Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Is the Indian government right in taking action against people who participate in the anti/nuke agitation?

In the Indian Express poll (available down the page at http://www.indianexpress.com), the vote stands, at the moment when I am writing this blog, at:
- 5% "Can't say",
- 6% Yes, and
- 88% No.

You might want to go and register your own view there too - it takes only a second.

Friday, 24 February 2012

UP elections: "A valiant struggle in the face of overwhelming odds" - the ARVP President reports from the front lines

The recent famed Grammy-winning song by the name ‘Rolling in the Deep’ signifies a song theme based on the heart. And so it has been in the Uttar Pradesh legislative assembly elections of 2012 for the Adarsh Rashtriya Vikas Party (ARVP) effort – a valiant struggle of the heart to keep going in the face of overwhelming odds – with a goal towards transformation of the destiny of India’s mostpopulous State. The Uttar Pradesh elections, presently underway is slated overseven phases on 8, 11, 15, 19, 23, 28 February and 3 March with the results tobe announced on 6 March.

Mohan Philip, ARVP President, dives into the deep end of the pool in an epic David vs. Goliath match-up to report from the scene of the battlefield…

"I kicked off mytravels on the 7th, 8th and 9th of January with travels to Agra, Etah, Kanshiram Nagar, Hathras and Mathura. And from 17th January to 15th February I travelled to 100 different constituencies spread over 30 districts. The intention was to get our leadersto focus on strengthening their circle teams and putting in as many volunteers connected to the circle teams as were on the field. We had developed a well-established strategy involving circle team leaders assigned to 20-30 villages with each assuming charge of these villages along with their team. This team was then to visit every house and share the vision as frequently as possible. There are more details associated with this strategy but suffice to say that if they worked alongside this method, then they would not need much money for the campaigning.

My first impressionas I traveled across U.P. to meet all the candidates in their constituencies was an overwhelming need to help them overcome their lack of confidence. They have been so exposed to campaigning of the type that uses an armada of vehicles with hundreds of paid workers crisscrossing each Vidhan Sabha constituency in a last-minute frenzy and bid to outdo each other in meeting the voter. Most parties do not have any long-term vision but focus on local issues and presentday problems or hot topics. Their main focus is corruption, law and order issues, high prices, Mayawati’s statues and farmers’ lands being taken up for development. Parties offer no solutions. It is in this scenario that ARVP propagates a vision that moves away from politics based on the caste and religion divide, away from excessive use of money; towards politics based on integrity and a servant-heart. This calls for painstakingly explaining the vision, focused on 5 crucial areas:

1) To have the justice system transparent, efficient and accountable

2) To have the administration and police enforcing law and order and delivering equitable administration

3) Focus on education as a fundamental requirement for the future generation

4) Providing health cover to ensure a productive and efficient work force

5) To strengthen agriculture and its associate infrastructure as it forms the mainstay of the present economy of U.P.

All of this can only beachieved if we elect persons of integrity and capability whose whole intent ofbeing in politics is to serve the people.

It was difficult to keep the existing strategy going even though we have trained our leaders for the last 3 years. In the end, most of them started to get overwhelmed by the lack of resources and were simply not ready to take their places in this battle. Out of the 130 people that were given tickets, around 40-odd candidates did not press their nomination as they felt that without money they couldn’t fight elections. The balance had to be constantly motivated through phone calls and personal meetings to keep them encouraged and to trust the hard work they had put in. My own impression from being on the field was to partly feel their sense of being overwhelmed as I saw the display of power, money and high visibility of the other parties. It is very easy to get discouraged in facing such odds. As I traversed districts and talked to the candidates, I had to motivate myself into not getting overawed, but to trust our hard work over the last 3 years. As I got back after almost 45 days on the trot, I confess the impossibility of winning even a single seat unless God’s miraculous hand prevails.

Throughout my travels and speaking in so many meetings, people would get so enthused about ARVP and were constantly telling me that this was just the party they were looking for. In a number of places I was encouraged by comments of so many who agreed with the vision and principles of the party. However, in the end I was accosted with a disappointing punch line – “this vision will take some time to penetrate the minds of the people of U.P. They have been so let down, deceived by many political entities and will take some time to believe in this and trust once again.”

