Give them memories

Give them memories

Who is your Role Model? Think of someone you know or knew personally, not a public figure. For how many of you is that a parent or a teacher? If I asked your children the same question, what do you think they would say? Who would they be thinking of you? How do you know? What about you inspires your child? How do you know?

 My own association with schooling goes back to 1958 when I was enrolled into St. George’s Nursery & Primary School as an inmate. From there in 1961, I was shifted to Hyderabad Public School from where I graduated in 1970. Several decades later, I was correspondent of the Arunachalam Higher Secondary School, Thiruvattar, near Marthandam in Kanya Kumari District for three years, as part of my main responsibility of being the Manager of New Ambadi Estates, Kulashakharam. This school had 1200 students and 75 teachers and so was a fairly substantial assignment. We took it from being the worst school in the State of Tamilnadu to being one of the best. That is a long story which along with other stories of my life is in my book, ‘It’s my Life’, which is available for all of Rs. 230.00 from Amazon.in. That is the value of 60 years of living; Rs. 230.

I used the term ‘inmate’ for a reason. It is because most, if not all, our schools are run like prisons. The school is owned by an entity, maybe the state or private; most American prisons today are privately owned and run for profit. Prisons have a set of professionals who run them, called Jailors. In the case of schools, they are called Teachers. Children are admitted into the school just as prisoners are admitted into prison. And their entire existence in the system is characterized by one overwhelming reality; lack of autonomy. Just like the existence of prisoners in a jail. They enter at a designated time and must serve their term and can’t leave until that time is over. The gate shuts behind them and they can’t open it. What they do is totally regulated and this is informed to them by bells or buzzers. We believe that young adults including their teachers can’t be trusted to keep to time limits but must be rudely awakened by ringing bells. Students can’t eat, sleep, play, talk or even go to the toilet without asking permission. I can go on, but I won’t because we were all fellow prisoners in the system, while some of us have been elevated to jailor status.

Another enigma and mystery – the Parent Teachers Association. Ask yourself one question: Who is the school, any school, for? Then ask why it is that those who the school is supposed to be for, have absolutely no say in any meaningful decision that affects them? Yet we believe that we will be able to form discerning, responsible, ethical citizens by ensuring that they never take a single decision in the entire time that they spend at school. We fill their heads with random information and grade them as passed or failed on their ability at random recall within a specific time frame. We don’t test knowledge or understanding, much less application. We simply test memory.

Ask yourself how you define ‘Good student’? Regurgitation of undigested food is called vomit. Regurgitation of undigested information is called passing exams. If you don’t believe me, tell me when was the last time you gave a prize for dissent? What happens to a student who tells you the truth; i.e. that what he is being taught makes no sense? What happens to a student who understands what you taught but not why you taught it or why she should learn it or where to apply it, because none of that is taught? And finally, if the child fails in the exam or more importantly, fails to learn, whose failure is it really? But who gets punished? Whose career can be in jeopardy? And who takes home her full salary without any problem? Schooling is the only system in society where product quality and customer satisfaction have no relevance. To use Mikel Harry’s definition for quality, he said, ‘If you want to see what people value, see what they measure.’ Ask yourself if you measure the quality of your parenting and teaching and if so what is the price you pay when you don’t come up to the standard. That is why you need to define the standard first.

Finally, the last nail in the coffin, the issue of life skills. In our current system, it simply doesn’t even exist. As an experiment, which I do not suggest you do, ask one of our near and dear ones who graduates from Grade 12, to leave home and take care of herself or himself for one month without going to anyone they know. I don’t think I need to describe for you, what will happen. That this happens at the end of 15 years of full time ‘education’ which you paid for and from which everyone involved benefited materially, is to put it politely, tragic. Ask yourself what you would call someone who studied something full time for 15 years? Ask yourself what you call your graduating 12th grader. Then ask yourself why?

This is not a litany of grief nor a doomsday scenario. It is a snapshot of what exists today. I can assure you that it is changeable, curable and that too without too much pain, provided only one thing; that you should want to do it. I am happy to show the way, but like the doctor, I can’t eat the medicine on your behalf.

My first set of questions to you, parents and teachers, is, ‘What does education mean to you? Why do you teach? What do you teach? How do you teach?’ These are three fundamental questions that you need to answer in a way that is convincing and inspiring. Don’t get bogged down by matters of syllabus and curriculum. These are fundamental questions that relate to your whole belief about raising children.

My second set of questions therefore is, ‘What kind of person are you trying to create in your child?’ Do you have a clear definition? Who is your role model for that? Does that inspire you? Does it make you lose sleep in the night? Do you measure yourself against a standard with respect to that definition? Do you stand before Allahﷻ and ask for His help in enabling you to achieve that goal?

It is a design issue first. Then we come to the tools and environment. You can’t build a plane in a train factory. So also, you can’t create leaders in a system designed to produce obedient slaves.

And most important of all, ‘Does your child share this dream with you?’ Because the reality is that unless he or she does, nothing will happen.

I remind you of what I said earlier: Children listen with their eyes. They don’t care what you say, until they see what you do.

 My dear friend Advocate Shafeeq Mahajir sent me this story which illustrates what I mean very well.

“I was waiting at a traffic light to cross the road with Haruki, a Japanese friend. It was a lazy Sunday afternoon in a small town on the outskirts of Tokyo and there was not a vehicle or soul in sight. So, I turned to Haruki and said, “Hey, I know it’s a red man but should we just cross?”

Haruki looked at me and shook his head. “No, we wait for the green man.”

