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The other Lhasa January 29, 2009

Posted by reader111 in World.
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(Vijay Jung Thapa, Hindustan Times)


In 1976 the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, tripping on a strong dose of yajé, wrote about the ‘Tibet of his imagination’ — a psychedelic account of a secret, shadowy, white paradise up in the Himalayas. Like Ginsberg, the Tibet of my own imagination, spurred by writers from Hedin to Harrer to Hopkirk, had always conjured up a powerful image of Eastern mysticism set against the great brooding mass of the Potala — a place of pure spirit, unsullied by greed or personal ambition.


Five minutes into Lhasa, that illusion lay shattered.


As our van rolled onto a smooth-as-silk eight-lane-wide boulevard, my Chinese interpreter excitedly gushed: “This is our Lhasa.” Outside, glistening glass-and-chrome buildings, plush hotels and supermarkets with bright neon signage floated by. Bulky Prados purred down the uniform grid of roads that go off in all directions and chic women and strutting businessmen dotted the sidewalks and street corners. It was a new landscape where Lhasa meets Las Vegas — minus the buzz and with an unmistakable touch of Chinese kitsch.


I almost missed the city’s defining landmark — the Potala Palace — until someone pointed it out to me. It’s still a heart-stopping sight. A majestic white-and-red palace that seems to sprout out of living rock, its huge bulk appearing, by some architectural sleight of hand, to float above the city, like a defiant symbol of Old Tibet. Yet, its imposing authority that once dominated the city now seems to have shrunk — despoiled by the symbols and tastes of a New Tibet.


New symbols abound. Like the pair of giant, kitschy golden yaks to the side of the Potala — ‘given’ to the Tibetans by the Chinese government to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 17-Point Agreement. To the back of the Potala, a sacred lake is now filled with electric boats in the summer and the gardens around have become a popular picnic spot with amusement rides, fast-food stalls and employees dressed up as little pandas.


Historic landmarks, I realised, have altogether disappeared. The Sixth Dalai Lama, a notorious libertine who grew his hair long and wrote erotic verse, was known to have wooed lovers in the smoky taverns of Shol, a village that lay at the feet of the Potala. Today, the 300-year-old village, once a stellar example of Tibetan architecture, no longer exists. In its place lies the vast, shiny Potala Square — a Tibetan Tiananmen that reduces the great home of the Dalai Lama to a photo-opportunity backdrop.


Still, my shattered vision of Shangri-La notwithstanding, I didn’t really need the persistent insistence of my Chinese hosts to realise that the rapid development had done some good. On the way from Gonggar airport to Lhasa, I could see bright new houses being built to replace the smoky hovels many Tibetans used to occupy. China estimates to have re-housed more than 15 per cent of Tibet’s population in the last two years. One could argue that this is China’s way to settle nomadic Tibetans who put up a strong resistance to the Han invasion in 1950.  But it would be churlish to deny China’s attempt to bring economic development to a disadvantaged region.


In terms of investment, the Land of Snows has never had it so good. Under the ‘Go West’ policy of President Hu Jintao — who once was general secretary of the Communist Party in the Tibet Autonomous Region — the government is pouring in money to try to close the gap between the prosperous coastal regions and the economically backward inland areas.


Last year alone, more than 10 billion yuan (Rs 72 billion) of public funds flowed into Tibet — equivalent, say officials, to a subsidy of 4,177 yuan (Rs 30,000) to each of its 2.7 million people. Indeed, spurred by these subsidies and a million tourists every year, Tibet’s economy has surpassed China’s average growth.  Tibet’s GDP is today 39.2 billion yuan (Rs 282 billion), up from 700 million yuan (Rs 5040 Million) in 1978. Tibetans have certainly benefited from China’s ‘leap-frog’ growth drive. Life spans have increased, public health has improved and opportunities to explore the outside world have grown. As Tashi Tshering, a shopkeeper, told me: “I don’t like how they’ve changed Lhasa. But the Chinese have brought good things to Tibet.”


Two worlds apart


Yet, Tibet isn’t, by any standard, a tranquil Shangri-La. There is deep resentment that often spills onto the streets — a case in point being the March 14th riots just before the Beijing Olympics. To understand why the Tibetans still don’t share China’s vision of a brave new consumer world, I walked down to Barkhor — a part of Lhasa that still resembles Lhasa. The heart of this old Tibetan quarter is the great Jokhang temple, a magnificent whirlwind of prostrating pilgrims, chanting toddlers, old nomads tottering on canes, and Chinese CID personnel making clandestine cell-phone checks. Inside the shrine, a loose and happy mob circled the interior, beneath a worn fresco depicting Tibetan folklore. In it, I could see a king leading out his army to smash hordes of barbarians; scything through the ranks of the deluded materialists.


Later, in a smoky anteroom of a restaurant that served strange fusion dishes like yak lasagna and curry pizza, I sat with a gangly Tibetan who gave his name as Lobsang. The rapid development, he said, hadn’t helped Tibetans much. Rather than enriching the locals, most of whom are farmers and herders, much of the money ends up in the hands of the Han migrants who dominate the urban centres. While the average disposable income in towns is the highest in China, Tibet’s farmers are among the poorest. In the villages, where the government is offering tax concessions, peasants are returning to the practice of sharing a bride among brothers. But in Lhasa, bars, brothels and cafés are springing up to cater to a growing army of non-Tibetan workers who are paid more than double their usual salaries to work in Tibet. “All Tibetans,” he added, “feel a strong resentment against the inequality they face in their day-to-day lives.”


That night, in a glittering banquet, I asked my host Nima Ciren, vice chairman of the People’s Congress in Tibet, why such rapid development hadn’t dampened the separatist demands of the locals. Between many toasts of Maotai wine, Ciren gave me the most honest reply I ever got from a government official on the trip. “Tibetans as a whole need to introspect whether they want to be separatists or remain with China…. until we do that, this kind of trouble will stay with us.” The evening whirled on through several courses of exotic pheasants and meats and more and more Maotai. But through that fun exterior, I thought I noted a sadness in Ciren. He belongs to a generation (now in their 60s) who had been, in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution, elevated by Mao because they came from good ‘serf’ backgrounds. Exiles would be quick to call them collaborators, but I felt the situation was more complex. Some of them, at least,  were working within the system as a way of defending Tibet.


