If – Poem by Rudyard Kipling!

“If!” If we have a mature society, world will be peaceful!

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Kipling was a famous English writer/poet who was born in second half of 19th century and died in 1936. He was the first English writer to have won Nobel prize, in literature in 1907. His most famous works of fiction include The Jungle Book, Just So Stories, Kim and The Man Who Would Be King. 

Kipling was born in Bombay, Malabar Hill photo of olden times displayed above, and died in London. He lived in India when the British Raj was at its peak, world over. Some of his writings do have the shade of white supremacy! But he was definitely not out and out a Hitler. Like every coin has two sides, the Britishers felt that Raj was their birthright, though for us it was colonial supremacy which needed to be overthrown. There were many Indians who had taken up jobs with British Government in Police, Army and Civil services in India. Did it mean that they supported the British Raj? Except for a minuscule number, all people took up jobs with British as their lively hood. Naturally, during those times, the rules required to remain in the service, had to be followed. I am sure many of these rules were anti Indian, but the people had to follow them to continue in service. Did it mean that they supported the British? No way!     

The poem, “If”, which had been painted on the wall of the students’ union building, in Manchester, was removed by the Students’ Union on Tuesday, 17th July, in a bid to “reclaim” history on behalf of those who have been “oppressed” by “the likes of Kipling”. Student leaders at Manchester University declared that Kipling “stands for the opposite of liberation, empowerment, and human rights”.    

Besides Kipling’s racist poem ‘The White Man’s Burden’ and there is  plethora of other work which sought to legitimize the British Empire’s presence in India and De-humanize people of colour. This logic by students’ union is deeply inappropriate. The students’ union thought that to promote the work of Kipling, in the Students’ Union building, named after a prominent South African anti-Apartheid activist, Steve Biko, is inappropriate. Is it not a mockery literary activity? Is it not hypocrisy? Literature gives us an opportunity to compare world from different times and place, perspective of which may or may not match with our own. Literature teaches us nuances and the importance of engagement instead of “my way or highway” attitude. It also fore warns us against the pitfalls of being judgmental. Removing the poem from the wall is not the way to show dissent. 

What would have been the right way to dissent?  The poem “If” is about real life and puts forward very positive thoughts about our day to day life. Following are two lines from the poem 

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster 
And treat those two impostors just the same   

Kipling has expressed positive thoughts in these two lines! All our life, we face Triumph or Disaster; but Kipling says that you treat them just the same. If we are able to follow his advice, if we do not get too excited with triumph and too dejected by failure, we will travel our life’s journey without many ups and downs in our mind, we will be able to avoid pitfalls! The poem “If” just talks about keeping positivity in life though we may face many storms!  You can read the poem “If” here. 

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46473/if— 

What was the point in erasing this poem which promotes positive thought process? The students’ union representative who explained their view point was an Asian lady. This incident took place in Manchester. England is known for its freedom of expression. At the Piccadilly Circus in London, every day you can watch people of different race, caste, creed and religion expressing their views openly. With this atmosphere, students’ union team did what they wanted to do. However, my view is that since the Poem on the wall was “If” and not “White man’s burden”, they should not have erased the poem but should have written the poem by Maya Angelou “Still I Rise”, alongside! “Still I Rise” poem can be read in one of the photos below. This poem is equally positive about life, and tells downtrodden people how to overcome difficulties, though obstacles keep arising!  

MayaAngelou

The British ruled us for 150 years and looted a lot of things from here, including the Kohinoor! They were brutal many times and showed their cunning ways by following the policy of divide and rule! But they had good side too! Recently, Elphinstone Road station on Mumbai suburban railway line was renamed, as Prabhadevi. But basic fact does not change that the railway system in India was built by the British for troop movement! But when they left India in 1947, they did not take railways away. Before British time, there was never one country called India, as is known today. We have been singing paeans of Bharat all the time, but complete Bharat never existed. There were many small and large kingdoms all over which were run by various Kings. British, to take full control over these kingdoms, won over some of them by trickery and some in war.  Credit for formation of Akhand Bharat goes to the British, our number one enemy before Independence.

The literature helps us to look at both sides of a point of view, it has also helped us to look at the British Raj from different viewpoint. Bad points about British need not be elaborated, as they are well documented, but there are many good points too; I am writing in English, which is a gift from the British. Especially after proliferation of computers, importance of English has increased tremendously world over. British society has allowed the students’ union to remove “If” from the wall, they have shown great tolerance by allowing this to happen in England. Will we allow a foreigner to remove a Shloka from some wall in an institution in India? Are we as a society mature enough? If, if only we had that maturity.. It’s always “If” which was written by Kipling more than 100 years ago!  

 

  

 

 

A little deviation!

My little probe on current politics!

