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Posts Tagged ‘India’

Barbarians at the gates

October 2, 2011 3 comments

Ancient Rome or modern America – the rich get education and the poor die in wars.

Ancient Rome was exactly the same. Modern education too, 'teaches' the selected few how to retain control of the system. (Image source and courtesy - http://anticap.wordpress.com). Click for larger image.

Ancient Rome was exactly the same. Modern education too, 'teaches' the selected few how to retain control of the system. (Image source and courtesy - http://anticap.wordpress.com). Click for larger image.

Barbaric Rome

Was Rome a civilization? Ever?

With nearly a million slaves in the city of Rome itself, with wars, butchery, massacres (in Gaul, Carthage et al), on what basis could Rome be called a civilization? When people are civil to each other, the society can be termed as a civilization. One imagines that education will stop us from accepting propaganda as history.

Is ‘education’ the answer?

Take this extract below, for instance. Written by a well-known talking head on TV, a pollster, a political analyst, writes about JPC confrontation between the Congress and the BJP

Exactly 1,600 years ago, on August 24, 410, the barbarians (the Visigoths) were at the gates of Rome. They sacked and pillaged a prosperous but decadent Rome. Thousands of Romans fled to the countryside, leaving the “Urbi” devastated. Thirty-five years later, the Vandals also sacked Rome. Though Rome survived for some more time, the sacking in 410 marked the beginning of its disintegration.

The other day, Ratan Tata used the word “banana republic” that outraged us. We already have crony capitalism and loads of corruption and now parliamentary vandalism. The barbarians are at our gates too. Our foot is already on the slippery banana skin. Ek dhakka aur do, and we’ll get there. (via Dorab R Sopariwala: Barbarians at the gates).

Strange – to think, accept and call the Romans as civilized. The largest slave-owning empire of the ancient world deserved destruction. In my book, Alaric The Goth, was far more civilized than the Romans. Possibly, Alaric’s Goths attacked Rome to end its slave capturing ways.

Squash the bug

Let us assume that the imagery of a civilized Rome destroyed by a barbarian Goths is right.

Still the analogy of civilized Congress versus a barbarian BJP is completely inept. Neither is the Congress superior nor is the BJP any less civilized than the Congress. If at all, the fight by the Opposition to demand accountability through the JPC route, is commendable. After all, the issue at stake, is arguably, India’s biggest scam.

Fooling enough people, most of the time, by using lotsa money! Is that the trick? (Image credits embedded). Click for larger image.

Fooling enough people, most of the time, by using lotsa money! Is that the trick? (Image credits embedded). Click for larger image.

All the people … all the time

Dorab, between you and Ratan Tata, you share a common trait. You believe that the desi noise, smells, heat and dust of Indian democracy is below you.

Remember that JRD is buried in France. India was not good enough for the dead body of this Bharat Ratna.

Tatas have made a long-standing claim that they are superior to other Indian businesses. A claim, supported only by assertions and repetitions. Without empirical data or evidence.

In fact, surveys show that Indian companies have higher reputation in home markets than most other corporations across the world. Going by anecdotal evidence, Tatas cannot be superior than others. Just like BJP cannot be much different from Congress.

Flawed comparisons, all round. Romans and Goths, Congress and BJP, Tatas and Others.

Pakistan – An alienating identity

September 28, 2011 9 comments

What has gone wrong? A question that many Pakistanis ask. And a few honest answers filter through.

Three nuclear powers - cheek by jowl.|  The Equalizer cartoon by David Horsey; published - May 28, 2002 in Seattlepi.com / SL   |  Click for image.

Three nuclear powers – cheek by jowl.| The Equalizer cartoon by David Horsey; published – May 28, 2002 in Seattlepi.com / SL | Click for image.

Fault Lines

Pakistan may have silently accepted that the premise of Pakistan’s nationhood was wrong.

Apart from a few ‘desperate’ bonzos, Pakistanis feel bad at the plight of their nation. The destructive rhetoric of Us vs Them, symbolic of the Desert Bloc, dries up in the hot sands of genocide, poverty, crime.

Unlike भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra.

This extract below, from a Pakistani newspaper, asks some tough questions.

First, we alienated ourselves from Hindu community because we were Muslims, and then we kept on alienating millions of our own (the Eastern wing, followed by the peripheral groups including the Baloch, Seraiki, Sindhi and the religious minorities) in trying to prove that we were Muslims.

An answer that Pakistanis are asking - and one day will get. (Cartoon by Don Wright; source and courtesy - thuklak.wordpress.com). Click for larger image.

