and perhaps its denouement into something else.It chooses,however, to ignore the precise economic interfaces in the rise of the challenges of industrialisation,new impoverished classes,conflicts,disproportionate and uneven sharing of profits, the cry of impoverished labour,the undoing of the Czars and ushering in of the Bolsheviks,Socialism as an alternative philosophy of development and human rights,the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggles across the world,the collapse of the Soviet Union and dodginess of China,the defensiveness of capitalist policies and subsequent morphing from partially successful social democratic or “regimented Capitalist” policies to the much abused neo-liberal strategies.

Reduction in profit-making had been achieved through the awakening of the disenfranchised by seeking for more freedoms and more democracy.Instead,in the very reductions of the valued premises of democracy: in silencing the majority, decision making snatching away all powers decision-making of popular them obedient and acquiescing,hammering them to become a mindless “sack of potatoes” and shutting off the hazardous minorities of women, ethnic groups, different age groups,farmers, workers was the new Democratic model to be considered safe .The Thatcherite slogan quite summed up the neo-conservative hoodoo which read something like “Individualism is all.Society is nothing”.Unelected and elitist professional bodies slipped in through the backdoor like International Monetary Fund(IMF), World Bank(WB)and GATT to completely take over the economic theories of political language.

Globalisation has been its much-wonted flag of international superiority, domination and engaging mutual dependencies and collaboration of emerging economies.But like everything, this too had its dialectical “other” of yore – the return to protectionist policies.Whether in this rather rambling commentating there is a recognition of past fears and an affirmation of certain well found alternatives is for the reader to discover given one’s own understanding and interpretations.

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MayDay!May Day!May Day!

#Left-Out: Not the football of Politics!
It is May Day and what a travesty.That day which symbolises everything about empowerment of the labour, justice, fair play, egalitarianism and power to the people is no longer celebrated.Much less remembered.In another extraordinary way the call – ” May Day! Mayday! May Day!” is an internationally acknowledged call of distress.Is it frightful coincidence or serendipity that such a call for help is being heard for some time now from the fore and aft of the sinking ship: the Left?

The Left would need to explain at the grass roots what it is to be seeking its own individual identity, a collaboration with the far left and the broader spectrum of the unity of pro-secular forces.It would need to examine the globalised surge towards individualism and self-aggrandisement and the disenchantment of the millennials: the young who grew to adulthood without a sense of history and pride of the nation’s true strengths of diversity and pluralism and near-obsessive preoccupation with poverty.The people would like to know how and why the world is swinging to an anti-people philosophy and programme of action and the sudden honeymoon to play surrogates to the vile designs of world domination of the USA.

The downslide had started since Independence.Only the termites of compromise were too small or invisible.The legacies of anti-colonial movements and the overarching presence of the Soviet Union and the rise of China had kept the Left lulled and seduced in a sense of false well-being.Until the deluge…

The people would like to see the Left to once again be on the streets among them and from whose seeds this radical idea of political, social and economic transformation was born.The people want to be led and also to lead.Leadership, organisation, participation, party, flag and a philosophy of action is the crying need.

Bengal stands in the crosshairs of all such questions and much more.Chauvinistically, perhaps pride in that very parochial saying”what Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow.” might still leave them inspired, to say the least!

Setbacks, retreats or defeats can only be temporary.Do they have it in them to arrest the decline, overturn the debacle to rise in defiance and usher in hope for the victory of the people?may day

Sitaram Yechury with great political acumen and sagacity talks honestly about what went or is going wrong with the Left movement and CPI(M) in particular.For all patriots irrespective of where you stand in the final analysis: an insightful and must read…

Click Here

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Akashganga: They also Serve, who Just Stand and Wait – XV

Behind the risk of life and limb stood the woman by his man. Running from sick quarters to banks and schools, buying groceries riding cycles or by walk, receiving and seeing off loved relatives all by themselves, while her loved man was away is a quality taken for granted and an unwritten part of the wife’s job description. Cooking late meals without notice with nothing in store for an unannounced number of gatecrashers, the free-flowing rum and groggy men being the proverbial last straw. Do not get it wrong here! These were still early days for the women to enjoy much less taste the tabooed liquor. It took a while before the docile and submissive Nari came into her own. In her Sunday best, she soldiered on with a smile. Tears there must have been and many at that but these were to be borne and shared by each husband in the dark corners of the bedroom.

