Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Very Important Year


If 2014 was the Year of Narendra Modi, 2015 was quite the forgettable year indeed. Two state elections, states where the BJP has previously been in government, were lost in a most spectacular fashion. The Opposition, nearly vanquished in 2014, sprung back with fervor, egged on by the Deep Congress that fashioned one lie after the other, culminating in a totally manufactured debate on intolerance, a term whose Hindi equivalent is so complex that most people don't even know it, and was clearly devised in the living room of 10 Janpath.

Yet, these setbacks are part of life. Some say these are the first setbacks that Modi and Amit Shah ever experiences - that is incorrect. Modi has known much setback in his life, and he has bounced back from them. He will bounce back from this too. This time, he is not alone, for the entire right wing is at his side. But some changes are necessary. The Congress is not going to play ball, so its time to short change Parliament within the rules of the Constitution. Finance Minster Arun Jaitley hinted as much, when he said that bills would have to be fashioned into Money Bills to overcome the Rajya Sabha problem. It is time to play even harder - P Chidambaram once passed an entire budget without discussion. It is necessary to do that, despite how bad it might sound. The option of a joint session is still very much on the cards, and it may be the only way forward for GST.

2016 will be a crucial year. The Modi government would touch its halfway mark, and the time would come for initiatives to show fruit. There have been some excellent ministers in his cabinet - Sushma Swaraj, Piyush Goyal, Nitin Gadkari, Kiren Rijiju, Nirmala Sitharaman, Smriti Irani, Suresh Prabhu, Manohar Parrikar, among others - who have done a spectacular jobs. Some of them deserve to get full cabinet positions. There are some - particularly Uma Bharti - who have been terrible, and they deserve to go. Modi must also slow down the excellent pace he has maintained on foreign policy and allow the diplomatic corps to follow up on his initiatives - and for him to get some rest. New talent needs to be found, and that will not be easy, but it must be done. A cabinet shake-up should happen this year.

The 2016 budget needs to be historic - no more incrementalism. A failure there will see Modi losing even his right wing supporters, as Jaitley has lost long ago. This is an important year, for it is the last year when his initiatives will fructify in time for the 2019 elections. The real Modi sarkaar needs to stand up now. 

New Year's Resolution - 2016

It's already New Year's Day in most of the inhabited parts of the world, although it's a sunny, cold afternoon in the Midwest (and that is not an oxymoron in these parts!). But since my timeline is full of people wishing me a Happy New Year, from various timezones, I might as well put up the traditional list of resolutions. I know, most resolutions never happen, and the biggest one I had for last year - buying a car - never happened, courtesy a disastrous Fall semester (that did end with a perfect 4.0 GPA though).

But then, it's a new year, full of new hopes, so who cares what I say? So here goes: my resolutions! Losing weight, obviously, since that is the most common resolution of all! I reached my lowest in 10 years this year, which is a very special achievement, but I also fell off that. So just getting back to the un-name-able number will work for me - and I'm not too far off. As a renewal from last year, buying a car is again a target, and this time by summer.

Then there are the resolutions for research. It's very hard to keep those because of the uncertainty, but I do hope to publish my first journal paper this year. In addition, I need to break free of the MS shadow and really master CFD for research. I therefore resolve to do at least one simulation this year - that's more of a guarantee really! I also hope to pass my qualifying exam this year, though I have no idea when the department will hold that. I also look forward to being a TA this year, the first time I'll be on the other side of the classroom, and I hope - resolve - to do well, and do it honestly, no matter what it takes.

What else? Friends? Relationships? Social activities? I don't see the point in 'resolving' to do anything there - I just hope to not spend rashly, that's all. Yes, I do hope not to repeat this year's lowest-ever blog post count, and make the 10th year a memorable one on OTFS.

And thus ends a very momentous year. 

A Strange Merger

This week, The New York Times contained a fascinating opinion piece about a strange phenomenon that has been happening across the world: the marriage between the so-called Liberal-Left (a mafia, if ever) and radical Islam. It seems strange that an ideology such as that adopted by the Left, which usually abhors religion, whether in public or in private life, can marry an ideology that lifts itself directly from a medieval interpretation of an Arabian religion. But then, the two do have one thing in common - they spread violence and death wherever they go, and eventually take people backward.