I was a bit perplexed – it did not seem to me that it would make any difference whether we waited or not. “There aren’t any cars. Why do we need to wait?”

Haruki smiled, then asked me a question in return: “What if a child is watching?”

That is why in Africa they say, “It takes the whole village to bring up a child.”

Today we are facing a crisis. A crisis of youth. We have the youngest population in the world. We have 526 million people under the age of 25. Out of that we have 272 million between the ages of 10 & 19. That means that for the next 30 to 40 years we will have the youngest population of any nation. This makes us ideally suited to become the workforce for the world. But that is conditional upon two things: a high-quality skill training system and high-quality infrastructure. On the first, statistics of 2016 tell us that we are producing engineers of which 3.7% are employable. That means 96.3% are not. So, even if jobs are created, who will do the work? And remember that this 96.3% failures are of those who made it to engineering college. What about the millions who don’t get beyond school education itself? They still exist, they still need food, shelter, housing, medical care, employment and happiness. What will happen when all they come up against stone walls at all these thresholds?

I was driving in rural Madhya Pradesh, barely an hour out of the capital, Bhopal when I noticed in every single village we passed through, young boys (no girls) wearing trousers (some in jeans) and shirts, standing idly on street corners. Believe me this is the situation in almost every state in North India. South India is marginally better.

When I saw this for the Nth time, I asked my driver, ‘Why are they standing here? Why are they not in school or college or at work?’

He said to me, ‘Sir school khatam ho gaya, college ja nahin saktay, kaam nahin hai.’

I asked him, ‘Kheti kyon nahin kartay?’

He said, ‘Sir, school jo gaye hain. Ab kheti nahin kar saktay. Kheti karna bey izzati samajhtay hain. In kay baap khet mein kaam kartay hain. Betay pant shirt pahen kay nukkad par jama hotay hain aur time paas kartay hain.’

Me, ‘Khatay kya hain?’

He, ‘Jo in kay bapu kamatay hain. Ya phir kaheen majdoori kar laytay hain. Par ummeed bahut oopar ki hai. Wo tho nahin mil sakti. Tho dil udaas hain.’

These are the raw material for the drug trade, for crime. They are the cannon fodder for those who want to gain political power by invoking all kinds of divisiveness and violence. They have no job, no education, no nothing but they have a vote. How do we reach them? How do we help them? We are sitting on a timebomb which is ticking. As I said, I have a solution, so please bear with me.

Infrastructure development means becoming energy sufficient, making world class ports and transportation systems. Without these four things; clean, reliable energy, good transportation, ports and a highly employable workforce, no major investor will invest in this country. I won’t go into a probability analysis of all this, but I think the writing on the wall is clear for anyone who can read. The only way out is high-quality schools which can produce ethical, moral citizens, who are trained as entrepreneurs. Governments can’t help us. We must help ourselves or get prepared to perish.

My solution is implementable by every school and the results will be visible within a few years. It has three interlinked parts:

  1. Vocational/Skill education in all secondary and high schools. Every child must learn a skill and must be able to work with his/her hands.
  2. Entrepreneurial training
  3. Venture Capital Fund to incubate young entrepreneurs

The best solution to combat crime is to give people something to lose. In addition, tough zero tolerance for crime, which means that criminals must pay, not crime.

On top of that we have a society where corruption is not just acceptable but aspirational, people have an entitlement mentality, compassion has vanished, oppression is the law of the land and crime pays instead of criminals. So, teach values before you teach anything else. And remember that values can’t be legislated. Values must be inculcated. You must practice what you preach, or it will fail, and you will lose respect to boot. Your job as parents and teachers is to give them memories. It is those memories that will come to their aid in times of emotional and moral dilemmas. It is those memories which will become their touchstone, their criteria for making their own decisions in their lives. Give them memories thoughtfully because you are giving them memories anyway. Make sure that you give them memories that they will honor you for and remember you by and pray for you and seek forgiveness for you from Allahﷻ when you have long gone into your grave. Let me share with you some memories that my parents and teachers gave me.

During the years that I was in school, Hyderabad Public School, the principal was Mr. K. Kuruvilla Jacob. Mr. Jacob was a legend in his own lifetime. A man who taught me about leadership before I knew the word. Let me tell you one story about his leadership style as I experienced it.

It was 1968 and I was in Grade 8. I was sitting in class waiting for the morning recess bell to go off. My seat was by the window looking out over the courtyard across which were the toilets. To my amazement, I saw Mr. Jacob walking into the toilets with a bucket with cleaning brushes in it. A word about how Mr. Jacob looked and dressed is necessary to appreciate the reason for my surprise. Mr. Jacob was a tall and dark man who always wore white on white. He wore a white bush coat – patch pockets, half sleeves on white trousers and shining black shoes. His clothes were always sparkling white, starched and ironed to a knife-edge. You could cut yourself on the crease of his trousers and look at your face in his shoes. Here was this man in those clothes walking into our toilets with a bucket and toilet cleaners.