An answer that Pakistanis are asking – and one day will get. (Cartoon by Don Wright; source and courtesy – thuklak.wordpress.com). Click for larger image.

How ‘Pakistani’ would the relatives of Habib Jalib,those martyred at Ali Hajweri shrine and the Ahmedi worship places be feeling, or for that matter the IDPs from Swat, the separatists from Balochistan, and the millions of peasants and wage labourers, who despite their right to vote our incapable of bringing material improvements in their lives, is anybody’s guess. (via An alienating identity – The Express Tribune Blog).

And Tripwires

And the answer to these questions.

On an India-Pakistan Forum, the idea of भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra has started getting discussed – and outlined.

भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra is India’s classical political ideology, that worked on four freedoms –

  • धर्म (dharma – justice)
  • अर्थ (arth – wealth and means)
  • काम (kaam – human desires)
  • मोक्ष (moksha – liberty)

and guaranteed three rights –

  • ज़र (jar – gold)
  • जन (jan – human ties)
  • जमीन (jameen – property)

For all. And Bharattantra may be the way forward for India and Pakistan to work together, in the view of some forum members.

Understanding London Riots

September 17, 2011 Leave a comment
This cartoon captures the attitude of the rioters and the tone of the authorities. (Cartoon by Martin Sutovec, SME, Slovakia; source and courtesy - cagle.com). Click for larger image.

This cartoon captures the attitude of the rioters and the tone of the authorities. (Cartoon by Martin Sutovec, SME, Slovakia; source and courtesy - cagle.com). Click for larger image.

Argentina, circa 2001. The economy was in freefall and thousands of people living in rough neighborhoods stormed foreign-owned superstores. They came out pushing shopping carts overflowing with the goods they could no longer afford—clothes, electronics, meat. The government called a “state of siege” to restore order; the people didn’t like that and overthrew the government.

Why is London burning. (Cartoon by Petar Pismestrovic, Kleine Zeitung, Austria; source and courtesy - cagle.com). Click for larger image.

Why is London burning. (Cartoon by Petar Pismestrovic, Kleine Zeitung, Austria; source and courtesy - cagle.com). Click for larger image.

Argentina’s mass looting was called El Saqueo—the sacking. That was politically significant because it was the very same word used to describe what that country’s elites had done by selling off the country’s national assets in flagrantly corrupt privatization deals, hiding their money offshore, then passing on the bill to the people with a brutal austerity package. Argentines understood that the saqueo of the shopping centers would not have happened without the bigger saqueo of the country, and that the real gangsters were the ones in charge.

But England is not Latin America, and its riots are not political, or so we keep hearing. They are just about lawless kids taking advantage of a situation to take what isn’t theirs. And British society, Cameron tells us, abhors that kind of behavior.

Easy to dismiss the 'progressive-liberal' clap trap. But is there a grain of truth in this narrative. (Cartoon by Rob Rogers, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pennsylvania; source and courtesy cagle.com). Click for larger image.

Easy to dismiss the 'progressive-liberal' clap trap. But is there a grain of truth in this narrative. (Cartoon by Rob Rogers, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pennsylvania; source and courtesy cagle.com). Click for larger image.

This is said in all seriousness. As if the massive bank bailouts never happened, followed by the defiant record bonuses. Followed by the emergency G-8 and G-20 meetings, when the leaders decided, collectively, not to do anything to punish the bankers for any of this, nor to do anything serious to prevent a similar crisis from happening again. Instead they would all go home to their respective countries and force sacrifices on the most vulnerable. They would do this by firing public sector workers, scapegoating teachers, closing libraries, upping tuitions, rolling back union contracts, creating rush privatizations of public assets and decreasing pensions—mix the cocktail for where you live. And who is on television lecturing about the need to give up these “entitlements”? The bankers and hedge-fund managers, of course.

This is the global Saqueo, a time of great taking. Fueled by a pathological sense of entitlement, this looting has all been done with the lights left on, as if there was nothing at all to hide. There are some nagging fears, however. In early July, the Wall Street Journal, citing a new poll, reported that 94 percent of millionaires were afraid of “violence in the streets.” This, it turns out, was a reasonable fear.

Martin Rowson on David Cameron's big broken society; on the government's response to the riots and looting across England which saw over 1,000 people arrested | guardian.co.uk  |  Saturday 13 August 2011 00.01 BST  |  Click for larger image.

Martin Rowson on David Cameron's big broken society; on the government's response to the riots and looting across England which saw over 1,000 people arrested | guardian.co.uk | Saturday 13 August 2011 00.01 BST | Click for larger image.

