India’s neighbours – China

In my last post, by oversight, my finalized draft about China got unincluded. My young friend Sandeep, (another Gupta for you, Conrad!) has pointed out this omission, and I hasten to make amends. Rather than incorporate it in the original post, I have decided to just post about it separately here.

India shares a fairly long border with China. While India has not overtly or covertly shown any hegemonic ideas, we certainly would like to have a “significant presence” in our neighbourhood. Quite whether China has any hegemonic ambitions is what we read in our press by international commentators.

Following some arbitrary demarcation of borders before the British left India, China has had a dispute on some border areas in our West and North East. This dispute resulted in a short war in 1962 with humiliating results for India. Our much respected Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru died a broken man following this. Since then, the relationship has been rather frosty though since 1994, talks have begun between the two sides and are reputedly making ‘satisfactory’ progress.

Another cause for bad relationship between the two countries is the presence of a community of refugee Tibetans led by the Dalai Lama in India. About this, my readers know perhaps more than I but, the Chinese, obviously do not like it that India has given refuge to these people.

Since the mid 1990s, trade and commerce have been rising between the two countries and both are very important trading partners to each other. This gives hope that with the expected resolution to the border dispute, relations will improve to normal to the mutual benefit of both countries.

China is perceived to be a friend of Pakistan and an enemy of India. The Indian press calls the relationship rather cheekily as ‘Pakistan’s all weather friend, China’. Till this perception is removed by more open and friendly contacts with each other, the relations cannot but rather be frosty. With recent developments in Pakistan causing much alarm in Beijing too, quite how events will unfold is anybody’s guess.

Recently, when Pakistan sought financial help, China did not extend any, nor did it support Pakistan in the IMF. India on the other hand did and won some brownie points in the Pakistani media and some elements of the Pakistani establishment.

For a more detailed report, please see this.

India’s Neighbours.

Even God has a Sense of Humour! I found this joke just in time to use it as a preamble to this post.

God was in the process of creating the universe.
And he was explaining to his subordinates
‘Look everything should be in balance.

For example, after every 10 deer there should be a lion.

Look here my fellow angels, here is the country of the United States.
I have blessed them with prosperity and money.
But at the same time I have given them insecurity and tension….

And here is Africa. I have given them beautiful nature.
But at the same time, I have given them climatic extremes.

And here is South America. I have given them lots of forests.
But at the same time, I have given them lesser land so that they would have to cut off the forests…

So you see fellows, everything should be in balance.

One of the angels asked…

‘God, what is this extremely beautiful country here?’

God said……. ‘Ahah…that is the crown piece of all. ‘INDIA’,

My most precious creation.
It has understanding and friendly People.
Sparkling streams and serene mountains.
A culture which speaks of the great tradition that they live.
Technologically brilliant and with a heart of gold…..

The angel was quite surprised:
‘But god you said everything should be in balance.’

God replied –
‘Look at the neighbours I gave them.’

This post is the direct outcome of a question that Conrad posed to me as to how I perceive India’s neighbours, other than Pakistan.

In all fairness, I must really start with Pakistan as contrary to what my readers may have gathered from my posts about Pakistan, I have great admiration for some elements of Pakistan society foremost among them, their English language press and some very brave writers. There are elements there, just as there are in India, who genuinely believe that peace between the two nations can be of benefit to both but, events keep overtaking these elements. Pakistan’s lawyers brought about a significant change in their society by a democratic process which alas is floundering today due to forces beyond any one’s control. If there is any kind of optimism about Pakisatan, I do not see any proof of it. I leave you to come to your own conclusions after you read this moving piece.

Let us move a bit Eastward and come to Nepal. Nepal believes that India gives it the big brother treatment, and I am nor surprised. What Nepalis do not understand is that Indian bureaucrats and politicians, who are the only ones that are perceived by Nepalis as Indians, give the same treatment to Indians too. Nepal too is going through a great deal of turmoil with recent democratic processes having dislodged the monarchy and installing a Maoist in power who seems to be clueless about quite what it is that the Nepali wants. These are uncertain times there and we already have a number of economic refugees from Nepal who come into India to make a living and send money back home for their families. This process increases with monotonous regularity and while so far no advese developments have taken place in India, it is a potential area for trouble.

Nepal is also used by Pakistan to launch some of their clandestine operations against India and this is a matter of regular concern between both countries.

Further Eastward, we have Bhutan, with which India has excellent relationship and there is no trouble there whatsoever.

The same cannot be said about Bangladesh, from where Islamic terrorists are regularly pushed into India and fleeing villains from India find safety and hospitality there. With the recent election of a new more secular government, it is hoped that matters will improve and there are indications to the effect. Bangladesh also has the perception that India acts the big brother and my comment during discussions of Nepal pertain here too. We have regular inflow of economic refugees from Bangladesh and this is now beginning to assume serious threats in some parts of the country with jihadi elements mixing up with them.

Another neighbour with little or no major impact but from whose territory Indian terrorists operate with impunity, is Myanmar. While we do not have much to do with them, that Indian trouble makers find shelter there is a matter of concern for us.