I dug my seat mate in his ribs and gestured but before his eyes popped out of his head, the bell rang and we all trooped out silently and stood before the toilets. What did we see? Our toilets, like I suppose the toilets in most boys’ schools, had their walls festooned with rather smelly poetry and prose, to put it politely. What we saw was Mr. Jacob, cleaning the walls of the toilets. He worked silently, ignoring us, spraying the cleaner on the walls and then brushing them clean and washing them down with water which he had carried in the bucket. When he finished a few minutes later, he picked up his bucket, finally looked up at us, smiled, and walked away. He didn’t say a word. Not one word. He just smiled at us and walked away, back to his office. We simply stood in silence and watched him disappear. I was in school for four years after that incident and can vouch for the fact that nobody ever wrote anything on the toilet wall again. Interestingly, the phenomenon of writing on the walls of the toilets was universal – all toilets had this graffiti. Mr. Jacob washed only one toilet. But suddenly all toilets were clean, and no graffiti was ever written on them again. And remember, as I said, not one word spoken. I realize today that what he did was as much theatre as it was cleaning, maybe even more theatre than cleaning, but the impact was powerful and permanent. Leading by example always is. Such were my teachers.

Let me tell you about my memories about my parents.

My father Dr. Mirza Anwar Baig was a medical doctor who worked for the Government of Andhra Pradesh, Mysore and lastly with Hyderabad Allwyn Metal Works in the 50’s and 60’s. I have many memories about him but one of the most powerful is of him in his private practice as a doctor. He started it very reluctantly, mostly at my insistence. But strangely he never broke even. I was perplexed because he was one of the best doctors that I have ever known. His clinical diagnosis was like magic. He saw signs in people that today it takes multiple scans to unearth. His patient manners were superb, and people loved him. He had a long line of patients waiting daily and didn’t finish his clinic until 1030 pm. Yet his practice made a loss. I decided to go and see for myself, what he was doing. What did I see? I saw him checking an old lady and then prescribing medicines for her. She said to him, ‘How much will these cost Doctor Saab?’ He said, ‘Ten rupees.’ She said, ‘I am a poor woman Doctor Saab. I don’t have ten rupees. Please prescribe something cheaper.’ My father put his hand in his pocket, took out ten rupees and gave it to her and said, ‘Go and buy the medicines.’ Obviously, there was no question of taking a fee from someone you just gave money, to buy medicines. This seemed to be more the rule than the exception and so a very busy medical practice made losses.

When we got home, I pointed this out to him and told him that if he is not going to take a fee, I could understand. But if in addition he was going to give people money for medicines, how could his practice make a profit? He said to me, ‘What is the good of prescribing medicines, when I know they can’t buy them?’ In a last-ditch stand, I asked him, ‘How do you know they are all in need? Maybe they don’t deserve your charity.’ He replied, ‘I don’t deserve what Allahﷻ has given me. So, I am not going to see who deserves and who doesn’t. If anyone asks me for help, I will help if I can. Let Allahﷻ judge who deserves and who doesn’t.’

In conclusion, I would like to state categorically, that the situation is far from hopeless. But for us to change our destiny we will have to redefine the meaning of ‘citizenship’ and start acting like citizens of an independent nation, instead of subjects of a foreign government. Our problem is that we have not got out of the colonial mindset. That is why we call our elected representatives, ‘rulers’. And we consider ourselves passive, helpless beings to whom things are done. Our only recourse is to train our children to become active participants in society and create a culture where dissent is not just accepted but encouraged, people have fora to voice their opinions and actively participate in societal development. Schools must play a critical role in enabling this by becoming laboratories of citizenship where children learn to own responsibility and take decisions for the general good. Care of the commons must be a major factor of concern and a change of mindset from entitlement to contribution, the criterion on which we must judge our success. There are many examples from the world of societies which operate on the values of honesty, mutual respect and harmony and a focus on contribution and not entitlement and consumption. The trick is to inculcate these values in our society.

On that depends our future. Not only our development but our very existence.

Babari Masjid dispute – or is it?

Babari Masjid dispute – or is it?

In the drama called India we are about to open a new scene. Actually, a new episode of an old story – the so-called Babari Masjid dispute. The attempt by the spin doctors is to make it sound like the usual, ‘We Hindus are being reasonable, peaceful, non-violent and accommodative as usual. You Muslims really must get your act together and stop being a hindrance to development, fulfillment of Hindu aspirations and general goodness all around. You need to accept that you guys in 2017 are responsible for what your ancestors did in 1600.’

‘But they were not our ancestors.’

‘Ah! Who cares? A mere matter of detail, which spoils the story line.’

‘But how can I be responsible for something that allegedly happened (no evidence that it did – temple destruction and masjid construction on top of it) 400 years ago, when by the Law of the Land, I am not even held responsible for a crime committed by my biological, genetically verified father?’

‘There you go again. Facts, evidence, proof. We are talking mythology, belief, faith. Agh! Can never have a rational conversation with a Muslim. In any case this is one of the several things wrong with the Law of our Land. Anyway, why don’t you be reasonable and see it our way. We want the land. We helped you by removing the mosque. All that remains is for you to be reasonable and let go. What’s so difficult about that?’

Indeed, what is so difficult? Being Muslim and addicted to facts, let me state what I know about the so-called Babari Masjid dispute. I am not going to write about its history. Those who want to know can ask Google. Here are some links which make interesting reading:

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/1990-L.K.+Advanis+rath+yatra:+Chariot+of+fire/1/76389.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ram_Rath_Yatra

Our story begins in September and ends in October, 1990. The famous Rath Yatra of L. K. Advani, which was intended to make him the Prime Minister of India, but which gave us someone much more powerful, N. D. Modi. Not quite what Mr. Advani would have wished, but it is all about the plans of men and mice etc. Advaniji’s Rath with a Toyota soul, made a Yatra culminating at Ayodhya at the Babari Masjid accompanied by the freed souls of uncounted innocents. It was also accompanied by souls still chained to their mortal existence in bodies of Kar Sevaks, infused with boiling emotion, boundless enthusiasm, enormous energy and murder in the heart. A very powerful combination that is guaranteed to propel any politician to the top. You may object to the fact that it did the job but on the wrong person. Advaniji will no doubt agree with you. But I say to you that reality is what counts, not what you intended to do. Masjid came down, BJP went up and the rest is history.