Source: Akashganga: They also Serve, who Just Stand and Wait – XV

Literature in Castro’s Cuba

When progressive ideas are in retreat and the neo-liberals are in triumphant march Fidel shall mostly be talked, written and remembered as a pig headed dictator.This article would go a long way to correct that mistaken thought.Contrarily,Fidel would appear to be remarkably prescient,honest, humble yet firm.In this excerpt from a rare 1965 interview, Fidel Castro elaborates on his philosophy of the arts.

Source: Literature in Castro’s Cuba

Akashganga: An Idea Whose Time had come! – VI

Even before PTS had started, Shamsher with his imaginative and resourceful handling made organised performances or demonstrations in skydiving in some areas of

Source: Akashganga: An Idea Whose Time had come! – VI

Travels with Tokon :Udta Punjab

My friend Tokon had been very keen to  see the Golden Temple, Jallianwallabagh,Wagah Border and all that was there to Amritsar. I am not particularly religious. But having been born to a Bengali, Hindu Brahmin family, God and religion was not just a part of the necessary vocabulary of growing up but one seemed to encounter  its all-pervasiveness while living, sleeping and eating on a daily basis.Even perhaps in our dreams.That aside,history and the Sikhs as a community fascinated me since childhood.The Sikhs were martial,handsome, big and strong compared to the generally undernourished and famished Bengalis.They had fought the Mughals valiantly and were hardworking farmers too.Interestingly,Bengali households found them to be reassuring and comforting and always recommended their daughters to hire Sikh driven taxis, when alone, for their reliability.

The day finally came when Tokon,my wife and I made the trip on the morning of 21st August by Swarna Shatabdi Express from Delhi to Amritsar

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Swarna Shatabdi Express at New Delhi Railway Station before departure

.This was the first time all  of us were making the journey to Amritsar.Tokon and I had become senior citizens save Aarti, who is on the wrong side of fifty,devout and god fearing.She was our Travel Planner.

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Platform No I it says.

As the train chugged away passing through large and vast fields of green,small and unknown stations,crowded bazaars ,wide highways and lines of trucks I thought of this pioneering social reformer Guru Nanak,the founder of Sikhism.Fed up with the idolatrous Hindu Brahmins, the oppressive caste system and the inequality in society he preached and sang about a new radical social order.Kabir,Farhad and many others joined in the chorus for change and upliftment.These were the days of social renaissance and we are talking about the 15th and 16th century.Subsequent Gurus added to the secular character of this newly formed religious order while reinforcing it with a war-like, aggressive ideology.The Muslims used to constantly harass,loot and attack these swathes of land.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh and his exploits of daredevilry as far as Afghanistan,fighting for the British in the two Great Wars,the revolutionary Bhagat Singh,the freedom loving spirit of the survivors of Komagata Maru,sacrifices of innocent civilians in the massacre of Jallianwala Bagh,the altruism and courage in the INA was the stuff of bedtime stories: the essential Sikh.Post Independence they were to be seen as far east as Imphal or south in Cochin.They were entrepreneurial,mechanically savvy and loved to work on emerging technologies.Hard working they drove trucks and taxis across states.