To the south, we have Srilanka where we have excellent government to government relations as well as great people to people contacts but their problems with the LTTE has had its impact in our southern state of Tamil Nadu where there is a sizable population sympathetic to the Tamils. We also have a number of refugees from there living in Tamil Nadu causing not a little friction with the locals for employment.

Over all, our problem is Pakistancentric. With the Indian economy getting stronger I suspect that we will have economic refugees assuming alarming proportions with the ever present threat of jihadi elements also coming in with them from Bangladesh as well as Pakistan.

The Indian establishment has its work cut out for it if only it would do some thing serious about the nation’s security rather than the obsession with politics and and making unofficial money. There are sufficient pointers that the growing clout of the urban middle classes is beginning to bring about much needed change and that is the only optimistic note that I can bring to this note.

Apart from the problems that we have with cross border terrorism, we also have the home grown varieties of disaffected elements, religious and secular and that is another topic altogether about which I shall post in due course.

Slum Dog Millionaire

Some of my readers, have seen the film Slum Dog Millionaire and have been making some comments on my posts. While Jean has been fascinated by it, an interesting observation has been made by Liara and I quote her.

“An intriguing juxtaposition is offered by the film, Slumdog Millionnaire. Media have portrayed that the government has offered “better” housing/ living conditions to poor people from that area. Apparently, some people do not desire to change their way of life. Similarly, some people do not choose to shift how and what they take in with their senses. It is always possible to evolve to rise above thought and rediscover something else.”

In my life, serendipity is a frequent occurrence and I was not at all surprised to read a fascinating opinion piece this morning in out local news paper The Indian Express on precisely this subject.

There are two observations, one from Jay Leno and the other from Prince Charles which makes for some great introspection.

I do not want to add my two bits to an excellent article written by Y P Rajesh and take you to the article itself.

I look forward to some interesting interactions on this subject.

Zardari’s Admission

Today’s Times of India has an interesting editorial. What many of us in India have been predicting and cautioning about has come about. Sixty years of hatred towards India, jealousy and envy of India’s achievements as an alternative to a theocratic state, a desire to cause damage to India through the promotion of and active support to Islamists to terrorize India, a desire to take revenge for military defeats after repeated attempts at war, etc, have finally turned the monster created by Pakistan to turn itself against its creator.

Denial of truth, duplicity and betrayal have finally resulted in Pakistan’s establishment to accept that their ways have failed and are about to cause damage to themselves.

Quite what happens to Pakistan is their business. What can happen to India is ours. I have written a letter to the editor of the Times of India which reads as follows:

Dear Sir,

This refers to the editorial “Zardari’s Admission” that appeared in your today’s edition.

India will face tremendous difficulties when, not if, the Taliban take over even the territory just bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan. Our opinion makers and leaders do not seem to foresee the problem of Pakistani refugees that will flood India. These will meet with hostility and their very move towards India will cause problems for the Muslims in India.

Kashmir will once again be prone to mischief from the Tribals from the Pathan areas and unless our armed forces are equipped and on alert the Taliban will try to bring about in Kashmir and then on to the rest of India, what they have
already achieved in Pakistan.

Our leadership has not yet come to grips with this issue and particularly the issue of local elements that support LeT etc. There has been no news whatsoever about the six persons who are claimed to have arrived with the ten accounted for in the Mumbai carnage. Their local supporters are yet to be apprehended and the story goes on.

The time for politcking is long past and we need to protect our land from imminent catastrophy.

RAMANA RAJGOPAUL

In another related development, U.S Envoy Richard Holbrooke has been in India and the Voice of America has this to say about his meetings here.

Two other articles will be of interest to my American readers. The first one is about the Taliban and Pakistan making peace with each other and the other, quite what the Taleban is doing in the USA.

In a response to Conrad, I had said that events will overtake us and we shall be left watching catastrophe develop, unless we realize what we are up against and unite to protect non Islamic ways of life. Events are beginning to overtake us much earlier than I had anticipated.

I leave my readers to interpret these news items and come to their own conclusions. My Indian readers, I hope will understand my angst and despair.

A Fresh Breeze From The USA Into Our Home.

We have been privileged to have one young American stay with us the last couple of days. He is all of 31 and looks younger. When he starts to talk however, he comes across as someone with a refreshing way of looking at the world. He and I have been having some intense discussions on philosophy and spiritualism and I find myself impressed with his knowledge, interest and commitment on these matters.

He is Jay Ponti from Los Angeles, originally from Boston, and is a friend of our son Ranjan. He is right now in India to study Kriya Yoga with an enlightened Master, close to Pune, and normally lives in an Āshram learning the subject. Jay has just completed an assignment where he was part of a team that edited an autobiography and spiritual classsic called “The Wings To Freedom: Mystic Revelations from Babaji and the Himalayan Yogis”. This book has just been presented the 2008 Founders’ Award for the American Authors Association.

