The spiritual gift of India to the world has already begun. India's spirituality is entering Europe and America in an ever increasing measure. That movement will grow; amid the disasters of the time more and more eyes are turning towards her with hope and there is even an increasing resort not only to her teachings, but to her psychic and spiritual practice. -- Sri Aurobindo (from the message broadcast on the eve of August 15, 1947)

Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Abdul Kalam Azad came into contact with Sri Aurobindo and became a person of revolutionary thoughts

Moulana Abdul Kalam Muhiyuddin Ahmed:(Birth:11th Nov.1888- Death:22nd Feb.1958)
Moulana Abdul Kalam Azad is remembered as an enthusiastic leader of the freedom struggle of India, a great politician, a scholar and an orator. He was scholar of Urdu, Persian and Arabic languages. He was born in the family of a Muslim preacher in Mecca. Two years after the birth their family came to Calcutta. Abdul Kalam was trained according to olden methods and started studying Koran at the early age of fourteen. He received the title of 'Moulana' in his youth and changed his original name 'Muhiyuddin' to 'Azad' (free).
Abdul Kalam Azad came into contact with Shyamsunder Chakraborty and Aurobindo Ghose and became person of revolutionary thoughts. He entered politics and started a revolutionary nationalist Urdu weekly ' Al Halal' from Calcutta at the age of twenty-four only. He started criticizing the British and the sale of his weekly shots up to 25,000 copies per issue. The Government demanded bail from him and compelled to stop ' Al Halal'. After this, he started another periodic called ' Alba lag' and he was detained at Ranchi in 1916...Posted by Santosh Unecha at 9:43 AM

Non-economic values which matter like democracy, freedom of religion and respect for life

The French political commentator Guy Sorman has been an Asia-watcher for three decades now, and has written a series of intriguing books, including Barefoot Capitalism (1989) and The Genius of India (2001). His latest book, The Year of the Rooster, is an attempt to understand the Chinese miracle from within, building on a year of travel, study and encounters with people in China in 2005, the Year of the Rooster in the twelve-year animal cycle of the Chinese calendar. We are presented not with an enigmatic, faceless China of facts and figures of the kind bandied so often in the press, but instead a people very much like us, hungry for civil and religious liberty and for responsive government, but in thrall to forces whose power they cannot contest.
Sorman follows, on the one hand, the trail of misery and cruelty left by the Party-State. The story of China, he demonstrates, is "a chronicle of everyday repression". He meets the mother of a youth who was killed during the suppression of the protests at Tiananmen Square in 1989, still trying, in 2005, to get information on how and why her son died. He comes across political dissidents who have spent years in prison being tortured, and members of banned religious sects who have done time in labour reeducation centres. Some rebels dream of an armed revolution, others of a thaw ushered in by a figure in the Chinese communist party comparable to Gorbachev or Yeltsin, still others of a Chinese Martin Luther King.
Civil society is weak, for "the ability to associate outside the Party is what the Party fears the most". Thought control is everywhere. Both the press and the judiciary are emasculated, and serve as unofficial extensions of the Party. The regime even subjects the Internet to government control, and the state telephone company has developed software to censor text messages for words like "Tiananmen" and "Tibet". If matters have improved, in is only by comparison to the years of the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward.
Sorman argues that the West, in not taking a harder line with China's government for its predations, has valued "trade over human rights". All of this, he contends, renders comparisons of China's growth with that of India virtually meaningless, for a narrowly quantitative analysis does not reflect "non-economic values which matter like democracy, freedom of religion and respect for life".
And even that 9 per cent growth rate needs close examination. For one, if China is witnessing an unprecented migration of labour from the villages to the cities, much of that migration is forced: China has prospered because of its human rights violations, from using people as "human fodder". Also,China's manufacturing revolution is based on a virtually unlimited supply of cheap labour; the spirit of creativity and innovation traditionally associated with capitalism is foreign to Chinese firms....Chandrahas, 8:02 PM permalink Saturday, April 28, 2007 A version of this piece on Guy Sorman's The Year of the Rooster, an account of twelve months spent travelling around China in 2005 , appears today in Mint.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Sri Aurobindo gives the mantra of true equality and harmony

New Nationalism – Beyond Caste & Division
Anirban Ganguly anirbangan@gmail.com
Our colonial masters kept us deliberately divided through religion and caste in order to consolidate their hold on us and deliver a near fatal blow to the concept of an Indian nationality. This is a known, appreciated and much lamented fact. We remain confined even today in the same boundaries of division and are still reeling under the impact of that astutely delivered blow to our nation. This too is a known fact but accepted with helplessness, resignation, and indifference and for some with glee. The cyclic unrest, disharmony and bitterness created by the caste based reservation issue points to the fact that a new nationality in India has not fully grown and remains stunted even six decades after independence.
The fact that all divisions have to evaporate if India has to advance in the light of a new nationalism towards a greater well being stares us into the face and demands acceptance but as in the past so also now our policymakers of all shades deliberately look the other way. The attempt to provide equal opportunities in education and growth right from the initial levels and years can come about with a rock-political will for reorganizing and restructuring the system but sadly it is this political will that is absent among politicians and the effort at restructuring is avoided by most of them because the end of caste and religious divisions is bound to drastically alter their own composition and clout.

Sri Aurobindo considers the present day caste system a ‘gross meaningless parody’ of the ancient varna system which he believes to be more of a psychological and nature type. Without denigrating the past, unlike some of our modern day reformers who go to foreign lands to appeal before foreign tribunals to intervene and set things right in the Indian social system, Sri Aurobindo asserts that the modern system is a distortion of the ancient which had provided great security, impetus to growth and resilience to society then and was accepted and adjusted to quite easily. This was so because of its organic development; it grew out of the necessity of the age, flexibility and its lack of rigidity in terms of heredity. He writes:

“…At first, birth does not seem to have been of the first importance in the social order, for faculty and capacity prevailed; but afterwards, as the type fixed itself, its maintenance by education and tradition became necessary and education and tradition naturally fixed themselves in a hereditary groove. Thus the son of a Brahmin came always to be looked upon conventionally as a Brahmin…”

The new nationalism that must eventually establish itself and bring about a united Indian nationality shall recognize the individual first and foremost as a soul beyond the purview of caste and status and shall strive for the equal development of all without exception. Having perceived the ‘One’ in all in the true spirit of the Sanatana Dharma it shall proceed for the upliftment of all and thus naturally sublimate differences and antagonisms. Sri Aurobindo describes in no uncertain terms the new nationalism and its attitude to cast and overall national development in that perspective in the bold and incisive columns of the Bande Mataram in 1907, a hundred years ago:

“…The baser ideas underlying the degenerate perversions of the original caste system, the mental attitude which bases them on a false foundation of caste, pride and arrogance of a divinely ordained superiority depending on the accident of birth, of a fixed and intolerant inequality, are inconsistent with the supreme teaching, the basic spirit of Hinduism which sees the one invariable and indivisible Divinity in every individual being. Nationalism is simply the passionate aspiration for the realisation of that Divine Unity in the nation, a unity in which all the component individuals, however various and apparently unequal their functions as political, social or economic factors, are yet really and fundamentally one and equal. In the ideal of nationalism which India will set before the world, there will be an essential equality between man and man, between caste and caste, between class and class, all being…different but equal and united parts of the Virat Purusha realised in the nation…Indian Nationalism must by its inherent tendencies move towards the removal of unreasoning and arbitrary distinctions and inequalities…”

It is evident that the issue has never been looked at or tackled from the above point of view mainly because it requires a certain degree of selflessness, a deeper intuitive understanding of the Indian spiritual tradition and the ability to carry out impartial action all of which are at a short supply in our public life today. The present system has tried to bring about a rapprochement only by a mechanism of safeguards, which has, instead of mitigating, kept alive the very animosities, and divisions it was meant to remove. An outward mechanism alone can never totally eradicate inequalities and biases, which have deep psychological roots. They have to be approached by an understanding from the deeper level of the heart, by providing the right perspective of our philosophical and spiritual ideals and by making accessible to all equal opportunities of self-development. Sri Aurobindo continues in the same article:

