Some quotes

on Saturday, August 29, 2009

"You choose your happiness and sorrow long before you experience them."
- unknown

"What is important is to try to develop insights and wisdom rather than mere knowledge, respect someone's character rather than his learning, and nurture men of character rather than mere talents."
- Inazo Nitobe

"People aren't what others decide they are, people are what they make themselves."
- compilation from various sources

"The more you learn the more you realize how much you don't know."
- Albert Einstein

"The media can't tell you what to think but it can tell you what to think about."
- unknown

"We are all atheists, some of us just believe in fewer gods than others. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."
- Stephen F. Roberts

"Nurture your mind with great thoughts, for you will never go any higher than you think."
- Benjamin Disraeli

"It was a high counsel that I once heard given to a young person, 'Always do what you are afraid to do.'"
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"There is only one success--to be able to spend your life in your own way."
- Christopher Morley

"We don't live in a world of reality, we live in a world of perceptions."
- Gerald J. Simmons

"Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm."
- Winston Churchill

"Well done is better than well said."
- Benjamin Franklin

"Imagination is more important than knowledge"
- Albert Einstein

"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment."
- Buddha

"Don't say I can't do it. Say how can I do it."
- from Rich Dad Poor Dad

"I will make a million mistakes in my life. My objective is not to avoid making mistakes it is to ensure that they are all new ones."
- Derek Pettigrew

"History doesn't repeat itself but it does rhyme"
- Mark Twain

"You think education is expensive. Try ignorance"
- unknown bumper sticker

-This collection of quotes was borrowed from a friend's facebook page.

Tryst with Destiny

on Saturday, August 15, 2009

The speech was made to the Indian Constituent Assembly, on the eve of India's independence, towards midnight on August 14, 1947. It focuses on the aspects that transcend India's history. It is considered in modern India to be a landmark oration that captures the essence of the triumphant culmination of the hundred-year Indian freedom struggle against the British Empire in India.

Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.
At the dawn of history India started on her unending quest, and trackless centuries are filled with her striving and the grandeur of her success and her failures. Through good and ill fortune alike she has never lost sight of that quest or forgotten the ideals which gave her strength. We end today a period of ill fortune and India discovers herself again. The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity, to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us. Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future?
Freedom and power bring responsibility. The responsibility rests upon this Assembly, a sovereign body representing the sovereign people of India. Before the birth of freedom we have endured all the pains of labour and our hearts are heavy with the memory of this sorrow. Some of those pains continue even now. Nevertheless, the past is over and it is the future that beckons to us now.
That future is not one of ease or resting but of incessant striving so that we may fulfil the pledges we have so often taken and the one we shall take today. The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity. The ambition of the greatest man of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us, but as long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over.
And so we have to labour and to work, and work hard, to give reality to our dreams. Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world, for all the nations and peoples are too closely knit together today for any one of them to imagine that it can live apart Peace has been said to be indivisible; so is freedom, so is prosperity now, and so also is disaster in this One World that can no longer be split into isolated fragments.
To the people of India, whose representatives we are, we make an appeal to join us with faith and confidence in this great adventure. This is no time for petty and destructive criticism, no time for ill-will or blaming others. We have to build the noble mansion of free India where all her children may dwell.
The appointed day has come-the day appointed by destiny-and India stands forth again, after long slumber and struggle, awake, vital, free and independent. The past clings on to us still in some measure and we have to do much before we redeem the pledges we have so often taken. Yet the turning-point is past, and history begins anew for us, the history which we shall live and act and others will write about.
It is a fateful moment for us in India, for all Asia and for the world. A new star rises, the star of freedom in the East, a new hope comes into being, a vision long cherished materializes. May the star never set and that hope never be betrayed!
We rejoice in that freedom, even though clouds surround us, and many of our people are sorrowstricken and difficult problems encompass us. But freedom brings responsibilities and burdens and we have to face them in the spirit of a free and disciplined people.
On this day our first thoughts go to the architect of this freedom, the Father of our Nation [Gandhi], who, embodying the old spirit of India, held aloft the torch of freedom and lighted up the darkness that surrounded us. We have often been unworthy followers of his and have strayed from his message, but not only we but succeeding generations will remember this message and bear the imprint in their hearts of this great son of India, magnificent in his faith and strength and courage and humility. We shall never allow that torch of freedom to be blown out, however high the wind or stormy the tempest.
Our next thoughts must be of the unknown volunteers and soldiers of freedom who, without praise or reward, have served India even unto death.
We think also of our brothers and sisters who have been cut off from us by political boundaries and who unhappily cannot share at present in the freedom that has come. They are of us and will remain of us whatever may happen, and we shall be sharers in their good and ill fortune alike.
The future beckons to us. Whither do we go and what shall be our endeavour? To bring freedom and opportunity to the common man, to the peasants and workers of India; to fight and end poverty and ignorance and disease; to build up a prosperous, democratic and progressive nation, and to create social, economic and political institutions which will ensure justice and fullness of life to every man and woman.
We have hard work ahead. There is no resting for any one of us till we redeem our pledge in full, till we make all the people of India what destiny intended them to be. We are citizens of a great country on the verge of bold advance, and we have to live up to that high standard. All of us, to whatever religion we may belong, are equally the children of India with equal rights, privileges and obligations. We cannot encourage communalism or narrow-mindedness, for no nation can be great whose people are narrow in thought or in action.
To the nations and peoples of the world we send greetings and pledge ourselves to cooperate with them in furthering peace, freedom and democracy.
And to India, our much-loved motherland, the ancient, the eternal and the ever-new, we pay our reverent homage and we bind ourselves afresh to her service.

