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Geek by profession, thinker/writer/artist by passion. Part-time blogger,social media enthusiast and a tramp by nature :) A Man Of Mud

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire : A Review

Posted by: danish Ahmed 11:53 PM

Suddenly, the impoverished, brutalized face of India is everywhere thanks to the Oscar nominated Slumdog Millionaire. Quite a few people including the legendary Amitabh Bachchan have spoken out against Danny Boyle's use of India's ugly face for his film! Tragedy sells and film-makers know how to make money by glamorizing grief. This movie has earned more criticism than expected mainly because the depiction of Mumbai's underbelly is being seen as a major threat to the image India has earned for its stupendous economic success in last two decades. The controversy continues, but, before i jump into it let me give you an honest review of the movie.

My spontaneous reaction after watching the film was one of delight. The script is ruthlessly upbeat The plot revolves around the life of Jamal an orphaned Mumbai slum kid, as he fights to survive in the dog-eat-dog world and overcomes various trials and tribulations of street life to emerge in the hot seat of the popular game show "Who Wants To Become A Millionaire?".

Jamal wins the game not because he is exceptionally intelligent but because he is lucky to face questions whose answers he already knows. He has known these answers not by reading but through the hard ways of life, each question takes you back to some gruesome episode that has taught the answer to Jamal .Danny Boyle takes the audience through a colorful and fast moving adventure of Jamal through these episodes in the protagonist's life which vary from cruel, horrific, shocking to joyful and ecstatic moments. Despite the circumstances the backdrop remains upbeat and optimistic and that is what carries the film through. My favorite moment is the climax of the movie when Jamal facing the penultimate question of the show (the 20 million rupees question) uses his final life-line to call his lost love knowing fully well that she doesn't know the answer to the question. Its the sort of sentimentality and optimism that only Bollywood movies could portray but Boyle handles it well.

Anil Kapoor as the host of the game show lives up to the expectation, his role may not have required it but his performance makes him the anchor of the film itself. Dev Patel's performance is stunning but for some reason i have confused him with Abhishek Bachchan and i am not talking about appearance! The real stars are the kids who play the roles far more convincingly than the grown ups.

However, it is a director's movie all the way and Danny Boyle has done a great job engaging the audience and taking them on the journey of a slumdog through his various emotional, and mostly tragic phases, which the protagonist overcomes through gritty determination and optimism.

Posted By danish Ahmed 11:53 PM

Munnabhai meets Mangalore Marauders

Posted by: danish Ahmed 12:45 AM

Culture vultures swooping down on helpless women in Mangalore, Rajasthan CM Gehlot and Karnataka CM Yedurappa vowing to fight "pub culture" and Sunjay Dutt's statement about his sister using their father's surname exhibit the role male chauvinism continues to play in the Indian socio-sphere. What is really alarming is the fact this is strain of thought is not restricted to the far right camp only. While Karnataka CM Yedurappa belongs to the BJP, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot is a Congressman and Sunjay Dutt has just joined the Samajwadi Party, yet all of them have expressed similar sentiments regarding Indian culture.

As far as Sunjay Dutt is concerned it is really unnerving that the actor has remained so uninfluenced from the role he plays so convincingly in the Munnabhai series. His statement reminds me of a fellow blogger Zaina's post. A lot of people may not take it seriously enough but the fact remains that women adopting their husbands' surname goes contrary to the notion of gender equality.As for the new saffron outfit running amok in Mangalore, it shouldn't surprise us the way it does now. For years now we have allowed rightists and communalists to take control of our society. Extremists of every hue, be they Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs or any religious denomination, often justify their attempts to subjugate women in the name of protecting their honour and dignity.

Primitive human society (as well as animal societies) viewed their females as possessions that defined the individual's stature and represented the honour of the tribe. So when religious radicals talk of protecting woman's honour and dignity, it is their own primitive sense of honour of the tribe, that they are talking about. Further, dignity cannot be forced on anyone, it is a natural condition that exists until attempts, especially belligerent attempts are made by others to deny it. Use of coercive and brutal methods to bestow dignity actually means assaulting the woman's individual dignity and an act to protect the tribe or community's honour.