Younger Tibetans in Lhasa seemed to have their own mindsets. Pub hopping, one evening, on the roof of the world, I met 22-year-old Phinjo Phuntsog, who works as a mid-level executive in a construction firm. Phuntsog and his friends work hard and party hard in a town where they claim the nightlife is as good as Singapore or Hong Kong. These were a different set of Tibetans — poles apart from the angst-ridden idealistic youth I’d encountered in  Dharamsala. They were dressed sharply in casual chic, with exaggerated hairstyles and armed with the latest mobile technology.  We were sitting in a lively bar, round a table full of beer bottles, next to a stage where local pop bands and crooners belted out old-time rock favourites with an Oriental twang. Whenever the band hit a foot-tapping number, Phuntsog and his friends would dance so hard you would never believe oxygen is in short supply at this altitude. I ask him whether he feels he is a part of the great Chinese nation. The answer is lightening-quick: “Not at all. I am Tibetan and that will always be my identity.”


Nursing a hangover the next morning, waiting for a flight back home at the Gonggar airport, I thought Phuntsog had got it right. In the end, it’s all about identity. Fact is that Tibetans feel Tibetan. And no amount of rapid development will change that.

Tibet will always be a country that’s ethnically and culturally different from China. It doesn’t matter if the Old Lhasa is gone, it would have changed anyway. Modernity has undermined Tibet’s oppressively religious hierarchy, already being reformed by the Dalai Lama, just as it’s changing China’s own vision of communism. What can bring ever-lasting peace is genuine autonomy and equality for Tibetans — with or without talks with the Dalai Lama, within or without the Chinese system.


Till that happens, the romantic image of Tibet as a free, unsullied, spiritual Shangri-La will only live on in our imaginations.


Ref: http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/StoryPage.aspx?sectionName=NLetter&id=9a7bfc5b-d315-41c3-a3fe-5f4bcedda26e&&Headline=The+other+Lhasa 




Yoga knows no religion January 29, 2009

Posted by reader111 in Unwind.
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(Rhythma Kaul , Hindustan Times, January 29, 2009)


Despite clerics in Indonesia and Malaysia banning Muslims from doing yoga that includes Hindu chants, it’s business at usual at New Delhi’s Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga (MDNIY).


“We’ve got an urgent request from the embassy of Morocco for two yoga instructors, a Bangladeshi government official was here just two days ago looking for an instructor to send to Dhaka, and one of our teachers has just returned after a five-year stint in Indonesia, where his students were predominantly Muslims. I cannot understand why there is a need to debate this issue,” said the Dr Ishwar V Basavaraddi, director, MDNIY.


In the two diploma courses of 20 students each, five Muslims have enrolled, including two women. Not one has offered to withdraw or requested any changes in the course pattern.


Most Muslims in India also express surprise that the secular credentials of yoga need to be debated.  “I’m happy that Deoband seminary has given yoga a go-ahead and Swami Ramdev has underlines its secular credentials by suggesting Muslims substitute Allah for Om, but was it really required? We all know yoga is good for health and all religious stress the imprance of leadin a healthy life,” said yoga-enthusiast Nadira Ahmed, a Vasant Kunj-based housewife who organises yoga classes for school children during summer vacations.


“Yoga is universal. The birthplace of yoga may be India, but it’s for all, irrespective of religion, gender, nationality and language. It is meant to improve health and spread happiness,” said Dr Basavaraddi.


Last month, the institute completed its first four-month training schedule for 60 Border Security Force personnel, many of whom were Muslims. “Yoga teaches you to concentrate on a higher self, not a particular deity. Forms such as Patanjali, tantra, sankya and dhyana, among others, are non-religious. Even atheists can practice them,” said the director.


Ref: http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/StoryPage.aspx?sectionName=BusinessSectionPage&id=2cc501ec-983b-4a20-8067-3bdd5088e210&&Headline=Yoga+knows+no+religion 

‘Baptized’ south Gujarat tribals re-embrace Hinduism January 25, 2009

Posted by reader111 in Religious Conversions.
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(Kamaal Saiyed; Posted: Dec 19, 2007 )


Surat, December 18 Around 2,000 tribal men and women from different villages in South Gujarat, who had converted to Christianity, re-embraced Hinduism on Monday evening at a religious ceremony ( sammelan) at the Shivaji ground in Tapi district.

They took an oath by the fire in the presence of Jagat Guru Acharya Narendra Maharaj and submitted affidavits that they won’t convert to Christianity ever again in the future.


The people had started gathering at the venue since Sunday night listening to the Jagat Guru’s teaching before re-converting to Hinduism at the ceremony a day later.


Narayan Solanki, a disciple of Narendra Maharaj in Tapi district said, “There are many disciples of the Maharaj working in different villages of Vyara, Dharampur, Songadh, Mandvi, Ahwa-Dang, Vasda and so on. They visit these places and interact with the tribals who have been baptised earlier by various missionaries and convince them to return back to Hinduism.”


According to Solanki, the Maharaj also runs an ashram at Naneej village in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. It was after a visit to one such ashram that they became motivated to become his disciples. “We visit different villages and persuade those, who have been baptised, to come back into the Hindu fold,” said Solanki.


Giving details about the sammelan (ceremony), another disciple, Mahipal Thakur, said, “We have been working for the sammelan for the past few months and contacted tribals in various villages, who had become fed up with Christianity. These tribals gathered on Sunday night at Tapi district. They were provided with food and accommodation, and later they met the Maharaj during the night. On Monday, they assembled at the Shivaji ground where the Maharaj gave a religious sermon. Many of the tribal men also cut off their hair and took oaths, while all of them gave thumb impressions on the affidavits saying they have willingly returned to the folds of the Hindu religion.”


Deputy Collector of Tapi district N S Halbe said, “The organisers had taken prior permission to hold the sammelan. The district officials visited the venue and have submitted their report about it to me.”


Ref: http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/Baptized-south-Gujarat-tribals-reembrace-Hinduism/251936/

Reserving the deserving January 25, 2009

Posted by reader111 in Caste Reservations.
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(Saurav Basu; April 13, 2008)


If we go for reservations on communal and caste basis, we swamp the bright and able people and remain second-rate or third-rate…..This way lies not only folly but disaster….How are we going to build the public sector or indeed any sector with second rate people?

  Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Letter to Chief Ministers, 27 June 1961


The landmark SC decision on the 10th of April, 2008 is being unanimously viewed as a big boost for reservations, since it has upheld the constitutional validity of the UPA’s government’s decision in 2006 to reserve 27.5% of seats for OBCs (other backward castes) in all centrally funded institutions. However, the judgment has also thrown a spanner in the works of the government by making the exclusion of the ‘creamy layer’ from the OBC reservation pie mandatory. This has already set coalition partners fuming. Chagan Bhujwal of the RPI, D Raja of the CPI, Paswan of the LJP and others have expressed dissent at the SC’s decision and have been more than outspoken in their intention to subvert the SC’s intentions through legislation. Apart from this major rider, the SC has also left the case of reservation in private institutions open for future judgment while suggesting the government to review the OBC reservations every 5-10 years. Some experts  also contend  that the judgment rules out reservations at the post-graduate level. 


Pro reservation groups [and that includes all political parties of India] have unanimously attempted to appropriate the judgment as being cent percent in their favor. For instance, Indira Jaising, a lawyer representing the pro reservationists declares “the judgment gives a clear signal that the future lies in inclusive growth, inclusion of SC/ST and backward classes in the halls of higher learning.” She cautiously adds; “It is true that the judgment calls upon the government to exclude the ‘creamy layer.’ This seems to be in line with the Mandal judgment, which also mandated the exclusion of the creamy layer in employment. It was argued for the Union of India, that in order to avail of the benefits of higher education, one needs to be in a stable economic position to arrive at the level or competing for those exams. To exclude them, would be to deny the class as a whole, the benefit of those who could become leaders and peer group motivators .However, that was not to be!”


If she had been aware of past SC judgments, then she would have appreciated the fact that exclusion of the creamy layer was unequivocally directed by the SC in the Indira Sawhney Vs Union of India, 2000 case where it observed “The non exclusion of the creamy layer or the inclusion of forward castes in the list of backward castes will be totally illegal. Such an illegality offending the root of the Constitution cannot be allowed to be perpetuated even by constitutional amendment.”


At this point; we may revisit three of the core anti-reservation arguments. The crux amongst them was constituted by the appalling state of primary and secondary education where functional literacy rates could be as low as 37%. In India Development Report 2002, Kirit S. Parikh had pointed out, “With a literacy rate of 65, we have 296 million illiterates, age seven years and above, as per the 2001 census. The number of illiterates today exceeds the population of the country of around 270 million at Independence, age seven and above.”


The largest segment of the world’s illiterates is in India. The problem was even more acute with SC/ST and some other backward castes. More than half of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe households in the country in 1981 were totally illiterate; i.e., no member of the household could read and write.


In rural India, where 80% of SC/ST and backward castes reside the literacy rate [2001] is a mere 59.4 in contrast to 80% in urban India where the majority of the population comprises of the so called upper castes. 


When the court questioned the government’s commitment to the cause of basic education, the government counsel was all at sea – fingers pointing at the much publicized Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan which had according to CAG’s report, placed in Parliament conceded that the much-vaunted program on free and universal education has been a colossal failure, a disaster that stems from an almost calculated negligence despite a budget of over Rs. 10,000 crores. The record has been uniformly disgraceful and the Centre owes an explanation for its dismal performance in implementing one of the basics of governance.


Another alarming observation is the steep dropout rate; such that only 10% of the students in Rural India enrolled for primary education eventually go on to complete their basic education. [NSSO Report No. 473 – Literacy and Levels of Education in India, 1999-2000]


The fundamental failure has to be maximally attributed to the Congress Party since it has dominated the corridors of power for over 5 decades now. Is it not a simple piece of logic that children deprived of basic education can never avail the fruits of higher education? Hence, there is absolutely no question of restricting students of the backward caste to the level of basic education. On the contrary, basic education was the most important means to bridge the socio-eco disparities which unfortunately will remain the norm for millions of Indians especially in the rural areas. Their voices will not be heard! And yet pro quota lobbyists allege this move to be means of perpetuating upper caste hegemony over disadvantaged sections of society when the ‘Youth For Equality’ was calling for a crusade against illiteracy and ignorance. 


On the contrary, these sanctimonious pro-quota groups share such a deep degree of bonding with their backward brothers that the former are not ready to relinquish their reservation benefits in favor of the latter despite being the sole beneficiaries of the reservation policy for over 60 years. 


Justice A.P. Sen had explicitly observed in the famous K.C. Vasanth Kumar Vs State of Karnataka (AIR, 1985)  case that “only the privileged groups within the backward classes reap all the benefits of reservation with the result that the lowest of the low who are stricken with poverty and are therefore socially and educationally backward remain deprived through these constitutional provisions…”


This elite class or creamy layer amongst the backwards, who usurp all the reservation benefits wants to maintain the current disparity of standards to emerge as the sole leaders cum supposedly emancipated representatives of their communities, by indoctrinating their ignorant brethren against their common enemy in demonical upper caste constructs. The politicians are the chief architects in this diabolical plan who have deployed a standard technique “look for a grievance…show by some measure that the target group has been left behind…Stroke the sense of being discriminated against…Frighten the group into believing that others are out to take away even more of what is its right and present yourself as the only savior” [Falling over backwards, Page xiii, Arun Shourie]


That such unholy nexuses exist and that a real and identifiable creamy layer amongst the OBCs who outstrip even the affluent amongst the general classes is no figment of our imagination is proven by the fact that the annual per capita consumption expenditure (APCCE) for OBCs is Rs 15,436, which compares reasonably well with Rs 16,923 for the general category.


The second argument was of course merit. The striking students were often flayed as merit mongers by the pro quota hate mongers. Merit was waved aside as a purely Aryan invention. Praful Bidwai, the communist leader, claimed merit to be some bogus intangible identity. The preposterous nature of these arguments is self evident, and cannot remotely discount the fact that in any modern competitive society, Merit is the primary means to determine minimum competency levels while excluding incompetence. That merit is genuine is observed by the fact that no coaching institute in the country can claim success rates greater than 5% in any professional examination. Merely enrolling in coaching institutes does not guarantee success, a natural aptitude for the subject might.