Childhood Days

on Thursday, August 6, 2009

Childhood Days

I made a big decision a little while ago.
I don't remember what it was, which prob'ly goes to show
That many times a simple choice can prove to be essential
Even though it often might appear inconsequential.
I must have been distracted when I left my home because
Left or right I'm sure I went. (I wonder which it was!)
Anyway, I never veered: I walked in that direction
Utterly absorbed, it seems, in quiet introspection.

For no reason I can think of, I've wandered far astray.
And that is how I got to where I find myself today.

Explorers are we, intrepid and bold,
Out in the wild, amongst wonders untold.
Equipped with our wits, a map, and a snack,
We're searching for fun and we're on the right track!

My mother has eyes on the back of her head!
I don't quite believe it, but that's what she said.
She explained that she'd been so uniquely endowed
To catch me when I did Things Not Allowed.
I think she must also have eyes on her rear.
I've noticed her hindsight is unusually clear.

At night my mind does not much care
If what it thinks is here or there.
It tells me stories it invents
And makes up things that don't make sense.
I don't know why it does this stuff.
The real world seems quite weird enough.

What if my bones were in a museum,
Where aliens paid good money to see 'em?
And suppose that they'd put me together all wrong,
Sticking bones on to bones where they didn't belong!
Imagine phalanges, pelvis, and spine
Welded to mandibles that once had been mine!
With each misassemblage, the error compounded,
The aliens would draw back in terror, astounded!

Their textbooks would show me in grim illustration,
The most hideous thing ever seen in creation!
The museum would commission a model in plaster
Of ME, to be called, "Evolution's Disaster"!
And paleontologists there would debate
Dozens of theories to help postulate
How man survived for those thousands of years
With teeth-covered arms growing out of his ears!

Oh, I hope that I'm never in such manner displayed,
No matter HOW much to see me the aliens paid.

I did not want to go with them.
Alas, I had no choice.
This was made quite clear to me
In threat'ning tones of voice.
I protested mightily
And scrambled 'cross the floor.
But though I grabbed the furniture,
They dragged me out the door.

In the car, I screamed and moaned.
I cried by red eyes dry.
The window down, I yelled for help
To people we passed by.
Mom and Dad can make the rules
And certain things forbid,
But I can make them wish that they
Had never had a kid.

