Saturday, November 26, 2011

Gorkhaland Express

Telengana Protestors

In a comment on one of my older blog posts  - the Siliguri Connection (click here to read) a correspondent wrote – that Siliguri should claim its status as a city-state like Chandigarh by the time Gorkhaland is formed (which – according to him or her is only a matter of time). My first reaction – probably emanating from my latent main-land arrogance and Bengali chauvinism - was to dismiss it as a flippant and tongue-in-cheek remark like many friends and readers of my blog are prone to (especially, when posting anonymously). But, then it got me thinking.

Maha - heartburns

Though I have a decent working knowledge of modern Indian history – as any average educated Indian – I have never quite fathomed the under-currents of sub-nationalism that seem to drive the demand for smaller states. I have read and heard – how the linguistic division of the states post independence was an artificial creation. Having lived in Maharashtra for a better part of my life – I have known about the  Marathi heartburn over the loss of Belgaum to Karnataka. But, frankly the extent of underlying emotions  arising out of denial of state identity didn’t quite register on me.  I always thought, it was the politicians jostling to create their own fiefdoms within a democratic set up.

With Kashmir weighing heavily upon our psyche, splintering of the 7 sisters of the North-east and Khalistan – at one time – looking close to the realms of possibility – we have somehow been conditioned to think of any demands for new states as signs of secessionism. We were inclined to put the original demand for Gorkhaland in the same bracket. The making of the 3 new small states of Uttarakhand, Chattisgarh and Jharkhand was also seen more as an exercise of political expediency.

teaching 'em to count

So – when Mayawati declared her intention to split UP into 4 smaller states, our initial reactions were understandably cynical. Certainly, it was a political masterstroke. As a Tweeple wit remarked – before Rahul Gandhi could come to terms with one UP, she created 4 – enough for him to lose count. But, deeper reflection would reveal greater sense beneath her apparently whimsical sleight of hand. After all, what does Uttar Pradesh mean – the inimitable sociologist Ashish Nandy asked in a TV debate. While naming the erstwhile Central provinces – Madhya Pradesh could be attributed to a simple lack of creativity, to christen United Provinces as Uttar Pradesh was bereft of any rationale.
of Maha - Rashtras

That brings me to my favourite party quiz question in Mumbai: Why is Maharashtra called Maharashtra? The real reason – as once explained to a senior colleague of mine – Nirmal Sinha – by a  Marathi Trade Union Leader – is not what the Thackeray Tiger would have us believe (Maha – as in great – rashtra) but “Mahadev (or Shiva)’s Rashtra”. That’s because – it seems 8 out of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Shiva were located in the greater Bombay State ( Somnath, Dwarka, Ujjain, Bhimashanker, Trimbakeshwar, Sri Sailam Mallikarjuna, Omkareshwar, Grijhneshwar). It’s another matter that 4 of them now fall outside of Maharashtra ( in Gujarat, MP and Andhra).

So is it any surprise that, the young Scindia scion – on coming to Mumbai tries to claim his Maratha roots by speaking a smattering of Marathi ?

But, the bigger question is - if by carving out Maharashtra we nixed the identity of the Marathi speaking people around the region.

and, minor - rashtras

Now whether Bundelkhand should include parts of MP as well will be decided in the course of time. But, the question that is boiling is Telengana and can’t be put off much longer. There is little justification of denying Telengana statehood in the face of such over-pouring emotions and political angst and to hold Hyderabad as a pawn in the negotiations is absolutely ludicrous, in my judgment – with due deference to the retired judge whose charming wife light-heartedly says he is a better flirt than a jurist (who said I am not afraid of libel !!).

little donuts

One of my favourite authors, Charles Handy, had in a management context talked of the “Donut Principle”. It basically means, people can identify themselves best at two levels. So you can be a Bengali and an Indian – but not a Bengali, Eastern Indian and Indian (debunking our old proclivity to term any one south of the Vindhyas as South Indians and everyone in the cow belt – North Indians). So, it is difficult to impose artificial regional identities on ethno-culturally heterogeneous communities.

Though I won’t go as far as my former editor boss – who advocates breaking up of South Asia into independent small states – a la the European Union - but with a common national cricket team (where Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will be allowed to have their own cricket teams and Nepal can have the status of Switzerland, retaining their own currency), I think  a further devolution is inevitable and already evident in the emergence of regional parties that have come to stay.

An article by B G Varghese puts some of the issues in a balanced framework (Better and more beautiful)

Meanwhile, I will be waiting for Siliguri to become the Chandigarh of the East.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Of Tweeps and foes

I have been off this space for a bit – though it wasn’t a planned holiday. Not that I have been missed – I am sure –  enough to provide an explanation or seek leave of absence. But, the question I have been asking myself is – if I missed being around, considering my oft repeated assertion that, I write not for an audience but essentially for myself.

To be honest – as many of you know – I haven’t been exactly on “Maun Mohan Singh" mode during this period. I have been tweeting a lot – much to the irritation of my FaceBook friends at whom the tweets are automatically bombarded. I have been an early blogger (since 2001) but a late Tweepie (only since 2009). Have been around on FB for a while now – though far less active having gone thru’ my phase of FB fatigue.
Tho’ I am often put off by the disclosures of rather intimate personal details on FB or the tendency of some Facebookers (or bookies, if you like) to peddle profundity under the mistaken notion of quoting something profound – FB remains a much more friendly and human medium for sure.

Twitter on the other hand – tho’ much more impersonal - can be fun and intellectually stimulating. Its 140 characters limit – gives it a “crossword”  or “scrabble” like feel and trying to express yourself in just so many words can actually start getting you hooked. While FB is like a good Bong “adda session” – Twitter, I find, is more of friendly sparring. On Twitter you meet more like minded people of similar interests. Tho’ as always there are the mavericks like me – who have an opinion and view on anything and everything, and don’t feel apologetic and self-conscious to say them.

While on Facebook it appears rude to block or ‘un-friend’ someone and one does feel some degree of social pressure in not accepting “friend request” on Twitter  you have no such problem and can ‘follow’ or ‘unfollow’ anyone at will and no one even cares (unless you are an ultra-sensitive narcissist – but then you aren’t worth following in any case).

Some, of course, try to turn Twitter also into a chat forum (from a ‘micro-blogging’ site as it’s meant to be) sharing details of their every little fart or burp – but you are under no compulsion to suffer them.
There are the iconic Tweepies  - kind of cult figures - whom you would like to trail (Salman Rushdie being one of my latest favourites) and others who desperately try to create a brand for themselves managing to build quite a large follower base through unabashed self-promotion. Then, there are a few whom you’d like to follow just for fun or a good laugh like Digvijaya Singh.  But, the ones I assiduously avoid are the ‘celebrity” Tweepies – especially from the electronic media (read TV) and showbiz. The latter are disgustingly shallow and superficial and the former have a nauseatingly inflated sense of self-importance though totally lacking in depth (with notable exceptions like Rajdeep Sardesai).

I would be dishonest, if I were to say that adding a name to my list of followers doesn’t give a slight pleasurable rub to my ego.  But, overall I am happy to be in a closed circle of friends like at GhoseSpot. Overall, Twitter is a medium I have come to enjoy. Let’s see how long the fliratation lasts.

But, the bottom-line is - if you aren't yet following me on Twitter - please do so pronto at :-)