I generally avoid writing about things that are in public domain and especially related to politics. But some recent events have forced me to temporarily tweak my rule, maybe just this one time! So, pardon me. Many actions in public domain are supposedly taken with elections in view, or some such ulterior motives. As usual ruling party and oppositions parties do not see eye to eye on most things. Only time both sides seemed to have come together, are during national emergencies. But there have been no such emergencies. I am not talking of this government or that party. 

Today I read about a small plane carrying Rahul Gandhi and his close aides, flying from Delhi to Hubli. It appears that as the flight was approaching Hubli, the airplane suddenly lost height, became unstable, and pilots lost control. This was during day time and weather was clear with no obvious winds. Pilots took charge of the plane by shifting from Auto Pilot to manual mode and landed safely. On landing, the entourage approached the police and lodged an FIR, claiming sabotage. The FIR is lodged against the pilots! Do pilots not know if the plane crashed, they will also die? I do not know why FIR was lodged. All, including crew were petrified. If someone wanted to kill the leader why will they put the lives of unknown persons also, in jeopardy? The plane could fall and kill a few on ground too! Are we such a vicious country that we will try to kill some senior leader because of elections? Are we a set of “Stupids” to react this way? Are we so malicious, that we want to charge our opponents of murder? After getting down, the complaint could have been made to authorities. These authorities could have been requested to stop flying the plane for thorough inspection. (apparently this is now done) Who advised this group of people to complain about saboteur? What is this, stupidity or viciousness, naivety?  

On the other side, due to the rise in Oil prices in international markets, petrol and diesel prices at home are also sky rocketing. With elections around in some states and national elections next year, this is supposedly a disaster for the current government. But they are sticking to basic finance rules and not taking any action to reduce these rates by way of subsidies. Sometime back, Indian petroleum sector was linked to international oil prices. A couple of years back, we got the benefits of very low petrol/diesel prices. Popular measures may be good politics but it is not good for the nation. This is an extraordinary courage being shown by the government.  

Supreme Court Chief Justice issue is one more such saga. I do not understand much about law of the land. But it was apparent from the beginning that this action was going to boomerang on the people who started the action. First and foremost was that the opposition parties could not form a coalition, based on similar thinking. The numbers were not there, and according experts, logic behind the action was not tenable. With this background there was no point in moving ahead. But why they moved forward is a mystery! Do they have no other agenda? Do they have nothing viable to pressurize the government?  

AFSPA is Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (AFSPA), are Acts of the Parliament of India that grant special powers to the Indian Armed Forces in what each act terms “disturbed areas”. Tripura government has withdrawn this act after 18 years. This was promulgated when situation there was bad and there was no option left. But somebody has reviewed this and taken a decision to withdraw these. This is creditable because generally nobody wants to bell the cat. Decisions in the government, are generally left to bureaucracy and their motto is status quo! Generally, there will be no review, things keep on lingering. One arm does not know what the other arm is doing! That reminds me of a small anecdote from Solapur district. In the district collector’s office, there was a file called “Report for the Queen”! Nobody knew what it was. But every month a group of officers was creating a mundane report, to be sent to the queen (of England), naturally! This procedure was started more than 100 years back during British Raj and continued till the year 2000! Review? What is that! 

Last but not the least is current China visit by our PM. Both our countries are large and with big population. Somehow China has been coming in the way of many things that India wanted to do on the world stage. May it be Pakistan, Sri Lanka or United nations China has always tripped India; on top of that there has been continuous probing on border posts in Himalayas. These type of skirmishes, are always stressful and can prove to be very expensive, even money wise, with no tangible results. Our PM has realized this and has taken first step to cool down tensions with China. There will be give and take, but we need to be pragmatic and keep our egos aside! That is the real diplomacy. I always felt that India was always lagging in finesse in diplomatic relations, though there has been improvement in last ten years or so. There were no declarations, no noise, just tête-à-tête between top bosses; it appears that meetings will be regular in future! I felt that this is a feather in the cap of our Government!  

Are we showing maturity in our governance? Are we not afraid to take steps which may be termed bold? But one thing is sure, we continue to be idiots, stupids and smart at the same time. Mainly the political arena has to change! Can we be a little smarter in our internal political moves also and try to be less confrontational? Hope we mature in this area too!  

Jaihind!  

 

 

  

Longevity bane or boon?

Wish to live as long as possible is natural but achieving the same to enjoy life in Golden Period needs efforts!

Vilas, my friend, wrote an e mail on our college group about human longevity and role of pharmaceutical companies in the same. This brings us to the good old discussion, longevity, is it bane or boon? In recent past, we all have seen products, treatments and methods to delay aging. Hoping to be around for longer time is a natural instinct! Both men and women, are using different products, trying to look young, dying their hair black and so on. There is plethora of creams, lotions, treatments, massages, health routines, health drinks available to us. The commercial organizations make such things available to us but to buy or not to buy is our choice! Such products were not available even 50 years back.