Since antiquity India has been a heterogeneous society, assimilating not only immigrants but their cultures too. Constant cultural synthesis is what Indian culture has represented throughout history. The marauding hordes of Mangalore are least likely to have any idea on the Indian culture, our heritage is too pluralistic, too composite and too rich to be understood by people with such primitive mentality.

Posted By danish Ahmed 12:45 AM

Monday, January 19, 2009

Is India Inc Ready For Corporate Governance ?

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Posted by: danish Ahmed 1:52 AM

Corporate governance is the new buzzword in the Indian white-collar community coming in the wake of Satyam debacle. Coming from a background that has had nothing to do with commerce, economics or business management, I find it difficult to understand if there is a greater need for corporate governance.

For all I know, more rules, procedures and processes remind me of the good old and inefficient bureaucracy and "the license permit raj" of pre-reforms India. In the Cold War era India's socialistic leanings (more like anti-capitalism) led to rules, processes and governmental control that most Indian corporates were either state controlled or dominated by big business houses. It did not allow the middle-class, traditionally business oriented, to dream big in terms of business.Economic reforms changed all that, private players took over and the result 15 years later is not bad at all. It is not just the big business houses and multinational companies that have been successful, of course they have had an important role but it is the small businesses that have been driving the engine of growth. Lots of energy, determination and innovation are the hallmarks of this epoch. It is also the period when entrepreuners and spirited individuals from rural and small towns of India emerged as key players. Did they know or follow management rules or processes?

I don't think so! Lets take Lalu Yadav as case-study. Lalu was seen by a lot of literati as the perfect example of illiterate, ignorant political leader who doesn't deserve to be in the legislature. While this impression may have weakened with passage of time, it is a fact that he lacks absolutely the sophistication and finese synonymous with corporate leadership. Yet he tranformed railways in a manner none could have imagined. I guess Lalu didn't go much into the established corporate strategies and plans. What he did instead is, apply his own desi business sense and unorthodoxy. The same goes for dabbawalas, Dhoni and scores of middle-class Indians who now lead India. Most of these people who have gone on to become corporate leaders have shown dictatorial traits. Should that be tolerated?

Before answering that question let us take a look at the fact that despite phenomenal economic growth, India is still the home of every third poverty-stricken person in the world. As things stand, this gulf between poor and others is set to increase unless the overall economy grows at a faster pace. History shows that raapid development has been a reality in autocratic states more than in democratic ones. So, as long as corporate leaders act dictatorial within their own organization,on purely professional issues and have no major or direct role in socio-political aspects of society, they can be seen as necessary evil. Of course, the government should ensure that the interests and basic rights of the employees and customers are safe-guarded and the value generated contribute to the society as a whole.

P.S: As I have said before, this is an area I am not knowledgeable in and I may be wrong. But do leave a comment to correct me :)

Posted By danish Ahmed 1:52 AM

Monday, January 5, 2009

India, Israel and Terrorism

Posted by: danish Ahmed 1:41 AM

Anyone who has read my last few posts would know how profound and regrettable influence Mumbai attack has been for a lot of Indians including myself but at the same time we shouldn't forget that in another part of this very world, similar attacks are being carried out on a daily basis. Yes, I'm talking about Israel, and Israeli leadership in particular, for carrying out the bloody assault on innocent Palestinian people since nearly 2 weeks. It is shocking how the world community is allowing the Jewish state to use its military might on helpless women and children.