“…It does not require much expenditure of thought to find out that the only way to rid the human mind of abuses and superstitions is through a transformation of spirit and not merely of machinery. We must educate every Indian, man, woman and child, in the ideals of our religion and philosophy before we can rationally expect our society to reshape itself in the full and perfect spirit of the Vedantic gospel of equality…Education on a national scale is an indispensable precondition of our social amelioration…”

The new nationalism thus shall believe in the ‘Divinity in every individual’ and the realization of that unity in the nation and shall first call for a total abolition of the modern caste-system and its practises and shall then demand the abrogation of all mechanisms which prolong its existence. Reservations in the name of religion and caste only keep alive, deepen and widen that divide which our past masters desired and developed – it survives today as a colonial relic and if India is to mature and develop a deep rooted and binding nationality these relics will have to be forever interred. The new nationalism shall have the gumption and the élan to ‘overleap every barrier’ and to reach out far and wide with the message and light of unity, strength, love and progress and in keeping with its deep spiritual moorings it shall exclude or overlook none from its refreshing sweep. While he attempted to evolve this nationalism in the first decade of the last century in Bengal Sri Aurobindo described its attributes and nature in dynamic words:

“…The new [nationalism] overleaps every barrier; it calls to the clerk at his counter, the trader in his shop, the peasant at his plough; it summons the Brahmin from his temple and takes the hand of the Chandala in his degradation; seeks out the student in his College, the schoolboy at his books, it touches every child in its mother’s arms; and the secluded zenana has thrilled to its voice; its eye searches the jungle for the Santal and travels the hills for the wild tribes of the mountains. It cares nothing for age, sex or caste or wealth or education or respectability; it mocks at the talk of a stake in the country; it spurns aside the demand for a property qualification or a certificate of literacy. It speaks to the illiterate or the man in the street in such rude vigorous language as he best understands, to youth and the enthusiast in accents of poetry, in language of fire, to the thinker in the terms of philosophy and logic, to the Hindu it repeats the name of Kali, to the Mahomedan it spurs to action for the glory of Islam. It cries to all to come forth, to help in God’s work and remake a nation, each with what his creed or his culture, his strength, his manhood or his genius can give to the new nationality. The only qualification it asks for is a body made in the womb of an Indian mother, a heart that can feel for India, a brain that can think and plan for her greatness, a tongue that can adore her name or hands that can fight in her quarrels…”

It is only in the development of this nationalism that India can truly be reborn; it is only in its growth and spread that lies India’s salvation, her unity, strength and overall progress. To try to bring about all of these in the present day spirit of reservations and quotas in the existing system is bound to be a futile exercise which shall benefit none but the self-seeker and breed further unbridgeable divisions. Sri Aurobindo gives the mantra of true equality and harmony and it is the only mantra to be followed to true lasting happiness and fulfillment of national growth, there is no other way – nanya pantha. Are we ready? Do we have the determination and conviction to spread that mantra? Can free India begin to chant it at last?

If you benefit from capitalism you should just shut up and not voice problems with other aspects of capitalism