Then stepped in the spin doctors who have been doing their best to cast a fog over the facts and put Indian Muslims again in a spot, not of their own making. But those who define the language, own the debate. In the language of the spin doctors of the BJP, Muslims are always cast as the villain and, so it shall remain until Muslims decide to break out of the cycle and write their own definitions. Let me therefore define what the problem is:

  1. It is not a dispute between Hindus and Muslims.
  1. It is a case where a protected property belonging to Muslims which the State was responsible to protect was destroyed and the State failed in its duty to protect it.
  1. The Supreme Court is now supposed to examine what happened and pass judgement based on the Law of the Land.
  1. Public opinion has no place in the equation and can’t affect the ruling of the Supreme Court, one way or another because Court rulings are according to the Law of the Land and not according to whatever may be popular or acceptable to the public.
  1. There’s no question of mediation by anyone (SS Ravi Shankar is trying to get into the act) as there’s no dispute to mediate. But that is why they say, ‘You can never keep a godman down.’ ‘Not godman but good man’, you remind me. I say to you, ‘All godmen are good men in our modern mythology.’ Same difference.
  1. The Court is expected to interpret the Law and the Executive is expected to implement and if necessary, enforce it.
  1. QED, as we were taught to say in school and were told that it meant, Quite Easily Done. I am not sure if that is the right meaning, but in this case, it may not prove to be quite so easy.

I am all in favor of standing by a decision of the Supreme Court which is made on the basis of the Law of the Land. After all, that is what Rule of Law is supposed to mean, right? That is what differentiates civilization from barbarism.

We should know. After all we have been civilized for the past 5000 years. Or so we claim.

 

Two mysteries – Teaching and Parenting

Two mysteries – Teaching and Parenting

Our present methods of teaching which are inflicted on by far the vast majority of children the world over are the single biggest cause for killing the imagination that every child is born with and making them into square blocks which fit our own frightened, constrained and slavish worldview. Those who comply we ‘pass’ and those who challenge it and refuse to succumb, we ‘fail’. The occasional among those we ‘fail’, go on to great fortune. The majority disappear, never to be heard from again. Destroyed by the education system they didn’t deserve or ask for.

If I were asked to define the biggest challenge of the teacher, I would say, ‘It is to teach children how to deal with a world that we know nothing about.’ In such a world, imagination is the key resource that they will need. Without imagination they would be floundering trying to find answers in history or ‘facts’ that they had been taught. But they would never find those answers because they simply aren’t there. Yet the thing that most schools do with amazing efficiency is to kill the child’s imagination as quickly as possible. And sadly, they are very successful in doing so.

Teaching is not about answering questions but about raising questions – opening doors for them in places that they could not imagine. Teaching is about teaching them the tools of learning which will enable them to pursue learning all their lives. Not answer questions – end all discussion and pass exams. That is the reason why most children never open a science book once they finish with school. That is the reason why there is a serious global shortage of scientists. Even when we teach what we know – the answers – we need to teach them how we arrived at those answers and then ask them, ‘If you faced this issue, what questions would you ask to find an answer.’ We need to focus far more on derivation, problem solving methodology and analytical skills than on actually arriving at some formula or solution.

The biggest problem with teachers is that they teach. That is the root cause of all ignorance. Teachers must stop ‘teaching’ and instead, start discovering, learning, enjoying. Start appreciating that the child is the best thing that happened to you and every single day try to become the best thing that happens to him or her. Teachers must be like ushers in a vast museum, walking quietly with their students tiptoeing behind them, opening one door after another – letting them take a peek – and then handing them the key to the door so that they can come back in their own time and explore in detail. The teacher then takes them to another door for another peek and another key. See?? Imagine how exciting that is for the child!  The teacher’s job is to give them the keys. Teaching is about keeping the excitement of learning alive all lifelong.

In all the years that I have spoken to parents all over the world, I have often asked them one question: ‘Please think of your most powerful role model. For how many of you is it a parent?’ I have never had more than five percent of the population put up their hands. That means that for ninety-five percent of people, their parents – the two people who invested the most in their upbringing – are not their role models; a real tragedy, though a self-inflicted one. I believe that parenting is a serious job, one which must be undertaken consciously; clearly understanding what it entails. Children have a right to have good parents who can be role models for them and who can not only teach them the tools to succeed in this life, but also to take from the treasures of Allah and succeed in the life to come.
Please remember that whether you like it or not, you are a role model for your children. Your choice is to decide what kind of role model you want to be – one that they can look up to or one that they must to look down on. Children listen with their eyes. They don’t care what you say until they see what you do. Anyone who has children has no such thing as a private life. Whatever you do is under the spotlight, will be noticed, learnt, and emulated. If there is any gap between the talk and the walk your credibility with your children will fall through it. Allah sent you to guide your children and the enormity of this responsibility is the reason for the honorable status that Islam gives to parents. Parents who behave dishonorably before their children are the worst of humanity – abysmal, abominable, and disgusting.
Islam recognizes the nuclear family as the basic building block of society and so Allahmentioned parents over a dozen times in the Qur’an and honored them and enjoined upon children that they must respect, obey and treat them with kindness when they are old.  However, all this is based on the responsibility that He sent parents with. The honor is a result of fulfilling that responsibility. A big misconception that Muslim parents have is that their responsibility is like that of any other parent; feed them, clothe them, shelter them, send them to a good (usually meaning expensive) school and safeguard their future by investing for them if they have the funds to do so – and that’s it. Well, it isn’t.

