Sunday, 10 December 2017

Gandhi - the root of his passion

11 December 2014 at 00:10 ·
One evening I watched Mahadev Desai spin. I said I had been listening carefully to Gandhi and studying my notes and wondering all the time what was the source of his hold on people. I had come to the tentative conclusion that it was his passion.

“That is right,” Desai said.

“What is the root of his passion?”, I asked.

“This passion”, Desai explained, “is the sublimation of all the passions.”


“Sex and anger and personal ambition… Gandhi is under his own complete control. That generates tremendous energy and passion.”

Gated Hells

11 December 2016 at 20:57 ·
Gated hells.

Glad I quit the IT industry when I was 23, and moved to a saner work and saner places and saner money. Otherwise I might have been living in some such place and even seen it as the norm.

"Ratnamma, a slim and short woman in her 40s, travels to Shantiniketan every day to work. At the apartment complex, she is subjected to a few but telling indignities.
First, she has to declare the money she is carrying when she enters the building complex. When she leaves, the guards tally the amount she has.
If either of her employers (she works in two households in Tower 8 of the 2,850-apartment, 23-building complex) lend her any money, she must carry a letter saying as much from her employer. This letter must be taken to Tower 19, where somebody from administration will then affix an office seal on it. Only then would Ratnamma be allowed to leave the premises.
She and others like her are forbidden to walk on the “podium”, a raised area above the parking lots between the towers. It is a rule that many decried after it was recently publicized in a newspaper story, but the rule stands nevertheless."
(via Sridhar Lakshmanan)
Rama Murthy Disgusting.. With this mindset we have no business criticising the Englishmen of the pre-independence days..
Prakash Thangavel And the same urbanites talk about caste in villages...
Alwar Narayanan Some apartments prohibit maids from using the elevator. They are told to climb all the way up by stairs.
Mahalakshmi Ganesh Angrish Fairly common. Only that we have people who can afford 70-80 lakhs worth flat but would throw sanitary waste, soiled diapers out of their windows, Will steal other's footwear, paper, milk that lies outside the doorstep. Won't have problem with Bangladeshi immigrants working illegally at dirt cheap salary but will worry about national security at Pakistan border for some weird reason. Separate elevator for domestic helps and maintenance workers with and residents/visitors.
Murthy Sudhakar · 8 mutual friends
A gated community such as the one described simply highlights the pervasive culture of hierarchy and segregation that is India at large - even when there are no gates and the "compound" walls.
Priya Jain Apartheid.  

Govindarajan Ramanujam · 3 mutual friends
Coz people think that they are somehow being benevolent by keeping maids for the pittance they give, which in truth is exploitation. That idea of benevolence that gives them the moral superiority to do such things. The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.