The logic lurking behind the authors question is the assertion that if you benefit from capitalism you should just shut up and not voice problems with other aspects of capitalism. This has little or nothing to do with the elementary economic observations you make about the functioning of capitalism. A parallel would be as follows: if you benefit from technology are you mistaken to nonetheless criticize and fight against some of the problems of technology (environmental problems, health problems, etc)? By the authors logic the answer would be no. One can both be critical of certain aspects of capitalism– for instance, working conditions in third world countries, the destruction of local jobs, etc., etc., etc –while nonetheless endorsing other aspects. Similarly, one can endorse certain aspects of technology while having serious problems with other aspects. The form of the author’s question is designed to put the respondant in an either/or situation and insinuate hypocrisy, which is the mark of a very primitive, simplistic, and vulgar form of thought; not a product of the economic sophistication you try to point to. Given that the author also chose to name himself according to an extreme rightwing southern apologist in the original email that he sent to me, I have little or no doubt that he would ask a similar question like “do you feel that it’s okay to criticize the American government when you benefit from living in America in a number of ways?” Questions such as this are one of the favorite tools of the reactionary conservative. They all follow a common “logical form” expressed in the old standby: “love it or leave it!”
To put the matter a bit differently, the original post wasn’t seeking to understand the authors question, but was poking fun at this type of question altogether. Yes, yes, I’m familiar with the ideology you outline and explicate. I just think it’s mistaken for a variety of reasons.
I suspect that many who have a thorough grounding in economics would disagree with both your “we must destroy to create” thesis, your thesis that socialism is inevitably accompanied by horrors such as we saw in the Soviet Union, or in the inevitability of capitalist economy. That, however, is another conversation. larvalsubjects said this on April 27th, 2007 at 6:47 pm (edit)
Sorry, you sound insulted. Perhaps I was pedantic. I really didn’t want to offend you.
Personally, I don’t have a problem criticizing capitalism or the negative impact capitalism has on people. And I don’t believe my elementary observations delegitimize your complaints in any way. I thought you asked about how the author might respond to your analogy and I shared my view with you on that. Was your question merely rhetorical? Or, do you think I’m incorrect about how the author might respond or was that not really what you were asking? It seems that you reacted to me as if I was the author and you were arguing with my response. That’s an argument I haven’t the least bit of interest in engaging in.
Really, I might be misunderstanding you, but I thought the question was essentially, ‘how would the author of the statement respond?” I could have said, Levy, your argument is very powerful. You would leave the author slackjawed and stunned, but I don’t think that is what would happen.
To reiterate, I believe that such a person would say that abuse is not intrinsic to parenthood, but destruction is intrinsic to material production and prosperity. I’d add that by introducing the notion of an abused child, you’re introducing something that the author would likely react to as an inflammatory accusation of a highly personal nature. That’s because I think the analogy is more than just a straightforward analogy. It also conveys a less manifest, inflammatory meaning, even if that isn’t what you intend. I think there is an excellent possibility that the author of the statement would hear you morally equating them with a child abuser. Whether that’s how you see the author or not, I think that might be conveyed. The author of the statement would probably be thinking, ‘hey, Buddy (this isn’t me, this is how cspitalists talk — and that’s a joke, Levy), I just built you a computer, you like it and because you chucked your typewriter now I’m just like a child abuser? Voices will get raised.
I’m quite sure that is the response you would get from most capitalists whether you agree with that response or not. If you don’t either acknowledge the elementary insight and propose some way to work around it, or, alternatively, offer an informed disgreement with the elementary economic insight that demonstrates an understanding of economic creation, I don’t think you will draw a capitalist into serious engagement. You’ll probably be dismissed or end up being the recipient of insults.
You’ve mentioned a couple of times that you’re interested in how to engage others in everyday discussions in ways that might influence their thinking on matters such as these. I’m just offering my two-cents based on my experience with this particular subject. Dr X said this on April 27th, 2007 at 9:03 pm (edit)
Well, I’m wondering about the economic regime in which the letters themselves were invented - back in the days when Baal was properly worshipped and a rulers were not treated as gods, but literally were gods. But read any of the classical economists, and are they grateful? Do they say, at least, that sacrificers to Baal did do a few good things? No, those spoilsports. Capitalism arose on the bones of earlier systems WHILE EMPLOYING THE SIGNS AND SYMBOLS developed by those earlier systems. Myself, I just want to see a sincere apology from Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, followed by a fund to build some temples to Baal. roger said this on April 27th, 2007 at 11:03 pm (edit)
Dr. X, yes I intended the question rhetorically and it was meant to be inflammatory. I get a couple emails like this a week and never respond to them. I don’t feel that there’s much point in engaging people such as this in discussion and tend to advocate ridiculing them out of existence. That is, I think Voltaire was on to something in Candide. They are of interest to me only in terms of how their rhetoric is structured and for whatever insight they provide into the psychology of minds full of ressentiment.
You’ve mentioned a couple of times that you’re interested in how to engage others in everyday discussions in ways that might influence their thinking on matters such as these.
It’s likely that I haven’t been entirely clear here, that I’m not expressing myself well in this regard. I’ve spent about six years off and on observing various conservative blogs and sometimes even participating in the guise of a rightwing conservative. I’ve experimented with rhetorical techniques, to discover what will earn prestige in these communities and what will earn vilification. There are a few I continue to read daily to this day, carefully examining the structures of their rhetoric and how these discussions function in relation to information and stories that are uncomfortable to their cause. These are blogs that regularly ban others that don’t tow the party line, so I think I’ve been pretty effective in these interactions given that I’ve never been banned. I’ve thought about these observations as fieldwork studying particular types of rhetoric. The fundamental lesson I’ve learned in this time is that these forms of discourse are populated by a number of highly effective defense structures that render them almost immune to any change or discussion with folk from the outside.
In a number of cases there really is no question of engaging someone else in dialogue or trying to reach and persuade them. Rather, if a dialogue takes place between two people where there’s no chance of persuasion possible, the purpose of this dialogue does not relate to the two people involved but to those witnessing the discussion, to the audience. The discussion is had for the sake of the audience, not for the sake of persuading the other person. Perhaps you’ve seen O Brother Where Art Thou. Recall one of the final scenes where the ugliness of the leading politician is revealed over the radio in a debate between the Soggy Bottom Boys and him, and he’s carried out on a post. This is the point of such discussions, not the persuasion of the politician himself.
When I speak about influencing public discussions, what I’m referring to is putting certain things publicly on the table that aren’t currently available within the public sphere. For instance, in today’s political climate in the United States, being a communist isn’t really a viable option. Sure, you can be a communist. But you won’t find yourself getting serious attention from the news media or from the public. Perhaps this is now changing as we elected our first socialist recently. However, the question here would be “what would have to change in order for being a communist to be seen as just as viable an option as being a democrat or a republican or a libertarian? How does this become a recognize option for the public?”
This can fruitfully be thought of in terms of populations in an ecosystem. How does one go about shifting a population that is almost completely absent in a particular ecosystem to being one that is dominant or the plurality within an ecosystem? The same holds true in public rhetoric. In order to understand this point, rhetoric shouldn’t be thought of two people talking to one another and seeking to persuade one another (what you seem to imply in your comment above), but rather in terms of themes that circulate throughout a social space like an obvious common sense that all parties involved share, even if only in the form of taking a postion for or against. Very few take a position for or against communism today as it isn’t a real position in the social field. The question is one, then, of how to get certain themes on the table at all, how to make them obvious furniture of the social environment.
Let’s take a concrete example. On a few occasions I’ve praised Dawkin’s God Delusion and Dennett’s Breaking the Spell. Why? I don’t think these texts are particularly sophisticated. I don’t think they make very new or interesting arguments. I don’t think all of their arguments are even that plausible. Certainly they aren’t the sorts of texts that I would cite or take seriously in an article I would write for an academic journal. Most importantly, I don’t think these arguments are going to persuade any of the devoutly religious.
So why do these books interest me? These books interest me in their status as “public books”. That is, they are addressed to a general, non-academic reader or are designed for mass consumption. Since they have been published they have generated discussion on a number of popular television news and radio programs and have been the subject of numerous newspaper articles. The important point here has to do with how these books relate to a certain context in American politics. These books have occured in a media environment that has been saturated by Christianity, where values discussions are constantly pitched in terms of religion, and where atheism is so absent (in news reporting) that it isn’t even discussed premised on the assumption that atheists just don’t exist in the United States. As a rhetorical event and fact (an enunciation that took place and inscribed itself in the media system), these books are thus interesting in that they challenge this assumption and introduce a new creature into the social space: The Atheist. Atheists now, perhaps, come to be recognized as a population that must be counted and recognized as having a say in public debates about policy. A believer finds that they must respond to this position in these debates, whereas before the existence of atheists in the United States didn’t differ markedly from that of biological organisms such as ourselves and infrared light, i.e., they were invisible. All response also entails concession and compromise at the rhetorical level. As such, the simple appearance of something like this– whether one agrees with it or not –shifts the nature of the entire debate and what is rhetorically obvious in subsequent discussions. Time will tell whether the growing voice of atheists has this effect on public debates or whether the hundreds of thousands of agonistics and atheists in the United States will continue to be voiceless and invisible in how public discussions or molded and framed.
No one is going to persuade the likes of Pat Robertson and his followers. What can be done is a shift in the very assumptions underlying the populace in such a way that it is increasingly difficult for such positions to even be heard or recognized as anything but fringe or lunatic positions. That is, positions can also be taken off the table and delegitimated. No one worships Greek gods anymore, perhaps organized religion as we know it today will someday disappear as well. This is why I’m always emphasizing the ethics of repetition and why it’s so important to repeat. It’s not simply a good argument that matters. Every rhetorician knows this. Rather, it’s important to repeat and repeat and repeat again until things are so ingrained in the unconscious of the population that they seem obvious. At one point, a person was on the fringe if they advocated mechanism (in physics) and heliocentrism in astronomy. Now everyone takes these things as being self-evident and assumes them as a part of the furniture of their universe. Even the religious who fought these things believe them today. This was through constant repetition or a saturation of the social space much like cane toads came to saturate the ecosystem in Australia.
Today conservative assumptions are the common sense of even many “leftist” oriented people in the United States. If you frequent democratic blogs like dailykos you discover that their positions are almost indiscernible from those of Barry Goldwater decades ago. This shows just how successful the right has been in shifting the entire field of discussion to the right. This has occured because conservatives successfully dominated the radio and news spheres, repeating their message over and over again and creating certain assumptions about the nature of reality, through a combination of argumentation, production of affects, mockery, vilification, and humiliation. In the meantime, other leftist thinkers feel as if they’re doing something by writing articles on Judith Butler or Zizek addressed to other academics, as if this is how change is produced. The point is not to persuade but to make a certain theme so ominipresent that it comes to be seen as an obvious reality. This also involves the destruction of certain forms of discourse. No one today can publicly stand up and advocate the positions of the Ku Klux Klan or the Nazis without being booed out of the room. This didn’t occur by persuading the people that had these beliefs, but by changing public attitudes towards people that have these beliefs (i.e., the audience witnessing the discussion). It involved a combination of mockery, humiliation, vilification, and condemnation, as well as sound arguments. This ad hominem style of argumentation made the price too high for others to advocate these positions or tolerate them in the public space. I would like to see that happen with figure such as Hannity, Limbaugh, Coulter, Maulkin, and their more moderate versions. In short, by posting his questions publicly I was mocking the person who wrote me with the hope that he wouldn’t write me again and perhaps that he might feel a little shame and that others who have occasionally thought such things might feel a twinge of guilt.
I am not, of course, suggesting that my blog is somehow doing these things. Here I’m concerned with theory of various sorts, not the actual activity of producing these changes. Clearly I have a lot of work to do in expressing myself if you’re reading my remarks as a plea for Habermasian communication and persuasion with fascists. larvalsubjects said this on April 28th, 2007 at 12:07 am (edit)