Parenting requires the parents to develop themselves to a level where they become the inspiration in the lives of their children. It requires us to face the fact that ignorant parents can only produce ignorant children. Parents who have no books in the house will not have children addicted to reading. Parents whose conversation centers around the lives of other people can’t have children who speak about great ideas and dream of changing the world. Parents whose major life decisions are which dress to wear or which handbag to carry, can’t guide children who are struggling with existential questions relating to their purpose in life. Parents need to wake up and face the fact that their problems related to raising children are really a reflection of how little they have invested in themselves. Paupers can hardly be expected to help others. The time to change is now and it is never too late.
Wah! Taj

Wah! Taj

Chacha, did you hear what I said?

What did you say Sangeet Som beta?

I said that Shah Jahan was a traitor and an enemy of Hindus who wanted to wipe them out and that the Taj Mahal is a blot on Indian culture.

Shabaash! Kya baat hai! Teri tho jai ho! But tell me, how can a king be a traitor? After all he owns the country. So, who is he traitoring against?

Aray Chacha, baal ki khaal mat nikalo. Sala Musalman tha na! Tho traitor hi hua.

Tera Sala Musalman hai?

Mera nahin chacha, Sala Shah Jahan! Woh tho Musalman tha na! Sab Musalman traitor tho hotay hain!

Achcha yeh bol Sangeet, how could he have been an enemy of Hindus when his mother was Hindu, his Nana was Hindu, his Nani was Hindu and his Dadi was Hindu? He probably had more Hindu blood in him than Muslim blood. Maybe there was a Dharam Yudh happening in his veins daily between the Hindu corpuscles and Muslim corpuscles.

Sach Chacha? Who was his mother?

His mother was Jagat Gosaini, the daughter of Udai Singh of Marwar. His Dadi was Jodha Bai, (also known as Harkhan Champavati), daughter of Raja  Bihari Mal of Amber (Jaipur) and the wife of Akbar. So that means Shah Jahan’s mother, both grandmothers (Nani aur Dadi) and maternal grandfather (Nana) were all Hindus.

Aray! Bas karo Chacha. What does it matter all this history? They were all bastards. Looks like you are also becoming antinational. Better watch out! Warna andar ho jaogay!

Achcha Sangeet, yeh tho bata, ab is Taj Mahal ka kya kiya jaye? It brings in a lot of revenue and is a global icon, one of the wonders of the world.

Chacha, I have a great plan. As for revenue, let us ask Jay bhai to deal with it. He has shown what a great businessman he is. He will make sure that the revenue comes. Kahin say bhi aanay do. Paisa tho paisa hai. Aajayega don’t worry Chacha.

And the Taj Mahal itself?

Yeh bolo Chacha! Yeh hamara BJP ka sitara kahan say utha?

Sangeet beta, wo tho bahut asaaan hai – Babari Masjid say. Advaniji ka Bhagwan bhala karay, unhon nay Babar ki santaan ka nishaan mitaya, aur BJP ka sitara utha. Par unka sitara tho doob gaya na!!

Aray Chacha you get sidetracked. Unka sitara rehnay do. Modiji ka aur BJP ka sitara tho waheen say utha. Ab dekho Chacha, Modiji nay achchay din ka wada tho kiya hai. Zara der ho rahi hai magar zaroor aayengay. Par beech mein 2019 ka election hai. Tho main Modiji ko yeh salah denay wala hoon, ki aglay saal, Taj Mahal ka bhi wahi karo jo Babari Masjid ki kiya. Yeh bhi to Babar ki Santaan ka nishan hai. It is a blot on our culture. Demolish it and ride the wave into Parliament. Phir aglay paanch saal ki chutti. Bolo kaisi rai hai?

Sangeet beta, tu to bahut chatur nikla. Kya baat hai. Taj khoda aur kaun nikla? Par yeh bata, ek badi samasya hai. Yeh Wah! Taj kay ad ka kya karen? Taj hi nahin rahayga tho phir ad kaisa?

Aray Chacha, lagta hai tum budhapay mein satya gaye ho! Bolo chai mein kya daaltay ho?

Doodh.

Doodh kaun deti hai?

Teri Gau mata.

Tho Wah! Taj kay bajaye, Wah! Mata bolayga. Baat bhi sahi aur culture bhi sahi. Samjha kuch!! Aisay hi MLA nahin bana hoon!!

Wah! Sangeet beta! Teri jai ho!!
Where are we headed?

Where are we headed?

You may have seen the famous documentary, Four Horsemen.
In this film is this quote:
When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of people living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.      ~ Frederic Bastiat
I ask myself why it is that we have written history to eulogize and applaud every rapacious bandit? Why is Alexander of Macedonia called, “The Great”? And a host of other bandits from every part of the world, whose only contribution was mass destruction, enslavement of innocent people and looting the resources of their countries. The British, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch and German Empires did their best to outdo each other in this race. Now the Americans are trying to beat the rest. I can’t be bothered to name all the others who I have missed not because of forgetfulness but out of contempt for this whole line of thinking and living.
As long as we continue to glorify war and plunder, we will continue to be plundered. 


