Sunday, November 9, 2008

Obambulating in Indian politics

When analysing the Obama victory, every one is understandably not comfortable with the race talk. Its historic significance for someone of African origin became president of white-majority America. What they say is perfectly correct – ideal – that we mustn’t get fixated on caste, race and religion.

However, I take a rather politically incorrect position here. It is a little na├»ve to believe that our polity has moved beyond the questions of ethnicity; the identity and origin still remain determining factors. A black man’s ascendance to presidency is a historic highpoint at which Hillary’s ‘white America’ shunned racial considerations. It signifies not only the political wisdom and ability of Obama to transcend race but also high secular values of American people for whom colour was hardly a factor in their political choice.

Here, I adventure a racially disturbing question in the Indian political scene – are we ready for a Dalit prime minister? Let me clarify that one shouldn’t be made prime minister just because he was born Dalit. My question is if Indian society is ready for accepting a so called untouchable as its prime minister – if he or she has all the political, moral and intellectual credential to be the country head?

I don’t say we are not. But I can’t say we are ready. One of the most scholarly, erudite and efficient presidents of the Indian republic who was an ardent practitioner of Nehruvian secularism was a Dalit. History will ever say he was a right choice. The elected head of the most populous state of the country is a Dalit woman.

When K.R.Narayanan died, among the snippets in front page of Times of India, it appeared: country’s first Dalit president dead. It was a brief news, negating and obliviating his great contribution to the country and reducing his historic significance to mere ‘Dalit’ president, implying that ‘Dalitness’ is the foremost thing to talk about him. It appeared to me patronising, prejudicial and condescending.

That we are at a sad state where we are not confident enough to write K.R.Narayanan is dead, presupposing that the reading public needs an introduction – country’s first Dalit president.

When discussing caste or reservation; the articulate sections’ response is often patronising, prejudicial and condescending. Reservation of admissions and appointments are perceived by many as an ill-conceived mechanism which allows some sections to eat away something which is rightfully theirs. Sadly, they choose to rebuff the issue of historical absence of a level playing ground which led to the disenfranchisement of a vast section of population. And a society's collective obligation to close those gaps.

The so called mainstream is not ready to accept Mayavati. I think Modi has greater acceptance than Mayavati in the mainstream. Mayavati is accused of playing up identity politics, for raising the issue of untouchability, perhaps far more fervently than any greater practitioners of divisive politics such as Advani, Modi and co.

I think it is because what Mayavati’s politics raises is an inconvenient truth to many. When she cobbled up an unimaginable Brahmin-Dalit coalition we accused her of political opportunism. Yes, she is cantankerous, whimsical, antagonistic, acrimonious, devious, callous and greedy. But there is a fundamental problem in us, expecting her to be a saint in a murky political system where everyone else is muddied.

However, I do not see Mayavati as an Indian version of Obama. Her ability to consolidate space for subaltern politics is commendable. Her political muscle to withstand heinous annihilation tactics is noteworthy. Her struggle to formulate a formidable mass movement deserves credit.

However, she requires far more grace, wisdom, intellect and studiousness to be equal to Obama. I think, if not Mayavati, in subsequent generations there should be someone, who can rise beyond caste, who is far greater competent to deal with the increasingly complex intricacies of governance. At the historic point at which he/she emerges we, as a polity, also may be better prepared to put behind our intolerances. I think we are preparing.

* obambulate
verb tr.: To walk about.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Ee bachelorsinte oro problems (Certain problems of these bachelors..)

Here I am going to discuss something which is little awkward. I will start with quoting an interesting wire copy which I chanced upon a few months ago. Based on a survey among various groups, a new Australian research says working singles are the unhappiest lot.

The singles group, which had an average age of 33, includes singles who worked full time, earned more than an average income and had fair job satisfaction.
Yet despite all of the above, despite good connections with family and friends, they were unhappy about their single status and had "low life satisfaction".
The only unhappier Australians were those on the margins, who include single parents, the unemployed and those with disabilities.
Psychologist Evelyn Field says singles working long hours were dissatisfied about having no partner.
"They would be anxious, stressed and depressed at times," The Daily Telegraph quoted her, as saying.

Me, at 28, a media professional in a metro, with few friends in town and staying alone, passing through the loneliest phase in life, have fully endorsed this research finding.

This feeling started haunting me for sometime, ever since a weird sense of increasingly being distanced and left alone had crept in. It may have something to do with the far greater physical distance from home than it ever used to be, the relatively less number of friends in the close proximity in this distant city and certain other things in life that happened in between.

Last August, it turned 10 years since I am living away from home. The distance gets farther as the years go by. A mix of misfortune, lack of opportunity, academic-familial-professional preoccupations and constraints impacted my search for the soulmate. (And I don’t know if there are any other attributable reasons)

It doesn’t mean that I have completely been denied the feminine presence in the youthful days. I have enjoyed fair amount of love, liking, care and considerations from the opposite sex. Perhaps, on that front, I might be luckier than some others. And there were brief illusions of having almost achieved that priced thing – love.
Most of the people we interact are hypocritical when it comes to love – putting up a rather detached attitude towards such ‘silly things’ and acting brave. Pretty understandable, nobody wants to look vulnerable. It was not the case with me.

Just now, I made a futile search in the internet to find that exact quote from Diary of Anne Frank. It was something like this - Despite all love and care by your family and friends, you won't find perfect happiness until you find somebody who exclusively belongs to you. I have always acknowledged and realised this emotional need of possessing and belonging to someone.

However, as somebody jokingly said, “your success rate is quite low”. After each illusory phase, let-downs and ‘voluntary retirements’ what always helped me move on is the intuitive optimism that some day I will meet up with the one who was chosen for me before the earth was born. The other day I was thinking, this search had actually started when I was in fifth or sixth standard. 17-18 years, the search is still on!

At this point of time I honestly don’t know what happened to my optimism. All I know is that it has just not happened yet.

The other day I happened to read in orkut a beautiful description about an ideal partner. It could be a borrowed thought for me. But it is something I too feel, may be many others too.

My perfect partner is the person who is able to provide
the three most important elements I value in a relationship- trust, love and respect. She is someone who can appreciate my company all the time, bring a smile to my heart, someone I can walk with or be with and not say a word and know that was the best conversation I ever had!.