Now I'm in bed,
The sheets pulled to my head.
My tiger is here making Zs.
He's furry and hot.
He takes up a lot
Of the bed and he's hogging the breeze.

-Bill Watterson

A lesson in economics

on Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Quick Lesson in Economics ........

An economics professor at a local college made a
statement that he had never failed a single student,

but had once failed an entire class.

That class had insisted that socialism
worked; that no one would be poor, and no one would be rich, a
great equalizer.

The professor then said, "OK, we
will have an experiment in this class on socialism. All grades would be
averaged, and everyone would receive the same grade; so no one would fail, and
no one would receive an A.

After the first test, the grades were averaged, and everyone got a B..

The students who studied hard were upset, and the students who studied little
were happy.

As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied
even less, and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too,
so they studied little.

The second test average was a D! No one was happy.

When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F.

The scores never increased as bickering,
blame, and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings, and no one would
study for the benefit of anyone else.

All failed, to their great surprise, and the professor told them that socialism
would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to
succeed is great; but when government takes all the reward away, no one will
try or want to succeed.

Can it be any simpler than that?

Head Hunting

on Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hindutva is embarrassed by Hinduness. A new generation of confident Indians has started to move beyond its logic of fear and hate. Will the BJP be able to seize this moment for creative reinvention?

ASHIS NANDY with SHOMA CHAUDHURY

The cascading crisis within the BJP since May 16 and their confused debate on the role Hindutva has played in their electoral defeat tells a fascinating story. It would be premature to read any of this as a signal of either the disintegration of the party or Hindutva, but one could safely say the idea of Hindutva has been defeated by Hindustan for the moment – it has been put on a backburner and challenged to reinvent itself.

The BJP’s dependence on Hindutva as its defining characteristic was bound to turn problematic. Data suggest that at most about 10 percent of BJP supporters vote for the BJP on ideological grounds. The Hindutva project was constructed by tapping into and fostering fear and a psychology of siege among the Hindus—a sense of being a minority in a country in which they are 82 percent of the population.

By itself, choosing Hindutva as its core ideology by a party is not harmful to Indian democracy. If there is a sizeable section of the people who believe in Hindutva — or for that matter Maoism, anarchism or unfettered capitalism — you need political parties to summate these sentiments and even represent them in Parliament, so that you can manage them through normal politics. The Republican Party in America, for instance, always encourages and routinely takes help from the Christian fundamentalists at the time of elections. They know it is a small vote bank but it can be crucial when contests are close. But after the Republicans win an election, they might give their fundamentalist friends some minor, indirect rewards but never cabinet posts, important constitutional positions or even the chance to openly hobnob with the party stalwarts.

The BJP has not learnt this art of political management. They do not know how to treat Hindutva groups like Bajrang Dal, VHP and Ram Sene as merely minor sects to be used only during elections in homeopathic doses. The BJP is stupid enough to allow its lunatic fringe to antagonise its own larger support base of the party. A national party in a highly diverse, plural democracy cannot afford to take its ideology — any ideology — seriously. Nor can it afford to behave as if its entire existence depended on an ideology. This whole ideological stance — making Hindutva their central official line and making the lunatic fringe its official cadre — has been myopic and suicidal. (So has been to take the RSS seriously. The RSS has never been in politics so their understanding of politics is often infantile.)

The Indian genius is to manage contradictions. Most people forget that at one time the Congress Party, the original party of the freedom movement, allowed many of its members to simultaneously belong to the Congress and the Hindu Mahasabha or other Hindu nationalist formations. This was quite common in Bengal because a large huge proportion of Bengali freedom fighters came from a background of Hindu nationalism. (For many years you could also be a member of both the Congress and the Muslim League.) It is because such contradictory political impulses were accommodated within the Congress as factions that they were easier to negotiate in the early years. The BJP’s dilemma is that it believes its existence to be predicated on Hindutva; now that they have lost badly, they think Hindutva has become a liability and should be jettisoned. Now the relationship between the BJP and Hindutva will probably become more clandestine.