Class divide in a gated community

The settlement of Kaveri Nagar is just 4km from Prestige Shantiniketan, but it might as well be a million miles away.
Shantiniketan, in Whitefield, Bengaluru, is a community with paved roads, manicured lawns and battery-operated golf carts for the security chief to drive around in. Kaveri Nagar, where some people employed at Shantiniketan live, is a low-rise neighbourhood, with a few shops selling everyday essentials and vegetables sold off carts.
Anupama and Varghese Abraham, married for 21 years with a decade spent in the US, live in Shantiniketan, while Ratnamma, their domestic help, lives in Kaveri Nagar.
The contrast between Shantiniketan and Kaveri Nagar symbolizes modern Indian cities and the problematic dichotomies within them. Mahatma Gandhi’s “India lives in its villages” has never been less true. Nearly a third of India lives in its cities now, and in some big states, such as Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, nearly half do.
With agriculture contributing less and less to the country’s gross domestic product, more and more people are likely to flock to the cities in search of work.
A report by the World Resources Institute (WRI) said that by 2021, 60% of Karnataka’s population will be employed in agriculture but it will contribute only 6% to the state’s total economic activity. Thus leading to “massive migration towards the wealth of cities”, according to Rejeet Mathews of the WRI.
This migration will strain further already overstretched urban government utilities, with the result that those who can will opt to live in ostensibly self-sufficient enclaves like Prestige Shantiniketan.
Different worlds
Ratnamma, a slim and short woman in her 40s, travels to Shantiniketan every day to work. At the apartment complex, she is subjected to a few but telling indignities.
First, she has to declare the money she is carrying when she enters the building complex. When she leaves, the guards tally the amount she has.
If either of her employers (she works in two households in Tower 8 of the 2,850-apartment, 23-building complex) lend her any money, she must carry a letter saying as much from her employer. This letter must be taken to Tower 19, where somebody from administration will then affix an office seal on it. Only then would Ratnamma be allowed to leave the premises.
She and others like her are forbidden to walk on the “podium”, a raised area above the parking lots between the towers. It is a rule that many decried after it was recently publicized in a newspaper story, but the rule stands nevertheless.
One day in June, at the entrance, Ratnamma saw the photograph of a live-in maid who had been accused of theft. “When some people do wrong, we are all affected,” she thought.
The apartment complex where Ratnamma works shows India’s urban problems in a microcosm. Outside the 105-acre residential and commercial complex is the India you see everywhere. Inside, though, it is an entirely different story, with well-asphalted roads, designated parking and lots of security checkpoints manned by blue-uniformed guards.
As mentioned earlier, Prestige Shantiniketan has 2,850 apartments. There are 162 guards, who stalk the 23 towers, basement car parks, gardens and playgrounds. The 60-acre residential area has allotted parking space for 2,850 cars, apart from visitors’ vehicles.
The complex once recorded a usage of six million volts ampere of electricity, and has its own power backup (like most apartment complexes in Bengaluru). It also uses some 1.2 million litres of water a day, which, for an estimated 10,000 residents, is 120 litres per person per day. The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board, the city’s water utility, provides an average of 65 litres per person per day.
It also has an average of 1,300 to 1,500 visitors a day, according to the residential complex’s chief security officer.
Urban India
India loves its cities. A little less than a third of India now lives in areas classified as urban. In 2011, there were over 53 cities with a million plus people, up from 35 a decade before.
While income surveys in India are notorious for their inaccuracy, the India Human Development Survey from 2011-12 showed that of the 42,000 urban households that shared earnings data across 971 urban neighbourhoods, the bottom 10% of the households made only a tenth of the income earned by the top 10%. The difference is stark.
It is a similar story when you look at data on how much people in cities spend. A National Sample Survey Organisation report of 2012 showed that while the poorest 5% of the sample spent an average of Rs700 per capita per day, the richest 5% spent Rs10,282—more than 14 times as much.
Other apartment complexes too wear their exclusivity on their sleeve. Advertisements run with taglines like: “Homes that speak the good life”, “Luxury lakefront living near Koramangala”, “The world comes home”, “Reach for the skies”. Some market them triumphantly. Others are more shamefaced—one ad calls it “A walk in the clouds”—but for most, the selling point is their “un-Indianness”.
At Prestige Shantiniketan, this ‘other-ness’ is manifest: on the podium it has benches, wide footpaths, and lawns lining the routes between towers. The actual ground level below, which is called the basement, houses little else but parking lots.
On 13 April, a notice was posted at Prestige Shantiniketan saying that “no maids, cooks and other help staff” would be allowed on the podium level. A report in Bangalore Mirror was followed by an open letter by Maitreyi Krishnan and Clifton D’ Rozario that a number of websites carried, pointing out the discrimination inherent in the notice.
The notice is still tacked to a notice board near the entrance to the podium in Tower 8. The apartment owners’ association, where the notice originated, maintain that they were unfairly criticized for the notice.
Not just Shantiniketan
Entrenched attitudes towards the other—domestic maids or vendors in particular, or anyone perceived to be working class—are not a problem in Prestige Shantiniketan alone.
“It happens everywhere right? It happens under wraps,” says a resident of Brigade Metropolis, another apartment complex in the neighbourhood. “People don’t say it openly but I can give you a few examples. In Brigade Metropolis and in a few other societies also, there is a restriction on maids and the working class.”
This resident, who did not wish to be identified, talks about certain benches where the maids and drivers were not allowed to sit and if they were to sit there, the gated community’s security guard would ask them to leave.
“It’s not that someone comes and asks them, (the) security to do that (but) it is (a) kind of unwritten rule. We had one more rule earlier—now it is scrapped—the maids are not supposed to travel in the passenger lift, they were supposed to travel in the service lift.”
In a meeting called later, some residents said the rule was unfair, while the residents’ association said the rule was merely because “of safety concerns” and “hygiene concerns”.