A cursory look at the world today will show that, even more than ordinary Muslims themselves, non-Muslim Leftists are vociferous in defending Islam, which is fine, except that they bring their characteristic shrillness to the debate and thus block out all debate. In a typical discussion with Leftists, it is impossible to use normal language, and you are forced to look at the issue from the typical majority-minority matrix that their language is created to capture. Therefore, Islamic extremism is justified on the grounds of them being a harassed minority, never mind the fact that most of these radicals come from so-called Islamic republics where minorities are accorded second-class status, by law.

And this is not the worst of it. The Left has so fully absorbed radical Islam that any discussion on reforming Islam is out of the question. Christianity and Hinduism both went through periods when old practices and customs that have no place in a modern society were exorcised - and the world is better off. But any attempt to even talk about reforming Islam is immediately labelled racist, Islamophobic, and other such insults. Therefore, mullahs getting together to condemn ISIS is great, but Muslims speaking out against elements of Sharia law that give women an unequal status are not real Muslims. At this point of time, in fact, it seems a real Muslim has to be Leftist, which is to say, a hypocrite. A classic example is Shashi Tharoor, who initially objected to the fact that PM Modi didn't seem to visit any Islamic country, and when he did go to Central Asia, that was set aside because those were secular republics and hence, not really Muslim!

The problem with Leftists, of course, is that they are too tightly held in the comforts of modern capitalism to stop and listen to themselves. No wonder that Leftists prefer to vitiate universities around the world, which taxpayers support because they see education as a necessity. The greatest tragedy since World War II has been the Leftist takeover of discussion and academic spaces, closing them off to reason and debate. And now it seems, in their quest for their utopian society, they are willing to join hands with the most dangerous ideology in the world today. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Hope of Akhand Bharat

BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav, the architect of the BJP-PDP coalition government in Jammu & Kashmir, has been pilloried recently by both the Left and the Right for his comments on Akhand Bharat - a united nation of Indic peoples of South Asia. The Right has condemned him either for implying that Hindus and Muslims can actually live together on an almost equal footing, or for deliberately trying to sabotage Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent overture to Pakistan. The Left, in turn, has called his discussion an act of genocide on Muslims (without really explaining how).

All these sides are either wrong, short-sighted, or both. First, the easy culprits. The Left in India has become the torchbearer of the two-nation theory, and for them, anything that the BJP or RSS does in the name of Hinduism is necessarily directed against Muslims. Leftist journalist Rana Ayyub even insinuated that Madhav was talking about 'lebensraum,' which is absolutely stupid (and also falls into the trap of using a Nazi metaphor in an argument, which makes you lose automatically). But this should be expected from the two-nation theorists, because for them Hindus and Muslims are irrevocably two separate nations, and must always be at war. That is simply the natural order of their world, and to their credit, they are pretty uniform in that view. Of course, it is a different matter that when Manmohan Singh speaks of irrelevant borders, it is welcomed; but when Ram Madhav speaks of uniting Akhand Bharat, he is pilloried for it. But then, hypocrisy is the very basis of the Left.

The Right is also wrong here. The two-nation theorists on the right are obviously wrong, because they wrongly believe that: (a) Hinduism is a steadfast religion like the Abrahamic ones (it is not); and (b) Hindu culture ends with religion (it does not). Religion is ephemeral - the underlying culture of the Indian subcontinent, which is ultimately tied to its geographical wonders and thousands of years of development, is stronger and more resilient. Today, the many countries of South Asia pretend that they are separate nations, but any meeting between people of these countries quickly shows that they are essentially one nation, and have the same underlying philosophy that has withstood the test of time even as it has evolved to meet changing circumstances. The political right wing is also wrong because, just as religion, politics (aren't they the same?) is also ever-changing. It is meaningless to say that something is good today and bad tomorrow - the question is of the long-run. Indian civilization goes far beyond the petty politics of everyday life.

And really, how long of a long-run are we talking about? When will the countries of the Indian nation unite? That is very hard to say, but some things are clear - it won't happen soon, and it certainly won't happen under the philosophy of the Nation State. It need not happen either - the Nation State itself is a foreign construct, and has been in existence for a very short period of time, with borders changing regularly. There is no need for the Indian people to unite under one nation state - five or even fifty states makes no difference, for it is just a short-term change on a civilization of thousands of years.