If terrorism is defined as an act of violence to create terror in furtherance of a political or social agenda, Israel's action certainly makes it the greatest terrorist group to exist. Indeed, if Israel is not restrained from bombing UN run schools and refugee camps, then we lose the moral right to criticize any other political actor. In the sub-continent it is the non-State actors (in connivance with some elements in the administration?) who are carrying out ghastly acts and the sovereign against whom the attacks are directed is unable to hit back solely because as a civilized and responsible state, it cannot stoop to the level of these terrorist. In middle-east, the situation is just the opposite, an artificial nation-state that has the full support of the West, is attacking civilians with fighter-planes, missiles and tanks. Shouldn't the militants attacking civilian infrastructure inluding hospitals, schools and even UN institutions be considered terrorists even if they are in IDF uniforms and are accompanied by tanks and armoured vehicles? If the magnitude of the attack, the number civilian casualities, damage to property and instilling fear and panic are the immediate objective,had Israeli military and political leadership seem to be the biggest terrorists around.


(Times)

Ironically, Israeli spin doctors in American media have already started exploiting the situation by equating the LeT with Hamas. While the Lashkar-E-Taiba has been declared terrorist organization and has been banned even in the country to which it belongs, Hamas is seen by most of the world more as an armed resistance movement by Palestinians and not a terrorist organization. It might do well to remind that even UK does not hold the entire group as terrorists only its military wing has been declared as a terrorist organization. Many of us may not agree with the projected objective and methodology of Hamas but the fact remains that it had been elected to power democratically and thus has more legitimacy than many of governments in neighbouring Arab countries. Equating Hamas with LeT is a highly malicious and motivated by the need to desensitize world opinion on carnage being carried out in Gaza by the Israeli military. Indeed, if we start talking on Hamas we are actually ignoring the immediate issue which is Israel's horrific attacks on Gaza. Evil but cunning, eh?

Jews always had the smartest genes but this time around Israel will have to share the spot with Pakistan for cunningness. As India and the world community charged Pakistan for allowing its soil and resources to elements waging war against the country, the latter has been indulging in similar tactics by creating war hysteria and thereby pushing investigation into the Mumbai attacks down the list as the findings are likey to point towards its own backyard! Interestingly, some sections of the Indian media have tried to draw parallels between India and Israel but the fact is that Israel has a higher degree of commonality with Pakistan than it has with India. For instance, both of them are artificial nation-states created after the end of the Second World War as geo-strategic bases for neo-colonialist agenda of the Anglo-American axis. Both Pakistan and Israel have a disproportionate defense budget and state-of-art war equipments supplied by the US. If Pakistan depends on the US for survival in every sphere, Israel has an equal dependence on the US for survival . Indeed, both Israel and Pakistan have never really cared for ethics, morality, world opinion and consensus as long as they have had the tacit support of the West. In fact, it is the conviction in their own military might and unflinching US support that have turned these nuclear armed nations into terrorist states.
However, there have been developments recently which suggest that these actors may indeed have to cut themselves to size or risk their very existence. I have already talked on existential issues that are faced by Pakistan, let us now look at Israel. I am really amazed how leaders drunk with power are blinded to basic issues which in Israel's case is its geographical location. True, for 60 years Israel has been able to not just survive but also intimidate its Arab neighbors through its military might but the military strategies are changing fast and resources considered valuable in conventional warfare might become ineffective in this new form of warfare - 4GW. Israel already has an experience of 4GW, its defeat at the hands of Hezbollah in 2006 has emboldened Israel's foes. The last time Israel defeated combined Arab armies was in 1967, its Arab neighbors have since developed considerably but most of them are not in confrontationist mode. However, Iran and Syria still are as opposed to Israel and Iran at least is quite developed militarily. So nobody would want a repetition of the previous wars, and would instead want to localize the conflict which should be similar to the present situation except for the fact that civilians and civilian infrastructure, UN institutions etc should be spared but Israel has before in the Lebanon conflict displayed a disdain for civilian lives and property. Anyway, if this conflict turns out the way Israel-Lebanon did in 2006, it would be in Israel's interest to rethink its strategy and accept the roadmap that calls for Israel to withdraw from territories it acquired in 1967. Another reason that is forcing Israeli leaders to rethink its strategy is the fact that inclusion of Gaza into Israel would bring about a demographic catastrophe for the latter as population ratio would start dipping in favour of Arab majority! A TIMES analysis can be found here. Can Israel Survive Its Assault on Gaza?