Of course London’s riots weren’t a political protest. But the people committing nighttime robbery sure as hell know that their elites have been committing daytime robbery. Saqueos are contagious. (via Shock Doctrine in Practice: The Connection Between Nighttime Robbery In the Streets and Daytime Robbery By Elites | | AlterNet).

It is always difficult to understand mob mentality. Especially, if you are Mumbai – and riots are being reported from London, by advertising driven media, and commentary written by State-approved academics. The first piece of sense about the London Riots was this piece by Naomi Klein.

The London Riots also reminded me of the Godhra Riots, when well-to-do people drove up to shops on CG Road in Ahmedabad to drive away with goodies from shops that had been forced open. Earlier riots, for instance in Hyderabad, between 1980-1988, saw shops set on fire, but not looted. I wonder if there are any parallels in behaviour between Godhra and London riots.

Bursting prison populations are definitely a part of the problem. But is the progressive-liberal education the answer? Or is it about basic literacy skills. (Cartoonist Nick Hayes on education and riots sentencing - While teenagers receive their A-level results, the prison population in England and Wales reaches a record level  |  The Guardian  |  Friday 19 August 2011) Click for larger image.

Bursting prison populations are definitely a part of the problem. But is the progressive-liberal education the answer? Or is it about basic literacy skills. (Cartoonist Nick Hayes on education and riots sentencing - While teenagers receive their A-level results, the prison population in England and Wales reaches a record level | The Guardian | Friday 19 August 2011) Click for larger image.

But I have a nagging feeling that this is not the complete picture.

So, for sometime, this topic will stay on the Quicktake list – till such time that we can get a hook to complete this picture.

Hindu Muslim Bhai-Bhai – End of an Era

September 1, 2011 1 comment

Urbane, educated, certain local and foreign elements served the British, Pakistani leaders, Indian princes, appealed to Hindus, Muslims using religion – and gained everywhere. But in each case, India lost.

Bhishma on the Bed of Arrows (image source and courtesy - http://www.harekrsna.com). Click for larger image.

Bhishma on the Bed of Arrows (image source and courtesy - http://www.harekrsna.com). Click for larger image.

My grateful  acknowledgments are due to His Highness the Nizam and His  Highness the ruler of Mysore for their princely donations. The  Nizam is a Mahomedan prince. Any contribution coming from him in aid of a work like the Mahabharata could not but  indicate His Highness’s enlightened sympathy for literature in  general, irrespective of the nation or the creed which that  literature represents.  As an administrator, Sir Asman Jah promises to rival the  fame of Sir Salar Jung. So long also as an officer like  Nawab Sayyed Ali Bilgrami is about the person of His Highness … (from the foreword of The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa (Anusasana Parva) Translated into English prose Published and distributed by Pratapa Chandra Ray Published 1893 by Bharata Press in Calcutta . Written in English).

What’s religion got to do with this?

Soon after the 1857 Anglo-Indian War of 1857, we had the remarkable instance of the Baroda Gaikwad commissioning a ‘Basra’ pearl carpet for the prophet’s tomb at Medina, which was recently auctioned for US$5.5 million.

And here we have the case of a Muslim king, the Nizam of Hyderabad, who partly funded the translation and publication of the Mahabharata in English.

Coming storm

But, this was soon to change.

In 1905, Bengal was partitioned along religious lines, by Lord Curzon. West Bengal, Orissa, and Bihar on one side and the erstwhile East Bengal and Assam were divided into the other part. All India Muslim League and All India Hindu Mahasabha followed. The official logic was that Bengal was too large a province to be administered by a single governor.

An India that seemed possible and probable was brokento two pieces - and a Kashmir legacy left behind.

An India that seemed possible and probable was broken in to two pieces - and a Kashmir legacy left.

This explanation did not account for communal boundaries – and did not explain Curzon’s tour of East Bengal in February 1904, where he promised a separate zone for Muslim Bengalis.

Protests against this partition in the form of Arandhan (no food was cooked across Bengal), boycott of British goods, and Tagore suggested that Raksha Bandhan would be observed in a spirit of brotherhood between Muslims and Hindus. Lord Minto’s ‘reforms’ in 1909, was the next major step in division of India along religious lines.

Simultaneously, soon after the publication of Tarana-e-Hind (Song of India) in 1905, of the sare-jahaan-se-achcha hai-hindustan-hamaraa fame, Iqbal was sponsored by British authorities for ‘modern’ studies in Europe in 1906. In England Allama Iqbal joined with Major Syed Hassan Bilgrami, ex-Indian Medical Service, to form and promote the Muslim League in England, in 1908.