The idée fixe of these Dalit historians that how can upper caste minorities represent the professional academic majority considering intelligence to be socially determined is answered precisely by the fact, that the number of eligible candidates (i.e. qualified for appearing in professional entrance examinations) produced by the overwhelming majority of the backward castes (including SC/STs) who constitute the bulk of the population is  miniscule compared to the dominant numbers produced by minority upper castes due to lack of basic education in  the former. Naturally, the staggering number of eligible candidates of the general category enhances the probability of producing more intelligent and competent students in their ranks. By depriving millions of basic education, we deprive them of equality of opportunities. What we instead gain through reservation is equality of outcomes for the creamy layer.


The absence of merit destroys excellence and ushers a wave of mediocrity rendering people incapable of competence forever which has been the bane of free India. This can be substantiated by the fact that despite a grueling 5.5 years of the MBBS course, SC/STs students lag way behind general students as reflected in the results of the All India Post Graduate Medical Entrance exam 2008 where a SC candidate with Rank 100 had an overall rank of 4500, whereas a ST student with rank 100 had an overall rank of 12,000! In contrast, a General category student with Rank 100, had an overall rank of 101. That means that amongst the top ranking 100 students, only 1 was from the SC/ST category!  Suffice to say, the reserved category students are afraid of open competition from general category students and for good reason.


But even this performance is far more creditable than the dismal figures we have for cut-offs in IIT JEE undergraduate entrance exams which were as low as 1, 4 and 3 for Math, Physics and Chemistry respectively. The inherent ineptitude of these students for a course as tough and challenging as engineering at IIT-JEE makes them susceptible to grave depression and even suicide.


This is the reason that anti-reservationists decry any more reservations, them being no solution since even after 60 years the SC/ST list has not witnessed a single deletion of any caste proving that not one of them has sufficiently progressed to be set aside from the gambit of reservation, but is instead burgeoning, testifying to the growing backwardness of India. For India is the only nation of the world where people take great pride in calling themselves backward. When demands for claiming backwardness are not met, they culminate in social tensions, in large scale violence and destruction as in case of Gurjars Vs the Rajasthan Government.


And what about South India, dubbed as India’s better half and repeatedly showcased as the proof for successful implementation of reservations. The NSSO survey reveals the astounding truth that in the land of reservations, in rural TN only 4/1000 ST, 3/1000 SC and 13/1000 OBC female graduates exist.  In total, only sixteen out of every thousand people are graduates, i.e. 1.6% graduates in rural TN. Enough to exemplify the failures of reservation.


This is where we get back to the judgment which despite upholding the validity of reservations has tremendous possibilities for it challenges the notion of caste as the sole criterion for determine legitimacy for reservation and in essence considers reserving only the deserving who have been robbed of their privileges by a dominant minority or the creamy layer constituted by crooked politicians and their cronies in the pseudo-intellectual crowd. It is indeed unfortunate that this move for segregating the creamy layer has not been extended to SC/ST reservations.


Such progressive intellectuals and leaders who have their own doctrinal axes to grind will fail to realize why the Youth for Equality movement was dissatisfied by the offer for compensation of seats for that was not its goal. It was not for personal promotion but eclipsing an inglorious tradition. Their was a sincere attempt on their part to highlight the moral bankruptcy of all political parties of India who while denying bread and education to its masses, championed retrograde quota policies in order to foster their own vested interest of securing the prosperity of this creamy layer and lead further to a caste based balkanization of India by accentuating hatred and hostility amongst the feuding masses.


Pseudo arguments about caste oppression in India in their talk abound despite the fact that all Hindus irrespective of caste could occupy no senior position in the administration of foreign Muslim and British governments and thereby suffered varying degrees of persecution for the last 1000 years.


A century ago, there was a young man with a dynamic vision who believed that education was the manifestation of the perfection already in man. He wanted that education by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded, and by which one can stand on one’s own feet. Can these wonderful precepts of Swami Vivekananda be actualized amidst these backward looking reservation policies? This is the question that every concerned citizen of India must ask himself.


Ref: http://www.boloji.com/analysis2/0333.htm

Maharaja Hari Singh January 25, 2009

Posted by reader111 in History.
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From the Dogra lineage, Hari Singh, assumed power in 1925 and ruled till 1948.


He introduced many reforms, which included throwing open all public schools, colleges and wells to the untouchables in 1931. The next year, all state temples were also thrown open to them. In 1940, he proclaimed untouchability a cognizable offence. He was also responsible for two more important social reforms. One was the prevention of juvenile smoking and the other was the removal of legal disabilities on the marriage of Hindu widows.


Equally important was the change, which occurred in India’s political atmosphere. On the national scene, two distinct political groups dominated – the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League. In the state, anti-monarchy forces were gaining ground under Sheikh Abdullah who arose as a charismatic leader of the Kashmiri Muslims and led a strong anti-Dogra agitation, the “Quit Kashmir” movement in 1931.


Hari Singh was unable to adjust to the fact that monarchy was on the decline and could not grasp the importance of evolving with the changing political scenario.


In 1947, following the partition of the sub-continent, there arose the question of the settling the position of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. The state had the choice of either going with India or with Pakistan.


Hari Singh proved indecisive at this crucial juncture. He offered a standstill agreement with India and Pakistan.


Pakistan signed it but India did not. Violating the agreement, Pakistan inflicted an economic blockade followed soon by a tribal invasion of the state on October 22, 1947.


Hari Singh requested India to send in troops but Mountbatten, India’s governor-general, put a condition for the help:   Accession first and troops later. On October 26, 1947, Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession brought to him by VP Menon, the Centre’s emissary. Thereafter, Indian troops landed in Srinagar on October 27, 1947, to quell the invasion.


But the tide was clearly against Hari Singh. He had the forces aligned against him in the Centre and the state. He nursed an animosity towards Nehru because Nehru supported his archrival Sheikh Abdullah.


His attempts to bring about changes in the state and efforts to retain power did not yield results. Clearly, Sheikh Abdullah was the chosen leader of the Kashmiri Muslims.