Punjab had by then got its statehood but this had not entirely satisfied the Sikh majority.The Green revolution of the sixties had given the Jat Sikhs and the landowners the first taste of rapid growth and modernisation.A small but important section had climbed up the social ladder and soon spread out to Europe, USA,London, Canada and the Africa.Money was being sent back home in plenty.Land was bought and farmed by hired wage labourers.Exploitation of the lower classes like leather workers,sharecroppers,scavengers,carpenters,washer-men,sweepers,blacksmiths and such others was bringing disrepute.They were denied of their dues and rights as the entrenched aristocracy went slow or sabotaged implementation of the land reforms.The Gurudwaras had slowly become exclusive and in very subtle ways were reluctant to open out to the poor.The  Hindu Punjabis for their part always saw in the rise of Jat Sikhs a threat to their business or agricultural interests.A new fractured social order was lurking in the shadows contrary to what had  been so generously conceived by the visionary Sikh Gurus. It was verily going to seed.Akalis and the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee(SGPC) hung on to a regressive,chauvinistic and authoritarian ideology riding on the enormous funds of the Gurudwaras.The Congress on its part was struggling to continue with an uneasy polygamous marriage of convenience with different and contrasting parties. Into this melting pot the Bahujan Samaj Party(BSP) rallied round the disenfranchised lower castes and was mobilising them under a new flag and ideology with great success.The Sikhs had themselves squabbled and split. The new pretenders, the Nirankaris laid claim to being the true leadership of the Sikhs.The Radhey Swamis also threw in their lot. Like always the politicians and the powerful had together sold out its own power base-the people and was busy killing the golden goose.Like always the stage was set for some motivated fishing in troubled waters

.My thoughts raced ahead in no sequence or chronology recollecting the history and politics of the region.I was excited and curious.Suddenly,the train jerked to a stop. A whole heap of talk, noise  and movement in the aisles interrupted my dark thoughts.We had reached Amritsar and I was to step on the soil of Punjab for the first time.

auto
In the auto .Tokon and Aarti

 On the 22nd Aug, around 6 in the morning we were at the SwarnaMandir.Most shops leading to the temple were closed,residential houses  were still to feel the first rays of the sun and remained tucked into their snug bedsheets perhaps.Sweepers were still cleaning the roads and open spaces while the early risers were warming themselves with a steaming cup of “pati-tej chai”(strong tea) from their favourite roadside vendors ! The meandering path was margined by garish, unkempt hotels and shops to disappoint as it curled upwards to the Golden Temple.It was a maze of alleyways sometimes chokingly narrow and sometimes wide as souks  as  if the history of assaults by  Mughal,Afghan and later the English from 17th to 19th century had permanently infused a sense of siege even into its architecture and town planning.

 A bandana to cover our heads was provided for free while we removed our shoes and handed over to a matter-of-fact caretaker.Thereafter,we stepped into a clean patch of water in a marbled drain of sorts to clean our feet before entering the sacred premises.

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The first sight

And then was the spectacle ! We stood at one of the four enormous gateways leading  into the Golden Temple located at four cardinal directions, symbolizing  the inclusiveness of the Sikh faith for all religions,caste, creed or colour.

As we descended down the flight of stairs, a striking sight filled our eyes : the golden Harmandir Sahib (the abode of the Gods) majestically shimmering on the surrounding  placid waters of Amrit Sarovar(the lake of ambrosia).

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The ablutions before the prayers

Out of habit and reverence our heads bowed in prayer.Interestingly,the place of worship,the other gurudwaras,restrooms and the marbled walkways  have been deliberately designed down below to emphasise humility and gratitude as the central virtues of this young faith.

prayer
A practicing Sikh  offers his prayers.Notice the sling which carries a small kirpan.

