Thursday, 16 November 2017

Robert Mugabe

#RobertMugabe  As I grow older, one by one all the relics and associations of the past fade away into oblivion . The news of the coup in Zimbabwe is one such event that makes me feel again how the world has changed over the years. Right from the days I started taking interest in politics, current affairs or international events, the name Robert Mugabe was very common . Perhaps even a little more than Nelson Mandela who was still in prison when Mugabe assumed power as the PM of Zimbabwe in 1980. He held on to power for more than  37 years by various means and advocating different political philosophies .  At the age of 93 , he is the oldest ruler in this world. His life and times have been well documented and many fictions woven around him.  Those who read Wilbur Smith will immediately find the shadow of Mugabe in many of his novels . 

Zimbabwe was formerly known as Southern Rhodesia and was ruled by the British . It is a landlocked country sharing border with Zambia ( formerly Northern Rhodesia) at the north and majorly on all sides by South Africa.  The inhabitants  unilaterally declared independence in 1965 and after a protracted struggle for independence , finally got it in 1979. Robert Mugabe was at the forefront of this  freedom struggle and he was rightly hailed worldwide for his leadership .  He rose from  poverty to complete  his University education and started  as a teacher before  taking the plunge in politics .

Being indoctrinated in the Marxist philosophy he was supported by the Soviet Russia ( read KGB) who were trying to build their influence in Africa - Angola, Mozambique , Ghana  and many other countries through their proxy, Cuba. The party he headed - ZANU (Zimbabwe African National Union) received widespread patronage from the  Soviet bloc as well as the third world countries all over the world. After independence of his country , Robert Mugabe naturally headed the government and became a well known anti imperialistic figure in the  third world countries and Non aligned movement . The Independence of Zimbabwe actually gave impetus to the anti apartheid movement of South Africa  and also a foothold for the rebels there to continue their armed struggle .

The glory days of NAM showcased famous personalities from our youth - Indira Gandhi, Fidel Castro , Saddam Hussein, Colonel Gaddafi, President Tito , President Assad, Hosni Mubarak etc. Robert Mugabe made his place among them . Many , who are particularly sympathetic to US interests  would term this as a rogue's gallery but please note that the world was a different place 30-40 years back .

But as it happens everywhere, somewhere along the line  Robert Mugabe became too powerful and believed himself to be the supreme . Not everybody can relinquish power like Gandhi or Mandela . Most rulers degenerate into Idi Amin . Mugabe was accorded the status of being the father figure of his country. But his rule of 37 years was a story of incompetence, inefficiency, corruption and ruthless power play.  But let us concede one point. In spite of his dictatorial style , Mugabe never gave up on the pretense of democracy. He got himself voted , term after term through massively rigged and manipulated elections .

At the last count, he cant be termed as a fascist. And through out his life he remained an anti imperialist , often at loggerheads with USA and a thorn to their ambitions.  Robert Mugabe was a great friend of India  and have visited our country often  right from his revolutionary days. Last year there was a small controversy about his attending the World Culture Festival organised by Ravi Shankar . He was briefly reported as missing after having left the country to attend the function .

But he was the person responsible for bringing a thriving  country like Zimbabwe with potentials in agriculture and mining into penury. Starting as a Marxist ideologue, he morphed into Marxist- Leninist, then socialist and finally pure kleptocrat. With the new world order after the dismantling of USSR and the withering of NAM, he lost his support and bargaining power and gradually lost relevance with age . Lately , he was more known for his remarks against racism and imperialism.  His rule became synonymous with the economic doom and jokes about the currency of that country. Last heard I know of a joke doing the rounds which said that 100 trillion Zim Dollar was equivalent to 40 US cents. Don't really know how far it's true.

But in all of this , there is a lesson to be learnt . No ruler lasts for ever and no ruler should be allowed to gather so much power  like the dictators we see around us . USA wisely has a constitution which allows only two terms , maximum eight years of power, to an individual. And UK retains the crown as a figurehead to provide a rallying point instead of any individual , however popular he or she may be.

