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Choice

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Further to my previous post, while the dispute in Bengal rages on land and fair compensation for Tata’s Nano factory, Anand Giridhardas has another superb article on what this means from the farmer’s point of view.

I am guilty of thinking this was much ado about nothing – some farmers agreed to sell; they get money for the land. They can’t change their mind. Certainly those whose land was taken away without their consent deserve it back – but the main issue remains, we in the cities think the farmers are getting a good deal and they should grab it. As Anand says:

In the prosperous cities, they sneered: Don’t they get it? They want land, not money? But the urban sneerers were early adopters. They may not realize it, but they live on a grid of advantages. They have bank accounts. They know how to invest. They have the ethic of thrift and saving that moneyed families pass down the generations.

The late adopters live in an economy of land, a universe where barter still operates, where status and prestige and security still come from the earth, and where the choice to join an urban, moneyed existence feels ever less like a meaningful choice.

Written by janusmusings

September 15, 2008 at 11:41 am

Posted in Asia, India

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Insular?

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For people who have been looking at India for a long time can discern a noticeable change – the country is becoming insular – as long as we’re getting our latest mobile phones and LCD TVs, it doesn’t really matter where the rest of the world is going. This is also true in the US – they are very insular, really not caring about the World outside – there is the US and then there’s everybody else. Perhaps it is a sign of confidence of a country – we don’t need you guys anymore, we’re pretty much self-contained.

More importantly, the middle class and above have become disenchanted with politics and politicians. This is a worrying trend – political power has shifted to the rural population and we urbanites have accepted it and moved on.

Anand Giridhardas writing in the IHT talks about these changes:

The great fault line today is not between wealthy and poor, but between those still invested in this society and those who have effectively checked out.

The checked-out classes love to read feel-good stories. The newspapers oblige, burying news about flooding and hunger and millions of easily averted deaths, depriving India’s change agents of knowledge of what needs changing.

The comfortable follow politics the way others follow heavyweight boxing. Over Black Labels with soda and ice, they grumble about spectacles like the ideas-free parliamentary debate. But they rarely vote, rarely run for office themselves and rarely work to reverse things. The disinterest of the thinking classes frees politicians to play their game unsupervised, with the pesky duty every five years to gather the consent of the unlettered poor.

Written by janusmusings

September 15, 2008 at 11:19 am

Posted in Asia, India

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Grand old man of Travel

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WSJ has a nice profile/interview of Paul Theroux on his new book.

Some nice gems in the interview.

Asked to reminisce about the old days:

“In Iran, in 1973, if you had blue jeans and a watch, people would
follow you down the street, saying ‘Please, sir, sell me your watch,
sell me your jeans.’ In Mashhad, I sold a pair of jeans for $15, quite
a lot of money, because they were real American blue jeans and everyone
wanted American blue jeans. It was cool. Hippies would go, and bring
three or four pairs and sell them in Iran, in Afghanistan.”

Asked what’s changed since:

“Some places haven’t changed much — Burma, for
instance. I still call it that . . . Burma. And the places that have
changed radically — like India — were hard to understand. It was
hard, hard, to understand where India’s going. The people there are
lost in the change. Bangalore, for one, and a lot of other parts of
India can’t keep pace with the change. They can’t build roads fast
enough, airports fast enough . . . It’s as though they’re all having a
nervous breakdown

“But I love traveling in India,” Mr. Theroux
continues, “because Indians are approachable. If I were traveling in
the U.S. and asked people some of the questions I ask in India, I’d get
a very dusty answer. People would say ‘Who are you?’ ‘You work for the
government?’ When you’re in India, you can ask, ‘Where do you live,
what do you do, how much do you earn, how many children do you have?’
It’s the accessible poor. You can do that in Southeast Asia, too. But
in America you can’t. Try asking those questions in Jackson,
Mississippi.”

About Japan:

“Hmm . . . let me think,” he responds, playing with his chin. “Japan
doesn’t have suspicion of strangers. They just have an utter lack of
interest. They have a settled sense of themselves as an advanced
culture, a sense that other people aren’t doing things right. They
think their food is best, their way of living is best. They lack space,
but in all other ways they feel they’ve got it figured out.”