In 1934, Hari Singh had sanctioned the creation of a Legislative Assembly called the Jammu & Kashmir Praja Sabha. In the first elections to the Praja Sabha, the Muslim Conference bagged 14 seats out of 21 reserved for the Muslims. In the next election in 1936, it was able to raise its strength to 19. This established the claim of the Conference to be called the major political party in the state. In June 1939, however, Sheikh Abdullah broke away from the Muslim Conference and established a new party, the National Conference, which soon secured a large following.


Hari Singh acceded to the popular demand for more power to be given to the Praja Sabha. He called upon the Praja Sabha to nominate a panel of six members (three Muslims). From this panel he nominated two members as his Ministers, one of whom was a Muslim. This step was welcomed by all sections of the Assembly and led to the appointment of Mirza Afzal Beg and Ganga Ram as the Ministers. The former belonged to the National Conference while the latter was a Dogra politician.


With increasing feeling among the Kashmiris in the state that they should be granted more rights and Sheikh Abdullah gaining in authority, Hari Singh retired to Bombay. Apparently, it was felt that it would help if he were away from the state for some time. His son, Karan Singh, then only 17, took over as Regent of the state on June 20, 1949.


Under him, elections to the State Constituent Assembly were held. National Conference won all the 75 seats. In its very first session of October 1951, the assembly abolished the Monarchy and with this Dogra rule in this state came to an end.


Maharaja Hari Singh breathed his last at Bombay on April 26, 1961.


Ref: http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/StoryPage.aspx?id=ddda86d7-db79-41e9-a138-581279cd9ee1

Kerala new hotspot for paedophiles January 25, 2009

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(Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times)


Trafficking of young boys for prostitution is on the rise with tourism hotspots like Kerala emerging as the new attraction for paedophiles, says a report on Status of Indian Children, released on eve of the first National Girl Child Day.


“With the increase of paedophilia as part of sex tourism, the demand for boys is rising,” the report said.


There are, however, no major studies to understand the magnitude of the problem, as male prostitution is an underground and clandestine activity in India. While Goa has been a major destination for some years now, Kerala is emerging as the preferred destination for pedophiles.


“There have been reports of increase in number of boys being trafficked to Kerala to become part of sex trade,” said Bharati Ali of HAQ, Centre for Child Rights, the NGO that brought out the report.


Chiding the government, the report said, “Unlike Sri Lanka and Thailand, this problem has not been seriously tackled or discussed in India and has more or less shrouded in secrecy”.




Women worst sufferers in J&K? January 25, 2009

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(HT Correspondent, Bhopal, December 23, 2006)


“INDIA HAS a patriarchal society and women were the worst sufferers of violence in the Kashmir valley,” said noted writer, journalist and documentary filmmaker Justine Hardy during her visit to the ongoing Lyall Book Fair in the City on Saturday.


Hardy was at the fair where she signed copies of her first fiction, ‘The Wonder House’, set in Kashmir. This book is a story of three women living in Kashmir and their tumultuous lives in the valley.


The author’s other works include ‘The Ocher Border’, ‘Scoop-Wallah’, ‘Boat’ and ‘Bollywood Boy’. On the occasion she said in her book, ‘The Wonder House’ she had made an attempt to sensitise readers on the Kashmir issue.


She added reporting on Kashmir was restricted to issues between India and Pakistan. She said the sufferings of people of the valley particularly women were hardly reflected in the stories. There were better opportunities beyond the periphery of the State but they hardly had chance to move out of their world of miseries.        


Hardy who said her flight was delayed by six hours due to fog, said when she had visited Srinagar she had witnessed the plight of people.


She, however, appreciated the role of the Indian Army and Government in coping with the earthquake devastations in the valley. Commenting on the City of Lakes Bhopal she said it was an incredibly beautiful City and very clean.

She is currently writing a book, which is again set in India and deals with the caste system in the country, she said.


Ref: http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/StoryPage.aspx?id=c9efd54e-2916-4f46-a316-d50a11a4d293

Vivekananda on Caste System January 25, 2009

Posted by reader111 in Caste Reservations, Uncategorized.
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This article is a chapter from the book, “Swami Vivekananda on India and Her Problems”. This book (Code: AVE061) can be purchased from Advaita Ashrama.




“I have a message for the world, which I will deliver without fear and care for the future. To the reformers I will point out that I am a greater reformer than any one of them. They want to reform only little bits. I want root-and-branch reform.”- Swami Vivekananda




Though our castes and our institutions are apparently linked with our religion, they are not so. These institutions have been necessary to protect us as a nation, and when this necessity for self-preservation will no more exist, they will die a natural death. In religion there is no caste. A man from the highest caste and a man from the lowest may become a monk in India and the two castes become equal. The caste system is opposed to the religion of Vedanta. Caste is a social custom, and all our great preachers have tried to break it down. From Buddhism downwards, every sect has preached against caste, and every time it has only riveted the chains. Beginning from Buddha to Rammohan Ray, everyone made the mistake of holding caste to be a religious institution and tried to pull down religion and caste altogether, and failed. In spite of all the ravings of the priests, caste is simply a crystallized social institution, which after doing its service is now filling the atmosphere of India with its stench, and it can only be removed by giving back to people their lost social individuality. Caste is simply the outgrowth of the political institutions of India; it is a hereditary trade guild. Trade competition with Europe has broken caste more than any teaching.




