Tuesday, July 18, 2006

What Price Ambition?

India's response to repeated terror attacks has been sickeningly predictable.

Official outrage and vows of vengeance are followed by a quick moving on. The most that we appear capable of is a temporary drama-queen delay of our so-called "peace" process with Pakistan.

This is largely because India has global aspirations which compel it to act "responsibly", no matter the cost to our people.

The paradox of this posture is that we end up pleading with the world to recognize our new-found "power" even as terrorists castrate what little remains of our tattered mojo.

This is, therefore, not about whether India should or not talk to Pakistan (it doesn't really matter, does it?) -- rather, this is about India's structural misunderstanding of the nature of power in our world.

Whereas great powers use muscle to assert their influence, India seems to be intent on acquiring its geo-political weight through permission and charity of others.

As long as this remains the view of our political elite -- across the ideological spectrum, it needs to be emphasized -- Indians will continue dying while our elite express unfelt regret then continue chasing their mirage of faux-power.

To this retired blogger, it's clear that sensible Indians will now quit celebrating meaningless adulations in the world media, quit talking about great power status, quit our obscene and unearned swagger, and quit talking big while carrying a really small stick.

Instead, we need to get back to hard work, back to our democratic revolution for throwing overboard this pussilanimous elite-- we need to get back to reversing, in Gore Vidal's words, the overturning of our real history by their made-up myths.

This is what we owe the dead of Mumbai and Delhi and Akshardham and Ayodhya and Kaluchak and Kargil and Kashmir as also Godhara followed by its viciously evil whirlwind.

Let's begin by acknowledging how extremely weak our state is presently and how unbelievably far we have yet to go. There is surely no shame in beginning with the truth about ourselves.

As Faiz wrote, Aaiye haath uthaein hum bhi.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Lonely in Louvre

Odd post this.

This lapsed blogger finally found himself in Paris this past weekend where he stole precious time for Louvre and Versailles between heavy swatches of work.

At Louvre, three icons were on the wish list.

Of course, the Mona Lisa -- much too small and locked up with too many people all around her.

Then, the magnificent Venus de Milo. Just like one had imagined having seen a cheap replica way back in the innocence of childhood.

But most important, the law codes of Hammurabi. Few people around, fewer still understanding its colossal significance. There it stands, lonely in Louvre, like a rock.

Have concluded the ancient is far more interesting than the medieval. This is a change of heart -- had not felt the same awe of the distant forbearers while in Egypt many years ago. This rethink must be, what Eliot called, one of the gifts reserved for age.

Mona Lisa and Taj Mahal feel ridiculously pretentious now -- come look at me, how clever I am, how gifted, how very metrosexual! In contrast, those who chiseled out the law codes in Akkad or moved the Earth to shape the Great Pyramids and the Great Wall, or those who invented Zero were surely the real men among men.

Then, Versailles -- where Marie Antoinette lived at the end of one metrosexual age and the beginning of another. Impressive in a profoundly gaudy sense -- no wonder the nouveau riche are drawn to it as a venue for their children's weddings!

The best part of being in Paris was watching the local Portuguese celebrate their team's world cup victory over England. Seemed like the entire nation of Portugal had congregated at the Arc de Triomphe. Then France won -- Champs Elysees overflowed with emotion and libation. Fascinating stuff.

Odd post this. From a lapsed blogger and political junkie. Now, returning to hibernation.