That is the paradigm and conversation that we must change.
I am not for getting too stuck in our own theories and start treating them like fundamental laws. They are not. They are theories; our attempts to make sense of our world. All power to those who postulate them and reflect on them. But they are theories. The world, the earth, is not something we understand completely – to put it mildly – for I believe we don’t understand it at all. Comparing the human race to rats or bacteria in a petri dish, only goes so far. These are not absolute conclusions to be applied to ourselves.
In any case, even if they are, we have two choices: Lie down and die, or work like hell to change the conclusions. I opt for the latter. I would rather go out on my feet fighting for a better world.
That is why I say to myself, ‘I will not allow what is not in my control to prevent me from doing what is in my control.’
Controlling world population is not in my control. But to reduce my own carbon footprint, to share my resources, to help others and many other things are very much in my control. So, I try to do all those.
As for the articles on population control, I have read similar ones for at least over 30 years that predicted the end of the earth at lower population levels (less than 8 billion). But we are still there. Also, all these are eventually talking about reducing the population in some remote land where the people are very different from myself. It is the concept of the ‘Other’, that makes it easy to conceptualize what are essentially culls of the ‘Other’. Easy to do because they are not like, ‘Us”. Shades of smallpox infected blankets to Native Americans?
We enable ourselves into this highly homicidal way of thinking because we think within the artificial and false boundaries of our nation states; lines on maps of our own making. We forget that the earth is not like this. Africa is not different from America or Asia because we decide to draw a line or because there is a ditch which we call the Atlantic between it and America. The earth is connected. It is ONE. Whether we like to accept that or not. What happens to one will happen to all of us, whether we like it or not. Ref: Butterfly effect.
The only way therefore that we can ‘save ourselves’, is by saving others. Not by culling them. Call it what you want but that is the conclusion that all these theories of ‘population control’ are leading to. It is this thinking – I don’t need to change, but the population needs to be reduced – that produces our Eternal War philosophy. Military Industrial States need war to survive and grow. They need to build weapons, places to use them with impunity and guess what, the reward is two separate lines of revenue; weapons sales and picking up the pieces later in the form of mines, oil, loot, slaves and land.

Who does all that go to? The 1%. Those same 62. At whose cost? All the poor dumb bastards who thought they were fighting for honour, to save their glorious lands from the marauding hordes of barbarians who don’t know the taste of a Big Mac or Pepsi. Okay, Coke. Same difference. It takes two to tango. In this case, the spin doctors who write the script to suit the 1% and the dumb, unwashed multitude who believes this complete crap and are willing to lay down their lives so that the 62 are not deprived of a single fish egg of their caviar. As long as there are those who are willing to be exploited, the exploiters will have a field day. That is why I say that it is high time we – the 99% – wake up. At least die with your eyes wide open. 
I am of the belief that we need to change our lifestyles, which will stem from changing our values and rejecting the capitalistic, global domination model that we have been raised to believe. We must reject, greed and demonstrate that by ending our endless collection of garbage in the name of shopping, our addiction to self-aggrandisement and appeasing desires, our enslavement to accumulation of personal wealth at all cost and our world view which places us at the centre with everyone and everything else subordinate and subservient to ourselves. All of this is eminently possible with the right education starting in primary schools.
After all, if someone had told us to create a system where 62 people would have more wealth than the bottom 50% of global population, we would have laughed them out of the room. But that is exactly what we have accomplished and that too so subtly and quietly that I bet not one of us even realised it was happening. But believe me, we did it. We legitimized lying with full eye contact (recall George Bush and Colin Powell and Iraq’s unfindable Weapons of Mass Destruction), legitimized treating others like flies or mosquitoes, to be exterminated (recall Madelaine Albright’s comment on ABC: that the deaths of half a million Iraqi children was ‘worth it’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omnskeu-puE) and legitimized hypocrisy at levels perhaps never before seen. Come on people, wake up! Everything has an effect.
I say that because if we did this, we can undo it. We must undo it. It can’t last. It is a criminal, grossly unjust and utterly criminal way of life.
And finally, as I said earlier, we don’t even begin to understand the earth. The earth will correct itself. It will get rid of the cancer that is polluting it. It has seen many cycles of catastrophic (for its inhabitants, not for the earth itself) changes that completely altered the composition of those who live on it. And it can and will do it again.
So, let us get ready to change. Or get ready to be changed.

Why did Hyderabad die?

Why did Hyderabad die?

The Hyderabad Public School where I studied. A symbol of the Nizam of Hyderabad

This is not a history but an attempt to understand what probably happened in those last years that led to the demise of Hyderabad as an independent country and its annexation by the newly independent India. It is speculation; perhaps informed speculation; I hope, intelligent speculation, but speculation nevertheless.

I am not speaking chronologically or relating incidents but attempting to understand why the Nizam of Hyderabad took the decisions he did, which led to the calamity called Police Action (Operation Polo of the Indian Army). Calamity not because it was the end of the Asif Jahi Dynasty because all dynasties end. But calamity because, as is reported, thousands of innocent people died as a result of Police Action. They died in what we would today call, Collateral Damage; killed not by the Indian Army but by their opportunistic neighbors who used the period of transition to grab their land, by making them vanish. Entire families were murdered, entire villages were depopulated in a massive ethnic cleansing before the term was invented. I know that the figures range from 15,000 to ten times that and more. The reality is that exact figures are impossible to get. And the death of even one innocent person is highly deplorable and tragic, so numbers mean nothing. Whether it was 15,000 or 150,000 is immaterial when the truth is that not a single one deserved to die.

