Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Tolerance Mirage

Bollywood actor and self-described perfectionist, Aamir Khan recently opened up the proverbial can of worms when he implied that that he and his wife were contemplating leaving India due to the prevailing air of "intolerance" in the country (air quotes).
He then tried to stuff the worms back inside the can (unsuccessfully) while insisting that the can needed to be opened. Movie stars in general can never be accused of being particularly intelligent (or coherent for that matter), but funnily enough, Aamir was spot on, at least in part, and certainly not the part that he intended.

India is intolerant. No question about it. But first, the good stuff.  

There's a lot to admire about India:
  • Its steadfast commitment to democracy despite the mind-boggling diversity of languages, religions, cultures and races,  and without any prejudice (Muslim presidents, female prime ministers, transgender ministers, etc. the list is long) 
  • Its admirable willingness to invest in high-tech industries, despite the ill-advised exhortations of condescending Western powers to focus exclusively on poverty-eradication
  • Its forbearance in dealing with terrorist-harboring states like Pakistan and Bangladesh, while having enough fire-power to wipe them of the face of the earth
  • Providing universal education and affordable healthcare to all of its citizens
But there's also lots to criticize:
 Female infanticide and a general medieval attitude towards women
  • An unhealthy obsession with religion and dogmatic orthodox attitudes
  • Hero-worship, which led to the same incompetent prime minister (Nehru) and corrupt political party (Congress) being elected to power repeatedly
  • Pandering to minorities for votes, leading to sops and concessions that over-benefited the same sub-section of the minority population, while depriving the truly downtrodden (the economically backward) of the help they needed
But by far the biggest problem India has is its intolerance, but probably not in the way that Aamir intended:
  • Intolerance to over-hauling its outdated paternal family structure, which prevents children from marrying outside of their community
  • Intolerance towards true secularism, i.e. atheists and humanists. Anything anti-Hindu passes for secularism in India
  • Intolerance towards voices calling for implementing a Uniform Civil code 
  • Intolerance towards religious conversion to Hinduism. Conversions from Hinduism to other religions is allowed, even encouraged 
  • Intolerance towards any media outlets that dares to give a soap-box to contrarian viewpoints, such as people who raise concerns due to the rise of religious extremism (perpetuating the lie that terrorism has no religion, and even if it does, it is saffron-colored) 
  • Intolerance towards any news stories that highlight communal violence perpetrated by low castes (debunking the myth that all communal violence is perpetrated by high castes) 
  • Lastly, (and this will hit close to Aamir and his Bollywood brethren) intolerance towards prosecuting criminals such as Salman Khan (manslaughter), Sanjay Dutt (possession of illegal weapons and alliances with terrorists). 
Aamir Khan and his wife are absolutely spot-on. All Indians like him who are concerned about the rising intolerance in India should consider leaving the country.

But they won't. And the reason is obvious.

In no other country can they lead a life approaching the luxury they get in India. 

In no other country can a people make a living from publishing the toilet-paper masquerading as literature churned out by Arundhati Roy & Vikram Seth or via the shrill cacophony pawned off as journalism by Prannoy Roy and Barkha Dutt.

And certainly not a person like Aamir Khan, who will find that other countries are highly intolerant and downright allergic to the bilge that passes for motion pictures in Bollywood.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

America's Immigration Problem

As someone who has been through (and is still going through) the labryinth that is America's immigration system, this story of a close friend and classmate is all too painful to bear:

America's National Suicide

Over the past few years, there have been calls from various quarters, including some business lobbies to initiate an immigration reform, but this has focused mostly on the illegal immigration issue.

An issue that either goes unnoticed or doesn't get much attention is legal immigration. This article highlights the plight that highly-qualified legal immigrants go through.

Given that this section of skilled immigrants from countries that have traditionally a high degree of emphasis on higher education have historically created jobs and have grown the American economy, this blase attitude towards such a critcial element of immigration reform does indeed constitute America's march towards a more insular and closed society.

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Unemployed Activist Fails to Land Herself Behind Bars

Unemployed writer and full-time newsmaker Arundhati Roy has failed to get arrested yet again despite her latest efforts to run afoul of the law.

With her statements that Kashmir has never historically been part of India, Ms. Roy was hoping to join the illustrious company of eminent historical jailed activists of the distaff persuasion. Notable members of this club include Zsa Zsa Gabor, who notably spent 3 days in jail for slapping a cop, (and looked fabulous while doing so), Martha Stewart, who did a stint in camp cupcake for undertaking the controversial but indubitably noble campaign for the equality of cream and off-white walls, and of course Paris Hilton, a tireless campaigner for POOP (or the Prevention of Obscurity to Ostentatious Personalities).

Upon hearing that the comatose government, by dint of its sheer laziness and steadfast refusal to take steps on any matter, had once again thwarted her attempts to achieve martyrdom, Ms. Roy was said to be bitterly disappointed. In a brave but ultimately futile attempt to save face, she has said that the latest statement was aimed not at compromising the unity of the country, but to promote justice for the average Kashmiri. Or Cashmere, as Ms. Roy charmingly pronounces it in her clipped public school accent.

In fact, Ms. Roy has allegedly always taken a rigid stand against a breakup (or makeup for that matter, judging by her media photos) of any kind. She first rocked the jhola-wala community by joining her mentor and fellow anti-makeup activist Medha Patkar in her steely-minded opposition to the Narmada dam through her NGO, the Narmada Bachhao Andolan.

Even during those early days, her pro-national/pro-Bharatiya Sanskar were obvious to all, given that her stated reason for opposing the damn was that using mild swear-words were against Indian values. In the same vein, she went on to successfully oppose the Bramhaputra Heck and the Godavari Egad. The lack of publicity around these projects shows how effective Ms. Roy was in getting this project cancelled.

Ms. Roy has stated that she will take this latest setback in stride and put a brave face as she announced to reporters that she will continue her self-righteous struggle to go to jail. And just like that, she defiantly did a pirouette and vanished into the recesses of her New Delhi slum, also known as a Chanakyapuri mansion, accompanied by her fellow activists, also known as servants to sip on some much needed Narmada water, also known as a chhotta peg in these parts.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Truth About Tigers

A documentary made by Shekar Dattatri is raising awareness about the dwindling Bengal tiger population in India. More here:

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Race and Diversity in Sports: Whither Diversity?

An article that I wrote on diversity in professional tennis was featured on the tennis front page of Bleacher Report. It is here.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Trouble in the Sunderbans

Man and beast continue their daily tussle in the mystical Sunderbans. A perfect storm of climactic, economic and human factors is endangering this Unesco World Heritage Site:


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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Case for Indigenous People in Tiger Conservation Efforts

A case for giving people preference over tigers in tiger conservation efforts. Also takes a look at China's conservation approach.

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