Israel has to realize that a problem like their's cannot be solved through force. It has displaced an entire nation out of their own homes and has forced them to live in refugee camps for more than half a century. Unleashing dogs of war on a people already driven upto the wall is akin to forcing them to retaliate. Israel justifies it action, calling it necessary to wipe out Hamas but in effect i t is creating lot more militants from the surviving Palestinians who have lost their families and loved ones in this assault.

(BBC)
It is likely that Israel would be unable to achieve its objective of wiping out Hamas which would amount to a poliltical and strategic defeat for the Zionist state. Hezbollah's victory over Israeli forces in 2006 had some very important consequence, both within Israel and in the international community. A similar Hamas moral victory would weaken the Jewish state further and hardliners on both sides would emerge powerful. Lets not forget that this is assymetric warfare. Assymetric warfare can be compared to the Biblical tale of David's batle with Goliath. Ironically, this time David represents Palestinian while Israel can be seen as Goliath. The Palestinians driven upto the wall have little left to loose by fighting but at the same time Israel has a lot on stake. The prestigious TIME magazine published an article Analysis: How Hamas Wins by Losing - TIME which analyzes how Hamas gains from Israeli attacks even if its workers are being massacred.

Posted By danish Ahmed 1:41 AM

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2008: A year of Doublespeak and Doublethought

Posted by: danish Ahmed 2:10 AM

The year 2008 was a mixed bag but personally i would view it as a bad one considering the increased number of terror attacks, and political upheavels across countries and continents and the uh-so depressing global economy slowdown. In that sense my following post is in many ways different from what i have posted before. Here is a transcript of a conversation that me and my muse in the context of the Mumbai terror attack and its fallout.

Me: Apparently, an FBI team has visited the village of captured terrorist Ajmal Kasab in Pakistan.

Muse : Wait a second! Hasn't Pakistan said that Kasab is not a Pakistani?

Me : Well, all that Pakistan has said is that India has not provided them "credible evidence" to prove that this terrorist, Ajmal Kasab, son of Amir Kasab of village Faridkot, in the Okara district of Punjab, Pakistan, as reported by Pakistani newspaper Dawn, is indeed a Pakistani national!

Muse: But didn't former Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif say that Kasab's village had been cordoned off and his parents were not being allowed to speak to reporters?
Me: Actually, Nawaz Sharif has been misquoted and his statements have been taken out of context. What Sharif had said on the camera that all of us saw was that Kasab's village had been cordoned off and his parents had not been allowed to talk to the media. Sharif never said that Ajmal Kasab was a Pakistani!!! In fact, when he made those statements, being a politician, he was only taking a shot at the current government and his political opponents.But thats ridiculous! haven't many news agencies including Pakistan's own Geo TV and Dawn already proved Kasab's identity ? Even the government of Pakistan has in a manner accepted the fact but technically it lives in denial.

Muse: Isn't that paradoxical and perverted?
Me : It is actually doublespeak or implementation of the Orwellian concept of "doublethink". This concept was popularized by George Orwell in his dystopian novel "1984". Doublethink is described by Orwell as "the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them... To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then,when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of the objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies-all this is indispensably necessary". In the current scenario Pakistan is using doublespeak in both disowning Kasab and accepting him at the same time.Pakistan itself is no stranger to terror attack, its very existence is under threat but why is it still unwilling to co-operate?There could be many reasons including the possibility of certain individuals and groups of being unpersons. However, the only thing that is clear is the fact that Pakistan is unwilling to act and despite what the US says, it is not doing enough to make Pakistan see sense. I doubt if Pakistan and the US view anti-India terror group in the same light as they do with their "own terrorists".

Muse : So how does one deal with nation-states that run with the hare and hunt with the hound, especially when the self-appointed global cop extends tacit support to it. Do we go back to our daily lives, sweat and toil for our secure future and wait for the next attack ???


Update
Here is the evidence that Pakistan has been hankering for! and the dossier that India gave to it

Posted By danish Ahmed 2:10 AM