“Segregation has long been a problem in cities, with extreme forms seen in African Cities where gated communities have high walls, electrified fences and 24 hour armed security guards. Reports suggest that since the abolishment of apartheid the gating of streets and communities has exploded in South Africa symbolizing the failure of racial integration,” says Mathews of WRI.
But some countries in Latin America, United States, Britain, even China are looking to impose restrictions on gated communities, adds Mathews.
Does the PM live here?
A guard meets every visitor to Prestige Shantiniketan at the gate, and directs the visitor to a small office. There, you will have to present your name, the apartment you are going to and reason for visiting. Couriers, postmen, cab drivers and those who work as help in the complex have another, far lengthier line to take.
Once the security personnel confirm that you are expected and not an unwelcome interloper, you are allowed inside after a message is sent to your phone, which you have to proffer to the guard at the next picket. After waiting for the security guys to confirm that the person in front was indeed who he said he was, it was my turn.
I had a meeting with Debashish Mishra, the president of the owners’ association. After the guard spoke to him, I was given an entry pass. As I was leaving, I asked the guard at the shack if the prime minister lived here. She smiled.
The Abrahams live in a second-floor, four-bedroom apartment in Tower 8 of the complex. The living room is tastefully furnished, with a couch facing the television on the far wall.
There is a lot of bright light from the bay windows behind the couches. Varghese Abraham sits on a couch perpendicular to me. On the wall opposite is a flat-screen television. To my right, there is a dining table between two bedrooms. Their daughter, home from the US, where she studies, is in one room.
Soon, we are talking about urban dysfunction and about Abraham being tempted to set up the Indian operations of the company he worked for in the adjoining commercial complex (they eventually chose a building a few kilometres westwards).
Abraham says when he first moved to Bengaluru, he couldn’t afford to live in areas which had basic facilities, like garbage cans. This was in 1993, when Bangalore, as it was called, was a much smaller town with no more than 5,000 software developers by his estimates.
Then he moved to the US and when he chose to shift back, to be closer to his parents in Kerala, he lived in a similar apartment complex for a few years before putting down a deposit on the Shantiniketan flat. He paid Rs2,890 for each of the apartment’s 3,000 sq. ft, which, he says is Rs1,000 more than the price when the project was launched in 2005.
‘We all suffer for what somebody has done’
Outside Shantiniketan, the heavily congested road curves past several office buildings. It’s a mishmash of shops selling everything from food to flowers. Outside Brigade Metropolis, similar in many respects to Shantiniketan, you turn right at right angles from the main road and Kaveri Nagar is just half a kilometre down that road.
You can immediately see the difference here—apart from the carts of fruits and vegetables, there is a lot more dust.
Ratnamma lives in an asbestos-roofed house here. Her late husband moved here in 1998, transplanting the family (the youngest of her four children was one month old then; he is 18 now) from a village on the border with Andhra Pradesh.
Her husband built a house on a patch of land that was once forest, she says. He used to be a mason. She doesn’t know how much the land cost. She has rented out one portion of the house to some boys who work in the neighbourhood.
There is no electricity when I walk into Ratnamma’s home and the candle she lights does little to dispel the darkness in the windowless, ground-floor house.
In the living room of her yellow-and-green home, Ratnamma talks about the rules in Shantiniketan.
Ishta idhre bani, kashta idhre hogi (you can come if you like these rules, you can go if you don’t),” is the attitude they have, Ratnamma says.
She doesn’t like walking in the basement—a dingy, dark place—because some of the drivers, who hang out there, are not nice men. Mishra, the association president, says later that he often often walks through the basement and doesn't feel there's any problem. His wife and children use the basement too, he says.
“They say that we also go through the basement, nobody bothers us. How come they only bother you? But are they the same as (us) coolie people? If somebody spoke to madam that way, would she leave them alone?” Ratnamma asks.
Then there is the rule about declaring all your money when you enter. But the woman whose photo Ratnamma saw and who was accused of stealing gold bangles was a live-in maid, Abraham reminds me.
“I don’t know how the society would stop activities like that because a live-in maid is a choice that the resident is making. It is completely within the walls of that apartment (over) which that society or security has no influence. I am sure the society can implement rules, probably, what they like to as long as it is permissible within the construct of the law of the land. But look at the human aspect,”Abraham says.
“If somebody checks me every day like that, you know, I am being treated like a potential thief. We need to strike a balance on what is the threshold. Anyone can steal, including residents. It may not come out.”
So, how do you reconcile the residents’ need for security with the larger human rights’ issues?
“We definitely need support, help from outside. People will come here to work, they are not residents here. So, you can call it profiling, whatever, but that’s the truth,” says Mishra of the residents association.
Mishra says Shantiniketan was a workplace for those who were employed there and that all workplaces have rules. In his office, Mishra has to put his bag through the scanner. Even if he dislikes the rules as an individual, he still has to obey them. In much the same way, Mishra says, he has made some rules because of past experiences.
He moved here in July 2012. The builder, Prestige Group, ran the facility from when the first residents moved there until the owners’ association took over in January 2015. The association has a 25-member management committee of which there are several subcommittees. There are never enough volunteers among residents to be in the management committee, he says. Ultimately, the few like him who do step forward have to handle everything.
It is one of the biggest housing complexes in Bengaluru. There are about 10,000 people living in the apartments. A number of them are even run as commercial enterprises, functioning as guest houses and paying-guest accommodations. There is a large “floating population”. Security, ultimately, is a constant source of worry for Mishra.
Just conducting probes after an incident is not enough, Mishra adds. Instead, he wants to prevent incidents outright. “By bringing in small changes also, it can work as a deterrent. Sometimes, crime is prevented just by bringing in some processes in place.”
And so the process goes on.