The mechanics of divide et impera

Major Syed Ali Bilgrami wrote the text for Simla deputation, headed by the Sir Sultan Muhammad (the Aga Khan), who with seventy ‘representatives’ of the Muslim community, asked the Viceroy for elections along communal lines.

The immediate cause for the Simla deputation was the matter of language. Soon after 1857, at Benares in 1867, with the expanding role of the State, a case for using Devnagari script was made. This issue simmered and in 1900, the Urdu-Nagri Resolution was notified by Sir Anthony Macdonald, Lieutenant-Governor, United Provinces, in April 1900 giving parity to Hindi as a official-language along with Urdu in UP. Muslim paranoia was watered and nurtured by the British.

By creating claims and supporting counter-claims, responding to alternate parties, the British administration created frenzy around a simple administrative issue. Pakistani historians to this day see this as “the machination of Dr. Feelan, District Inspector of Schools and Anthony Mac Donald, then Collector of Muzaffarpur, the two bitterest antagonists of Urdu”.

Major Syed Ali Bilgrami wrote the Simla address - presented to the Viceroy on October 1st, 1906, calling for separate electorates. (Image source and courtesy - storyofpakistan.com).

Major Syed Ali Bilgrami wrote the Simla address - presented to the Viceroy on October 1st, 1906, calling for communal electorates. (Image source and courtesy - storyofpakistan.com).

The rest of the story, most of us know.

Behind the man

Major Syed Hassan Bilgrami, an academic from Lucknow, was also from the same family as Sayyed Ali Bilgrami. Sayyed Ali Bilgrami was selected for employment by Salar Jung, one of the nobles in Nizam’s kingdom.

Syed Ali Bilgrami (Image source and courtesy - themuslims.in).

Syed Ali Bilgrami (Image source and courtesy - themuslims.in).

Designated as Imud ul-Mulk Bahadur, he presided over the setting up of Dairatul-Maarifil-Osmania, Hyderabad (or the Osmania Oriental Publications Bureau) in 1888. For some time, he was the tutor to the future Nizam of Hyderabad,

Connections everywhere

Sayyed Ali Bilgrami donated his own collection of books, manuscripts and texts to form a core for the Asafia State Library (1891). Of the initial nearly 24,000 volumes, nearly 16,000 were Persian, Arabic or Urdu. Some 7600 were in English and other European languages. There was, of course, no place for any books in Hindi, Telugu, Sanskrit, Marathi, Kannada – which was the languages used by more than 95% of the Nizam Kingdom’s population.

Sayyed Ali Bilgrami studied at Kolkatta where he also learned Sanskrit – and later translated the Atharva Veda. That possibly explains Sayyed Ali Bilgrami links to Kisari Mohan Ganguli and the publication of Mahabharata by Pratapa Chandra Ray – and funding through the Nizam Government.

Soon after 1905, Sayyed Ali Bilgrami became an activist in affairs of Urdu and Muslim affairs. Another member of the family, active academically, was Syed Asghar Ali Bilgrami who published Ma ‘athir-i-Dakan (Hyderabad, 1925) in Urdu and another study in English, called Landmarks of the Deccan (Hyderabad, 1927).

Collaboration Chronicles

Urbane, educated, the Bilgramis served the British, Pakistan, Indian princes, appealed to Hindus, Muslims – and gained everywhere. Post-independence, some of the Bilgramis moved to Pakistan. A few members of the family chose to remain in Hyderabad, and other parts of India. Today, they can be found in the UK, Germany, UAE – and many emigrated to the US.

This translation of the Mahabharata, by Kisari Mohan Ganguli and publication by Pratapa Chandra Ray, for which one of the Bilgramis arranged funding, remains the most popular and accessible work of the last 100 years.

Below are book extracts from a rather revealing and well-researched work on British colonialism in India.

Chronicles of Collaboration. Excerpts from Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic identity: the search for Saladin  By Akbar S. Ahmed, pages 56 and 64). Click to go source at books.google.com

Chronicles of Collaboration. Excerpts from Jinnah, Pakistan and Islāmic identity: the search for Saladin By Akbar S. Ahmed, pages 56 and 64). Click to go source at books.google.com

Kashmir – How US Supported Pakistan Subversion

August 25, 2011 1 comment

Patrick French’s recent tweets are interesting footnotes to India’s tortured foreign policy, lurching between Nehru-Eisenhower friendship, to the US-Western support for Pakistan’s anti-India activities.

An Englishman named French

Patrick French has written two successful books on India – and is seen as another well-intentioned Indo-phile. His rather patronizing view of Indian leadership (refers to Indian MPs as HMPs – hereditary MPs) has become rather famous in Indian media. Unfortunately his view of Indian MPs as HMPs – hereditary MPs) displays a singular lack in understanding of Western demographics – and Indian society.