The older I grow, the better I seem to think of caste and such other time-honored institutions of India. There was a time when I used to think that many of them were useless and worthless, but the older I grow, the more I seem to feel a difference in cursing any one of them, for each one of them is the embodiment of the experience of centuries. A child of but yesterday, destined to die the day after tomorrow, comes to me and asks me to change all my plans and if I hear the advice of that baby and change all my surroundings according to his ideas I myself should be a fool, and no one else. Much of the advice that is coming to us from different countries is similar to this. Tell these wiseacres, “I will hear you when you have made a stable society yourselves. You cannot hold on to one idea for two days, you quarrel and fail; you are born like moths in the spring and die like them in five minutes. You come up like bubbles and burst like bubbles too. First form a stable society like ours. First make laws and institutions that remains undiminished in their power through scores of centuries. Then will be the time to talk on the subject with you, but till then, my friend, you are only a giddy child.” Caste is a very good thing. Caste is the plan we want to follow. What caste really is, not one in a million understands. There is no country in the world without caste. Caste is based throughout on that principle. The plan in India is to make everybody Brahmana, the Brahmana being the ideal of humanity. If you read the history of India you will find that attempts have always been made to raise the lower classes. Many are the classes that have been raised. Many more will follow till the whole will become Brahmana. That is the plan. Our ideal is the Brahmana of spiritual culture and renunciation. By the Brahmana ideal what do I mean? I mean the ideal Brahmana-ness in which worldliness is altogether absent and true wisdom is abundantly present. That is the ideal of the Hindu race. Have you not heard how it is declared he, the Brahmana, is not amenable to law, that he has no law, that he is not governed by kings, and that his body cannot be hurt? That is perfectly true. Do not understand it in the light thrown upon it by interested and ignorant fools, but understand it in the light of the true and original Vedantic conception.. If the Brahmana is he who has killed all selfishness and who lives to acquire and propagate wisdom and the power of love – if a country is altogether inhabited by such Brahmanas, by men and women who are spiritual and moral and good, is it strange to think of that country as being above and beyond all law? What police, what Military are necessary to govern them? Why should any one govern them at all? Why should they live under a government? They are good and noble, and they are the men of God; these are our ideal Brahmanas, and we read that in the SatyaYuga there was only one caste, and that was the Brahmana. We read in the Mahabharata that the whole world was in the beginning peopled with Brahmanas, and that as they began to degenerate they became divided into different castes, and that when the cycle turns round they will all go back to that Brahmanical origin. The son of a Brahmana is not necessarily always a Brahmana; though there is every possibility of his being one, he may not become so. The Brahmana caste and the Brahmana quality are two distinct things. As there are sattva, rajas and tamas – one or other of these gunas more or less – in every man, so the qualities which make a Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya or a Shudra are inherent in every man, more or less. But at time one or other of these qualities predominates in him in varying degrees and is manifested accordingly. Take a man in his different pursuits, for example : when he is engaged in serving another for pay, he is in Shudra-hood; when he is busy transacting some some piece of business for profit, on his account, he is a Vaishya; when he fights to right wrongs then the qualities of a Kshatriya come out in him; and when he meditates on God, or passes his time in conversation about Him, then he is a Brahmana. Naturally, it is quite possible for one to be changed from one caste into another. Otherwise, how did Viswamitra become a Brahmana and Parashurama a Kshatriya? The means of European civilization is the sword; of the Aryans, the division into different varnas. This system of division into varnas is the stepping-stone to civilization, making one rise higher and higher in proportion to one’s learning and culture. In Europe, it is everywhere victory to the strong and death to the weak. In the land of Bharata (India), every social rule is for the protection of the weak. Such is our ideal of caste, as meant for raising all humanity slowly and gently towards the realization of the great ideal of spiritual man, who is non-resisting, calm, steady, worshipful, pure and meditative. In that ideal there is God. We believe in Indian caste as one of the greatest social institutions that the Lord gave to man. We also believe that through the unavoidable defects, foreign persecutions, and above all, the monumental ignorance and pride of many Brahmanas who do not deserve the name, have thwarted in many ways, the legitimate fructification of this glorious Indian institution, it has already worked wonders for the land of Bharata and it destined to lead Indian humanity to its goal. Caste should not go; but should be readjusted occasionally. Within the old structure is to be life enough for the building of two hundred thousand new ones. It is sheer nonsense to desire the abolition of caste.




It is in the nature of society to form itself into groups; and what will go will be these privileges! Caste is a natural order. I can perform one duty in social life, and you another; you can govern a country, and I can mend a pair of old shoes, but that is no reason why you are greater than I, for can you mend my shoes? Can I govern the country? I am clever in mending shoes, you are clever in reading Vedas, that is no reason why you should trample on my head; why if one commits murder should he be praised and if another steals an apple why should he be hanged? This will have to go. Caste is good. That is only natural way of solving life. Men must form themselves into groups, and you cannot get rid of that. Wherever you go there will be caste. But that does not mean that there should be these privileges. They should be knocked on the head. If you teach Vedanta to the fisherman, he will say, “I am as good a man as you, I am a fisherman, you are a philosopher, but I have the same God in me, as you have in you.” And that is what we want, no privilege for anyone, equal chances for all; let everyone be taught that the Divine is within, and everyone will work out his own salvation. The days of exclusive privileges and exclusive claims are gone, gone for ever from the soil of India.




Formerly the characteristic of the noble-minded was – (tribhuvanamupakara shrenibhih priyamanah) “to please the whole universe by one’s numerous acts of service”, but now it is – I am pure and the whole world is impure. “Don’t touch me!” “Don’t touch me!” The whole world is impure, and I alone am pure! Lucid Brahmajnana! Bravo! Great God! Nowadays, Brahman is neither in the recesses of the heart, nor in the highest heaven, nor in all beings – now He is in the cooking pot! We are orthodox Hindus, but we refuse entirely to identify ourselves with “Don’t- touchism”. That is not Hinduism; it is in none of our books; it is an orthodox superstition, which has interfered with national efficiency all along the line. Religion has entered in the cooking pot. The present religion of the Hindus is neither the path of Knowledge or Reason – it is “Don’t-touchism”. – “Don’t touch me”, “Don’t touch me” – that exhausts its description. “Don’t touchism” is a form of mental disease. Beware! All expansion is life, all contraction is death. All love is expansion, all selfishness is contraction. Love is therefore the only law of life. See that you do not lose your lives in this dire irreligion of “Don’t- touchism”. Must the teaching (Atmavat sarvabhuteshu) – “Looking upon all beings as your own self” – be confined to books alone? How will they grant salvation who cannot feed a hungry mouth with a crumb of bread? How will those, who become impure at the mere breath of others, purify others? We must cease to tyrannize. To what a ludicrous state are we brought! If a bhangi comes to anybody as a bhangi, he would be shunned as the plague; but no sooner does he get a cupful of water poured upon his head with some muttering of prayers by a padri, and get a coat to his back, no matter how threadbare, and come into the room of the most orthodox Hindu, I don’t see the man who then dare refuse him a chair and a hearty shake of hands! Irony can go no farther. Just see, for want of sympathy from the Hindus, thousands of pariahs in Madras are turning Christians. Don’t think that this is simply due to the pinch of hunger; it is because they do not get any sympathy from us. We are day and night calling out to them “Don’t touch us! Don’t touch us!” Is there any compassion or kindliness of heart in the country? Only a class of “Don’t-touchists” ; kick such customs out! I sometimes feel the urge to break the barriers of “Don’t-touchism”, go at once and call out, “Come all who are poor, miserable, wretched and downtrodden”, and to bring them all together. Unless they rise, the Mother will not awake. Each Hindu, I say, is a brother to every other, and it is we, who have degraded them by our outcry, “Don’t touch”, “Don’t touch!” And so the whole country has been plunged to the utmost depths of meanness, cowardice and ignorance. These men have to be lifted; words of hope and faith have to be proclaimed to them. We have to tell them, “You are also men like us and you have all the rights that we have.”