Venture capital for Orissa's rural development

I have been discussing with many different friends (not Oriyas in particular but my friends in the corporate sector who are involved in developmental issues of North Carolina, especially Eastern North Carolina, the poorest area of the state) to get ideas on what type of mechanism could be developed to accomplish the goals in measurable time. I do not know how much you and others in India know about the concept, mechanism and role of Venture Capital, but most who are in research and corporate sector of USA are familiar with this topic. It was therefore natural that my friends invariably directed me in the direction of venture capital. With this impetus from my friends, I have been talking to some of my Physician friends (these are all Oriyas) about the prospects of setting up a venture capital for rural development of Orissa. Just as I was progressing cautiously and slowly, the article attached hereto came in the news paper today. It heightened my excitement to such a level that I felt it is time for me to come out and talk about it publicly. I hope readers of this forum will enjoy reading the article as much as I did. For those who do not have much time, I have changed to red font those points which stood out most in my mind.
I am not going to go to details here because in this posting it is not my intent to start a discussion or debate on the topic. Rather, it is an invitation to individuals to communicate with me privately or publicly if they have any questions or suggestions and desire to participate. In this context, however, I wish to give a little background that many readers probably do not know because it happened in another medium called Ornet. This background is pertinent because some people will have a natural tendency to question with curiocity my motives. intents, objectives, experience etc.
The venture capital concept I am proposing here is not just a day dream for me or an off the cuff whimisical proposal to pick others' pockets in the name of Orissa's rural development. In fact, I have been toying with the this venture capital concept for the last five years or longer to augment Rural development Orissa. When I started the Agriculture Institute in my village to train farmers and NGOs in new technology, I found that I have quite a bit of assets but no cash at hand because I had just retired and was without a salary. Therefore, I publicly requested the readers through Ornet or MyOdisha (or may be both) to loan me money against the guarantee of my assets in the USA and India. It was hard for me believe that in about two weeks readers (some of them are close friends and some total strangers whom I still have not met) helped me raise aboout $15000 dollars. Those who were kind enough to support me received legal documents to recover their money from my estate if I die before payment or default in doing so. Thus, I used this as a venture capital against myself to start the Agriculture Institute which is now not only a self sustaining entity, but generates about Rs.5000 every year for IAFF projects in Orissa and trains at least 15 people each year in new agricultural technology..I am now ready to return this money to my friends in 2008 with 5% interest. The caveat is that the money will be returned in Rupees. When I pledged the 5% interest in 2003, the bank interest rate on passbooks in India was less than 3% and in USA it was less than 2%. In fact, one of my friends was so concerned about the potential risk/liability I am undertaking (that is why it is called venture capital) that he offered from his side to accept only 3% interest.
One might ask if I did it before why am I not doing it now? Well, reasons are many, but the most important are: 1) I can not undertake new loans before I can pay back the money I already owe. This means the work has to wait until after 2008. In the words of David Murdock, the billionare owner of Dole foods, any decision that takes longer than an hour is late and if takes more than two months it is eternity. By that standard, wating until after 2008 probably amounts to the prospect of not doing it ever. 2) With several health set backs in health set backs, I am not only closer to death now than I was in 2003, but I also have lost quite a bit of mental toughness 3) Family liabilities are such (children in marriage age) that I am afraid to undertake risks that I did when I did not have to worry aobut these factors. 4) While $15000 was enough to start the Agriculture Institute the capital needed to jump start rural development through venture capital will need at least twice that much, if not more.
My unusual step of seedking loan through internet-based fund raising has lead to a much bigger effort which resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars to create a micro-finance bank by BISWA (Sambalpur) for rural development. I do not know whether this effort will be successful, but it has been done and doable. Yet some other people might ask if there is micro finance bank where is the need for venture capital? I do not know the laws in India. But in USA banks are prohibited from giving high risk (that is collateral free) loans wehreas non-bank lenders can do this. Reasons for this are simple. Banks are public institutions in that they hold public funds in trust where as venture capitalists lend their own funds, not public fund. I hope the above back ground and this explanation will answer many preliminary questions interested people might have. I will be happy to answer addtional questions (but not engage in discussion) privately or publicly. But i will not participate in a public debate. The reasons for this are also very simple straightforward: those who believe this is a dumb idea and is can not be done or should not be have many strong points. On the those who believe it should be done are welcome to participate. DOCUMENT ATTACHED
love

NEWS AND OBSERVER
April 26, 2007
A NEW IDEA: FOR-PROFIT FUNDS
David Rainy, Staff Writer
Nonprofit NC IDEA spins off a venture capital fund with a $25 million goal.The executives who run a nonprofit economic development organization in Durham hope to raise up to $25 million for a new venture capital fund that is strictly a money-making venture .
IDEA Fund Partners -- an outgrowth of N.C. Innovative Development for Economic Advancement, better-known as NC IDEA recently closed on an initial round of capital raised from institutional and individual investors. The fund expects to complete its fundraising efforts before the end of this year, partner Merrette Moore said. Moore declined to divulge how much investors have committed, but said: "We are well on our way to $25 million." Venture capitalists invest in young, privately held companies with high-growth potential, which in turn use the money for purposes, including hiring employees and developing products.
The new fund is welcome news for Triangle entrepreneurs, because venture capitalists like to invest in their own backyard so they can keep an eye on their investments. IDEA Fund also plans to invest in start-ups and early-stage companies, which are the riskiest investments and therefore tend to have the most difficulty raising outside funding .
The nonprofit NC IDEA was formed in 2003 as a spin-off from MCNC, a nonprofit founded by the General Assembly that received state funding until the late 1990s. NC IDEA inherited a $25 million fund to invest in early-stage companies; that fund isn't making any new investments, although it has reserves for making follow-up investments in the companies it already has funded.
Although the nonprofit has limited its investments to companies based in North Carolina, the for-profit IDEA Fund will prospect for good investments throughout the Southeast, said Moore. Still, he said, "This new fund will concentrate on North Carolina. We're early-stage [investors] and it's good to have proximity to the companies you invest in." Moore said the IDEA Fund already has invested in two Triangle companies but isn't ready to discuss details.
The fund expects to make initial investments of between $250,000 and $1 million per company. Industries that it is focusing on include information technology, medical device, materials technology and companies that straddle the information technology and biotechnology industries." We don't foresee investing in drug research," Moore said. The management team at NC IDEA also will run IDEA Fund Partners, led by David Rizzo, who is president and CEO of NC IDEA and managing partner of IDEA Fund. The other IDEA Fund partners are Moore, John Cambier and Lister Delgado. Several Triangle venture capital funds have raised money recently, including Southern Capitol Ventures, Hatteras Venture Partners and SJF Ventures.
The flurry of fundraising activity is largely coincidence, but "the market is a little more frothy than it has been in previous years," said Southern Capitol founding partner Ben Brooks. "There is plenty of money out there."
Dr. Subhas C. Mohapatra, President, IAFF, 1413 Boxwood Lane, Apex, NC 27502, Ph.(919)362-7653. Web site: www.iaff1.org

Friday, April 27, 2007

Sri Aurobindo said India’s destiny is much greater a force

As Sri Aurobindo said, India’s destiny is much greater a force than these political pygmies. The collective will of the people will overcome the challenges, looking insurmountable now, when the right moment arrives. The question is: how many of us are ready for that moment? Preparation means equipping ourselves with the values and the inner strength of this civilisation. Think: where are you standing in this great surge forward, amongst the complainants or with the caravan? Tarun Vijay is the editor of the RSS’ Panchjanya Posted by Tarun Vijay at 10:03 AM Thursday, April 26, 2007 The Asian Age 19 August 2005

Identify with the poor

Subject: Eminent Political Scientist Prof Manoranjan Mohanty in the POSCO Debate Date: Fri, 27 Apr 2007 09:03:23 +0530 POSCO Factor..............Three Panchayats have rejected the POSCO Project. Prof Manoranjan Mohanty Delhi University
Dear Sachi,
From Agamee Odissa I know about your deep commitment to the cause of the people of Orissa. I am giving short replies to your questions on POSCO.
1. I do not think that the giant POSCO project will change the character of Orissa economy. It will continue the extractive character of the economy of the last hundred years using Orissa's raw materials for metropolitan development elsewhere. Unless an integrated chain of development with agriculture, rural industries together with sound health and education policies come up with local people's support and some heavy industries which manufacture goods using local natural resources come up as part of a larger development strategy there will be no fundamental change in the poverty-stricken region.
2. I am against the idea of SEZ. The Chinese experience is regrettable as it has produced dens of exploitation of migrant labour, women among other things. The Chinese started SEZ because they did not wish to allow foreign caitalists to enter all areas.Now they are everywhere in China and in our case the whole country is open to them. So the idea of granting tax concessions and anti-labour practices and even full power over law and order is wrong. People are resisting it in many places in India.
3. The clever statement on POSCO directly taking land from people will only facilitate mobilization of the local elite with money and favours against common people. Panchayats have the power under law to reject and three Panchayats have rejected the POSCO project. Democracy is not about formal procedures but substantive rational discussion at every level. The government is commercializing and criminalizing the entire process and we are in for a prolonged confrontation in Kujanga, Kalinganagar and Kashipur. After Maikanch and Kalinganagar firings the Nandigrm firings have shocked the whole country and now people will not allow wrong policies to be imposed with impunity by the governments.