Vilas had made a comment that these pharmaceuticals companies keep people alive to make money. I replied to his mail saying that I don’t agree; in that e mail exchange, Sudhakar and another friend Pramod prodded me that this is a subject on which I should write a blog! Something kicked in from within and thoughts started flowing in my mind. What is longevity, what is old age? These definitions change as the years pass by, and/or we go to different countries. In Japan one of my colleagues’ father is 92 years old, 2 or 3 times a week he travels by Metro to get stuff for home! Old age? What is that? Last year we had taken Alaska cruise and there was one grand old American lady, all of 99 years of age, traveling alone on the cruise! You may say that these are exceptions but I don’t think they are! In a country like Japan population of 80 plus people is quite large and average age at death is between 85 & 90.

 Just a generation before ours, in India, our parents generation, old age started with crossing the age of fifty and at the time of retirement at 58 or 60 the Vanprasthashrama started. The currently available medicines, diagnostics tools and treatments were simply not available then. So if you had a heart attack, you simply died in most cases. Before the responsibilities of people ended, their health and wealth both were on the wane. Today’s Golden period never really dawned on that generation. There were two reasons, deterioration of health and wealth. Post British Raj, we were a poor country hence there never were savings to write home about. Even if ones health remained good, there was no money around to enjoy. But most important plus, for that generation, was there was always something to look forward to! Children, grandchildren were mostly around. Families always had something going. But for our generation with nuclear families, children migrating, we have to create our own things to look forward to! 

 In our generation, in general health has improved both bodily and financially. Slowly, in front of our eyes, we have seen that in today’s age 50 is like 40 of olden days and so on. Today’s 70 is like 60 of last generation. The overall improvement in situation is changing the definition of old age. Discussion on death was taboo in older generation. Now people at least in my group talk openly about health and death. With this change in thinking people are trying to take things in hand and are discussing about “medical will”! For example people are discussing openly, that in case of defined major health issues, they would not like to be put on ventilator or would not like to undergo major surgery. By taking such parameters under control people really want to enjoy their golden period and say quits when it is not worth it!

 There are ways to keep reasonably healthy. The most important is discipline. Whatever we do, only discipline is going to help. Some might feel that your behavior is regimental but to achieve your goal you need to be very rigid about discipline. I will tell you my story; I was detected with severe diabetes, HB1C value of 11.5, five years back! I love sweets and this change had occurred between two yearly tests. What I did and still follow is discipline, discipline and discipline! I stopped eating sweets from the next day, I exercise regularly anyway. Started medication and switched to low carb stuff. In the third year my HB1C was found to be 6.0! In between I went through cancer treatment for about three months! My doctor was very confident that I will bring things under control because he was aware of my discipline. Why I shared my story with you is because we are probably the first generation in India, that may be able to enjoy the golden period of life! Add to discipline, positive thinking; that is one more thing that will keep you healthy.

 Is longevity bane? No I don’t think so! There are many different ways of keeping healthier and fitter at my age (I am 68). Healthiness is equally important for both body and mind. For body, exercise and yoga are the key but for mind there are many different things. You can learn something new, things that you always wanted to learn but never got time. A friend of mine today told me that post retirement he has joined a music school to learn to play Piano! Great going. Maybe you wanted to try your hand at photography, travel, painting or reading. Do it! Doing things you love to do, is my definition of Golden Period! Golden Period definition changes with person to person. Somebody may want to join bhajan singing group, some may like discussion group on modern technology. Thirty years back my mother was in such a group but it was very rare in those days. That group had retired general managers, high court judges, house wives, teachers and what have you. They would invite people to give 15 to 30 minute talks on subject ranging from puarans, health care, or to get to know about latest aero planes. Their only requirement was that the speaker should explain in such a way that they could understand the subject. Groups formed 30 years back were the beginning of many such groups mushrooming now in the form of Alumni groups, Office colleagues groups and so on.  

 Staying connected with family and friends is another great way of remaining healthy. After taking care to remain healthy, things can go wrong but this should not happen for want of trying. Another secret of remaining healthy is to keep updated with new things like gadgets, technologies and happenings all around! So much information is available easily on the net these days, it is crime to not know things. My grandmother died at the age of 85; was she keen on what is happening in the world! Whenever I went to her house she would ask me information on different things in the world. She died in 1985 but she used to read the newspapers really in details. My brother in law is 81 years old (he was professor of commerce) and is having many health issues. A couple of weeks back when we traveled only to meet him, we found that though the flesh was not willing, his intellect was as sharp as ever. Currently he is mentoring one of his students on a project for making solar drier which can be used by plethora of people! He wanted my advice and thoughts on marketing the product! Last week I had a discussion on WhatsApp technicalities with my Grand-nephew! Another way of keeping young!  

 Vilas mentioned in his mail a figure of 75 years of age, beyond which he felt it may not be very pleasant to be around. Yes possible, on current data available. But I am sure this data will change a lot in next 25 years and maybe 80/85 would be that age! Jury is still out on definitions of Golden Period, threshold age. But I am quite sure that this will be a moving target all the time! And finally, YES! The old age is a boon!