Human beings love stereotypes. They simplify the complexity of the world by reducing complex problems, like understanding a human being and what makes him what he is, into a series of comparatively easy generalizations from which so-called logical conclusions can then be chained together .(“He is Bengali. Hence he must support Sourav Ganguly”) All of us do it, present company included, though we do not often fess up to them, because some types of stereotyping, if they fall within the set of politically incorrect no-no-s (sexist being the flavor of the season), bring about firm raps on knuckles or eternal hell-fire and damnation, whichever is quicker.
“Hospitality. Logicality. Technicality. Practicality. Sociality. Physicality. Legality. Regality. Geniality. Vitality. Totality. Originality. Punctuality. Spirituality. Immortality… WHO’S THE MAN? HE’s THE MAN. NaMo Namo “
–The Namo Youth Anthem [Video]
As a purveyor of popular culture and the general state of things, one of my abiding interests lies in deconstructing extreme popularity.
What is “extremely popular?”
Here is how I look at it. When armies of strangers, with no direct stake in your well-being (your relatives , paid PR and those in it for quid pro quo do not count), spend countless hours of their mortal lives, risking Carpal Tunnel syndrome, ruptured arteries and the very sanity of their souls, verbally or virtually garroting anyone who doubts your absolute awesomeness, or make youth anthems with the words “Last Air Bender” delivered in an accent that makes Mallika Sherawat sound as authentically American as Clint Eastwood, that’s when you have made the cut of extremeness.
So I have been doing a five-day workshop on entrepreneurship at the Smith School and as part of that, they taught us this thing called the Business Model Canvas to outline, concisely, the basics of a business model. In order to understand the concept, I made one for “Any Indian Political Party”. This is of course a work in progress, just like our political parties. [PLEASE CLICK ON THE PICTURE TO READ THE TEXT]
Hello sir. It’s me again.
Let me start out by saying what a delight it was to hear you speak. One never comes away from a speech of yours without learning something new.
And your latest bhashan in front of the captains of industry was no exception.
For instance, I learnt that one could sit on a tide (“We are now sitting on an unstoppable tide of human aspiration”), which led me to look at the laws of Physics in a new light. Which in turn provided me the reference to understand the deep significance of your “India is not a country, it is energy” statement. After all Indian land-Mass multiplied by two successive “C”ongress governments (C-square) does equal to Energy, as per the laws of Relativity.
I also learnt that there are two kinds of systems—centralized systems and de-centralized systems. I could not have guessed that in a thousand years.
First of all sir congratulations on becoming the Vice-President. Some may say that congratulating you for this is like congratulating eleven o’clock for coming after ten o’clock, or congratulating an apple broken from its stem for dropping to the ground or congratulating P K Nag’s sons for taking over P K Nag and Sons.
So I read your speech, the speech that you delivered to the party after your coronation…err…selection after studied deliberation by your peers in the chintan shivir.
And I noted a few things.
You said you felt optimistic. I understand why you would sir. I would too if I had a national party as a family heirloom, if I knew I would have an army of qualified courtiers watching my back, an army of guards clearing the road of commoners, and an adoring media to pump my ego. Yes. I would feel very optimistic then. About the future. My future. Which of course I would, using the royal pronoun, address as “our”.
One of the many things that befuddle the rest of the world, and I presume some Americans too, is why a civilized nation like the US allows its citizens to own guns. Not just a hunting rifle or a pistol but military-grade weapons. And continues to do so despite the almost yearly litany of massacres, which is even the more ironic for a culture that otherwise puts great value on safety and the lives of its citizens in general.
We have seen this picture in our text books. Happy Indians, of all shapes and colors, holding hands, extolling the ideal of unity in diversity.
Hum Sab Ek Hain. We are all one.
It is a comforting gajar ka halwa national narrative.
It is also, like Santa Claus, patently untrue.
In reality, there are deeply visceral schisms that split us Indians apart on multiple axes—money, language, religion, education, Salman-Shahrukh. If we could take a bullshit-filtering lens and put it on the collective national psyche, we would see a picture that resembles a fifth day Cuttack pitch with its deep fissures, serpentine fault-lines and no binding top-soil . Hell, we don’t even need to do that. Go to Rediff/TOI, pull up any random article, and run through the comment board. You will know exactly what I am talking about.
[Caption: Robert Vadra is so shocked that DLF has given him yet another multi-crore interest free loan that he faints] (from NDTV)
Occam’s Razor, while not shaving Anil Kapoor’s chest, has something really simple to say, namely that if we have multiple explanations for an event, the one that makes the fewest outrageous assumptions is usually true.
Following that principle, one would say that the simplest way to explain the DLF Maximums handed out to Robert Vadra would be that these were tributes to the royal son-in-law, the modern-day equivalent of golden swords and diamond-encrusted elephants.
While the Indian national spectrum allows for a surprising amount of political heterodoxy, with ideologies spanning temple construction, Gandhi-family installation, statue benediction, Bhaiyya defenestration, policy-paralysis-induction, and even more policy-paralysis-induction, there is an almost equally emphatic monochromaticity in economic thought among the political class. In that, there is not a single party of any note that consistently stands for free-markets and limited government. I am not saying, for a second, that what is roughly characterized as libertarian-ism is the solution to India’s economic malaise (far from it if I may add) but some sort of economic diversity in the stated policies of our political masters would bring a countervailing force to the overwhelming preponderance of the big-government protectionist socialism that all parties espouse.
The Swatantra Party tried, a long time ago, to bring a bit of an exotic flavor to the Indian polity, by attempting to infuse concepts like free enterprise into the socio-economic lexicon. They failed. Quite miserably.
The lesson was learnt. In India, the common people have a very definite anthropomorphism of an ideal government.
Namely, the male head of an undivided Hindu joint family.