But then, he can be equally good, when he is mocking Michael Heseltine’s daughter, too!

Behind the bizarre policies of the Pakistani State are the dollars and mal-intentions of Pax Americana. (Cartoon by Ajit Ninan; on 15th April, 2011; source and courtesy - timesofindia.com). Click for source image.

Behind the bizarre policies of the Pakistani State are the dollars and mal-intentions of Pax Americana. (Cartoon by Ajit Ninan; on 15th April, 2011; source and courtesy - timesofindia.com). Click for source image.

Soldiers of fortune

Such as his ‘understanding’ is, he has been smart enough to hitch his career to Rising India than  Empty-Shell Britain, his native country.

Much like his other British colleague, William Dalrymple. Or British ‘traders’ who came to India to make a living – and later, looted, instead.

India’s new religion

The Dalrymples and the Frenchs receive a rather warm welcome in India due to their soft-push of liberal-progressive ideas. The same ideas that are behind India’s new religion – Westernization.

So enamored with the new religion of ‘Westernization’ are Indians, that no criticism is accepted or tolerated.

The ‘progressive liberal’ establishment of the West is viewed benignly in India – and seen as ‘well wishers’ of India. Many such ideas are welcomed in India without analysis, as the source of such initiatives is seen as well-intentioned. A ‘tolerant’ and ‘open’ society like India can be a complacent victim to Trojan horses.

After the dust settles

Much like how Marathas continued to ‘accept’ Mughal position of rulers of India, long after the claim had expired. Modern India too, accepts Western ‘achievements’. Compared to the ‘co-operation’ with the Islāmic plunderers our ‘collaboration’ with the West is in no way less damaging or in any way less culpable.

In this context, French’s report of this conversation is a rather interesting and independent confirmation of rather malignant (OK, unfriendly, if you will) Western intentions regarding India.


Lethargy As Opinion

August 16, 2011 3 comments

Examining governance records of selected ten premiere post-WWII governments across the world could throw up some surprises.

Colonial motivations

The British Raj needed to mock and diminish the Indian politician. The Indian political leader was trying to dislodge the colonial Government from their position of power. Churchill’s famous descriptions of Gandhiji as ‘that naked fakir’ and Indian politicians as ‘men of straw’ was a sentiment shared across ruling elites in Britain.

Seems like in India, too

Post-independence, this mockery of the Indian politician has only grown. This criticism, carping and mockery has no basis in fact – statistics, measurements, performance metrics. Anything at all.

The drag government’s been on the Indian story is astonishing. No government in the world’s been such a burden to a country. It’s done none of the things it’s meant to while it seems to eye private success with greed. There’s only so long this frame can hold…

One of the things making me happiest in America was the man coming up was celebrated. In India, I sense disgust, revulsion for that person, that he should suddenly have aspirations, riches, ambitions. In Noon, I’ve tried to get at this. (via ‘I think of myself as Indian in a sense that includes Pakistan’ – Page 2 – Times Of India).

Aatish Taseer, whose books and writings have been met with much fanfare, publicity and soundbites, is another one who bites into the dust of empty criticism.

If we are to examine governance records of selected ten premiere post-WWII governments across the world, Taseer’s emptiness (he is not alone) will stand exposed.

These 10 governments four from Europe (France, Germany, Italy and UK), two from South America (Argentina and Brazil) Japan and USA, China and India. Looking back at the 65 years after WWII (1945-2010), the context and strategies of these ten countries throws up some surprises. India would definitely be a part of the Top-3 anyway that such a performance can be rated.

Image source and courtesy - economist.com.

Image source and courtesy - economist.com.

Just on what basis have other governments have done better? All that bedevils Indian governance are present in all other countries. And the answer to all that ails ‘modern’ governance, can only come from India.

You can do a 10 country evaluation here and vote. And maybe, Taseer-miya …

You should read about भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra, .

MF Husain was Hindu

July 3, 2011 3 comments
M. F. Hussain gets Qatar nationality announces the editor of Hindu - N. Ram (Image courtesy - hindu.com). Click for larger image

M. F. Hussain gets Qatar nationality announces the editor of Hindu - N. Ram (Image courtesy - hindu.com). Click for larger image

Says Pritish Nandy

Maqbool Fida Hussain never said ‘I am a ‘Hindu”. Yet, Pritish Nandy insists on claiming Hussain for ‘Hinduism’. But then, Pritish Nandy for one is not a ‘Hindu’ – in mind, spirit or thought.