The bane of medals in schools - 2

11 December 2016 at 23:08 ·
What does an award, or a school prize, or a rank confer ? The information that one had scored better than others. Or that oth``ers have done worse than oneself.
Is that a reason for celebration ? Could that explain the self centredness and selfishness in mainstream society.
My own schoolday desire for ranks and prizes, sometimes acheived and sometimes not acheived, certianly made me a smaller human being. It took a long long time to undo the subtle perversions, tendency to jealously, a sense of superiority with a matching sense of inferiority, that that process put in place.
As my friend, himself a teacher of long standing told me, both the winner and the loser lose in this game or ranks and prizes.
Samrat Roy Chowdhuri What you are promoting is mediocrity. There is competition everywhere, and no one tries winning for nothing. A prize is a motivation to achieve the goal, however small it may be.
Aparna Krishnan The village shepherd produces the most melodious songs he can. For the skies and the trees and his sheep.
Aparna Krishnan When I compliment Nagamani, class 4, in the school on her maths speed she pulls ahead Jagdish and says, "Madam, ask him the sum, he's so much faster." Children uncorrupted by need ing to be the 'best in class'.
Samrat Roy Chowdhuri My point is not related to any city or village. It's on prizes and awards.
Aparna Krishnan The desire for prizes creates mediocrity. And kills the essential joy of the activity, for the sake of the activity.
Mark Johnston Everyone has different strengths and abilities and school awards mostly serve to make the majority of children feel that they are inadequate by their too high status and too narrow focus. Why would a child try harder if the small elite whose parents pay for the best tuition will always beat them? That sort of pressure risks driving mediocrity rather than creating widespread ambition.
Teachers telling me (shouting and sarcasm) that I needed to try harder in sports because those who were longer legged and those without TB damaged lungs could sprint faster than me did not promote anything positive.
I work with adults who were failed by schools that did not make an effort to find out how they learn as individuals and therefore they struggle with literacy and numeracy as well as other difficulties. They are not in any respect lesser human beings than those with degrees and doctorates but have been made to feel failures and therefore have not achieved what they could have in their lives.
If school prizes were based on how well they supported their siblings, how frugally they lived or their capacity to love unconditionally most of them would have been top of the class.
Praise for personal achievements based on how much effort or commitment it took a child rather than how they compare to other children may well have some value. Singling out for praise only those whose privilege made success relatively easy for them serves purely to create an unjustified sense of superiority over others.
Aparna Krishnan Mark Johnston agree totally. Also any 'prize' creates am an uholy happiness that I did 'better', and that someone else did 'worse'. Subtly destroyes the heart and soul.
Mamatha Balasubramanian I believe stratification of society begins in school.

‘World’s Poorest President’

‘World’s Poorest President’ Explains Why We Should Kick Rich People Out Of Politics

August 19, 2015
People who like money too much ought to be kicked out of politics, Uruguayan President José Mujica told CNN en Español in an interview posted online Wednesday.
“We invented this thing called representative democracy, where we say the majority is who decides,” Mujica said in the interview. “So it seems to me that we [heads of state] should live like the majority and not like the minority.”
Dubbed the “World’s Poorest President” in a widely circulated BBC piece from 2012, Mujica reportedly donates 90 percent of his salary to charity. Mujica’s example offers a strong contrast to the United States, where in politics the median member of Congress is worth more than $1 million and corporations have many of the same rights as individuals when it comes to donating to political campaigns.
“The red carpet, people who play — those things,” Mujica said, mimicking a person playing a cornet. “All those things are feudal leftovers. And the staff that surrounds the president are like the old court.”
Mujica explained that he didn’t have anything against rich people, per se, but he doesn’t think they do a good job representing the interests of the majority of people who aren’t rich.
“I’m not against people who have money, who like money, who go crazy for money,” Mujica said. “But in politics we have to separate them. We have to run people who love money too much out of politics, they’re a danger in politics… People who love money should dedicate themselves to industry, to commerce, to multiply wealth. But politics is the struggle for the happiness of all.”
 Asked why rich people make bad representatives of poor people, Mujica said: “They tend to view the world through their perspective, which is the perspective of money. Even when operating with good intentions, the perspective they have of the world, of life, of their decisions, is informed by wealth. If we live in a world where the majority is supposed to govern, we have to try to root our perspective in that of the majority, not the minority.”
Mujica has become well known for rejecting the symbols of wealth. In an interview in May, he lashed out against neckties in comments on Spanish television that went viral.
“The tie is a useless rag that constrains your neck,” Mujica said during the interview. “I’m an enemy of consumerism. Because of this hyperconsumerism, we’re forgetting about fundamental things and wasting human strength on frivolities that have little to do with human happiness.”
He lives on a small farm on the outskirts of the capital of Montevideo with his wife, Uruguayan Sen. Lucia Topolansky and their three-legged dog Manuela. He says he rejects materialism because it would rob him of the time he uses to enjoy his passions, like tending to his flower farm and working outside.
“I don’t have the hands of a president,” Mujica told CNN. “They’re kind of mangled.”