Orissa is at crossroads of development and political choices and I am hopeful that more and more educated people will identify with the poor, but struggling masses of Orissa and advocate alternative pro-people strategy of development. All the best
Manoranjan Mohanty
-- Sachi Satapathy Coordinator, Orissa Politics Platform
Winner, Infosys Young Achiever's Finalist Award-2005 Mobile-(0)9901307460

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sadhu Prof V.Rangarajan was moved by the deathless words of Sri Aurobindo

Recalling revolutionatries in India's struggle for freedom
V SUNDARAM (The writer is a retired IAS officer) e-mail the writer at vsundaram@newstodaynet.com
I have just finished reading a very inspiring book titled 'Saga of Patriotism, Revolutionaries in India's Freedom Struggle' written by Sadhu Prof V Rangarajan and R Vivekanandam. This book has been published by Sister Nivedita Academy in Bangalore...
Sadhu Prof V Rangarajan founded the Sister Nivedita Academy. To begin with it started as a small study group of patriotic youth, to inspire manliness and courage in our frightened youth to fight against dictatorship and tyranny. This later flowered and developed into an Institute of Hindu thought and culture in 1977 and its main objective is to foster the spirit of patriotism and respect for our ancient culture. In establishing the Nivedita Academy, I have no doubt whatsoever that Sadhu Prof V.Rangarajan was moved by the following deathless words of Sri Aurobindo in his pamphlet Bhawani Mandir which he wrote 'for the revolutionary preparation of the country':
'If India is to survive, she must be made young again. Rushing and billowing streams of energy must be poured into her: her soul must become, as it was in the old times, vast, puissant, calm or turbulent at will, an ocean of an action or a force. Many of us, utterly overcome by Tamas, the dark and heavy demon of inertia, are saying nowadays that it is impossible, that India is decayed, bloodless and lifeless, too weak ever to recover; that our race is doomed to extinction. It is a foolish and idle saying. No man or nation need be weak unless he chooses; no man or nation need perish unless he deliberately chooses extinction.....We have to create strength where it did not exist before; we have to change our natures, and become new men with new hearts to be born again....We need a nucleus of men in whom the SHAKTI is developed to its uttermost extent, in whom it fills every corner of the personality and overflows to fertilise the earth. These, having the fire of Bhawani in their hearts and brains, will go forth and carry the flame to every nook and cranny of our land.' HOME / OTHER SPECIAL STORIES news today

There is always a war between the Gods and the demons

After I realized that wars are a never ending phenomenon embedded into the history of human civilizations, I started thinking of ways to increase the 'calm' period between wars. Was there ever a period when no wars were fought and the entire mankind lived peacefully together? Perhaps not. In no Yug or eon of time, did it happen. A time of complete peace -
There is always a war between the Gods and the demons. Definitions are just a matter of which side you are standing. From the vedic periods (Rig Veda!), when some Devatas of the post ice-age were mastering the sciences of engineering and anatomy, the other bunch of Devatas were fighting a war with Dasyas. While the vedic rishis were mastering science and spirituality in the tough yet peaceful Himalayan heights, there were a bunch of their countrymen (!!?) fighting war. Removing the 'allusive' symbolisms of vedas (as beautifully decoded by Sri Aurobindo in his 'The Secret of Vedas'), the dasyas were fighting the aryans to steal their cattle and food. Cause while Devatas have plenty of riches and foods, Dasyas were suffering from hunger and weather. (I know this is a WRONG WRONG example - The Vedic kings of the yore were extremely responsible citizens of the planet!!)...Walk, Explore, See, Know! 4:36 PM Add a comment Send a message Trackbacks (0) Blog it

Violence has been diminishing

In the decade of Darfur and Iraq, and shortly after the century of Stalin, Hitler, and Mao, the claim that violence has been diminishing may seem somewhere between hallucinatory and obscene. Yet recent studies that seek to quantify the historical ebb and flow of violence point to exactly that conclusion.
A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE by Steven Pinker
Introduction: Once again, Steven Pinker returns to debunking the doctrine of the noble savage in the following piece based on his lecture at the recent TED Conference in Monterey, California.
This doctrine, "the idea that humans are peaceable by nature and corrupted by modern institutions—pops up frequently in the writing of public intellectuals like José Ortega y Gasset ("War is not an instinct but an invention"), Stephen Jay Gould ("Homo sapiens is not an evil or destructive species"), and Ashley Montagu ("Biological studies lend support to the ethic of universal brotherhood")," he writes. "But, now that social scientists have started to count bodies in different historical periods, they have discovered that the romantic theory gets it backward: Far from causing us to become more violent, something in modernity and its cultural institutions has made us nobler."
Pinker's notable talk, along with his essay, is one more example of how ideas forthcoming from the empirical and biological study of human beings is gaining sway over those of the scientists and others in disciplines that rely on studying social actions and human cultures independent from their biological foundation. —JB
STEVEN PINKER is the Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. His most recent book is The Blank Slate. Steven Pinker's Edge Bio Page HomeAbout EdgeFeatures Edge EditionsPressEdge Search

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

5,252 registered French voters

Puducherry ‘Frenchmen’ vote to elect new leader
Published: Tuesday, 24 April, 2007, 10:29 AM Doha Time
PUDUCHERRY: As France voted to choose a new president yesterday, far away in this Indian union territory, a clutch of residents also stirred out of their homes to exercise their franchise. For, this former French enclave has 5,252 registered French voters, including those from Mahe, which is administratively part of Puducherry even though geographically it falls in Kerala. As many as 44.5mn French voters, many living outside France and its once-distant legions, began the process to choose their president from among three candidates - Socialist Ségolène Royal, Nicolas Sarkozy of the right of centre UMP (Rally for Popular Movement) and Francois Bayrou, seen as a centrist. Twelve others are in the fray. By afternoon, 48% of the voters in India had cast their ballot at the voting centres.
Most French voters in India seem to be supporters of the UMP. N Balakrishnan, president of the 72-member French Union in Mahe, said that 33 people had cast proxy votes through the French consulate on April 16. “The presidential race would be a close one between Ségolène Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy,” said the 62-year-old who returned from France four years ago after living there for 37 years. Soil scientist Claude Marius, 74, who has voted from Puducherry thrice since 1995, said: “The three main candidates are relatively new but Sarkozy is likely to get the most votes.”
Besides the three main contenders, “the extremes of the political spectrum will participate. They include three Trotskyites, a Communist, a Green and an anti-MNC, a campaigner for hunters’ rights, a Catholic nationalist and an ultra-nationalist”, said Auroville resident and political observer Claude Arpi. Arpi, however, is not voting, “I don’t feel 100% French. I have been living in India for the past 33 years, I hold a PIO (persons of Indian origin) card (with a French passport),” he said. – IANS

What avails thy leonine supermanhood?

Nietzsche saw the superman as the lion-soul passing out of camel-hood, but the true heraldic device & token of the superman is the lion seated upon the camel which stands upon the cow of plenty. If thou canst not be the slave of all mankind, thou art not fit to be its master and if thou canst not make thy nature as Vasistha's cow of plenty with all mankind to draw its wish from her udders, what avails thy leonine supermanhood?
Sri Aurobindo (141−Thoughts and Aphorisms)

Putting thinkers like Herder, Kant, Schiller, Fichte and Nietzsche in the same basket