Will then the Indian people have some form of political unity? If not the nation state, then some other form? Maybe. Possibly. But it will take time. How much time? As one Tweet pointed out, the dream of a Jewish homeland took 2,000 years to fructify. A common Hindu (the culture; not the religion) homeland may take longer. But the history of the civilization says that it will happen. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The horrible semester

The semester of Fall 2015 will go down as the worst semester ever, the horrible semester, where I seem to have finally found the limits of the modular approach to scheduling, and where a lot was achieved with equally high input costs. One golden rule I learned was to never take three courses in a semester, especially not one if one of them is the hardest course you've ever taken. Yes, that mantle goes to ME 404, which at one point of time took upwards of 20 hours of work a week to finish! This semester, the modular schedule I've followed blew up in my face, as the rigors of three courses forced the expansion of one module at the cost of all others.

Don't get me wrong though, I would not have skipped ME 404 for anything. It was an excellent course, in terms of research it was the most useful I've ever taken (beating out the previous titleholder, ATMS 313). I'd take it again, if I could (and I'd probably do better next time!). I'm not sure what my grade will be - it was my first full course is mechanical engineering in five years, and significantly more advanced than the last ones (Introductory Thermodynamics and Manufacturing Techniques). Therefore, I really do expect my first B+ at UIUC from this course, with the first exam and homework having lifted me and the lab and final exam throwing me off.

The other courses were far less than rewarding. I started CEE 408 with a negative opinion of the course, my opinion still remains negative, but I can appreciate the content, even if I don't like it. It is useful, and it is even interesting, but it is simply not for me. Nonetheless, I've had stellar results in it (because it was so easy!) and I wold be disappointed with anything less than an A. In CEE 508, I know I already got an A, but I did not like the course one bit. I think it is safe to say that I am an academic and enjoy theoretical stuff - and an extremely applied course like 508 simply bored me. Yet, it was easy but very badly managed, and those two sort of made it a pain. At one point, I wanted to drop out from it, but stayed on. Well, at least that got me a grade to offset the (welcome) damage from ME 404. I would not take 508 again though, and neither 408 (or any railroad course).

This semester also saw some other action. I became a Certified LabVIEW Associate Developer, for whatever it is worth, and so added a new skill to my kitty. I supervised an undergraduate student's project. In his last e-mail to me, he called me a great supervisor and potentially an excellent professor in the future. That was probably the best compliment I have ever received, and for that I'm glad! The research output was not stellar, but it did provide some important insight that I will look into. It was a good experience to supervise a student, for once. Aside from that, a decent literature review that should be completed this week and lot of hits and misses (more of the latter) in publishing papers, and an excellent Course Era course to get me into my PhD topic, summed up the semester.

So it wasn't all bad. Yet, it was very hectic. I did a lot this semester, but that came at a very high price. Attending my sister's wedding definitely tipped the scales, and I had to backtrack on two major commitments: getting a driver's license and hitting 75 kg. Those two goals will have to be left for the new year. Hopefully, a better year. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A new generation

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015)

Produced By: Lucas Films
Director: JJ Abrams
Starring: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Kylo Driver, Daisy Ridley,John Boyega, and others
Pros: Fantastic balance of old and new, good cinematography, good acting
Cons: Too fast, poor character development
Rating: **** of 5 (4 of 5)

Yes, I was there. Yes, I saw it. Yes, I was jumping up and down like a little school girl. That's how excited I was for the new Star Wars movie, a franchise that has endeared itself like no other for the global order of geeks. Of course, as the movie progressed, it went from a guaranteed 5-star rating to four, for reasons I'll get to in a bit. This movie was destined to be the best this year - the sheer momentum of the preceding six movies and the cult following they command are testimony to that. But what of the movie itself?