Rajagopalachari. On God.

(via Sahana Singh)

My uncle was a budding engineer from the National Institute of Engineering (NIE), Mysore and waiting outside the room where Rajaji was meeting people. While he waited, he got into a debate with someone (whom I am not allowed to name - an eminent person) about the existence of a divine reality. "There is absolutely no proof that there is God," he declared. As he was arguing, he barely noticed that Rajaji had walked past him. 15 minutes later, when he and the other gentleman were called inside, Rajaji greeted them with a smile and after the initial introductions said: "Young man, I heard what you said in the corridor."
My uncle wished he could vanish into thin air.
"What branch of engineering are you studying?"
"Civil engineering, Sir."
"Have you studied Surveying?"
"Yes, Sir."
"Are you familiar with the principle of 'Whole to the Part' used in Surveying?"
"Yes, Sir."
"When you have to survey a piece of land, do you not proceed from the 'Whole to the Part'? First, you establish the control points covering the whole area with the highest possible degree of precision and only then from those control points you proceed to establish the minor points inside the area, don't you?"
"Yes, Sir."
"Suppose you first try to establish the minor points inside the area to be surveyed and then from there you try to establish the outer points, that is if you go from "Part To the Whole" what will happen?"
"There will be more errors, Sir. The errors are magnified if we go from "Part to the Whole""
"Exactly. So when it comes to trying to locate God from the level of knowledge you have now, you are trying to go from "Part to the Whole" which means you are making huge errors, don't you think so?"
My uncle had no answer. But he had a story for posterity.

Nehru, Ambedkar and Marx on villages

Policies for rural India came from these beginnings. These understandings

Nehru, "A village, normally speaking, is backward intellectually and culturally and no progress can be made from a backward environment. Narrow-minded people are much more likely to be untruthful and violent.... "
Nehru’s Reply to Gandhi, 9 October 1945:…/10/nehru-on-villages.h…

Ambedkar, "I hold that these village republics have been the ruination of India. I am therefore surprised that those who condemn provin- cialism and communalism should come forward as champions of the village. What is the village but a sink of localism, a den of ignorance, narrow-mindedness and communalism? I am glad that the Draft Constitution has discarded the village and adopted the individual as its unit."
BR Ambedkar on Second Reading of the Draft Constitution 1948…/ambedkar-on-villages_…

Marx,   "England has to fulfill a double mission in India: one destructive, the other regenrating - the anhillation of the old Asiatic society, and the laying of the material foundation of Western society in Asia."
(The Future Results of British Rule in india, New York Daily Tribune, Aug 8, 1953)

"That they transformed a self developing social state into never changing natural destiny, and brought about a brutalizing worship of nature, exhibiting its degradation in the fact that man, the soverign of nature, fell down on his knees in adoration of Kanuman, the monkey, and Sabbala, the cow"
(The British Rule of india, new York Daily Tribune, June 25, 1853)

Religion anchors this land - Vinoba

 ‘Moved by Love’ – Vinoba Bhave.

"It was about midnight and I heard the sound of singing from the temple nearby. Hymns went on and I was carried away. Here, I thought, are these villagers in this tiny village, miserabley poor, like walking skeletons, with practically nothing to cover their nakedness, and yet they can lose themselves in music such as this ! I was delighted.

Where had these people, in this village without a school, where no one could read or write, obtained this knowledge ? It must surely be because they sang with such devotion so many of the hymns of Tukaram and other saints, that they keep to this day their understanding and their intelligence. It is here that our strength lies."