And then golden one – Singapore:

“Singapore,” he says, stressing the “pore” and raising
visions of muggy, tropical discomfort. “Singapore is an example of a
place where people are self-conscious in the presence of foreigners,
because they feel that you’re going to criticize them for having
accommodated themselves to their government and this way of living.

“It’s like a gated community. You go in definitely
feeling (a) that you don’t belong there, (b) that they’re not
particularly interested in your staying there, and (c) that they’re
very, very defensive. They feel they have to explain why they’ve
settled for Singapore. And do you know, the sex trade there is booming,
but their boast is, ‘These aren’t Singapore girls . . . they’re
Burmese, they’re Vietnamese, they’re Filipina . . . but not us!'”

Written by janusmusings

September 7, 2008 at 2:10 am

Posted in Asia, India

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Whither Pakistan?

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Lots of changes happening in Pakistan – new President (today); recent Prime Minister and the country continues to go downhill. The Americans have always supported Pakistan as an ally – but of course this was convinient to the Pakistanis. The American money kept flowing and the Pakistanis kept doing what they do best – feeding the Taliban monster.

An article in the NY Times questions Pakistan’s loyalty. The Americans seem to have just woken up. But seriously, the direction is taking is really a ticking time bomb with real bad implications for India.

For once, Pakistan needs to get over it’s obesession with India and create an identity for itself that different from being “not-India”. Grow up guys, there is a whole world out there and lots of problems to solve in both our countries. So let’s not waste people by blowing them up.

Written by janusmusings

September 6, 2008 at 3:08 am

Posted in Asia, India

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Does Osama bin Laden Still Matter

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Time magazine asks this question in a recent issue…well I don’t think so – I don’t think he ever mattered. He was nothing more than a small time smuggler (of opium etc) who had some wealth that he was willing to spend on causes he thought would make him the next Imam of Islam. He has visions of grandeur – nothing else. He got lucky once (9/11) and was never been able to repeat anything like that ever. I don’t think he will ever, either.

His vision of pan-Arabia Islam with him as the Caliph did not materialize. The Muslim world did not stand up together when America invaded Iraq – quite simply most of Muslim world are engaged in their own battle – to stay in power…

Written by janusmusings

July 7, 2008 at 11:45 pm

Posted in Asia, India

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Demographics and the future

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Demographics play an important role in determining the future of nations and their evolution. Europe has seen a declining birth rate and it’s certain that at least in our life time we will see the decline of Europe and the emergence of Asia along with America as a dominant political and economic force. Given the surging oil prices and the projection of them touching $200 by year end of course brings in one more group as a force – the Middle East.

India’s demographics is “heavy” around the centre – meaning that most of her people are young, China’s demographic is heavy around the top – a sign of aging population and that’s one of the reason experts maintain that India will probably overtake China politically and economically.

But the demographics of the Middle East have been largely ignored. There is an older article (which is now a centre of a free speech argument) which puts a point across quite well that we have a lot to fear from this group.

Written by janusmusings

June 12, 2008 at 11:50 am

Posted in Asia, India, Middle East

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Moral Duty to intervene?

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Given the disaster in Burma and that Government’s indifference to the pain of the people – the question to be asked is: should other nations have the right to intervene in a clear humanitarian crisis where the local government is indifferent? My view is yes – Burma should have been invaded and the regime changed a long time ago – much before Iraq or Afghanistan or the nations in South America.

An article in the Economist questions the legality of a unilateral intervention by the UN in Burma

Responsibility to protect is not yet dead, but it is fragile.
Supporters point to the power-sharing deal that stopped Kenya’s civil
war in February as the concept’s first success. The fact that the UN, in principle, retains the right to impose its will by force may have made it easier for the world body to broker a settlement.

Perhaps. But the idea will need some clearer successes than that if
it is going to survive. And Myanmar, apparently, is not going to be one
of them.

Written by janusmusings

May 30, 2008 at 2:12 am

Posted in Asia

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