Our solution of the caste question is not degrading those who are already high up, is not running amuck through food and drink, is not jumping out of our own limits in order to have more enjoyment, but it comes by every one of us fulfilling the dictates of our Vedantic religion, by our attaining spirituality and by our becoming ideal Brahmana. There is a law laid on each one of you in this land by your ancestors, whether you are Aryans, or non-Aryans, rishis or Brahmanas or the very lowest outcaste. The command is the same to you all, that you must make progress without stopping, and that from the highest man to the lowest pariah, every one in this country has to try and become the ideal Brahmana. This Vedantic idea is applicable not only here but over the whole world. The Brahmana-hood is the ideal of humanity in India as wonderfully put forward by Shankaracharya at the beginning of his commentary on the Gita, where he speaks about the reason for Krishna’s coming as a preacher for the preservation of Brahmana- hood, of Brahmana-ness. That was the great end. This Brahmana, the man of God, he who has known Brahman, the ideal man, the perfect man, must remain, he must not go. And with all the defects of the caste now, we know that we must all be ready to give to the Brahmanas this credit, that from them have come more men with real Brahmana-ness in them than from all the other castes. We must be bold enough, must be brave enough to speak their defects, but at the same time we must give credit that is due to them. Therefore, it is no use fighting among the castes. What good will it do? It will divide us all the more, weaken us all the more, degrade us all the more. The solution is not by bringing down the higher, but by raising the lower up to the level of the higher. And that is the line of work that is found in all our books, in spite of what you may hear from some people whose knowledge of their own Scriptures and whose capacity to understand the mighty plans of the ancients are only zero. What is the plan? The ideal at the one end is the Brahmana and the ideal at the other end is the chandala, and the whole work is to raise the chandala up to the Brahmana. Slowly and slowly you will find more and more privileges granted to them. I regret that in modern times there should be so much discussion between the castes. This must stop. It is useless on both sides, especially on the side of the higher caste, the Brahmana, the day for these privileges and exclusive claims is gone. The duty of every aristocracy is to dig its own grave, and the sooner it does so, the better. The more he delays, the more it will fester and the worse death it will die. It is the duty of the Brahmana, therefore, to work for the salvation of the rest of mankind, in India. If he does that and so long as he does that, he is a Brahmana. Any one who claims to be a Brahmana, then, should prove his pretensions, first by manifesting that spirituality, and next by raising others to the same status. We earnestly entreat the Brahmanas not to forget the ideal of India – the production of a universe of Brahmanas, pure as purity, good as God Himself : this was at the beginning, says the Mahabharata and so will it be in the end. It seems that most of the Brahmanas are only nursing a false pride of birth; and any schemer, native or foreign, who can pander to this vanity and inherent laziness, by fulsome sophistry, appears to satisfy more. Beware Brahmanas, this is the sign of death! Arise and show your manhood, your Brahmana-hood, by raising the non-Brahmanas around you – not in the spirit of a master – not with the rotten canker of egoism crawling with superstitions and charlatanry of East and West – but in the spirit of a servant. To the Brahmanas I appeal, that they must work hard to raise the Indian people by teaching them what they know, by giving out the culture that they have accumulated for centuries. It is clearly the duty of the Brahmanas of India to remember what real Brahmana-hood is. As Manu says, all these privileges and honors are given to the Brahmana because, “with him is the treasury of virtue”. He must open that treasury and distribute to the world. It is true that he was the earliest preacher to the Indian races, he was the first to renounce everything in order to attain to the higher realization of life, before others could reach to the idea. It was not his fault that he marched ahead of the other castes. Why did not the other castes so understand and do as they did? Why did they sit down and be lazy, and let the Brahmanas win the race? But it is one thing to gain an advantage, and another thing to preserve it for evil use. Whenever power is used for evil it becomes diabolical; it must be used for good only. So this accumulated culture of ages of which the Brahmana has been the trustee, he must now give to the people, and it was because he did not open this treasury to the people, that the Muslims invasion was possible. It was because he did not open this treasury to the people from the beginning, that for a thousand years we have been trodden under the heels of everyone who chose to come to India; it was through that we have become degraded, and the first task must be to break open the cells that hide the wonderful treasures which our common ancestors accumulated; bring them out, and give them to everybody, and the Brahmana must be the first to do it. There is an old superstition in Bengal that if the cobra that bites, sucks out his own poison from the patient, the man must survive. Well then, the Brahmana must suck out his own poison. To the non-Brahmana castes I say, wait, be not in a hurry. Do not seize every opportunity of fighting the Brahmana, because as I have shown; you are suffering from your own fault. Who told you to neglect spirituality and Sanskrit learning? What have you been doing all this time? Why have you been indifferent? Why do you now fret and fume because somebody else had more brains, more energy, more pluck and go than you? Instead of wasting your energies in vain discussions and quarrels in the newspapers, instead of fighting and quarreling in your own homes – which is sinful – use all your energies in acquiring the culture which the Brahmana has, and the thing is done. Why do you not become Sanskrit scholars? Why do you not spend millions to bring Sanskrit education to all the castes of India? That is the question. The moment you do these things, you are equal to the Brahmana! That is the secret power in India. The only safety, I tell you men who belong to the lower castes, the only way to raise your condition is to study Sanskrit, and this fighting and writing and frothing against the higher castes is in vain, it does no good, and it creates fight and quarrel, and this race, unfortunately already divided, is going to be divided more and more. The only way to bring about the leveling of castes is to appropriate the culture, the education which is the strength of the higher castes.