Thought and conceived by the third Guru Amardas in the mid 16th century,it was Guru Ram Das who helped its construction. Finally the fifth Guru Arjan Singh who also gave further shape and substance to Harmandir Sahib a.k.a Durbar Sahib (the Court of the Lord) completed it in a manner of speaking. Guru Arjan also compiled and  placed the Adi Granth(the holy book of Sikhism of more than 7,000 Sikh, Sufi, and Hindu hymns, set to 31 ragas and calibrated to different moods, occasions, and times of the day) in the heart of the Durbar Sahib . Each day before dawn, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib is transported in a palanquin from the Akal Takht to the sanctum sanctorum, to be read and sung from,until late night.

tkg
Tokon dressed up for the pilgrimage

The waters of the Ravi were channelized to keep the tank water filled and it was Maharaja Ranjit Singh who contributed in gold to give the temple its famous persona. The Akal Takht(the Throne of the Timeless One)

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The Akal Takht :the Throne of the Timeless One

one of the five Takhts, but highest in importance was added by Guru Hargobind to be the seat of temporal power. Thus  both the temporal and spiritual (the concept of piri and miri) were co-located in the precincts of this historic temple.guide-map-of-golden-temple-amritsarA square walkway of marble with intricate inlays(typically reflecting the congruence of Mughal and Hindu architectural styles )circumlocutes the Harmandir Sahib.While walking through I noticed the many hundreds of ceremonial plaques,commemorative pieces and marble stones of various regiments with the names of officers and men embedded in various walls.The Harmandir Sahib also stood as a testimonial of the acts of bravery and sacrifices and martyrdom plaques of its brave sons fighting for the British stretching from Mesopotamia,North Africa, Malaya,Turkey and later for the Indian Army.

The two Bunga Ramgarhia Towers stood as erect sentinels of the Guru ka Langar(Community kitchen) building which provides a simple non-vegetarian meal to all devotees for free and accommodates as many as one hundred thousand devotees in a day. The soft and serene sounds of the Shabad which starts playing pretty early and goes into the late night envelops this awesome place in a spiritual embrace of bliss. This unique blend or contrasts in sight and sound entrances the believer and the unfaithful alike !

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The causeway that links the Harminder Sahib with the Akal Takht.Aarti stands overwhelmed.
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Dukh Bhanjani Ber

The mystique and mythology continue unabated.The three old Ber trees ( Jujube) fascinate the inquisitive.Sikh Gurus preferred to plant jujube trees in the religious places (Gurdwaras). In the Golden Temple, Amritsar, the historic jujube trees are the sign of rich heritage. Ber Baba Budha Sahib is one of the oldest jujube trees and is considered 440 years old. As this tree was associated with religious Saint Baba Budha Ji, hence it is called Ber Baba Budha Sahib. Dukh Bhanjani Ber and Lachhi Ber are also very old jujube trees.

Many such stories have kept the faithful in awe.Fact and fiction combine ever so often in this Temple of the Gods.We feel weary and sad for the time has come to leave.The three of us would carry our very own impressions.Some new, some shared and some very private and personal.We shall tell new stories to the ever-growing numbers of the faithful or just curious.  and thus the sacred word shall spread. Aarti, perhaps feels blessed and is very grateful;Tokon considers himself fortunate to have made it this far as I am clouded with mixed feelings on our climb out of the Temple thinking of that inevitable tragedy of June 1984.

Operation BlueStar should never have happened.Though I know it shall again. What with the evil and misdirected finding strange retreats ! The devout and the well-meaning together rue the divisive politics of those days and the impious entry of the Indian Army boots into its sacred interiors, the pathology of a Bhindranwale,heartless and avoidable loss of lives of the innocent and the wanton destruction of the holy of holies, Harmandir Sahib, in a free India by the tanks, helicopters and armour of the Indian Armed forces.A Prime Minister and a Chief of the Army Staff paid with their lives .So did several hundreds of Sikhs later during that sad year.

The proud Sikhs seemed to have been wronged by desperate measures. .Punjab no longer has the rivers flowing freely.No longer do the fields dance the bhangra or beat the Dhol when green and golden. Poverty and casteism is back with a vengeance.Politics rules the roost..The Shabad of equality,non-discrimination and brotherhood is slowly dying in the Punjabi hearts.He suffers.The nation bleeds.The hurt lingers still, refusing to heal…

 So for one last time, on my way out,from all of us,our sincere prayers to that One Onkar, to make this land once again,the Land of the Brave !

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