Here are however some encouraging stories to warm the heart:

DEVIKA DEVIfrom Beldhara Road, Bhalia, is a small-made waif of a woman. She is a first time entrant into politics and has been a consistent regular at our training programmes in Lucknow. Since her husband stays in Delhi, she had to undertake the start of her political career alone. Bereft of resources, sh ewalked to as many villages as she could, trying to implement the strategy of ARVP. Having no experience in organisational aspects or management skills, she was always weighed down by lack of confidence and diffidence. Until the last moment, she was not sure whether she would actually fight the elections. With constant encouragement and assistance from the central team, she filed he rnomination. The first day of her meeting with the RO (returning officer – the Election Commission representative) coincided with all the candidates for that particular constituency being called in for a consultation. As the electronicmachine has only 16 buttons and there were 17 candidates, the RO made a last-minute request for any one candidate to step down. All the contestants looked at Devika Devi and told the RO that she should be the person to step down, as she was not a ‘serious’ candidate having no experience and no money, and fighting for a new party. Devika Devi was taken aback and felt ‘small’ and belittled, yet surprisingly the RO rose to her defence and stated that after coming to this place, he had heard about Devika and her painstaking walk over the past 2 years to every village in her constituency. He highlighted this as the kind of dedication and heart necessary and much needed in political parties, and tha tshe stood as an example of all that is correct in politics. He rounded up his talk by saying that he would under no circumstance ask Devika to step down. He then allowed Devika to speak out. Devika spoke about the work and the party she represented and the values that it stood for. When I met her a few days later, and after narrating this incident she said that this meeting gave her all the confidence, and she felt assured of herself in this role. She also added that she knows she might lose these elections, but is determined to continue in this role as she feels that this is her calling.

RAM NARESH TRIPATH is from Gorakhpur Urban, an old man of close to 80 years of age. He has been coming for the training programme for the past one year. In all my encounters with him, I was doubtful of his capacity and capability. He was loud and seemed to have difficulty in understanding the strategy, leave alone the capacity to execute it. During my recent visit to his Vidhan Sabha constituency, I was surprised to hear story after story from people who narrated instances where Ram Naresh had helped them and fought for them, and in many instances looked after them. He told me he had no resources to fight these elections, but was determined to use whatever we had taught him over the last one year to the best of his ability. Even at this age, he is energetic and testified that the only reason that he wants to do this is because the vision of ARVP so matches with what he aspired for in political parties.

ABHAY KUMAR SRIVASTAV is a young lawyer from Khalilabad Santh Kabirnagar. He has been coming for the training program for only the past 4 months. He had no desire to be in politics, but was prompted by one of his friends who had heard about ARVP and had come to Lucknow for a training programme. He told me he had committed to come for one meeting because he did not want to upset his friend and had planned to leave the meeting in half an hour. He told me he is a person who cannot sit still for 10 minutes and was dreading the possibility of staying for a full day. When he came for the training, what he heard and the methods and atmosphere of the meeting was so different that he didn’t move from his seat the whole day. He was thoroughly impacted and spoke to his parents. His parents were taken aback as he had earlier professed no inclination. After he explained the vision, they gave him their blessings. At the meeting in his town, I met about 60-70 professionals who had been working with him over the past 2-3 months for the elections. They had all joined him after he explained the vision. After I spoke to these young men in the evening, most of them stayed back asking questions and soaking in the need for such a movement. Many of them told me this is the kind of political party they had been waiting for and this would be unstoppable if we work for the next 5 years. They believe the youth of U.P. will be the first ones to join this movement.

RATHNEESH MISHRA from Menhdawal Santh Kabirnagar is a young man who has been coming for the training program for the past 2 years. His father has a political background and hence Rathneesh’s interest here. In my recent meeting with him he started crying. He said, for two 2 years we had been teaching him on fighting elections without money, through hard work, genuine commitment and an attitude of service, not lording it over people. He said he did not initially believe that such a strategy would work – however in the past few months he has been frantically trying to execute the strategy. As he travelled from village to village, he found that people were so eager to hear about this Party. The amount of interest and felt need that people were looking for a choice other than existing parties, made him realise his lost opportunity. He felt that if he had started earlier, he would have been in a strong position. He felt he hadn't trusted the strategy and had wasted an opportunity. He says he has learnt a hard lesson. He has now committed himself to the strategy and to working hard for the next elections.