Jay is a musician of some accomplishment and I understand plays a mean guitar, as explained by Ranjan. Jay very modestly agrees with Ranjan’s assessment. He has been involved in some gigs here and Ranjan who is an aficionado of sorts in the Pune music world, met him during one such jam session.

Back in Los Angeles, Jay plays professional guitar in clubs and concerts and his genre is Rock n Roll and Blues. He is however, to quote him, somehow drawn to spiritualism and found his current chosen path back in California where the Āshram that he is currently residing in has an associate community.

Given the choice, Jay says that he would like to stay as long as possible in India. He however has to return to the USA to make enough money to be able to do so. He also has to take part in the awareness campaign of Yogiraj Siddhanath for Earth Peace through self peace.

It is nice having Jay around. He brings in some freshness into our home. Freshness all the way from California! Jay says that he is very close to his family who live near Boston, Mass. He looks forward to returning to Northampton Mass, for its live music and venues. He expects to head back to the US in April, prior to which, he intends visiting the Himalayas and our holy city, Varanasi. Jay is taking the cremated remains, the ashes of his late good friend Daniel Lynn, who was the nephew of James Lynn. James was given charge of the self realization fellowship by Paramahansa Yogananda. Jay will immerse the ashes at Hrishikesh. From what I gather from Jay, Daniel was an enigmatic man always ready to serve or help anyone in need. He was a great musician, having played with legends such as Link Ray. Daniel built guitars, racing motorcycles and surf boards and was an accomplished big wave surfer and mountain climber.

We intend having Jay over as often as possible to learn other things from him. The problem is that he keeps different timings from us older people and also marches to a different drum beat!

Is there any such reverse traffic from over there in the USA? Any Indian seeking nirvana or whatever there? Jay believes that there are some ABCPIs (American Born Confused persons of Indian Origin) who too are after the same thing that Jay is. They are yet to generate enough funds to make a trip to their land of origin to find the genuine stuff!!

Boredom.

Recently, I had an occasion to comment on a blog on the subject of boredom and I mentioned that the word itself did not exist in any Indian language and that the concept is alien and one that has been imported along with western life styles and values. This was a passing remark but subsequently, I did some research and also got my sister Padmini to, so that my observation could either be validated or negated. She is the more capable of the two to undertake such research and I am not surprised with her findings. I reproduce her mail to me as a guest post.

BOREDOM

“I am bored!” is a statement that is the nightmare of any mom with kids running around at home, especially during holidays. Why kids? The word boredom is trotted out with regularity by everybody with time on their hands or heads.

Strangely enough the word bore/boring has found its way into Indian languages. When I searched for equivalent words in Tamil and Hindi I got only words close to it, not an exact translation as it were. The word has been Indianised and is used in the languages as ‘bore’.

Why is this word not available in Indian languages? As an aside we do not have a word for ‘widower’ as well. More about this in another blog! The concept of boredom is itself an anachronism. Boredom arises from loneliness. India has a population of 1.1 billion. It is an open society, where people interact freely with family, neighbours and even strangers whom they meet casually in a public place. In this milieu, if you are lonely and getting bored, that is a matter of concern.

From a woman’s point of view in India a woman never had time—I am talking about the middle and working class women. After a day’s activity at home they would meet in the temple and apart from sending applications to the Almighty to send solutions for their problems they would exchange news, views and gossip, why even eligible alliances for prospective marriages! It was a strong support system and is still valid in neighbourhood temples in cities, towns and villages even today.

The men too had a busy schedule and interacting with neighbours and the village people was an on going project all the time. The men would meet in the evening under a tree in the village centre, where a platform was built and accommodated the elders. The daily news was read out and discussed, village problems were thrashed out and solutions found. Religious discourses, music and dance, dramas and the telling of the old stories was entertainment. Everybody went home early to bed and early to rise as there was only light from tapers and oil lamps. The day was busy with farming, religious rituals, commerce and earning a living.

With the advent of electricity the radio brought in the outside world. Movies mostly ‘Touring Talkies’ that brought films to tents in larger villages and towns was a big attraction. The TV has brought multiple families with myriad problems to watch and experience like mirrors in soaps in all languages that keeps people glued at prime time. The survival of the fittest keeps every kid glued to their books and projects and chasing grades.

The only term that came into being was ‘Time Pass’ and there were many activities for this. Is boredom then an alien modern concept that has now been patched onto the Indian psyche? Maybe as teenage angst, a view of a woman’s daily life as drudgery, a time to sit and reflect and be comfortable with yourself and your thoughts has been superimposed with the notion that all this causes boredom.

Frankly I have never felt bored—even when I had to sit in the car waiting for somebody, I would find the world outside through glass windows interesting and amusing as well. However this is an Indian pastime as cars are parked on roads full of people, trade and activity. Maybe I would be bored if I was sitting in a humongous car park looking at other models of automobiles. But even then there you have music to keep you company! In my visits abroad too I have found life fascinating in the trains, in the shops, streets and museums.

Boredom is for those who invite it to the exclusion of all other alternatives. What is your take?