I am neither an expert nor have any qualification to comment on international affairs . But to a layman like me observing the drama unfold as an armchair specialist of stories laced with political intrigue, it appears on the surface that the coup has the blessings of USA who are desperate to gain a foothold in Africa to counter the growing influence of China, who unlike USSR do not export revolution to any country ; only Chinese goods . But what lies beneath can be anybody's guess.

So now, long live the Queen.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Random thoughts 16112017

#Conspiracytheory Don't underestimate the biggest actor of India. If nothing goes right , then he may feign a heart attack during a public rally two days before the voting day in Gujarat. And remain in the ICU till voting is done to whip up public sympathy. He can do everything. Use every trick in the books . I simply don't trust him .

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14.11.2017

This culture of trespassing into the personal lives and using spy camera to malign opponents must stop forthwith. Those who suport this or even try to justify such reprehensible behaviour do not realise that all this poses a great danger to individual freedom . Life itself is a resultant of lust and desire. Trying to be holier than thou and preaching morals related to carnal desire is idiotic and that too between two persons engaged in the act with mutual consent.

Encouraging this culture will destroy the social fabric. I am apprehensive that the day is not far off when people will stop bothering about cameras and start making it out in the open , like animals.


Monday, 13 November 2017

Random thoughts 13112017


14 years of continuous BJP rule in Madhya Pradesh. Yet they could not wrest the Chitrakoot assembly seat from Congress. How can you believe that they will deliver a Congress-Mukt Bharat ?

22 years of continuous BJP rule in Gujarat . Yet they have not been able to stop the illicit trade of liquor in the state. In spite of prohibition, liquor is freely available there through smugglers.How can you believe that they will deliver a corruption free India ?

Bhaktjanon kuchh toh bolo re !!

Those who criticise or mock North Korea , its leader Kim , his father or his grandfather and accuse them of war mongering may please answer - Which country has North Korea attacked in the last 50 years ? And how many countries the USA have attacked in the last 50 years ?

Without resorting to a nuclear attack , USA will never be able to win against Korea in a conventional war . Not only that , it will also lose its bases and hold over its client state South Korea. So North Korea is correct in developing a nuclear bomb as a deterrent strategy. Otherwise it would have faced the same fate as Libya or Iraq , by now.

It is their national interest they are pursuing . Since they have never shown any hostile intentions or provocations to other countries , it is strange why some Indians show off their twisted sense of foreign affairs by mocking or spreading US propaganda. Some TV channels are especially irritating in their anti Kim or anti North Korean content.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Random thoughts 09112917

Many years back , perhaps in the late seventies (or early eighties) , Shri Ashok Mitra , then finance minister of West Bengal shouted these words - I am not a gentleman, I am a communist- to the bureaucrats , possibly to make them fall in line. He was roundly castigated and a debate ensued . Now, Mr. Mitra was personally a genuine Bhadralok  (gentleman ) learned , erudite , austere and along with that uncompromising (a little too much) . He was a rare example of a civil servant who also excelled as a Marxist thinker, politician and minister. Still he had to bear the brunt of  universal opprobrium on his statement and for lowering the level of politics.

Anyone who recollects or considers his statement and dwell upon the present scenario of political discourse in the country will realise how much lower it has become now. Our country is now headed by a person who mocks his predecessor by jibes of having a shower in the bathroom in raincoat. He refers to the wife of an opposition politician as 50 crores kaa girlfriend and generally abuses the opposition in his farcical street-corner style speeches.

To many of us his speeches and actions would appear to be childish, classless, petty, vulgar and deplorable. But the fact remains that they are also being lapped up by many and there are enough people who appreciate him and his style of speech. That points out to the lowering of the standards in public discourse, rather a free-fall. While castigating him, we cannot forget that the responsibility for that also devolves on us, we the people,  for elevating this man to the pinnacle of power.

The trend of irreverent and comical style of speeches has always been lapped of by the Aam Aadmi but the element of indecency combined with twisting of facts and history is a recent phenomenon and coincides with the term of the present government in Centre ;that everybody will agree. Some will even justify it with a brave front saying this is the dismantling of Lutyens Delhi culture using the word with a sneer just like the other misused terms sickular , liberal and presstitute.