It's very good, on the whole. There was also going to be the fear that it too would go the way of Transformers, from a good story to simply meaningless visual effects. And then, there was the nostalgia of the old movies losing out to modern technology. Fortunately, director JJ Abrams was successful in blending the old with the new, injecting a new generation of characters that mix well with whatever is left of the old - almost. While it was inevitable that such a large number of new characters would be introduced for the sequel trilogy, character development was severely lacking. The audience got to know the droid BB-8 far more than it got to know the new villain in town, Kylo Ren. Sure, we got the history, but what of the person? Most of the characters were treated indifferently by what seemed to be a mad desire to mash a lot of stories together and get to the ending. Without revealing the plot, suffice to say that this movie along would've been a whole trilogy in another day and age.

But praise is due where it is deserved. The new protagonists - Ridley and Boyega - do a superb job, and Harrison Ford does well too, although he does seem creaky to those that remember the daring Han Solo. The story is fast but very good, and leaves enough mystery for the succeeding films that will come in over the next three years. This movie is both a treat for old fans of Star Wars who want to relive the glories of the Rebellion and also a delight for a new generation that isn't sure what to make of a galaxy far, far away, that seems a lot like home. (OTFS)

Friday, December 18, 2015

Why the defeatist mentality?


Dear Prime Minister,We don't deserve a person like you.Major portion of the country's population is not valuing your...
Posted by Dhruv Jain on Tuesday, 8 December 2015

This post has recently been making the rounds of the Internet, for a pained citizen who can see through the manufactured outrage in the country but is saddened by the fact that so many can't, or simply don't want to. It is true that the almost two years of the majority government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been a mixed bag, with the economy improving but not as much as expected, and the opposition becoming more vicious than ever imagined.

But I wonder why this defeatist mentality seems to have plagued the right wing. Prime Minister Modi, when he was Chief Minister, had been hounded for a decade by the same people that continue to hound him today. And through the incessant persecution, he kept his head and hopes high, and did his job sincerely. He is one of the very few CMs in India who won a fourth consecutive term with a majority. He never let unfair criticism bog him down - so why should we?

It seems strange to me that people are already talking about a defeat in 2019 when it is still 2015 (and almost 2016). If a week is long time in politics, three years is several generations. True, the left-liberal mafia is all guns ablaze after victories in Delhi and Bihar, but then, when did we believe that they would go down without a fight? They are seeing the high castles that they built for themselves over decades falling apart, of course they are going to fight! And so should we!

Come 2019, and the entire right wing will most certainly come out to back Modi's re-election, of that there is no doubt. It will be the most decisive electoral battle in history - even more than 2014. That may not guarantee Modi's victory, but his defeat isn't guaranteed either. It is very much an open battle - and we have nothing to fear at this time. Therefore, there is no need to be defeatist. We must back the PM when he does something right, and correct him when he makes a mistake.

That is good for him, for us, and for this great nation that is ours. 

Very Old Wine

JURASSIC WORLD (2015)

Produced By: Universal, Legendary and others
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Howard, Nick Robinson, Ty Simpkins, Irfan Khan, and others
Pros: Good VFX
Cons: Old story, too long
Rating: ** of 5 (2 of 5)

Yes, I gave Minions more than this one, because at least kids would enjoy that. Jurassic World tries very hard to be like its predecessor Jurassic Park movies, and its success at that leads to its undoing. To call this old wine in a new bottle would be insulting to good wine - this is very old wine and an old bottle. When you make an old movie for a new audience, you are asking for trouble. True, there was a vision to make the movie seem like a seamless transition from the past, but in terms of a story, there was virtually no movement at all!

Kids get into trouble with a big dinosaur. Adults save them. Adults make out. That is the summary of the whole movie, and has been the summary of the previous iterations as well. Yes, this one has good effects and certainly better editing than the other ones, but that's purely because of improvements in technology and not really any improvement in the story or direction. It makes no sense to watch this movie for over two hours when you pretty much know how it will end halfway through, because you can just watch the old ones on Netflix, and probably already have.

Overall, a big disappointment. I know it was the highest grossing film of the year, but that means nothing at all in terms of quality. Fifty Shades of Gray was also an NYT bestseller, after all. (OTFS)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Sweet Tale

MINIONS (2015)

Produced by: Illumination Entertainment and others
Directors: Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney and others (all voice)
Pros: Simple story, very easy to follow
Cons: Confusing at times, not for adults
Rating: *** of 5 (3 of 5)

They gained their fame through the Despicable Me movies, and history would say that it was only a matter of time before they got their own spin-offs. Minions is more of a classic cartoon movie than the new-age animated films, but it does rub you in all the right places. A little too much at times.