Not, if he cannot understand, that what Pritish Nandy calls ‘Hinduism’ does not require everyone to go by One book, belong to One Faith, worship One god or believe in any One thing. ‘Hinduism’ would have been absolutely comfortable with MF Hussain being a Muslim. And everyone includes Maqbool Fida Hussain also.

‘Hinduism’ does not believe or accept that it  is ‘superior’ or ‘inferior’ to any other body of belief. The only one thing that ‘Hinduism’ does not accept is अधर्म adharma. Injustice to any man.

Everything else goes.

‘Hinduism’ is public property

At this point here, Farrukh Dhondy joins the debate. Dhondy implies ‘Hinduism’ is public property. MF Hussain has a perfect right to do whatever he wants with ‘Hinduism’ – believes our Mr.Dhondy.

When Mother Teresa became an object of media-adulation, Hussain turned to Moter Teresa. (Image courtesy - indiatimes.com.) Click for larger image.

When Mother Teresa became an object of media-adulation, Hussain turned to Moter Teresa. (Image courtesy - indiatimes.com.) Click for larger image.

The Hindus don’t have a single book and certainly not one that sanctions attacks for depicting one or the other goddess and using an imaginary or live model’s form and features to do it. Those who hounded MF were barking up the wrong walking stick.

It has happened before. Raja Ravi Verma was castigated, mobbed and prosecuted for using his mistress as a model for paintings of Hindu goddesses and heroines from the epics. Ketan Mehta’s film may shed some light on how and why a notion of heresy invaded the beliefs of Hinduism.  Hinduism, should be free from such an idea.

The demolition of the temple of Somnath may be seen as insults and affronts to the communities that built them and worshipped there but not in any sense is it heresy. Breaking icons is certainly insulting. But surely MF Husain was making them? (via Indian idol maker – Hindustan Times; parts excised for brevity).

Logically, Dhondy must understand that all idol-breaking or form-distortion can happen only at ‘Hindu’ sufferance – or tolerance, if you wish. ‘Hindu’ intellectual capital is available – at no cost.

To subscribers only.

23-May After Mamata Banerjee’s victory in West Bengal assembly elections, MF Hussain sent a sketch to Hindustan Times. (Image courtesy - hindustantimes.com). Click for larger image.

23-May After Mamata Banerjee’s victory in West Bengal assembly elections, MF Hussain sent a sketch to Hindustan Times. (Image courtesy - hindustantimes.com). Click for larger image.

No ‘free’ lunch at ‘Hindu’ expense

I don’t subscribe to FT.com. I don’t talk-up, talk-down, talk-about FT.com. FT.com does not want me. Separate ways. Good for both of us.

Same thing with ‘Hinduism’, I thought.

Without being a subscriber to ‘Hinduism’, others can use, accept ‘Hindu’ ideas, concepts, standards, clearly at ‘Hindu’ sufferance. Especially if an ‘artist’ wishes to make commercial profit by using ‘Hindu’ capital. Maqbool Fida Hussain wants to combine ‘Hindu’ sufferance, (or tolerance, maybe broad-mindedness), with Islāmic sensitivity (blasphemy, no idols and portraits), for his personal gain.

Hussain painted freely and frankly – nude goddesses, dark monks, rib-lined horses, elephants playing veenas, nations in distress – in canvases executed with style and showmanship, spreading artistic excitement across society.

But never an Islāmic theme – unless you want to count Meenaxi as an Islāmic theme! Why?

Now, Maqbool Fida Hussain used and adopted Islāmic standards, when it came to Islām. He should have stayed with Islāmic standards. Don’t portray any gods and goddesses.

MF Hussain sketches Madhuri Dixit from the film - Dil to Pagal Hai.

MF Hussain sketches Madhuri Dixit from the film - Dil to Pagal Hai.

Even Maqbool Fida Hussain cannot be chalk and cheese.

Everything to everyone

Maqbool Fida Hussain rode on the coat tails of  every media-star to gain publicity for himself. Vijay Tendulkar to Madhuri Dixit, Anushka Sharma to Mother Teresa. From Prabhu Deva to MS Subbalakshmi. He quickly made out a silly painting of Mamta Banerji’s election victory in Bengal – to keep himself in media-focus.

Maqbool Fida Hussain has always blown in whichever direction, the wind blows. He tried to be an admirer of playwright Tendulkar (and Sakharam Binder) when Vijay Tendulkar was bigger than Sachin Tendulkar – and supported Indira Gandhi’s Emergency when she was in power. Nandyभाई, Maqbool Fida Hussain cannot be ‘Hindu’ in spirit – and admire Mother Teresa’s blatant superior ‘Christian conversion’ therapy for  inferior ‘Hindus’.