The general refrain from the supporters is - “He’s not a bigot, he’s just politically incorrect. He speaks the truth without bothering for niceties.” But it is very important for us to ponder on this aspect of indecency in public discourse. We must bring back the value of respectfully disagreeing with one another without vitiating the atmosphere with acrimonious insults. Lumpen in politics were always there ;. they lend muscle to the parties. But the political discourse was never so much vitiated with inanities and abuses . Had these abuses been followed up with stern action at the ground level to root out the cause of abuse, it would be welcome as a rough but decisive action. But without any such effort this abusive content only serves to lower the standards further and encourages the lumpen elements.

If this is a sign of changing times , then it is a portent of some catastrophe  that is waiting to happen. Riding a tiger may be easy, getting down from its back is difficult.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

October revolution - 100 years.

What we commonly term as October revolution actually happened in November and today is the 100th anniversary of it.  Once upon a time the Bolshevik revolution of Russia that saw the creation of the mighty USSR was seen as the ultimate expression of people's power against feudal rule and more cerebral than the french revolution. It was celebrated worldwide with due fanfare and appropriate glory.

With the parting of the Chinese communist party , fall of USSR and dismantling of the socialist setup  throughout the world , the October revolution has lost much of its glory. Gone are the days of pomp and show at Moscow, Beijing, Havana, Berlin  and yes, the huge rallies at Kolkata and Trivandrum. To many young people October revolution is more like a Robin hood type story where the rich were looted and poor came to power ; that's all.

But it will be a mistake to write off the event and its significance in the history of humanity. Those who take it lightly or ignore the lessons are living in denial . No idea or event can be judged by its ultimate success or failure but the impact that it creates on us .

October revolution did not fail by itself. It was the Soviet system which failed . And why ? Because of the conservatism of dogma and deviation from the Marxist-Leninist principles . And like drainage to the roots of a tree , constant evolution of any principle or idea is necessary to keep it growing . This is where perhaps the Soviet system failed primarily . The Chinese , however, modified their own system and suited it to their own national interests .

Perhaps there lies the lesson . In their zeal to export the revolution to different countries the Soviet system neglected the structural deficiencies of their own . And the Indian champions of October revolution too remained mired in their dogmatic views trying to supplant the revolution like a dose of medicine.

It has been hundred years only . Who knows how the wheel of time moves in the next hundred years ?

Monday, 6 November 2017

Fly away

Before you start flying on your wings,
so many thoughts would haunt you.
What happens if – and such other doubts
would have clouded your mind.
Because you have never ever flown before this;
on your own wings,
away from the gravitation of the earth,
into the blue skies. 
Till now, you must have only dreamt about this,
feared this day; in your mind somewhere,
there was always this lurking sense of uncertainty.
But all those are now behind you
as the moment of reckoning faces you.
You have to meet it head on,
there’s no other way.
So, take a deep breath, flap your wings
face your fears today for the last time
and then jump into your glory.
Fly away.   

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Random thoughts 22102017

Travelling on a train in North India after many , many days. I always find train journeys to be very interesting and educative . Observing people , places, languages, food and habits always leave an impression.

But with time, we have grown just that bit softer and while travelling with family , try to make them comfortable. So as I travel in the comfort of airconditioned environment of a Shatabdi train to Dehradun, I find half the charm of my wooly headed romance of train travel missing. But well , considering the heat and dust of the rough landscape outside , I don't miss it too.

One thing that immediately strikes to mind , off hand is that the sound and noise about cleanliness drive is a sheer nonsense on ground . If the places along the railway tracks around the NCR can remain so unclean , then what is happening elsewhere is better left to imagination. Secondly , it is high time that humankind especially Indians come out with a solution to the scourge of plastics. Some sort of organic or inorganic process , perhaps some enzyme or some recycled mode of disposal is just necessary now, otherwise we are doomed.