The idea of being Indian MRINAL MIRI A critical examination of Golwalkar's thought and his legacy: his conception of Indianness. TERRIFYING VISION — M.S. Golwalkar, the RSS and India: Jyotirmaya Sharma; Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11, Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110017. Rs. 295. The Hindu Book Review Tuesday, Apr 24, 2007
What is it for me to be an Indian? I was born in what was then, and still is, India; I have grown up loving this country, frequently being proud of it for excellences achieved, through millennia, by people whom I regard as fellow Indians, and, occasionally, being ashamed because of terrible things that have been done in this country. And yet, the question what it is for me to be an Indian is, so it seems to me, not at all an easy question to answer.
There are different levels of articulation of the idea of being Indian. Think, in modern times, of Vivekananda, Gandhiji, Tagore, Sri Aurobindo, Coomaraswamy and, quaint as it may sound, Verrier Elwyn, an Englishman turned Indian. These articulations are significantly different from one another; but conversations between them are possible and have indeed taken place — and such conversations, one would like to think, may lead to finer, deeper articulation of the idea of being Indian.
The vision
M.S. Golwalkar presents before us, through 12 volumes of his collected works, published recently, a conception of Indianness, which is different in a rather special way. Jyotirmaya Sharma's Terrifying Vision is a critical appraisal of this depiction of Indianness, which he calls terrifying. The Golwalkar vision is indeed terrifying, but Sharma's account and assessment of it is wonderfully devoid of emotional breast beating that the title might lead one to expect. The book is scholarly without, happily, appearing to be so, written dispassionately in lucid prose, and the author allows the terror, implicit in the vision of the man who led the RSS for 32 years, to sink in through wonderfully deft intellectual persuasion, rather than make an irritating to-do about it on every page.
Assertions
Why is Golwalkar's vision different in a special way? It is so, because unlike the other visions I mentioned and Sharma mentions, it forecloses all debates about its validity. It is embodied in a series of assertions, which are either taken as self-evident or assumed to follow from ones that are so. Therefore any questioning of this vision would, for that very reason, have to be seen as logically unsound, and quite likely to be grounded in dubious motives. There are no open windows — to use a Gandhian metaphor — in this vision. If I am allowed to list (not necessarily in any particular order) some of these assertions:
  • Hinduism is a unitary religion and culture, and this unitariness is its moral and intellectual strength;
  • differences, "bhinnata", within Hinduism have no basis in truth;
  • such differences are, therefore, illusory, based on ignorance;
  • Advaita (non-dualism) is the core of Hinduism;
  • a necessary step in achieving a knowledge of the radical oneness of things is to dissolve one's individuality in the wholeness of society;
  • God manifests himself in the form of society, nation or rashtra;
  • society, and not any individual, is the only worthy object of worship;
  • the Hindu rashtra is eternal and immortal;
  • the present weakness of India is the result of deep forgetfulness of Hindus of their own inalienable strength and the consequent delusions of the primacy of the individual and pursuit of selfish gratifications;
  • the only way to regain authentic memory is through a process of re-creating Hindus ("manushyon ki rachana") by instilling into them the virtues of purity, sincerity, integrity and martyrdom;
  • these virtues must be defined in terms of the overriding truth of the utter oneness of the individual with the whole;
  • Hindus who convert themselves to Islam, Christianity or Buddhism because of their perception of "wrongs" that society has done to them must remind themselves that what society (God) does cannot be questioned;
  • non-Hindus — Muslims, Christians, Buddhists (and presumably poor tribal people) — must accept the absolute primacy of Hindu rashtra if India is to be their home or...

The list can be elongated, but this is surely sufficient to convey the totally self-enclosed and claustrophobic character of Golwalkar's vision...Sharma's own invitation, in the "Author's Note" at the end of the book, to the 12 volumes of Golwalkar's collected works must be taken with the seriousness that it deserves.
Critique
My only unhappiness with the book is Sharma's treatment — by no means central to his argument — of "theories of romantic nationalism" in modern Europe. Putting thinkers like Herder, Kant, Schiller, Fichte and Nietzsche in the same basket needs far greater argumentative support than Sharma has place for in the book. And while Nazism might have claimed Nietzschen inspiration, Nietzsche himself would have been horrified by such claims. Jyotirmaya Sharma's Terrifying Vision is a worthy sequel to his earlier Hindutva. Any discussion of Hindu nationalism will henceforth be terribly inadequate if it fails to take into account his critique of Golwalkar.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Where do the quest for Truth, love for God and spirituality lie?

I saw the cinematic adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri's 'Namesake' the other day- a very powerful film which evokes many different emotions. In many ways, this is a Bollywood film- dealing in emotions- but in many other ways its truly a crossover film too, dealing with the lifes of what may be us in the future. This is actually why this story strikes such a chord with desis abroad- it deals with all the challenges we have to go through in our life in the West.
This is a difficult time for youth of my generation. We grew up in independent India an India still displaced from herself, with Nehruvian policies only continuing the colonial narratives often. Schooled almost entirely in a western paradigm but brought up with Eastern values, we grew up to question our heritage, but most of us returned to our roots through our spiritual quest. But the roots which we returned to, were not always the rigid tradition of the society around us, not always to the values we were supposed to uphold: rather it was the revolutionary spirit of the Upanishadic age. Equality of all men, the meaninglessness of ritual unguided by the spiritual quest, a desire to see the social and the individual duties and lives flowing seamlessly into each other: these are not often the values tradition bequeathed to us.
Tradition- tradition that evolved out of stifling conditions of conquest, slavery and colonialism, we understand as transient compared to that vaster more truer Indic tradition of freedom. But faced with implementing the profound conclusions of those inspirarional seers of another era amidst the overwhelming challenges of today's life, most of us stuttered. Amidst a world convinced of the glitter and glamour of a material existence, endlessly churning out thoughts, words and ideas compellingly pedddling this view, where do the quest for Truth, love for God and spirituality lie? Even if renunciation be mental and not physical, in this world where acquistion is the buzzword, where do such ideals stand? Unable to stand up to the rigour demanded by this spiritual vision, many would rather take comfort in the established scaffolding of tradition, rather than take on this all-blinding material glitter.
All this came to me. All this churning happened on seeing this movie. and also the other side of this story- the divisive politics of a bitterly divided society- which drove thousands out of their homelands. What could have been an organic growth, expansion, has been muddled to take the form of this many-pronged struggle I described. As a Tamil Brahmin, sometimes I have to deal with such contradictions. I am proud of the achievemnts of the great Cholas- and the devotional genius of the Azhvars and Nayanmars- but I am also bitter at the cruel marginzalization of eveyrthing of the Brahmin worldview by the 'Dravidian' movement of the last many decades. I oppose Hindi chauvinism but I also cannot accept Tamil chauvinism.
I like, love, venerate this Dravida land- the Tamil land, but should I have to degrade my Sanskritic heritage for that? If not for their bitter persecution, maybe my father's generation would not have had to flee to other lands. Maybe I wouldnt have had to go thhrough so much agony of identity. But maybe also, had not my grandfather's generation not be secudced by 'English', I would still have lived to sing a loving hymn in an agraharam somewhere on the Cauvery. Whom should I fault for all this struggle? All this is the background to every Iyer's namesake. posted by Pathik @ 1:41 PM 0 Comments Sunday, April 08, 2007 Malik Hyderabadi

Each household is its own power and water company

Africa’s Crisis of Democracy By LYDIA POLGREEN NYT: April 23, 2007
The bulk of Africa now falls into the “partly free” category. In the middle of that group is Nigeria, a nation of 140 million people divided among 250 ethnic groups and two major religions, Islam and Christianity, all of whom live in a space twice the size of California. It is rich in oil, exporting about two million barrels a day, but the riches that oil brings have not translated into meaningful development.
In Kano, a once vibrant manufacturing center, the contradictions of Nigeria’s eight-year-old experiment with elected government are vividly on display. Far from building a unified country aimed at the greatest good for all, Nigeria has instead become an every-man-for-himself nation. In Kano’s Government Residential Area, where the wealthy live, each household is its own power and water company. Plastic water tanks on spidery legs tower over the tiled roofs, each fed by an electric pump sucking water from a private well. The electric company provides light just a few hours a day, so the air is thick with the belching diesel smoke of a thousand generators, clattering away in miserable, endless unison. The poor must manage however they can. With the decline of manufacturing and few formal jobs, many residents make a meager living off one another’s misery.

The reason behind India's growth is spiritualism and the traditions of 'bhakti' and 'shakti'

Capitalism and communism have lost relevance: Advani
The Hindu Sunday, April 22, 2007
Pune, April. 22 (PTI): The two major ideologies of capitalism and communism, which were contending for supremacy in the 20th century and were founded on an understanding of human society divided into classes, have lost their relevance in an era of globalisation, senior BJP leader L K Advani said today...
The reason behind India's growth is spiritualism and the traditions of 'bhakti' and `shakti'. "Today, we live in the era of globalisation when the world has already become integral and increasingly interdependent," he said. "However, the era of economic domination of Western countries is well and truly over. When experts study the future of the global economy, they no longer give priority to the US or Europe. They give priority to China and India," the former deputy prime minister said.