I am saying this because I don’t want you to get mired in discussing incidents, numbers of dead, who killed whom but try to look at why all this happened and what if anything can be learnt from this to be applied today. What is clear is that we are a nation which seems to be cursed with internecine conflict, brother killing brother, with or without pretext. I am saying to you that it is time this stopped. Stopped totally and completely. It is not difficult to find examples of how such things were stopped. Until 100 years ago, there was blood in the streets in Europe. Both World War I and II were essentially European wars, with Europeans killing each other. Yet out of that emerged a universal, silent, shared and solid pact, that European blood will not be shed by Europeans ever again. One wishes that this could have been extended to non-Europeans also but be that as it may, the fact remains that today in Europe, even the thought of a mob lynching an individual or attacking a neighborhood in which a certain religious or ethnic group lives, is simply unthinkable. It is high time we in India changed our direction 180 degrees and walked the same path before we reach a point of no return on our present path. We like to talk about India’s potential. 

The reality is that if we want that potential to be translated into actual development and economic growth, we must deal with social strife and lay it to rest. If we use religious and ethnic difference to constantly fan the flames of communalism and xenophobia and have our nation embark on periodic bloodletting sprees, then the result can only be one thing; civil war and total collapse. It is amazing how otherwise intelligent people seem to fail to read the writing on the wall.

1.      My assessment of the situation at that time leading to the demise of Hyderabad as an independent country was that India had just become independent paying a huge price in human life in the partition of British India into India and Pakistan. That resulted in India having a hostile neighbor on two sides, East and West Pakistan and Kashmir, still in a state of limbo in the North. It simply couldn’t afford another independent state in its center, ruled by a Muslim king, even though he was not hostile and even though the majority population of the state was Hindu. Hyderabad had to become a part of the Indian Union, come what may. Also since Hyderabad was the biggest, wealthiest and most influential of the Princely States, what happened to it would be salutary for the others. If Hyderabad retained independence and sovereignty, then it would open the doors for similar aspirations of many other ruling princes. If Hyderabad joined the Indian Union, then others would also fall in line.

2.     So, if Hyderabad didn’t join the Indian Union willingly, it would have to be made to do so, unwillingly. Attempts were made to persuade the Nizam to accede to the Indian Union but when these failed, covert attempts to subvert his government were undoubtedly made by encouraging communal elements to create unrest. Religion is a very easy way to gain mass support and in an atmosphere where the Hindu-Muslim equation was badly vitiated after the formation of Pakistan, this was easy to do. Flames were fanned and new fires were set and in time, they did what all fires do – burn everything they came into contact with. Three hundred years of common Hindu-Muslim history was reduced to ashes. No doubt it helped some people to come to power, but at the cost of a great many. But history is written by victors, while those who die, tell no tales and the world goes on.

The tendency when speaking about any monarchy is to speak in terms of its king alone. Usually this is a mistake because whatever the king may think of himself, he is a man and is influenced by his times and the people around him. Some of this influence is overt but a lot of it is hidden and covert. Included in this are his own feelings, aspirations, anxieties, insecurities. At a time of transition which may result in a fall of the monarchy all these fears are hugely enhanced, because in most cases, a fall of the monarchy usually means death for the king or at least life in enormously reduced circumstances. To be able to still think with a cool head and take decisions that are morally and ethically right while being strategically wise, is no mean task. For this it is not only essential for the king to have the guidance of wise people around him, but even more importantly, for him to listen to them.

In the case of the Nizam of Hyderabad, Nawab Mir Osman Ali Khan Bahadur, I believe we have a case where, to put it mildly, things went awry.

My understanding of the factors at the time, from my reasonably extensive reading of different books on this subject as well as having known some of those who were present at the time of Police Action, and were close to the Nizam, is as follows:

1.      The Nizam of Hyderabad was an absolute monarch. A very good one, who never took a single day’s vacation in his life and not given to the playboy lifestyle of his other counterparts in the Princely States of India, but still an absolute monarch. The hierarchy was feudal, which meant that, as in any other feudal system, the only way anyone aspiring to high position could get it was by birth into the right family or by special Royal Dispensation. This in turn would necessitate the attention of and promotion by one of the high Nobles so that one would get noticed. Needless to say, the number of positions at the top are very limited and usually taken.

2.     The ‘evils’ of a feudal system, even a very benign and benevolent one like the rule of the Nizam of Hyderabad was, can’t be overemphasized. Its biggest evil being the death of aspiration of youth. This was one of the major reasons for the migration of the youth of Europe to America and the eventual break with Europe altogether. A new nation was born, not because people in the old country were being physically tortured or murdered, but because their hopes and dreams were still born in a system that didn’t permit them to live and grow by their ability. That is the problem with all feudal systems and the reason why democracy, with all its faults, is the best form of government that human kind has created for itself, to date.

3.     Any ordinary young person not born into a noble family but aspiring for high office in Hyderabad (the country), especially political power, had little chance of attaining it, except through exceptional circumstances and luck, irrespective of his qualifications. For such people, a time of turmoil and turbulence is a godsend. It shakes the foundations of the structures of society and briefly opens a window of opportunity to change the rules of the game. What added to this was the fact that the State was the biggest employer. Though there were businesses and industry, rather more than in other Princely States or British India, their influence and the opportunities they presented were still very limited, especially at the managerial level. Opportunities of realizing one’s aspirations outside the State’s influence were therefore very limited. This always leads to frustration for which a situation of turmoil which shakes the foundations of the State and official hierarchy is a great opportunity.