Year - 2006; Bharatmata (Mother India) as a nude woman displayed at an exhibition by Nafisa Ali - an actress-turned-social-worker. (Image courtesy - indiatimes.com). Click for larger image.

Year - 2006; Bharatmata (Mother India) as a nude woman displayed at an exhibition by Nafisa Ali - an actress-turned-social-worker. (Image courtesy - indiatimes.com). Click for larger image.

Did I miss MF Hussain standing up for artistic freedom of the Prophet Mohammed cartoonist – or oppose Sarkozy’s hijab ban? Not a word in support of Salman Rushdie? Or why his ‘voluntary’ restraint from subjects that Islam forbids – which was Maqbool Fida Hussain’s own religion?

Did I see a single painting by Maqbool Fida Hussain on Muslim themes – maybe a Battle of Karbala, or Prophet Mohammed’s return to Mecca? Why is it that he wanted all his ‘freedom’ to caricature भारत माता Bharat-mata (Mother India) and ‘teen-deviyaan’?

In India, against ‘Hindus’?

In Qatar he found freedom

Maqbool Fida Hussain, in the same breath, cannot admire भारत माता Bharat-mata, take Qatari citizenship, and in death prefer to be buried in London (actually just outside London). By these actions, Maqbool Fida Hussain proved that all his claims of ‘artistic’ integrity and ‘artistic’ freedom were that much hot air. India lost nothing. It was for Maqbool Fida Hussian to decide if he was losing anything, by going away from भारत माता Bharat-mata.

Maqbool Fida Hussain choice of Qatar as his new country of residence, would not have given him more freedom. Qatar (pop. 3,00,000 lakhs approx.) is slightly larger than Maqbool Fida Hussain’s hometown of Pandharpur (pop. 1,00,000 approx.) but has a GDP which is 10% of India’s GDP – anchored to oil earnings. Did he raise his voice against Qatar’s support to Saudi Arabian troops sent to crush dissent in Bahrain? Or against the forced deportation by Qatar, of Libyan dissident, Eman al-Obeidi – back to Benghazi, Libya?

Picasso’s Art & Practices

Picasso’s (1881-1973) greatest skill was in his self publicity and the way the prices for his paintings were managed. This publicity and price manipulation operation was initially managed by promoters like André Level of the La Peau de l’Ours Art Club (Skin of the Bear group) – for a 20% cut to the artist. Picasso dealt with a number of agents initially – but mainly, Clovis Sagot, Ambroise Vollard, Wilhelm Uhde and Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler.

Later this promotions were managed by Picasso himself and Paul Rosenberg, his chief agent and a close cabal of people who used media effectively. First among 20th century artists, ‘Picasso was a gifted self-publicist who knew the rules of media manipulation. He openly encouraged a few hand-picked photographers to inhabit the house and studio.’

Family of Saltimbanques |  Pablo Picasso  |  1905 |  Chester Dale Collection 1963.10.190   | Image courtesy - Copyright © 2011 National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC  | Click for larger image.

Family of Saltimbanques | Pablo Picasso | 1905 | Chester Dale Collection 1963.10.190 | Image courtesy - Copyright © 2011 National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC | Click for larger image.

He fairly flattened journalists by the display of his wealth and connections. Nearly forty years later, Christian Zervos, an art historian and writer, recalls Picasso’s wealth, kept in the vaults of Banque de France. After the Great Depression, when many great fortunes in Europe and USA, had been wiped out, Picassos wealth was in ‘packages, piled one atop another to the height, say, of Picasso . . . And do you know what there was inside? Banknotes! Yes, sir, banknotes, the largest denomination that existed in France then, which was enormous.’

Picasso was an ‘extremely rich and famous man who came pretty near to doing whatever he wanted. The Picasso of the 1920s could charm the king of Spain, mesmerise Proust, shrug off Hemingway. He was news wherever he appeared.’ He could switch between various styles – and painted in ‘Neoclassical styles’ to attract “the patronage of aristocratic circles he encountered through his friendships with two impresarios, the poet Jean Cocteau and Eugenia Errazuriz, a woman of great taste and social prestige.’

Not above making compromises between cubism and surrealism, as his buyers and patrons wanted, he rarely gave press conferences. Instead he plied impresarios, journalists with his socializing, and with his ‘uncanny party trick of drawing a portrait upside-down while sitting opposite its subject so that, as the drawing unfolded, it would appear right-side-up to his inevitably amused subject.’ Hundreds of these Picasso drawings and sketches are scattered across Europe and USA, which he gave way for free.