Men of inimitable intellect and refinement of spirit

The Indian in the maize East African, Kenya
Shakespeare’s “Ind” began to capture the Western European imagination in medieval times as a country of untold wealth, often identified with the legendary Prester John, whose “Christian kingdom” was first placed in the Far East but, after the 14th century, was identified with Ethiopia. The Venetian merchant Marco Polo had visited China in the late 13th century and thus shown one way of reaching India — directly eastwards by caravan. But it had proved tortuous, time-consuming and treacherous...
The leading Indian nationalists could make that choice because they were exceptionally well-educated and cosmopolitan minds. In The Discovery of India (Jawaharlal Nehru), The Foundations of Indian Culture (Sri Aurobindo) and the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore, they reveal themselves as men of inimitable intellect and refinement of spirit. By adopting the term “India,” they hoped to convince Jinnah and his followers of the need to enter independence as a single political entity. Thanks to characteristic British duplicity, they failed, and the consequences still overwhelm us today. nationmedia.com/eastafrican Magazine Monday, April 23, 2007

In some ways, the people here are really cosmpolitan

Started under a banyan tree on February 28th, 1968 with some 5000 people, today Auroville has a population of 1,700 people from 35 different nations living as neighbors in homes built amidst the jungle (about 1/3 of Aurovillians are Indian). Auroville even has its own school (an examless place called "The Last School"), cafeterias, pizza-shops, a temple, and various community centers.I interviewed a gentleman named Dilip, (who grew up here), and his 12-year-old daughter, Ayesha, who's half-German. Ayesha took me to her neighbor's peacock farm, where we gathered peacock feathers while she told me about her best-friends, a Korean brother and sister duo named Hansal and Danbi, and a French girl named Sisilia. Later, I chatted with her dad in their beautiful home (pictured above), about growing up in Auroville. In some ways, the people here are really cosmpolitan. They know alot about the world because they live amidst so many nationalities, and many people who live here make yearly visits to friends and family in big cities across the globe.
But in other ways, Aurovillians retain a certain innocence, "They're so secluded; they live in an ivory tower", says Dilip. His older son, who's a Rhode Scholar and who went to Harvard, gave up a cushy job at a top-bank and moved back to Auroville where he's writing a book. Dilip said about the kids who grow up here, "They have a hard time in the material world, but they're also very adaptable. They learn to be independent in how they live; they're not interested in going out and getting a job and doing the typical things. My son told me when he moved back here, 'I blame you; you've made me unfit to live a normal life!'" Posted by Piya at 12:13 AM Sunday, April 8, 2007

Sunday, April 22, 2007

They wanted to go back to the land and voluntary simplicity

Home > Journals & Media > Journals > Auroville Today > Current issue Archive copies Auroville Experience April 2007 Exploring our differences: a round table discussion - Alan Seven Aurovilians explore the effects of cultural conditioning to see if there are new ways of experiencing our diversity.
Most Westerners do not have their parents living with them. How is this perceived by the Tamil community? “For us,” says Suryagandhi, “the family is like a banyan tree held up by the new roots and there is an expectation that children will look after their parents when they grow older.” Thulasi recalls being asked by a village woman why she was staying in Auroville when her parents were living in Sri Lanka . “‘You have to look after them', she told me. It almost made me feel guilty, as if I should go back.” Priya notes, however, that some Indians consider that the Westerners must really love India if they give up even their families to come and live here.
Priya herself admits to being “very confused” concerning where she fits in. “I was brought up in Tamil Nadu but spent ten years in America . I'm neither Indian nor Western, I'm somewhere halfway, struggling with both roles. So when my mother decided to come and live in Auroville, there was this expectation that she would eat with me and everything. But this hasn't happened much because I want to retain my independence. So even if I fall sick I won't tell her, although if she is unwell I will definitely go and look after her.”
Then there is the issue of family loyalties and hierarchies. Shankar and Thulasi point out that they cannot call even elder members of their family by their names as that would be considered disrespectful. And while Suryagandhi asserts she has no problem in publicly disagreeing with her brothers-in-law if the occasion demands it, she seems to be an exception. Priya remembers from her days of living in Aspiration how the eldest Tamil brother is always deferred to by other members of his family.
Thulasi recalls that from childhood she rebelled – against her culture, her nationality, her religion, against marriage. “It was only when I came to Auroville that I found it easy to follow my own process and that was because of the distance between me and my family. So I wonder how easy it is for locally-born Aurovilians to really express themselves, to live out their full life here, when they know their family is looking on from the village next door.”
And relationships? In a recent workshop on cultural differences, an educated Indian said that he'd been brought up to believe that Western women are ‘free', available. No doubt this is reinforced by what is seen on Western television, but is there anything within Auroville culture which might support such a perception? Thulasi recalls an incident. Recently her partner, Wim, passed away. “When I told a Tamil lady who knew Wim what had happened she said, very gently, ‘Don't have a friendship with another man.' She seemed to think that the trend in Auroville was for people to move on, to always find someone else, and she didn't want me to be disloyal.”
Suryagandhi confirms that there's a perception in the village that Western Aurovilians change partners frequently. “This gives Auroville a bad reputation, certainly not a spiritual one. Then there's the situation at the beach. People come from all over at weekends to look at the Western women lying on the Auroville beach. The village elders ask, ‘Why do they do this? Why can't they cover themselves up a little?'”
“When I hear this I get so angry with Tamil culture,” says Priya, “because Tamil men have no problem in going to see movies which are very suggestive and where the woman is dancing semi-naked. There's a double-standard here, and it's not fair to put the blame on Westerners.”
Bhavana remembers that one of the biggest differences between Westerners and local people in the early days concerned their different ambitions and values. “A lot of the Westerners who came here were glutted with the superficiality and materialism of the West, they wanted to go back to the land and voluntary simplicity, whereas the villagers were aspiring to get out of poverty and to experience a more materialistic lifestyle. To a certain extent, we were going in opposite directions and this caused numerous misunderstandings.”

Saturday, April 21, 2007

We in India are living in a state of 'unlaw'

DEVIL'S ADVOCATE: Second Republic Sauvik Chakraverti TOI 21 Apr, 2007
Nandigram, Naxal and Maoist insurgencies, Kashmir, Manipur, and the sealing drive in Delhi all point to the fact that we in India are living in a state of 'unlaw'. We are ruled by decrees, whims, diktats, military might — anything except by the rule of law. The reason why this great nation has come to such a sorry pass is because the founding fathers of the Republic were almost entirely socialist, and collectivist ideas on law are the root cause of disorder and injustice. The socialist principle fetishises collectively held properties and despises private ownership. A government by collectivists plunges headlong into the perpetration of injustices guided by these false principles. Sixty years down the line, the nation must see collective property as a sham, an ugly spoils system, and a fraud. The nation must also see its future in a legislation that makes right to private property inviolable by anyone, including the government. This calls for a new constitution, a Second Republic. Instead of recalling the writings of Marx, the nation must remember John Locke: "Where there is no property there is no justice" and Lord Acton: "A people averse to the institution of private property is without the first elements of freedom". If we want to live with liberty and justice, a new constitution is the need of the hour. There is no need for electoral politics to make this happen. We must take inspiration from the English who gave themselves the Magna Carta. We must pen our own charter, one that guarantees liberty, property, freedom to trade by land and sea, and civic self-government for all cities and towns. This statute should be above the government, something that the Parliament of the day cannot amend, whatever be the majority disposition. This is a necessary precondition for the rule of law. In other words, the government itself must be placed under the law if the rule of law is to prevail over the rule of arbitrary rulers. The 'unlaw' we suffer from today is entirely because of the fact that the sovereign's ministers, bureaucrats, judges, policemen and soldiers are above the law, and are breaking it with impunity. It is time now for the birth of a new league of Indian Liberals. Editorial l Columnists l Speaking Tree l Interviews l SUNDAY SPECIALS l Letters to the Editor LEADER ARTICLE: Master Builder