Ref: http://hubpages.com/hub/caste


The Exile: A maharaja’s tragic journey January 25, 2009

Posted by reader111 in History, Uncategorized.
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What do you do when you have to chronicle the tragic life and death of the last Sikh maharaja? You write a fiction novel to capture the emotional churn that a human being, of the stature of a maharaja whose kingdom is systematically annexed by the British, goes through without distorting historical facts.

That’s what author Navtej Sarna, Ambassador-designate to Israel has done in his second work of fiction, aptly titled The Exile. His first book, We Weren’t Lovers Like That was published by the same publisher Penguin in 2003.


Sarna, during his interaction with readers at the book reading session at Crossroad in Mumbai was at his animated best as he read selected passages from The Exile and answered queries from those gathered for the event.


Incidentally, the author spent almost nine years to research his subject — Maharaja Duleep Singh, Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s youngest acknowledged sons. It was under Ranjit Singh — also popularly known as the Lion Of Punjab — the kingdom of Punjab spread from the Sutlej to Khyber Pass. His death in 1839 led to a slow and painful downfall of the Sikh kingdom which was sytematically annexed by the British.


The Exile is the heartrending story of Maharaja Duleep Singh who was separated from his mother Queen Jindan after his father’s death in 1839 and converted to Christianity. Later he was disillusioned by the treatment the British meted out to him and became a Sikh again. However, this rebellion came in a tad too late as the British botched every attempt Duleep Singh made to return to his motherland. As fate would have it, Duleep Singh met his tragic end in a cheap hotel room in Paris.


The story is narrated by six voices including that of Duleep Singh. Each one was chosen because the author was looking for a person who’d have an authoritative voice; somebody who’d have easy access to the maharaja throughout the 55 years of his life.


To gather as many facts as accurately as possible the author traced Maharaja Duleep Singh’s footsteps across several continents and countries. His love of labour took Sarna to England, Moscow, Paris, Lahore (capital of the Sikh kingdom) and the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.


Actually, being a diplomat helped — he was posted in Moscow, Warsaw, Thimphu, Geneva, Teheran and Washington, DC — as most of his travel to these places was work-related. Sarna, though, had to spend time beyond work for his research.


Ref: http://specials.rediff.com/news/2008/oct/15sl1.htm 

A culture of enough January 25, 2009

Posted by reader111 in Uncategorized.
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(Rohini Nilekani)


Let’s begin this New Year with some retrospection. Is something heady brewing, some infection catching among smart young corporate professionals in this country?


Recently, Arghyam, a foundation I have set up to fund initiatives in water and sanitation, needed to hire for a senior position. We put out an ad on a mainstream jobs site, in addition to using development sector channels. To our great surprise, we were absolutely flooded with enquiries.


Professionals with the kind of resume that could easily be taken very seriously in any blue chip company were telling us that they were looking for meaningful change. They were saying that they did not want to work in the corporate sector any more. That they were willing to take home half of what they were currently earning. That perhaps they were getting too much anyway. That instead of working so hard to ensure that someone bought one brand of something instead of another, they wanted to use their acquired skills to work as hard to ensure social outcomes.


A few shared some life-changing experiences. “My mother did not get an ambulance on time.” “ I visited a tribal village and saw first-hand for myself how people survive.”


Others said: “I have looked at my life—I have enough, enough education, enough job experience, enough asset building. I can live comfortably now, with my investments as a buffer. But the question that comes to me time and again is—if my child asks me, what difference have you made, what can I, sitting in my air-conditioned office, tell her? ”


In this past decade or so, we all have heard of the trickling in of successful people, especially NRIs, into the not-for-profit sector in India. But that sort of thing remained a side show, something to admire, but not necessarily to emulate.


Yet, over the past couple of years, I have been sensing a seminal shift. This is not just a trickle of people opting out of cushy jobs. This is more like a leak. Will it become a flood?


Why are some of the brightest corporate minds turning their attention to social projects instead of the business of making money?


It cannot really be a mid-life crisis, because many of these people are in their 30s, at the threshold of doing bigger and better in their organizations. Nor is it, as the cynics would have it, only because of the financial crisis and the ensuing job security issues. This phenomenon precedes that. And in fact, those who have jobs right now are hunkering down to protect them.


Nor is this like the general dropout culture of the 1960s in the US. This wave of hopefuls in fact, while wanting world peace and all that good stuff, also wants to apply the very skills and approaches learnt in the corporate avatar to a new sphere. And I have met many graduates of prestigious business schools, who are starting as they mean to go on, with first jobs or enterprises that focus on the social sector. So the mystery deepens.

Some might think I am making too much of all this, and it could well be so. From my point of view in the social sector, this inflow of talent is a great thing. We do need more creativity, more capacity, more financial accountability and also people with different skills and experience to join the work of creating a more equitable society.


Yet, I also think this might be a wake-up call for the Indian corporate sector. Why is a sense of dissatisfaction spreading? Maybe success has become its own failure in some sense—in that so many brilliant young people rose up the corporate ladder, quickly made their money through Esops or other means, and had many choices to opt out of the daily grind.


But a more troubling question is whether the agenda of the corporate sector is beginning to look too separate from that of India as a whole. Could this be a reaction to an insensitivity to ecosystems and also to some poor business practices that are far too prevalent in our society?


Whatever it might be, when real talent is so rare, Indian companies can hardly afford to let it slip away. For there are no walls high enough, no pay packets big enough, no HR team smart enough to keep employees once they have become disenchanted.


There is a deepening sense of unease over social divides, along with overarching evidence that this is a different kind of century. Terror, global warming, poverty and disease, ironically, are reminding us of our common destiny, perhaps as never before. There is bubbling angst about what kind of world we will leave for our children.


Wonderfully, this trickle-turned-leak suggests that the message is hitting home, where the heart is. People are asking the key question—what message is my own life giving? And that can only be good news.


Rohini Nilekani works with and supports many non-profit endeavours, especially in water, through Arghyam Foundation. Comments at uncommonground@livemint.com


Ref: http://www.livemint.com/articles/2009/01/01212620/A-culture-of-enough.html