The movie is difficult to judge - it is excellent for kids, although they need to be a little older for some of the content (or maybe not, in this day and age!). The story is very simply and straightforward for the most part, and will not tax you to understand it, except of a few parts that did seem confusing to me, although it could be that I was just thinking too much. And that possibly is the big negative of this movie - it is simply not for adults, unless you really want to empty your mind of all thought. Perhaps I just shouldn't have seen it? (OTFS)

A Dangerous Trend

The Winter Session of Parliament, it seems, it doomed to go the way of the Monsoon Session that preceded it, with the Opposition, particularly the Congress, continuously disrupting business in both houses. As a result, serious and important legislation, the most important of which is the Goods and Service Tax (GST) Bill, is stuck, and that is hurting the country. The Congress, which seemed quite promising as an opposition party in 2014, when it formed shadow ministries, has completely disavowed the political process of the country, using its numbers in the Rajya Sabha to stonewall virtually all legislation.

But of course, none of this was invented by the Congress. The ultimate villain is now Finance and I&B Minister Arun Jaitley, who invented the 'disruption as a tactic' theory, and the Congress has merely taken it to its logical conclusion. Then, the BJP would disrupt Parliament over the massive corruption of the UPA government; now, the Congress is disrupting Parliament for any reason they can find - a new reason a day! Ironically, one of the reasons was the alleged corrupt dealings of the Congress' top two leaders themselves! This tactic, together with the draconian anti-defection law introduced by Rajiv Gandhi, have made Parliament moot - the BP government has previously used the executive route, and Jaitley has indicated that they may have to do that again.

All this is eerily similar to the history of the Weimar Republic in Germany. In fact, it may be worse, as BJD MP Jay Panda wrote that the Rajya Sabha's powers to derail a democratically elected government is unprecedented in the world, and the opposition is making full use of it. Today, the Congress has figured out that it can stop all legislation until it returns to power; in 2019, the cycle would repeat. A dangerous trend is forming, one which will end only in the end of the Indian Republic.

Only two people can arrest this trend: Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and Rajya Sabha Chairman and Vice-President of India Hamid Ansari, who have the constitutional duty to run their respective houses. Right now, the country faces a full-blown constitutional crisis that will only end with the abolition of the Constitution itself. These two officers must invoke constitutional powers and put it to an end - once and for all. Mahajan used some of those powers in the Monsoon session, and even though it backfired on the government, it did ensure some work was processed. Much more powers must be exercised, even if it means short-term pain, if democracy is to be saved from the Congress.

Ansari and Mahajan stand at a historic juncture when the Constitution is in their hands. Time will judge them for their actions today, forever. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Hypocrisy in full glory

Last week, India saw one of the most brazen displays of radical Islam in recent memory. Kamlesh Tiwari, a hitherto unknown local politician in UP, for reasons best known to him, 'released' a press statement (presumably of his own volition) calling the Prophet Muhammad the world's first homosexual. Of course, this is a bizarre, untrue and baseless claim, for both the hypotheses. It's as good as asking which engineering college Ram studied in, wherein the question itself says more than it asks. And as the innumerable statements, movies, and documentaries against Hindu gods have shown, it should've just been ignored or met with at most some placards and small crowds of protesters. That is secular India.

Oh, wait. It was met with a crowd of 100,000 people, calling for Tiwari to be beheaded for blasphemy (as required by Shari'a), and shouting pro-ISIS slogans (although they are all quite free to emigrate to the ISIS caliphate). And it also met with deafening silence from the Liberal-Left who have been crying themselves hoarse about so-called rising intolerance in India. Aamir Khan, who recently used his freedom of speech to say that he wanted to leave the country, chose not to say anything - not even to defend Tiwari's own freedom of speech (however much he might have disagree with it). Liberals across the Internet who kept insisting that freedom of speech must be protected at all costs (from Modi, of course) had absolutely nothing to say about this blatant attack on that very freedom.