Plastic , which helps to make our lives comfortable , is also our biggest enemy.  All around , the ground is littered with plastic and why shouldn't it be . In the last 16 hours, the two of us have used and discarded six plastic bottles , four plastic cups , sundry wrappers and packets. A burden that I am leaving behind for future generations . I realise this but am I bothered about it ? I don't really know.

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Travelling on a train in North India after many , many days. I always find train journeys to be very interesting and educative . Observing people , places, languages, food and habits always leave an impression.

But with time, we have grown just that bit softer and while travelling with family , try to make them comfortable. So as I travel in the comfort of airconditioned environment of a Shatabdi train to Dehradun, I find half the charm of my wooly headed romance of train travel missing. But well , considering the heat and dust of the rough landscape outside , I don't miss it too.

One thing that immediately strikes to mind , off hand is that the sound and noise about cleanliness drive is a sheer nonsense on ground . If the places along the railway tracks around the NCR can remain so unclean , then what is happening elsewhere is better left to imagination. Secondly , it is high time that humankind especially Indians come out with a solution to the scourge of plastics. Some sort of organic or inorganic process , perhaps some enzyme or some recycled mode of disposal is just necessary now, otherwise we are doomed.

Plastic , which helps to make our lives comfortable , is also our biggest enemy.  All around , the ground is littered with plastic and why shouldn't it be . In the last 16 hours, the two of us have used and discarded six plastic bottles , four plastic cups , sundry wrappers and packets. A burden that I am leaving behind for future generations . I realise this but am I bothered about it ? I don't really know.

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Had a somewhat new experience yesterday which highlighted the great changes that have taken place in our lives over the last few decades. Reaching Delhi,  we proceeded to our hotel Ginger, Rail Yatri Niwas , previously booked. I had chosen this hotel primarily because of its vicinity to the station as we had to board a train next day, quite early in the morning.

We reached the hotel around 8.30 p.m. At the reception, I produced my reservation slip and was asked to produce an identification card. I submitted my Aadhar card. But to my surprise the reception clerk wanted some I-card for my wife too. This had never happened before .


Calling out my wife , seated on a sofa , across the hall , I joked - "give me your I-card , perhaps they don't think you're my wife."  My wife came up to the counter and passed on her ITax Card to the receptionist. What happened next  is the reason for writing this post.

The receptionist refused to acknowledge the IT card as proof of identity as it did not carry any address .  My wife did not carry her aadhar card , driving license , bank passbook or passport as suggested by him. Moreover , she got annoyed and raised her voice. I could see that her feminist tendencies raising the hackles. Moreover , since the last few years , she thinks that being a lawyer's mother she can tackle any rules and regulations in her stride and take legal action on anybody who comes across her way . But the receptionist remained adamant and I must say he retained his cool and remained polite , a novelty considering it was Delhi and a Rail service.

I am myself a short tempered person but realised that the matter was not heading anywhere with the stonewalling by the receptionist taking refuge behind some rules which we were perhaps not aware. And you can't really do anything against a polite official ( a lesson learnt).  It was already getting late and we wanted to snatch a couple of hours for a short Delhi tour. So I asked the guy if some scanned copy would do . He agreed to this idea as a concession. 

Next job was to contact our son at home , get him open his mother's cupboard , rumage through her bag get her passport out , take photos and send it to me , via Whatsapp message. All this took five minutes or so . And we were handed over the room keys in another five minutes, me relieved but my wife furious.

Later , we joked about the whole thing and wondered what the world was coming to. Two adults , well past their prime can't live together in a hotel room without showing proof of their residence. Moreover , we are a bit tentative as not sure what will happen if at some places they refuse to accept the scanned copies and demand that the original be produced. What do we do then , live on the footpath ?

But some lessons were well learnt from the episode.

1. Aadhar card is omnipotent . Now  our whole lives have been taken over by it.

2. Life has really changed over the last few decades. Nobody asked me anything when I took my young wife to hotels earlier but now don't want to allow my old wife with me unless she proves it .

3. Technology has really eased matters a lot and solutions can be had of problems quickly.

4. It is better to carry a scanned copy of identity card on the smart phone . But what happens if it falls into the hands of others is a concern.