World War Three



[Image courtesy: Indian Express]

The fall of the USSR, as a superpower, ended global war as we knew it. The overwhelming superiority that the United States commands, and continues to, in terms of conventional and nuclear capabilities make it impossible for nation-states to engage it directly in the field of battle. The age-old imperative for armed conflict, the conquering of rich lands and capturing natural resources, is no longer realizable in the world of the coalition of the willing, as Saddam Hussein found out in 1991. This, and the nature of the modern economy where wealth lies no longer comes from the ground, save for oil, makes industrial espionage and cyber-attacks directed at large corporations, a more strategic pathway for grabbing the resources  of others, than  charging forward with armies of horses and swords.

So, on the face of it, we should be seeing a period of physical peace, with conflict migrating largely to cyberspace, with nation-states and criminal gangs as actors.

And yet we are, and I use the words with full realization of their import, in the middle of a Third World War. The theater of this war is global, as World Wars are by definition, from Nigeria to Bali, from Sudan to Paris, from the USA to Australia, from India to Spain. The life of every citizen is in danger, whether it be in the lounge of an airport or out in your favorite restaurant, tending sheep in the mountains of Afghanistan or walking to a school in Nigeria. And while we do not see casualties on the scale a Hiroshima or a Leningrad or a Dresden, The Third World War, more than makes up for that by virtue of its longevity and inscrutability, subverting as it does every assumption history has taught us about wars. And the reason why the one with lesser power, if we go by traditional metrics of military might, is winning is because America and the world at large chooses to fight the war in a way that they have been used to.

With tragic consequences.

For this is not your grandpa’s war.

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On Globalization, Trump and Brexit



I grew up in Communist Calcutta, a city of load-shedding black and  Jyoti Basu’s dhoti white.  If there was a category level 5 bad word above bokachoda and chudir bai champakali, it was the word globalization, the hooked talon of the imperialist, or so the Red brothers said, one that they would bury into the chests of our workers and peasants of the Third World and proceed to spill out their entrails.

A few people, among them my father, then a professor of Economics at IIM Calcutta, had argued the other way, that it was the West would be disrupted most by globalization and the so-called Third World would stand to benefit at their expense.

Fast forward decades and it is the imperialists and the free-marketers that are hunkering down in their bomb shelters to contain the radioactive fallout of globalization, with Uncle Sam, the standard-bearer of democracy and cut-throat capitalism, now flirting with fascism and socialism, and Union Jack, the people who brought to you imperialism in the modern world, voting to throw off the foreign yoke and gain “independence”.

As usual, Baba, you were right.

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The “Intolerant” Indian



It’s easy to attack Aamir Khan. Bring up Mela or Love Love Love or his crore-a-pop Satyameva Jayate technicolor tears. But we shouldn’t. That would be petty. Such attacks, we are told, are fine for the Gajendras and the Nihalanis and, by current account, the Khers and the Tandons.

So let’s look at what he has been saying. And so many other countless award-returnees.

Rising intolerance under Modi.

As we have seen, the data does not support the claim. The “intolerance” level has remained the same. But then we are told, that the data does not matter. What matters is perception. Of course the same logic (perception trumps data) could be used to justify the invasion of Iraq (no data about weapons of mass destruction but hey this Saddam is a shifty guy, he could gas his people, so surely we perceive he may have new-killer weapons to use on US), or that the sun moves around the earth (I don’t care what the data says, I look at the damn thing, and I see it move, from east to west) or any kind of prejudice (my perception is that Bengalis are lazy).

Okay. That last one is actually supported by data. But moving on.

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On Bobby “I am Not Indian” Jindal


[From here]

Jindal stresses how he avoided telling his parents of his new faith and how disappointed they were when they found out. He said he read the Bible by flashlight to prevent being discovered by his folks, and compared his clandestine study to the early Christians “hiding from government persecution.” Jindal’s process of finding his true religion also involved participating in an exorcism of a college girlfriend.

There is a lot of Jindal that I don’t agree with. But this I got to give the man.

It’s better to be thrown in front of lions or be crucified upside down than to have to go through the ordeal of being a second-generation Indian immigrant growing up in US in the 80s. How do I know? I was one (for a while).


My parents were kind. They didn’t, for instance, make me dress like Anil Kapoor in “Suit boot main aaya kanhaiyya” as Jindal’s parents did. They also left for India after some time, which is why I perhaps never exorcised my college girl-friend. Of course for desi parents, there is nothing even remotely distressing about conducting an exorcism on your girl-friend, it’s not like you had sex with her.

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A Few Thoughts On Delhi Elections



The scoreline is stunning. 67 for AAP, 3 for BJP and 0 for Congress. Yes the exit polls got it wrong, the AAP did far better than anyone could ever have predicted.

This is, of course, right about the time two narratives emerge, the victor’s and the vanquished.

For the vanquished, the loss is because the media was in the tank for the other team, our organization dropped the ball, the winner benefited from Cause A that was not in our hands, and finally that old chestnut, look at their vote-share, they didn’t even x% of the total vote.

For the winner, the victory is a new horizon in Indian history, a win for the forces of good over evil,  of the will of the people over money-power, and feel free to throw in your own cliche here.

We saw these two narratives emerge after the Lok Sabha election, and they emerge here once again, except that the people pushing the narratives have been interchanged. Not that these narratives have no truth in them, except the sulking vote-share argument, but a realistic analysis is in order, one that is made without Arnab Goswami trying to shut you down.

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The Devil Made Me Do It


One of the sad realities of living in today’s world is how inured we have become to incidents of terrorism.

Do we know anyone who died today? Naah we don’t. So let’s hashtag, share update on FB, and move on. Which of course raises the bar for terrorists, obligating them perversely to be more “spectacular” to catch people’s attention.

Like bringing down two of the world’s tallest buildings on a busy office day.

Like storming 5-star hotels and butchering people in cold blood.

Like shooting dead close to one hundred fifty school-kids.

As a parent, it is difficult not to feel a deep bond of empathy for those that have lost a child,  for it is the most frightening thing that can happen to a human being. I would not have said this a few years ago but now that I am a father, I truly mean it.

But alas in this world, I cannot just be a father. I am an Indian. I am a Hindu.

Which in Pakistan, means I am the Devil.

Which means I did it.

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New Niyams



[Picture courtesy DNA]

Now that the Narendra Modi will never become prime minister in the multicultural cauldron that is India and there is no Modi wave cards have been conclusively trumped, it is but inevitable that the Modi rule will end India will be turned face-up onto the deck. In that vein, I have been reading, with more than a slight bit of amusement, the slew of “open letters” and predictions of dystopia from our intellectuals, otherwise normally so against the concept of fear-mongering (being a most fascist trait, or so are told). While one respectfully appreciates their point of view (not doing so would be most fascist, or so we are told), one does feel the need to lay down a few niyams, in the manner of Bill Maher’s famous “New Rules” segment in Real Time With Bill Maher.

New Niyam: You have got to stop using Hitler as the metaphor.

I have written before on how logically well-founded the whole  “Modi is a fascist” banshee shriek is and so I won’t go into it again for, let’s accept it, no one likes to repeat rules. But if you are going to equate him to a Fascist dictator, then you have to start using names other than Hitler, like Mussolini or Franco. And if we move beyond fascism as an European political philosophy and embrace a wider meaning of the word i.e. “genocidal dictator who enforces absolute obedience” may I suggest Stalin, Idi Amin or Pol Pot, all of whom I can assure you are sufficiently terrifying. But Hitler? Come on. That’s such a cliche that they have a Mithun Chakroborty movie by that name.

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