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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Institutional Change within the limits of a rational impulse to understand

It may be academic at times and the English can difficult to keep up with but this Pratap B. Mehta talk is worth a patient listen. Far from the world of polarizing arguments it provokes the kind of questions that need to be asked, answered, deliberated on how we bring about long term Institutional Change within the constraints of intractable problems or as he calls them – wicked problems.
This talk on Dharma in an Odia version of Mahabharata is a good listen as well. Brings a refreshing native perspective to the discourse. Especially the Q&A part.

There used to be a popular perception south of Ballygunge, not entirely ungrounded in facts which now belong to the realm of history, that the north was all about dissolute baboos and their lonely bibis, sort of a real life version of Bimal Mitra’s Saheb Bibi Golam. “Oraa paayra oraai, baaiji naachaye…” went a line in a popular Bengali film song, luridly suggesting that the baboos spent their days racing pigeons and their nights frolicking with nautch girls…
Amitav Ghosh documents the tragic story of one such zamindar, Raja Neel Rattan Halder, in Sea of Poppies, the first volume of his trilogy on the opium trade. Others made a pile of money and built gorgeous neo-Victorian houses; their sons squandered their inherited wealth on, as the cliché goes, wine, women and music.

Hindi cinema, among the various cinemas worldwide, is one of the most prolific in terms of output but it rates rather poorly when one is scanning for socio cultural themes in it. Films based on political themes or Political cinema, as one would call it, is even rarer.
Garam Hawa – Based on a short story by Ismat Chugtai, this 1973 M S Sathyu film is generally regarded as the first Hindi film in political genre. Sootradhar  – The story of a young man full of idealism venturing into politics to seek change but ending up as the same beast he had set out to slay is a story we find aplenty in real life politics. Mere Apne –  This Gulzar film is a tale of frustrated educated unemployed. With no sense of purpose and direction, street quarrels over petty issues is what life for the youth has been reduced to. Shatranj Ke Khiladi  – This is one rare Hindi film by Satyajit Ray. Based on a short story by legendary Munshi Premchand, the film is set in Nawab Wajid Ali Shah’s (Amjad Khan) Awadh. Kissa Kursi Ka  – This Amrit Nahata film does not make it to the list on the strength of technical finesse or outstanding performances. Gulal – Rated by some as one of the finest political movies, Gulal is about the Rajput vainglory which many an erstwhile Rajputs still wear on them despite having lost their Kingdoms and Principalities. Manthan – If most political cinema portrays anger, frustrations and general pessimism, this film is a pleasant departure from the norm. Benegal’s Manthan is a success story from Gujarat. Aaj Ka MLA – Should you be considering this humorous take on politics starring Rajesh Khanna with the casualness for a fun and frivolity filled masala film, think twice. Real life politics and politicians seem to have aped the tricks and mannerisms of the protagonist to the hilt, even exceeding him in many cases.

poor theory from Marx Club by anirban
“Poor theory puts the stress neither on knowledge nor on ignorance, but on finding a relationship to what we do not know. It takes seriously the possibility that fascination can be turned into a critical method. Poor theory proceeds with fascination and urgency, instead of mastery, and a recognition that the critical tools we have at hand have their limits. It recognizes, for instance, the limits of archival preservation (from the inherent aging of media and materials to a lack of funding or political will), the limits of legibility (given the opacities of translation), the limits of a rational impulse to understand and thus fix the meaning of a messy problem or situations characterized by excess. But, nonetheless, we proceed, armed with the awareness of these limits, tinkering, working against and around them.” Abbas & Phillip – Poor Theory 

Kosambi's famous falling out with Homi Bhabha at the TIFR (they got on fine initially) was in part because, at a time when scientists were debating the relative advantages of solar and nuclear energy, Kosambi argued for the sun whereas Bhabha preferred uranium and had the backing of Jawaharlal Nehru…At another point in the same essay, Kosambi seems to anticipate modern objections to the anti-science aspect of Ashis Nandy's worldview: […]
Romila Thapar's THE PAST BEFORE US Historical Traditions of Early North India begins by acknowledging an intellectual debt to Kosambi (one of Thapar's mentors).

Some of our historians do not understand ancient languages such as Sanskrit… These oral traditions have strict and rigid rules to adhere to when learning and performing. But there is general skepticism towards such traditions among historians.
History is more than study of records kept by Jesuits in India. Much of our history is among the people, in traditions and languages that the Jesuits did not understand. Much of our history lives and breathes among the native people. It is but natural that a large amount of history of our land can be found among our own people. Such an important source of input is shunted out of the “scientific study”. Our historians have been diligently guarding their sanitized bubble from which convenient hypotheses are postulated and propagated for consumption.

Constant parallels are drawn with Buddha, Mahavir, Christ and Mohammed. What is refreshing to see is that Osho doesn’t just extol the virtues of any one of these great personalities. He points out the ideologies of each of them, leaving for us to decide which “path” we choose to seek. Seekers such as Diogenes, Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Tagore and Krishnamurthy are also spoken of. Enjoyable, memorable and hence, recall-worthy anecdotes about each of them are scattered throughout the book.
Sri Aurobindo of Pondicherry (whose identity I was initially confused about since Osho kept referring to him simply as ‘Aravind’), however, comes in for severe criticism. What made the book most enjoyable was the fact that Osho keeps narrating one anecdote after another to drive home his point. Albeit these sometimes simplify the message to a great degree, they are nonetheless essential for a beginner (like myself) to understand the core of what Osho is trying to convey. A great book, if for nothing else but for its ability to force you to think (rethink?) about religious and spiritual stand-points. An absolute must-read.

Tweets ritpra @ritpra - @madhukishwar no I hve read Aurobindo enough to understand what a secularism has dne/though REAL Christian phil revere's Mother Mary too! 
Anshuman Kumar @AnshumanSunny - nw wth even parties like DMK n left agreeing to LKA's proposal.. what that fella has to say who was saying Advani is doing this fr attention?

The Hindu - Opinion: The knives are out For Mr. Gadkari, it was a hard choice. Either he allowed Mr. Modi to rub his nose in the ground or he settled for a deal whereby he would get a second term as chief in return for unreservedly acknowledging Mr. Modi as the future leader.

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