And the funny thing is, all of this was so simple. As Taslima Nasreen and Tarek Fatah have been saying, and as the social media has been pointing out, the entire Left-Liberal ecosystem, with the Deep Congress at its core, is extremely pro-Islamist, and its calls for tolerance are essentially to manufacture fear in minorities (Muslims mainly) to milk them for even more votes. @TheJaggi has also been pointing out the fact that the entire ecosystem right from Independence has been using secularism to fan minority communalism - the results of which we saw last week (and indeed before, with the funeral of Yakub Memon). And this whole incident with Kamlesh Tiwari just served to demonstrate the total hypocrisy with which the Deep Congress uses the term 'secularism'. It was extraordinarily easy - a simple thought experiment could've predicted this result!

Perhaps the greatest achievement in all this is that the whole 'rising intolerance' debate has been nipped in the bud. The right wing simply needs to compare the response to Aamir Khan and to Kamlesh Tiwari, and there ends the entire debate as to who is tolerant and who is not. Disagreeing with someone and saying so in public is called democracy - calling for them to be beheaded is called terrorism. The Deep Congress, in its visceral hatred for Modi, has virtually opened the doors for ISIS to enter India by not speaking out against the protesters.

In 2014, I had predicted that the Congress, by being the chief peddler of the two-nation theory after the Muslim League left for Pakistan, is setting the stage for another partition or a bloody civil war in the country. It seems there is a third option - a protracted war with ISIS, with the soldiers being those very secular two-nation theorists. In its quest for power, the Congress and its allied Deep Congress are clearly willing to destroy India. Again. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Say What?

FANTASTIC FOUR (2015)

Producers: 20th Century Fox, Marvel
Director: Josh Trank
Starring: Miles Teller, Michael Jordan, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell, and others
Pros: Good VFX, good script
Cons: Poor narrative, boring story, confusing
Rating: ** of 5 (2 of 5)

Another superhero movie, and he cesspool just expands. This coming from someone who actually likes such movies, and who chose it among many others on a 13 hour flight. The fact is, there has been such an explosion of these movies recently that very little though is being put into them by the directors and even the producers - far less thought than the original comic book creators put. And that leads to sloppy movies. Which brings us to Fantastic Four, an origins movie that was best left to the comic books.

Of course, all's not amiss with this movie. The visual effects were good, although with improving technology this is becoming relatively easier and therefore less noteworthy. The script is also surprisingly good, avoiding too much jargon and too much talk, in general. The director does a good job in using that to the movie's benefit. However, the good stuff more or less ends there, because a bad story can only be pushed forward so much by an able director. The plot is confusing and it can become onerous for the audience. That's not a bad thing - Interstellar did just that - but in this case it's asking the audience to understand fake Physics instead of real Physics.

And then there are so many twists and turns, and a needless parallel timeline, that it quickly becomes difficult to remember who does what. A sure sign that a plot is becoming needless is the introduction of characters who don't have a central role to play but get plenty of screen time nonetheless - and that's exactly what happened. So, instead of trying to wrap your head around this, I'd give it a pass. (OTFS)

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Time for Trump to go

Donald Trump has always been a controversial figure, even before he joined the current Republican Presidential primary race. A businessmen who made a lot of things his own business, Trump has never been afraid to walk into controversies and express his mind. Indeed, one of the most endearing characteristics of his during this season has been his rejection of the Left-Liberal political consensus, or what is often called "political correctness." But what seemed to be brute honesty has gone too far, for it is now unveiled bigotry of a kind that no civilized society should be willing to accept.

The last straw was obviously his calling for a religious test for immigration or even tourism for that matter. Of course, it really began with his 'agreeing' to a suggestion from a baiting reporter that American Muslims should register themselves (with Twitter derisively asking him if they should wear markers on their clothing like the Jews in Nazi Germany). That incident, although highly inappropriate, might be exorcised away by blaming the reporter who was clearly looking for a soundbite. But his calling for a ban on all Muslims entering the US for any reasons whatsoever is too much.

As Speaker Ryan put it rightly - this is not conservatism. Stratifying people on any basis and painting everyone with the same brush, essentially removing the individual from the person, is what the Left does, not the Right. Of course, it is no coincidence that Trump's plan for a wall eerily reminds you of the Berlin Wall conceived and implemented by the Soviet-backed dictatorship in East Germany. His entire agenda has been extremely Left-wing, with a few peanuts thrown in for free enterprise (which he would only support as long as it suits him) and religious conservatives, whom he has very little respect for but knows must pander to. For the Constitution of the United States, Trump has the least respect of all. Most of his ideas would be unconstitutional, and it is a nightmare to even imagine what President Trump might do if the courts show him the door.

