'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Two Quotes

Yesterday TOI published an interview of N.R. Narayana Murthy. The title "Rein in Ego, Greed". Excerpts:

"Actually, India is a nation of entrepreneurs. You go to villages, small towns you have all these kirana shops, they are taking risks. However, when the Mughals and British came - the past 1000 years - the focus shifted to keeping us law-abiding and tax-paying citizens. When the government becomes stronger, automatically the chances of corrption and patronage become higher. In such a society, you wont see entrepreneurship, which is all about using personal initiative, dreams and optimism to create wealth and jobs...

(We are still ambivalent about strong Leaders) ... again due to foreign rule. Between 1000 and 2000 AD, we were free of foreign rule only for 53 years. When you are subjugated for 947 years, what do you have leaders for? We had leaders who curried favor with kings and rulers but by and large were not for the people. I used to ask my father - an honest, good man - "Why did you not fight the British?". He had no answer. How many of our ICS officers said "This is not fair, we cannot be ruled by foreigners" How many people spoke up? How can leaders develop in such an environment?...we had a wonderful generation of leaders post-Independence. "

Comment: Must say Murthy is propagating a hyper-simplistic view of our history, especially our medieval history - as if Indians as a whole were Free before 1000AD when they were abruptly enslaved. Indeed, that year only marks the establishment of a Muslim sultanate over the far North-west and Ghazni's attacks on Somnath and NOT Muslim dominance being switched on over the whole country. It took over half a millennium since Ghazni for the so-called 'Muslim power' to work its way down and across the rest of India. And crucially, at no point during this so-called Muslim period, was Indian Islam a centralized, overpowering monolith (Aurangzeb tried to forge something of that sort and failed spectacularly) - for instance, during Akbar's time, there were several Sultanates all over, coexisting with several Hindu kingdoms not too different in essence from themselves. And the 'foreignness' (cultural or ideological) of most of these Sultanates was ... well, very dubious.

Further, during the period immediately preceding 1947, fighting the British was not the sole hallmark of a genuine leader - Ambedkar, for instance, was not much of a 'freedom fighter', but certainly he was an outstanding leader - one who cared and achieved much. As for our wonderful post-independence leaders (one cannot include Patel and Ambedkar (and even Nehru) among them since they lived only the last few years of their lives in free India), I doubt if they will stand serious comparison to those who developed a couple of generations earlier.

Ironically, Murthy's analysis is a rehash of the picture of Indian History worked out by the British Colonial Masters - a history neatly divided into fundamentally different Hindu, Muslim and British periods. Detail: the latter two have been merged into 'foreign' in the new model.

Aside 1: Napoleon is said to have referred to England as "a nation of shopkeepers". It is rather unlikely that he was paying tribute to English entrepreneurship.

Aside 2: The mix: Nationalism + an extra-strong emphasis on 'strong leaders' has a real potential to brew into Fascism proper.


On another note, here is another quote:

"I love this city,.. it gives me so much. ... the sheer joy of just going out on to the streets and the malls and meeting and talking to people; all those little conversations... they fill my loneliness.... And, it is great fun to thrust sharp metal hooks down the throats of some of those I meet and to hang them up nicely..."

Well, did that sound rabidly homicidal - or worse? But then, it is but a parody of this original:

"It is this river that made me a lover of Nature, a writer... you know, as a child I used to sit here everyday for hours on end, fishing. The only company were the fishes, and I would just talk and talk to them - the 'pallattis', 'kooris',..."

(Arundhati Roy in a Malayalam weekly, reminiscing about her childhood spent on the banks of the Meenachil river).

And here is British academician Simon Schama on an encounter with a herd of British Bison: “Oh, the bison, they were such happy animals. God, were they happy animals! They are in a little social community, like bison always used to be... and their meat, it’s staggeringly wonderful. I cooked it on a cast-iron grill last night. It’s like beef with a tang, the best beef you ever had, like superbeef, with a delicate richness to it..."


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