VIMLA DEVI from Tirwa, Kanuaj – is a first time politician. She has been coming for the ARVP training for the past 2 years accompanied by her son Hari Om, a passionate young man. From the time they joined, they have caught the vision and have implemented this straight off. They did not have any resources or political base, but resorted to hard work, walking to villages, cycling and sharing the vision to as many people who would listen. Over the months, as people have been attracted to the vision, they found volunteers joining them. Against all odds, Vimala Devi is now one of the frontrunners in this constituency. She has become a threat and hence been exposed to all sorts of intimidating tactics. When everything else failed, they offered her large sums of money to withdraw. This poor woman who finds it difficult to put together money for day to day requirements, refused their enticements. She told them this party stands for integrity and that she will stay firm with her commitment. Word of her defiance has galvanized her workers and the stage is set for an interesting battle.

RAJA RAM SRIVAS from Naraini, Banda is a man of modest means. He started his life as a cycle and motorcycle tyre repairman. Over the years he has graduated to having a small shop and running his business. Because of his temperament and taking a stand for the poor and oppressed, he has gained political space for himself. On a number of occasions, he was pushed to stand for various political positions. He told me that most of the time he was reluctant and he would continue with his work while all the other people would volunteer their time to campaign for him. He said that he won these positions by not stepping out of his home – just with the goodwill of people. When he first heard the ARVP vision, there was an immediate affinity to the vision. He believes that this is where he belongs. Politics was for him a means to serve people and nothing else. The vision of ARVP thus matches his aspirations.

These encouraging testimonies highlight the resolve of a growing mass of people that so desire this kind of movement based on integrity, justice and working for the poor without consideration to caste, religion or social standing. A start has been made, a movement for change has emerged, the impact is being felt and lives have been touched, with whole localities transformed. It is what a vision does. This first test will separate the men from the boys, while offering encouragement to many more that one can succeed on the back of hard work, belief and a big big heart. Thank you for Rolling in the Deep with us, we appreciate you.

-- MohanPhilip

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Why do we so often give shawls, sarees, etc as presents?

Anyone know why we Indians so often give shawls, sarees etc as presents, specially to honour people?

Apparently, there was also an old Middle Eastern custom of providing special clothes to each wedding guest!

Any other cultures where it is customary to give clothes as presents?

Monday, 20 February 2012

Congratulations to the Editor-in-Chief of Forward Press Magazine

Congratulations on the 60th birthday of Ivan Kostka.

He not only returned to India after many years in the US and Canada, but took on the challenge of settling in Delhi rather than in his native Mumbai.

Since returning 4 years ago, he has battled with Indian bureaucracy, bought a home and a commercial property, registered a company, registered the name of a magazine, started it, got approval from the postal authorities, and has already catapulted the magazine to the front of the mind of the social/ political/ intellectual/ cultural leaders among the majority in India's hindi belt.

All of that is impressive.

But what is most impressive is that his wife and he have done it all without giving even one single bribe!

And that where it is most difficult - in Delhi!

Three cheers!

You make me proud and happy to be an Indian.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Response from a friend re the Dating of the Vedas

A friend writes:

"You seem to be asking, among other things, Can we prove the Rigveda is not from early AD? Some texts have historical references which make them dateable. For instance, there is development in the astronomy and astrology. That does not seem to be the case in relation to the Vedas....

It is usually said that the Rigveda reflects an early society in N.W. India. Your question is so lateral thinking, that it is difficult to see what would decide it! Maybe I shall get some light on the logic after a while. I'll keep working on it!"