Enough is enough. This is a race for the President of the United States who has to uphold the Constitution. It has to be based on reason. And while some hyperbole is certainly expected in political campaigns, in Trump's case, it has reached bizarre levels. And that is hurting the entire Republican party. Latinos, Muslims, women, blacks... it seems Trump is determined to demonize all of them, with just about nobody left to vote for him. The Republicans should avoid putting people into these artificial boxes, not just by opposing the Left but by also the likes of Trump within their own ranks (if he ever was).

If the Right is going to start labeling people and not respecting individuals, there is no point having them. We might as well Heil Hillary. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

From the Telugu Lands

A Hindu fundamentalist, a true son of the soil, a burgeois imperialist, the man who saved India from Nehruvian socialism - PVNR can be whatever you want him to be, depending on your political and economic leanings. Described variously as a wicked man who usurped power under difficult circumstances to the architect of modern India and arguably the greatest Prime Minister in the history of the country, the life PVNR is a tale in itself, a tale that run parallel to the story of India itself.

Early Life
Pamulaparti Venkata Narasimha Rao (PVNR) was born on June 28, 1921 in the Hyderabad empire of the Nizam, in the modern town of Vangara in Telangana state. His early life was impacted by the brutal regime of the Nizam and his razakars, who unleashed a wave of state-sponsored terror on the Hindu majority of the state while simultaneously dealing with first British India and then its successor states, India and Pakistan. A few years after birth to an agrarian family, PVNR studied most of his primary education in what is now Karimnagar district. He went on to study Arts at Osmania University in Hyderabad and then a Masters in Law from Hislop College.

Rao was a polyglot. Although his mother tongue was Telugu and his higher education was in English, he spoke several Indian languages including Hindi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Odiya, Urdu, Bengali, and Marathi, together with foreign languages such as French and Persian. He read several Indian classical works and was aware of the diversity of cultures in the subcontinent. In every respect, he was an Indian scholar and would have made an excellent academic. But he had other plans.

The Resistance
Rao took up armed resistance against the Nizam while supporting the Indian National Congress in British India in the struggle against the 200 year old British occupation of India. Initially, his resistance was limited to writing for the Telugu weekly Kakatiya Patrika, which he edited. Later on, he took on the huge risk of going to arms, for the Nizam's army had clear instructions to shoot freedom fighters at sight. On Aug 15, 1947, when British India was celebrating Independence from the British in the shadow of the bloody Partition of India, PVNR was in a forest in Hyderabad state, saving himself from a barrage of bullets. That night, he survived.

And that night changed the course of the country.

Next: Political life

Not so glamorous travel

Last week, I had the misfortune of having to make International travel in the first snow storm of the season in Chicago. Bad idea. Snow as certainly in the prediction, but almost all forecasters missed the severity. And perhaps that's a good thing, because otherwise I'd have had my flight cancelled. However, while the flight did take off eventually, it included waiting for five hours inside the aircraft, which as you can imagine, is quite uncomfortable. But that's not all, for this was international travel.

Following a five hour delay and a thirteen hour flight, the plane landed in Abu Dhabi having long missed the connecting flight to Mumbai. And so I had to wait several hours more at the airport. This was significantly better though, since I ended up with some friends stuck at the same airport.

Having also missed my connecting flight to Hyderabad, I had to wait four hours after being probably the first person to check in to the Air India flight at Mumbai airport. The new T2 there is gorgeous and I spent the four hours exploring the place, but I was tired, unwashed and extremely irritated. Having finally arrived at Hyderabad hours later, it was another 30 min in the line for the taxis and an hour's drive home.

So over 48 hours after I left from Champaign, I reached home. And that's how international travel is - it sounds very glamorous, but it's mostly a lot of waiting and smelling bad.

So being stuck in an airport for a couple of hours wasn't that bad, thanks to people who randomly landed up at the same airport!
Posted by Sushobhan Sen on Sunday, 22 November 2015