In praise of: Justice Markendey Katju

In our class and caste infected society where people in high position of power jealously maintain distance from others, it is pleasing to see a retired Supreme Court judge talking with common people, and at times making others to give answers to people.

One needs not agree or disagree with his praise or condemnation of certain politicians for appreciating his efforts in improving probity in public life. Politicians everywhere are driven by Realpolitik above everything else. No matter how tolerable or admirable some politicians look to Mr. Katju, in a parliamentary democracy it is the society at large which decides how good or bad a politician can be. Our successful politicians are our reflection as a society in the mirror of reality.

One admires Mr. Katju courage to call a spade a spade. There is no dearth of people in this country who find easy victims of their intellectual wrath in far away places of power and politics but quickly avert their eyes when they see something rotten just under their noses. It is heartening that Mr. Katju does not spare his own colleagues even when it is quite late. Who is to say that it is easy to find courage to do the right thing when one’s colleague is involved.

Indian judiciary has a mixed record: the higher courts are still respected and admired by public but the lower courts — like our universities — are not known to be places of virtue. Overall our judiciary is able to hold itself better in public eye than our executive. I don’t believe that this is because people in judiciary are more Lilly white in their purity. They are much like members of our executives. They have the same kind of education and are shaped by same kind of cultural environment. But unlike executive,  our judiciary has very little to defend itself against charges of corruption. As long as our value system is not rotten, this works as an inbuilt correcting mechanism. People like Katju does a great service to their profession; they are not averse to wash their dirty linen in public before something is permanently rotten in their institution.




In praise of : Mahendra Singh Dhoni

Students of psychology and history will have to tell us why M.S. Dhoni is not considered the greatest of Indian cricketers while many others with much less to show for themselves are considered worthy of this title by many? I agree that comparison between generation can be misleading but comparison between achievements should not be.

If he is not considered greatest because of a lack of technique or “graceful” hitting then one wonders about our value system. If one gets his job done very well despite of having a bad technique, should it matter? Or should he be considered incredibly creative?

In addition to being the most successful captain, he is one of the finest batsmen (consider the spot at which he bats), a good wicket-keeper and the most self-reliant and mentally strong sportsman. How many times have you seen him compensating his lack of skills by a boyish display of aggression?

Moreover he belongs to a sub-species among Indians who rose to the top with little or no help from anyone else. Anyone who is from a disadvantageous background has to be more than average to do the average. And he had accomplished some great things, he must be the greatest.

Credit is due to Mr. P.C. Podar and Raju Mukherjee who noticed and recommended him for U19 team. A special thanks to Mr. Dilip Vengsarkar who has a long a glorious history of nurturing cricket in India for selecting him. It is always a joy watching him on the ground play and lead.



In praise of : Secularism

A growing tendency in India is to attack secularism, covertly and indirectly. The attack on secularism is somewhat similar to the attack on equality. They maintain since we can not define secularism (like equality) in a strict sense, it will be good if we stop using the term altogether, at least to avoid the intellectual confusion. More adventurous among them will go on to say that it does not exists at all and everything which is called secular is a form of pseudo-secular. Continue reading “In praise of : Secularism”

In praise of : P. Sainath

“IF this silly fellow keeps writing the things he does and saying the things he says, then he has no future at all. Certainly no one in power or positions of authority can ever forgive him,”

Khwaja Ahmad Abbas,

What I try to do is look at the survival strategies of the poor, which is a much more interesting journalism. I try to focus not on the ‘events’ but on the ‘processes’ of poverty. In India we have what some writers have called a situation of ‘invisible hunger’. We do not have acute situations of famine (like in Somalia or the Sudan) but a more generalized distress. In the face of extreme exploitation, you see little kids who do not ‘look’ starving but they are very malnourished. In my reporting, I am engaged in a battle for minds and hearts. Why should I concede the readers of the press to the big press barons? I want to bring the Indian press back to its original mission.

 — P. Sainath, in 1994

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In praise of : Details

Perhaps it is due to incapabilities of human mind in handling more than 5 or 6 details at a time that abstraction is born. Now there a tendency to glorify abstraction by which one squeeze details into a small representable quantity. No doubt abstraction is useful. It definitely make sense to write down eigen values of a big matrix or a huge graph and pass comment on them. But should we made ‘the ultimate abstract’ as the holy grail of intellectualism? Why should the ability to ‘abstract out’ ideas should be taken as a sign of ultimate intelligence? If abstraction is to be used, it should be used to make sense out of enormous amount of details, to find connections. What possible use it might have otherwise rather than driving someone into a metaphysical world, a incoherent land of plenty invented by crazy minds.

One should admire, or at least respect, details. After all, the meaningful world is made up of details. It may bring spiritual satisfaction to some who pursue abstraction for the sake of abstraction. But for those who are more concerned with fruits of real world, we must take the details head on. Surely it would definitely help to use abstraction as a potent weapon unless computers are fast enough for brute force algorithms.

In praise of : Sachin Tendulkar

I am interested in greatness, not in damn dots.

— John Arlott, writing on W. G. Grace

It is said that cricket chauvinism runs across two axes, those of nation and generation. So when Steve Waugh came to the crease in the first test of the 1998-9 Ashes, A fellow countryman Bill Lawry welcomed him on television thus : ‘Here is the best batsman in the world’. Waugh himself quickly disavowed this title given by a fellow countryman. Earlier that year, Waugh had fielded in Sharjah where 4 centuries was hit against Australia by a rival, two scored in a test match played in India, two in two ODI’s played in Sarjah. At the end of it all he shook his head and remarked, ‘There is no one who bats like this guy – but I did not see Don Bradman.’ Steve was judging Sachin Tendulkar. [1]

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In praise of: The Pariah Dog

‘The Pariah dog’, wrote an acute observer of Indian ways, ‘has always been on downhill slope of popular contempt’.  Natives ignore his ‘novel potentialities of his characters’ and discourage him by ‘keeping him at a distance’. He is denied affection to which its British counterpart has a social claim. The Pariah dog longs for a master; a mere approving look touches a chord is it heart. Compared with English dog, says Kipling,  ‘the poor Indian outcast is a pagan, a creature without faith, or at least without that soul-saving reverence for authority which ennobles character’ and concluded rightly that ‘the Pariah does not know the joy of adoration’ for he has no master. [1]

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