4.     To give the time its due, this was not due to any backwardness of Hyderabad but because that was the nature of the world at the time. The industrial boom of manufacture and later of IT was still about a century away. Opportunities for careers in the corporate world were limited because the corporate world as we know it, didn’t exist. There were traders, small manufacturers, almost all of them family owned, who followed in effect the same feudal rules of employment and career development. If you were born into the family or related to it in some way, you could never get into top management.

5.     With Indian Independence looming on the horizon and in effect inevitable, there was an atmosphere of change in the air. An atmosphere of high political aspirations, of ambitions of power and influence. Feudalism in India was dying, in its formal sense of hereditary rulers and nobles and leadership positions would fall vacant, ready to be occupied with those who had the vision to see the writing on the wall and the grit to work for it. Sad to see that seventy years after this time, feudalism in terms of attitudes, which really deserved to die, remains alive and well, with the new elected leaders having taken the place of hereditary rulers on the throne. But that is an aside. For our story, the world was changing and fast in which like in all times of change, you either change or die. Incumbency is the single biggest crime in a revolution as you become the logical target of attack. If you change your stripes and start running with the hounds, like the British monarchy did very successfully by converting the ruling family into Hollywood stars, then you survive and prosper. If you remain static, like the Nizam did, you become a statistic.

6.     The other factor that was in play in these times was the anxiety of the Nizam and his nobility about their own fate in the new world order which was dawning. In this context they had Jinnah’s divisive rhetoric on one hand and the assurance of the British Empire on the other guaranteeing the Nizam that the territorial integrity of his kingdom as well as his sovereignty as a monarch would be defended and maintained. In my opinion, the Nizam and his nobility’s biggest mistake was to believe both these narratives. It raised their anxiety to a level where their minds stopped working and had them grabbing at straws (promises of the British Empire) to save themselves from drowning. Ask anyone if a straw can save a drowning man and you know what happened to the Nizam and Hyderabad State was inevitable.

7.     The third factor was Qasim Rizvi and his Razakars. Qasim Rizvi was an opportunist who took advantage of a nebulous situation and tried to play ‘King Maker’. The fact that he ran away when things didn’t go as planned and left those who allowed him his time in the sun to face the music, is proof that he had no commitment either to Hyderabad or the Nizam. He was in it for himself and escaped when things fell apart. What he had going for him was demagoguery that capitalized on the anxieties of the ruling class as well as the Muslims in Hyderabad who were already affected by the demagoguery of Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Add in a heady mixture of fantasy, distorted historical references and people’s own ignorance of history as well as their inability to critically analyze what was being presented to them by QR and you can see how and why his rhetoric was remarkably rabble rousing. Religion as they say is the last resort of the scoundrel, an analogy that fits QR like a glove.

8.     Finally, the demise of Hyderabad was also the most colossal collective failure of leadership that one can imagine. If you look at the nobles and notables around the Nizam, you have a list of luminaries that can hardly be bettered. Yet they failed as a group to guide their king and country in a direction leading to safety and progress. Instead they all seem to have collectively become victims of Qasim Rizvi’s crazy rhetoric either actively or passively to a point of no return. The fact that the Nizam was himself in QR’s thrall, would have, I suppose, stopped many from openly disagreeing. All these are the price of a feudal, autocratic system wherein dissent is dangerous and severely restricted. All autocratic systems fall prey to this and so did Hyderabad State.

What should the Nizam have done?

I think that is fairly clear and I don’t really need to write this but am doing so in the interest of closing the loop as it were. Here is what should have happened:

1.      The Nizam and his advisors should have realized the reality of Hyderabad and its future in the context of the Indian Union. For details please refer to Point No. 1 above i.e. my assessment of the situation at the time. They should have seen that remaining independent was out of the question and so should have bargained for the best deal and joined the Indian Union. That single action would have avoided all the bloodshed and turmoil.

2.     They should have realized that the British have a very famous history of telling lies to those they rule and work only with one interest in mind; their own. The history of the British in India was no secret to anyone with eyes to see. As it was, the British were leaving India in a great hurry and really didn’t care a hoot about what happened to India or Indians. What value can the assurance of such an ally have? Once again, that meant, the joining the Indian Union was the not just the best option but the only one.

3.     Qasim Rizvi should have been shown the door. His kind of rhetoric was so alien to the history of the Nizams of Hyderabad and their treatment of their subjects irrespective of religion that it is almost impossible to believe that not only did QR get a foothold but that to all intents and purposes, he became the defacto ruler. Furthermore, especially given the recent formation of Pakistan and the massacres that happened as a result, it was suicidal to allow the very same rhetoric to become dominant in Hyderabad. To allow Hyderabad’s long history of harmonious relationships between the two major communities of Hindus and Muslims to be destroyed was totally tragic and inexplicable. It was like an onset of momentary insanity from which a man awakens to witness the destruction that he had wrought while insane.

4.     Hyderabad (Nizam and nobility and the State) should have invested heavily in industry and invited the Tatas and Birlas to set up manufacturing plants. Both were in operation having started in the 1800’s. This would have had three beneficial effects.

a.     It would have created massive employment opportunities for youth, the best way to deal with all kinds of social unrest, give them something to lose.

b.     It would have increased the personal wealth of the Nizam and his nobility and made them free from dependence on Privy Purses and State charity.

c.      It would have acted as a shield against any political adventurism, just as the presence of Trump business interest in Middle Eastern countries has kept them safe from his travel ban on Muslims. The travel ban as you know, applies only to countries where Trump has no business interests.

The purpose of this article is to encourage us to discuss this matter with the sole purpose of looking for lessons about living and working harmoniously together. With that end in mind, all comments are invited and most welcome.