A measure of compassionate spirituality, an awareness beyond the matter-of-fact

Madurai Aravind Eye Care System
Guiding Philosophy
Aravind Eye Hospitals are named after Sri Aurobindo, one of the 20th century’s most revered spiritual leaders. In essence, Sri Aurobindo’s teachings focus on mankind’s transcendence into a heightened state of consciousness through service, as an instrument of what he called the Divine Force.
At Aravind one finds, combined with modern technology and management practices, a measure of compassionate spirituality, an awareness beyond the matter-of-fact, and the impetus of a mission. Labels: posted by Madurai Machan at Friday, April 20, 2007 Company Profile: Madurai Aravind Eye Care System

An ‘Indian Nationalism’ without being exclusive, narrow and hegemonistic

Indian Nationalism Anirban Ganguly anirbangan@gmail.com
The country has experimented with ‘Secular nationalism’, ‘Hindu nationalism’, and ‘Cultural nationalism’ and as is evident has not gone very far in terms of cohesion, harmony, unity and strength. It is time it began its experiment with ‘Indian nationalism’ if it is to seek a genuine and lasting solution to most of the major problems plaguing its body politic and preventing it from assuming a high seat in the comity of nations. Too long have we acceded to our narrow and parochial tendencies, it is time, and the situation and circumstances compel, that we recognize the fact that is only an all-encompassing nationalism, inspired by a great spiritual idealism that can unify the country and eradicate internal simmering and fortify it against external dangers which today also operate internally.

Whenever a radical step, a radical movement or a radical change is to be initiated we turn to Sri Aurobindo for the guiding light and the chartered path. On 6th November 1909, when he was in the midst of physically guiding and shaping the destiny of this nation he wrote an article in the Karmayogin clearly and robustly enunciating the ideals of ‘Indian Nationalism. Various groups, who are today engaged in shaping the destiny of this nation, overlook this call of his because it does not suit their respective positions.
As always with Sri Aurobindo he does not take extreme stands but puts forth a synthesized truth programme which for the human mind, in its imperfect compartmental state, is too deep or to bold to be grasped. And again as with most of Sri Aurobindo’s programmes, the implementation of this demand too requires a great all pervading effort, determination and perseverance and the human mind usually looks always for quick fix solutions and systems and any sustained effort is usually anathema to it. As for those groups engaged to ‘look after’ the nation, who only live from day to day or from election to election, this demand doesn’t suit their vote-banks and thus remains relegated. Let us read in his own words the demand and the programme, elucidated nearly a hundred years ago but ever so pressing and relevant for the present national condition:

“…Lala Lajpat Rai struck a higher note, that of Hindu nationalism as a necessary preliminary to a greater Indian nationality. We distrust this ideal. Not that we are blind to facts, - not that we do not recognize Hindu-Mahomedan rivalry as a legacy of the past enhanced and not diminished by British ascendancy, a thing that has to be faced and worked out either by mutual concession or by a struggle between nationalism and separatism. But we do not understand Hindu nationalism as a possibility under modern conditions. Hindu nationalism had a meaning in the times of Shivaji and Ramdas, when the object of national revival was to overthrow a Mahomedan domination which, once tending to Indian unity and toleration, had become oppressive and disruptive. It was possible because India was then a world to itself and the existence of two geographical units entirely Hindu, Maharashtra and Rajputana, provided it with a basis. It was necessary because the misuse of their domination by the Mahomedan element was fatal to India’s future and had to be punished and corrected by the resurgence and domination of the Hindu. And because it was possible and necessary, it came into being. But under modern conditions India can only exist as a whole…”

The inability to see and stand for this truth accentuated the communal differences during most of the major periods of our struggle for freedom. The concept of ‘India as a whole’ was never really given a chance nor defended when the need arose. Because of a myopic vision and extreme lack of political will and farsightedness nationalism lost its struggle with separatism.

The cry of ‘Indian nationalism’ can be today the best anti-dote for the two-nation theory, it can negate it and compel it to an early demise. But what can be the contours of this nationalism, how can it begin to be born and function, Sri Aurobindo continues:

“…the country, the swadesh, which must be the base and fundament of our nationality, is India, a country where Mahomedan and Hindu live intermingled and side by side. What geographical base can a Hindu nationality possess? Maharashtra and Rajasthan are no longer separate geographical units but merely provincial divisions of a single country. The very first requisite of Hindu nationalism is wanting. The Mahomedans base their separateness and their refusal to regard themselves as Indians first and Mahomedans afterwards on the existence of great Mahomedan nations to which they feel themselves more akin, in spite of our common birth and blood, than to us. Hindus have no such resource. For good or evil, they are bound to the soil and to the soil alone. They cannot deny their Mother, neither can they mutilate her. Our ideal therefore is an Indian Nationalism, largely Hindu in its spirit and traditions, because the Hindu made the land and the people and persists, by the greatness of his past, his civilisation and his culture and his invincible virility, in holding it, but wide enough also to include the Moslem and his culture and traditions and absorb them into itself. It is possible that the Mahomedan may not recognize the inevitable future and may prefer to throw himself into the opposite scale. If so, the Hindu, with what little Mahomedan help he may get, must win Swaraj both for himself and the Mahomedan in spite of that resistance. There is a sufficient force and manhood in us to do a greater and more difficult task than that, but we lack unity, brotherhood, intensity of single action among ourselves…”

The ideal has been clearly demarcated but it is bound to be unpalatable to the present political players who themselves are groping in darkness engendered by the divisions of wafer-thin chameleon ideologies and egoisms. The left and the left of centre will deny the ‘largely Hindu’ aspect, for them it is something that does not really exist or is not needed for national advancement and strength. It is this attitude which has mostly confined or limited their roles in national progress. For the right the negation of ‘Hindu nationalism’ would be hard to digest and moreover they clamour for a nationalism that is wholly and not ‘largely’ Hindu. It is this isolated stand that is preventing them from formulating an effective national strategy of growth and consolidation. An ‘Indian Nationalism’ which is largely Hindu would automatically safeguard Hindu interests without being exclusive, narrow and hegemonistic and would also have the strength to bring about unity and a ‘cohesive will’. Muslims would be bitten to the quick by the allusion of their feeling more akin to the ‘great Mahomedan nations’, an observation largely relevant even today.
A complete and thorough change in this outlook of the Muslim is a necessity and ‘Indian Nationalism’ as defined has the requisite strength to eradicate that feeling in an attitude of compassion and understanding and of firmness minus coercion. The ‘largely Hindu’ aspect of Indian Nationalism has to be accepted by the Muslim with a certain large heartedness and pragmatic attitude. ‘Indian Nationalism’ in reality has the appeal for the ‘nationalist Muslim’ who is concerned and strives rightly for the development of not only his community but for the nation in general and who refuses to let himself and his people be used as pawns and baits in the great game of political permutation, consolidation and power. As to the ‘lack of unity, brotherhood, intensity of single action – it is intact even today and remains at the root of all divisive ills, ‘Indian Nationalism’ shall have the will to override all these differences. Thus the formulation is frank, clear hearted and bold and the demands rather hard. An adherence to this programme in the early days would have most certainly prevented vivisection; an implementation of it today would definitely arrest further balkanization and division.

Sri Aurobindo has often been maliciously and ignorantly portrayed as the champion and originator of a Hindu revivalist right-wing movement in the country, his clarion call of ‘Indian Nationalism’ above clearly blows the top of such allegations. Sri Aurobindo remains the champion of his own vision which sees always the many sided truth and takes a stand based on synthesis and harmony, the exact opposite of the usual way of stand formulation followed today in general and in political action in particular. The sooner the country and its leaders begin to see it and appreciate it the better it shall be for them and the nation. But may be it is too much too expect from them.

The present system/method of governance and vision of India, largely a legacy of our colonial past, has lived for too long, its roots are deep and trunk too thick and branches too numerous and strong, it will perpetuate itself for some more time to come and it may sound vain even to contemplate a change, but for those of us who have before us Sri Aurobindo’s vision of the country it is never too early to rise and start.
  • Can the first call then that can begin to move and bind us for the nation’s resurgence, unity and strength be Sri Aurobindo’s call of ‘Indian Nationalism’?
  • Can we start spreading and uniting with that call on our lips to bring about a resurgent India?