Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Forgive but don't forget

From Murders most foul (Frontline)

Internationally, studies have shown that abuse of the human rights of terror suspects increases terrorism by alienating the government from members of the population who could provide it intelligence about terrorist groups; by causing conflicts with other political forces in the country thereby damaging the efficacy of the government’s counter-terrorism policy; and by reducing international willingness to cooperate with the government.

Observers have warned that state violation of human rights augments grievances of the constituency on whose behalf the terrorists claim to act and makes their appeals for support more effective. Such violation has been found to alienate people from the authorities to such an extent that they either actively support terrorist activities or turn a blind eye to them.

Fortunately, so far, the family of Ishrat has been brave enough to resist such tendencies and to maintain their belief in the legal system and fight the culture of impunity of the police with determination. As Vrinda Grover, counsel for Ishrat’s mother, says:

“It has been very difficult, but I think that the people, regardless of their religious denominations, see themselves as citizens. They see the courts as their forums for justice. They do not feel that they are not part of this country and I think there is a serious responsibility of the judiciary to deliver justice.”

From To Defuse A Train Of Gunpowder (Outlook)

The absence of justice is inordinately difficult to accept for countless victims, particularly women and children. Muslim leaders must handle these cases with utmost sensitivity to prevent any violent reaction. The Quran urges Muslims to fight against injustice. But if they fail to secure justice on earth, they should leave it to Allah. Muslims must grant unilateral forgiveness to those who carried out these horrors. That is the essence of Islam. That will please Allah, and He will compensate the victims, while inflicting His own severe punishment on the oppressors. Muslim pain and trauma will gradually become a memory as they turn their attention to quality education and business.

Forgiveness may also serve to awaken the conscience of Hindus, both in Gujarat and across the nation, to the enormous damage done to Hinduism by the tragedy of 2002.

Vedantic Hinduism is a vast ocean of spiritual grace and beauty. It is best exemplified by the life of the greatest Gujarati of all time: Mahatma Gandhi. In this frenzy of hatred toward Muslims, Narendra Modi and his parivar may have done great harm to their own faith and to the memory of Gandhi.

Forgiveness does not imply we forget. As Harsh Mander rightly quotes the philosopher Santayana, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. This is very relevant in the present context, with Narendra Modi poised to play an important national role in the future. Eternal vigilance is the only way to handle Modi.

Muslims have changed a lot since 2002. The fear is gone. There are over 650 Muslim schools today as against 250 seven years ago. There is a sharp rise in the number of Muslim engineers and doctors. There is a renaissance within the community. But we will never pardon the Sangh parivar for its perfidy.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Anatomy Lesson

In Philip Roth's The Anatomy Lesson (a 1983 novel, the third one from Roth to feature Nathan Zuckerman as the main character), writer Nathan Zuckerman, having badly injured himself, suffers from terrible neck pain and is reduced to having sex with a variety of women on his playmat. His mind wanders and he undergoes a mid-life crisis and decides to change his profession: he now wants to become a doctor at the age of 40!

He apparently was inspired by Thomas Mann to become a writer. Mann had come to his university and had lectured on writing: "Writing ... was the only worthwhile attainment, the surpassing experience, the exalted struggle, and there was no way to write other than like a fanatic."

"Without fanaticism, nothing great in fiction could ever be achieved," concluded Nathan. But soon, the daily struggle of filling up the next page bored him to death.

So, off he goes to Univ of Chicago to enroll himself in medical school. On the way, he pretends to be a porn magnate, a competitor to Hugh Hefner whom he despises, and wisecracks with an unsuspecting co-passenger. He does the same with the female chauffeur of the limo that he hires at the airport. Quite hilarious!

I loved this passage on marriage from an early part of the novel:

"Marriage had been his bulwark against the tremendous distraction of women. He'd married for the order, the intimacy, the dependable comradery, for the routine and regularity of monogamous living; he'd married so as never to waste himself on another affair, or go crazy with boredom at another party, or wind up alone in the living room at night after a day alone in his study. To sit alone each night doing the reading that he required to concentrate himself for the next day's solitary writing was too much even for Zuckerman's single-mindedness, and so into the voluptous austerity he had enticed a woman, one woman at a time, a quiet, thoughtful, serious, literate, self-sufficient woman who didn't require to be taken places, who was content instead to sit after dinner and read in silence across from him and his book."

Friday, September 04, 2009

Coming soon to your computer screen

If talks between Hollywood studios and YouTube don’t break down, film buffs would have less reason to make a trip to the pirated video sellers.

More on my MIS Asia blog

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The men who stare at goats

What gets your goat?

In my case, it's many things but goats. I keep reading about goats, specially when I read stories to my daughter before bedtime or otherwise. There is the Billy Goat Gruff story. There are goats in Heidi's story (I once borrowed the Heidi DVD from the library but had to return it--now my daughter cries for it whenever she remembers it).

When I was a kid in school, I had read a story: Abbu Khan Ki Bakri (Abu Khan's Goat). And there was another famous story of Lali, the goat that goes missing one day.

Even these days, I think and read about goats. There is a goat in one of my short stories, The Rats (you can read it here). And I recently spotted a goat in a story, Saleema, in Daniyal Mueenuddin's brilliant collection of short stories, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders. In that story, the goat is just a part of the backdrop, like a piece of furniture in the mise en scene. In a completely bare single room belonging to Saleema's mother, is a goat, tied to a stake, nibbling at a handful of grass.

Now, I hear about this George Clooney movie, The men who stare at goats, with a strange plotline, involving the US armed forces and techniques of psychic killing (by staring at a goat, a man can kill the poor creature). You can see it in the trailer itself:

But perhaps, Clooney & co. don't know that there is one more type of people who stare at goats: the microfinance people in Bangladesh, inspired by the Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. In the global financial crisis that has engulfed the world, these people (of Grameen Bank, Bangladesh) who are betting on herds of goats (and staring at them, to speak figuratively, for good returns) are seeing almost 100% returns. So, staring at goats does have its profit. Here is the story: It's better to give out 'loans for goats'.