Monday, 13 February 2012

Comment by Dr A P Stone on my post re the History of Sanskrit

Dr Stone, author of Hindu Astrology and other books, writes:

"Panini gives rules for the Vedic language where it differs from the Sanskrit he is codifying, under the rubric chandasi. So it is older. Panini also refers to older grammarians of Sanskrit. That much is clear. So I see no problem with Sk. developing from the Vedic language, which was part of the Indo-European family of languages.

A. L. Basham (The Wonder that was India, p. 62) says Rudravarman left one of the earliest dated inscriptions, in correct Sk. of c. AD 150. M. M. Ninan (on the web, The Development of Hinduism, chap. 4) quotes R. Basak, ‘Inscriptions: Their Literary Value I’, in Cultural Heritage of India, vol. 5, p. 397f, saying the Sk. is not all correct. So this is not clear."

My comment on the above is that, whether or not the Sanskirt of this epigraph of circa 150 AD is correct, what we are discussing is the nature of that language in the 2nd century AD and not the 2nd or 3rd millennium BC.

In other words, there is no evidence here which helps us to date Panini or anyone else in any more helpful way.

Clearly, Sanskrit developed out of the early Indo-Aryan languages. The question is when did it do so?

If the earliest epigraphs we have are from the 2nd c AD, and Sanskrit epigraphs take over from Prakrit epigraphs only after the 3rd c AD, that indicates a language rising to prominence only then.

All that throws no light on my question: how do we know that the Vedas were developed more or less at the same time and not over hundreds or thousands of years?

Frist-hand report from the election frontlines in UP

By Rhema Rao D’Souza (included on my Blog, by kind permission of ARVP)

Young Rhema joined the campaign trail with ARVP leaders to assess first-hand the travails of the trail, and encountered a life-changing experience…

She traversed Pathardeva district, Gorakhpur and Lucknow,while following the dust and sweat trails of the candidates on her sojourn. Here is her story, edited for length, yet largely in her own words…

She kicks off her journey by first making her way from Lucknow to Deoria (part of Purvanchal, most people here speak Bhojpuri) by train.

We take a train from Lucknow to Deoria, and a 2-hour drive thereafter into the interior of U.P. in the Purvanchal area. On approaching a village, I hear a familiar voice giving a ‘bhashan’ (speech) in a ‘Nukkad Sabha’ (village gathering)…. I am then greeted by the sight of Sunaina Singhon a stage with the bright bold ARVP posterproviding an eclectic backdrop.

I try to grasp the entire picture and fit it into my head – about where I am and what I am about to experience. I am thinking to myself –“utar aaye hum UP ke rajneeti ke Rangmansh par”! (I’ve finally set foot on the political playground of the entire country – UP)…. & this is what it looks like!

Sunaina’s speech is mesmerizing. She speaks like a dream and is giving villagers statistics of foreign countries like France, U.S.A. and Dubai and the debt India has collected over the years and what we can do for India if we begin with changing U.P. What she is able to do is win over the collective goodwill and strike a chord with the people by appealing to their emotions.

After the speech, she personally goes to the villagers reminding them to press the button on the “Torch” (ARVP emblem). It is well past sundown now with no electricity in any of the villages, when we find ourselves making our way with the speakerjeep into other villages, where she meets with more village elders asking them permission to have nukkad sabhas in their areas.

It is well after 1-2 hours that we get to her village (Mathiya) house where we are once again accosted with a big ARVP poster at the entrance wall. The next day we start on a Padyatra into the surrounding villages near Mathiya where Sunaina and her circle leaders (2), and I accompany her. She individually goes to each house and family asking them for votes with yet another set of moving lines and speeches.

We cover a total of 6 villages in this manner and then make it to her Nukkad Sabha – where she is to deliver another speech that day.

As she goes into the villages on a padyatra, her circle team headed by her husband organise the entire logistics for her meeting. All she has to do is speak. Alongside her, members of her circle team give better speeches than Rahul Gandhi! She delivers another shattering speech for over 2 hours in the center of that town on a busy road surrounded by shops, buses,etc. The people accord her undivided attention and actually stay for 3 hours to hear her and her supporting crew.

She even manages to get donations in!!!

Overall this lady has it all figured out, backed with some matchless organization and teamwork that I have not even seen CEOs of MNCs exhibit! She has all the right ingredients for a win... most of all the hard work she has put in! What remains now is to live up to that image and the promises!

