Thursday, April 10, 2008


To be honest, let's just say that I was not very surprised with the Supreme Court's judgement regarding OBC reservations. Disappointed, but not surprised. No, not that.
What surprised me though, was the vehemence displayed by people on both sides of the debate post-judgement. Our Esteemed (and Ambassadored) Political Leaders were quick to claim victory, each party generating soundbites stating that they are the sole protectors of the new urban votebank that has been magically brought into existence by court diktat and the sound of a gavel hammering down on a million dreams.
People on my side of the debate (hint: I was against reservations) were quick to state that India will never become a developed country this way, and that they should leave India as soon as possible.
What brought matters to a virtual boil was a debate I witnessed on CNN-IBN, between a young man representing Youth For Equality, and a bunch of politicians such as the formidable D Raja of the CPI. It was fascinating to watch the YFE chap toting out statistics that projected gloom and doom for the nation, all the while displaying a keen grasp of logic, against people whose flea-sized brains kept spewing out a single point over and over again: some person from Andhra Pradesh belonging to a fishing community has ranked 1st in the Civil Service examinations. Good for him.
It was towards the end of the debate that the true nature of our disagreement struck me, when I saw D Raja vigorously defend his standpoint, stating that everybody's playing politics.

The Nature of the Game

The reason D Raja was so agitated, the reason why YFE fought with such gusto, the reason why thousands of people leave the shores of this country never to return, is because of the fundamental nature of the clash between two value systems: one where equality is valued, and one where excellence is.
One where faith and belief are valued, and one where reason and intellect are.
One where history is a towering monster breathing down our necks, and one where history is dusted off with the flick of a wrist.
One where diversity stops at the entrance to one's home, and one where people wish they were American citizens so they could vote for Obama.
One where hearts and eyes are blinded by the glowing beacon of Eternal Revolution, and one where hearts skip a beat upon hearing that Noam Chomsky shall be addressing a local conference. (And if you think they are on the same side, I pity you.)

The value system we have grown up with, that insidious poison which taught us to deem Pakistan to be an expletive, streaming into our ears the xenophobic rant of our glorious civilization having been trampled upon for a thousand years by invaders, making sure we remember our duty to resist such occupation forever with our heart and soul, this value system is the root of the social contract that binds us as a self-flagellating, self-cannibalizing, self-hating society.

Over time, we have learned to smooth out the rough edges. Interacting with people from halfway around the world, we have learned to manufacture an Other for each glorious fragment of our fractured identity that we choose to exhibit at any point in time.

We were thrown out of the Garden of Innocence as children, and we have eaten the Apple of Hatred. Having rejected the value system of our predecessors on this part of Earth, we now need to reject the social contract built on top of a fundamental assumption that guilt is the root of political power.

Reflect. Introspect. Understand yourself. Map your values. And reject the guilt that seeks to own you.

Will reservations hinder excellence? Yes they will. Does it matter? No, it doesn't. The law of the land has spoken out loud, and equality has been deemed to be of a more vital import than excellence. To paraphrase Gandhi, "Leave India to God's children, or leave India to anarchy, but leave."

Isn't this a democracy?

The thing that pains me the most is how fragile our understanding is of what democracy entails. We lay utmost faith in the wisdom of crowds, yet fail to understand that to create a crowd is to discover a common factor that unites the greatest number of people.
We are proud to call ourselves one of the few republics where the Head of State is an elected lady, and yet fail to understand that republicanism enshrines the idea of inalienable rights that a democratic "will of the people" cannot take away.
For those of us trusting the voice of the masses, remember that they were the ones who used to burn "witches" at the stake.
Those of us who fervently believe that the "janata" is always right, remember well the Middle Ages where a majority of people knew for certain that the world rests on the back of a giant turtle.

What will happen?

We were fools to believe in a New India, one moulded to perfection by a booming economy, industrious workers, visionary corporate giants creating nation-straddling behemoths, lorded over by a benign government that created social security for the masses. We bought the Kool Aid of a rising superpower, one that would challenge the fire-breathing dragon to the East.
And yet, at the first sign of challenge, our Kool Aid-dispensing Sakis faltered.
They faltered when the Communists challenged them vis a vis the Indo-US nuclear deal.
They faltered when they were asked to take a courageous stand against China's brutal occupation of Tibet.
And, finally, they faltered and failed where it mattered the most: They failed to nurture India's best and brightest.

What of India? India will muddle along, as always, as the world outside laughs at our petty fights and savage mechanisms of handling them, as the dead hand of Malthus animates the countryside with famines that break one's heart. Does it feel bad? Yes. Can we do anything about it? No.

It's time, I guess, to heed Gandhi's words, and leave India to the people that its society values. Time to break out a new stone tablet with a fresh set of commandments, one wherein are enshrined the basic tenets of individual liberty and the pursuit of excellence.
Time to cross the seas, gentlemen and ladies. I hope you're with me.


King Bong said...

By Jove, that was a chilling read ... Pakistan still is and will be an expletive, but I still have hope for this nation.
India has seen off many things in her anything-but-smooth-riding history, and the episode with double dealing politics will pass too ... and that day, I shall be there, to truly see India Shining ...

Moo said...

You've put into words, exactly what I've always felt. Except I don't know so many words. :) I really wonder for about how many aeons more we're going to be harping on and on for "equality". Reservations! Bah!


MangalSingh said...

The (C)PIgs will never realize that equality is not achieved by chopping all fingers to one size.. If they for a change think about real measures, like focusing on primary education and subsidizing for the poor ( irrespective of his caste), India would be surely be a land of equally brilliant and happy citizens.

A great expression indeed!

sawhney said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sawhney said...

you appear to speak of equality and excellence as two contrasting entities.
What the reservation guys are fighting for is not equality but for the rewards that come with giving the people the illusion of justice by means of a cheap shortcut such as reservation.
And yeah doing something significant about it seems out of reach, but I still dont see how we can get away with blaming our flight overseas on the current system an shirk our respnsibility. If we talk of India, it entails everything from those yfe guys to the most brainless bigots and we have to take a stand if we are to claim any concern for india. Talking about Chomsky, I think we need our own version of 'the responsibility of intellectuals'. We very well know there is nothing to stop this madness if intellectuals chose to take the occasion to move to greener pastures

Ramji said...

Interesting to read the logic. I felt the justice could be done with response only through an article.

Hence, Here I go:

Mugger Much said...

I admire your optimism; I wish I could share in its glowing warmth. Alas.

Equality has not been an issue. The issue has always been the warped weights applied to different value systems.

Yes. Our society has implicitly nurtured the thought of diversity as an evil that needs to be stamped out via representation.

KC said...

The educated urban Indian, according to me, is a a stronger entity than you seem to believe (inferred on the basis of your 'pessimism'). I am a bit more optimistic, therefore. Irrespective of what happens of the reservation issue. (Brand equity of premier institutes is altogether a different question, I guess)

However, I'll throw up another interesting situation/question. Think about a time when a large percentage of people become the 'Educated urban Indian', thereby becoming the 'junta'/mass. Do you expect anything better than witch burning? :)

Ramji said...

One more follow up Article Anshuman ji.....

"I am ready to be discriminated"

Anonymous said...

In a puzzling twist, folks from our batch who come to the US sign up for membership in the Democratic party at the first available opportunity. The Democratic party representing the left of course backs all flavors of affirmative action such as the one which you (and most of us for that matter) oppose.

Then again, in the US it is possible to buy yourself a good education, something that IITs never had (Thank God!) which makes the parallel inexact.

Is there a recruitment system anywhere in the world where merit and merit only counts?