Femme aux cheveux jaunes, December 1931 | From the Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society, New York/Gagosian Gallery | Image courtesy - online.wsj.com | Click for larger image.

Femme aux cheveux jaunes, December 1931 | From the Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society, New York/Gagosian Gallery | Image courtesy - online.wsj.com | Click for larger image.

In this he was ably assisted by the presence of his ballerina wife, Olga Khokhlova, a pretty ballerina from St Petersburg, with Diaghlieff’s ballet company, and his agent Paul Rosenberg.

Paul Rosenburg (also an agent of Georges Braque and Henri Matisse) left behind a huge fortune in paintings. Even after losing a vast number of these paintings to the Nazis. Through his son, Alexandre, Paul Rosenberg is the grandfather-in-law of one-time IMF chief, Dominique Strauss Kahn. Picasso’s other significant agents were Ambroise Vollard, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, Leonce Rosenberg, and Georges Wildenstein.

Picasso’s mistress of eight years, Marie-Thérèse Walter (who he met at a Paris Metro station) and his wife were also the subject of his many paintings. In recent times, Picasso has even been compared to Princess Diana for his self-publicity. The many women in Picasso’s life added a patina of glamour that many of his competitors lacked.

The French artist Fernande Olivier, as model and muse, bridged Picasso’s Rose Period to Cubism. Miss Khokhlova, in the 1920s, stirred his return to Neo-classicism. The photographer Dora Maar documented and inspired Picasso’s involvement with the Spanish Civil War, including “Guernica” (1937). And the painter and author Françoise Gilot was his chief consort during his postwar period. From 1953 until Picasso’s death, at age 92 in 1973, Jacqueline Roque attended the artist during his ferocious, erotic and peace-loving late phase, in which “Hippie” Picasso, anticipating 1980s Neo-Expressionism, reimagined the Old Masters.

Now, as for paying off the critics, do it. Yes, as much as some critics pretend to not be on the take, they are — in some way or another. The best art critics accepted gifts: Clement Greenberg, Harold Rosenberg. Artists frequently offer me a gift after I’ve written them up. I just take it. I feel I’d insult them or be condescending and inhuman if I said something like, “It’s my policy not to accept gifts.” Lighten up. We’re all in the family.

So be generous in giving gifts, but beware of the greedy opportunists who expect a gift without having the intention of reciprocating, like people attending your openings who ask for a “quick sketch” instead of just an autograph. If you do one, they’ll all line up expecting a freebie. With other artists, it’s best to do straightforward trades instead of gifts. And with friends outside the art world, wait for their birthday or Christmas. (via artnet.com Magazine Features – Ask Mark Kostabi).

Leave alone Prophet Mohammed’s portrait, could he have done a Battle of Karbala painting in Qatar?

Money made him contemptuous of India – and Indians

Maqbool Fida Hussain’s disregard of Indian judicial norms antagonized the courts. His refusal to acknowledge his ‘unwarranted’ liberties with ‘Hinduism’, precipitated matters. A simple statement that he will ‘explore’ ‘Hindu’ themes within norms would have been enough. His arrogant and rough shod dismissal of ‘Hindu’ sentiment, gave an opening to right-wing ‘Hindu’ sentiment.

No double-standards. The simple point that the ‘Hindu’ Brigade wanted. Usually this hunting with hounds and running with hares is called hypocrisy.

Though no one ever accused MF Hussain of being a hypocrite.

Gobbling publicity like Pac-man

Maqbool Fida Hussain never evolved from being a hoardings painter. Except when it came to publicity. His dual standards, his blatant contradictions would have easily made him an object of ridicule. Instead he managed respect and consideration. To manage this amount of media attention, Government attention – even international attention, surely, is some evolution. For one single man.

Maqbool Fida Hussain was finally a gargantuan machine that consumed huge amounts of media attention. His ‘artistic’ talents were surely hugely surpassed by his media management. This publicity and MF Hussain strutting his commercial exploitation of ‘Hindu’ constructs provoked the ‘Hindu’ Brigade’s backlash. His cars, or the striptease that he organized on his birthday (some 25 years ago), reeked of ostentation. Private displays of wealth in India will not arouse reaction. But such ceaseless publicity-seeking …

No wonder people called him India’s Picasso.

Reaction on Ground Zero

Indian Muslims have ignored this issue of ‘artistic freedom’ for ‘Muslims’ at ‘Hindu’ expense. But Indian liberal-progressives, steeped in Western polity, see confrontation and conflict as the answer to such ‘artistic’ restrictions.

Negotiated ‘freedom’ as in भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra, is seen as a cop-out.

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