In Gorakhpur, I go to the court with the others to file their nominations. This is quite an experience for me as the “only” woman there at the time with male eyes glaring at me in the manner of a pack of wolves.

Briefly, what I experienced was everything I expected it to be like. Maybe because I’ve seen a lot of movies like Gangajal, Yuva etc., which were set in the same tone and background, I identified with it. Overall, I had a fabulous experience though the staying conditions in the villages were a little rough because of the cold weather, though I did know what to expect! It reminded me of my experiences in Africa, Ladakh and Nepal with no electricity, biting cold, open baths with cold water and fields to go relieve yourself in.

It’s sad to see so much of India still in this state and I really hope and pray that the coming set of political leaders will change this situation and make India progressively better with basic infrastructure like road, water, electricity and basic education for all.

Living in fast and furious Mumbai city, we often forget where and what rural India is like!

ELECTION HEAT ROUNDUP: It was quite like what I saw in the movies in my first experience here. Its only when you see posters of bigger parties like Congress, BSP, SP etc. with their big cars and resounding speakersdo you feel the competition.

I think I felt the heat most in the Gorakhpur court when leaders from all different parties came to file nominations. Everyone was inquiring about the other, chitter-chattering, questioning others’ preparations, responses, how their campaigns were progressing, strategies, etc.!

What ARVP has attempted is MISSION IMPOSSIBLE! It isamazing work…

This movement deserves to be moulded into an ocean of good for the sake of our country. Thank you!


Sunday, 12 February 2012

On the history of Sanskrit

I am beginning to wonder what actual evidence there is that Sanskrit is as old as is usually claimed (5000 years, etc)

So far as I can see, we make this claim on the basis of imposing the view that Sanskrit "developed" from Vedic to Classical Sanskrit and so on

But I see no evidence for this. Once one begins to question the orthodox view that the Upanishads were compiled AFTER the Mantra Samhitas, and asks what is the evidence, one wonders why it could not have been the case that the Upanishads were compiled simultaneously with the Mantra Samhitas (if some groups of Aryans were, for example, more "mantric" and some more "upanishadic", as is the case even today?)

Specifically, on Panini: Why should it not have been the case that Panini was contemporary with the writers of the Vedas? Of course, we know nothing of when exactly Panini lived, and what we have are wild guesses ranging from the 8th century BC to the 4th century BC. But how do we know that Panini did not live in the 3rd century AD? After all the language of our earliest written records is Prakrit and, at least in north India, Prakrit was replaced by Sanskrit in our epigraphs only by the end of 3rd century AD. This seems to indicate NOT that Sanskrit is a very ancient language, rather that it developed FROM Prakrit, being therefore essentally a post-Buddhist language, which may have become established properly only with Shankaracharya's revolutionary activities in the 9th century AD, with what are now considered "orthodox" views being "read back" into history.

I will be very happy to have my questions answered one way or the other by evidence.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

On Singleton's History of Yoga

Should have read, when it first came out, Dr Mark Singleton's
Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice (Oxford University Press, USA, 2010).

Turns out that yoga has been shaped as much by India as by Western and Christian influences!

I suspected a bit of this, but not the huge role of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), with the Indian branch of which I was associated in the 1970s, without realising any of it!

In my family there was a long-standing interest in everything to do with traditional things, including massage, ayurveda, homeopathy, aromapathy....

Well, if you are interested in Indian spirituality or even just in yoga, Singleton is a "must read", full of interesting, shocking and amusing information. The book is simply and clearly written, but has the full academic panoply of notes and references to document Singleton's findings.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Indians now on India

A friend of mine, born and brought up in India, though living abroad for the last few decades, who has always loved his time in India, has had a couple of brushes with the Indian police and legal system as a result of having bought something. This has involved him in massive expense and time-wasteage, and he has now vowed never to buy anything of any serious value in the country.

He writes to me "the whole India scene is disgusting", though he still loves to visit.

How come we have made such a mess of our country that it is now only worth visiting as a tourist, not living in as a citizen?