In itself, such power struggles are healthy and, contrary to all the speculation going on, the BJP is not slated to disintegrate like the Janata Party. In India most parties no longer have power struggles; they are dominated by individuals and families. They only have court politics. The Janata party was a coalition of caste factions; the BJP might turn out to be one of the few parties having political factions. (The CPM is another such party.) With charismatic leaders like Atal Behari Vajpayee and LK Advani past their prime and the second rung of leadership wielding very little charisma, if the BJP wants to survive and do reasonably well, they should “do a Congress”: they should find a Narasimha Rao or Manmohan Singh to lead them. Most of their current and prominent leaders are too high-pitched. They need a low-key leader.

The BJP may be short-sighted in analysing its defeat, but its electoral defeat does point to a defeat for Hindutva itself. At the core of the Hindutva project is a war between Hinduism and Hindutva that is around 150 years old. It began in the middle of the 19th century, when the ideas of Hindutva began to take shape with the Hindu reform movements. These movements were modern and borrowed much from the imperial West. And the new Hinduism that emerged out of these reforms can be considered a colonial product. That is why Gandhi was convinced that all these reform movements, in the long run, would do more harm than good to Hinduism. In this sense, the recent defeat of Hindutva today is also a defeat of the colonizing West in India because the Hindutva project was a gift of the colonial West to Indian consciousness. That does not mean that the globalising West has lost its clout.

Today, both the detractors and defenders of Hindutva are confused about what it stands for. This truth may be unpalatable to many, but Hindutva grew in an atmosphere of admiration of the European nation-state, nationality and nationalism and our attempt to have an indigenous forms of all three. When Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the one who formalized Hindutva by writing a Bible for it, insisted that Hindus must not read the Vedas and Upanishads but read science and technology and western political theory, this is what he had in mind. He was looking for a way to transform a chaotic, diverse, anarchic society into an organized, masculine, western-style nation-state, something akin to Bismarck’s Germany.

To achieve this, the Hindutva project required Indians to repudiate their Indianness, and Hindus to repudiate their Hinduness. That was part of the war. It required a chaotic, diverse society to homogenize itself into something that could be more globally acceptable and would conform to European norms. Public memory is short. Few people remember that Savarkar was an atheist in his personal life – in the western sense. He refused to have his funeral rites according to Hindu custom; he willed that his body had to be taken for cremation in a mechanized vehicle rather than on the shoulders of relatives, admirers and friends. He also refused to give his wife a Hindu funeral, even though women members of the Hindu Mahasabha sat in front of his house on a dharna.

Savarkar’s main criticism of Gandhi, in fact, was that Gandhi was unscientific, irrational and illiterate in modern political theory. By conventional criteria of scientific rationality and political commonsense, Savarkar was not wrong. But Gandhi’s understanding of politics had deeper roots; it came from both his encounter with the bottom of Indian society and with dissenting cultural strands within the West. Gandhi did not believe in the sanctity of the modern nation-state or in conventional ideas of nationality, nation and nationalism. Nor did he care much for the dominant, western, political theories and the West’s concept of scientific rationality. He went on record to say that armed nationalism was no different from imperialism. And some scholars have identified him as a philosophical anarchist. At that point of time, in the high noon of modern colonialism, he seemed a romantic fuddy duddy trying to return to the past.


But the way to the future is often through our past. Gandhi understood that India was particularly well-equipped to craft its own version of a state. It was under no obligation to follow European textbook definitions of the nation-state. He had not read Hegel. The irony is that today many western nations are moving away from the old model and becoming more flexible on issues such as sovereignty, national security and nationality: 14 countries in the world today do not maintain any army and the countries in the European Union have porous borders and have agreed to suspend their sovereignty in matters like human rights and capital punishment. On the other hand, because of our colonial past, India and China are two of the purest forms of 19th century nation-states you can find in the world today.

To begin with, this is precisely what the Hindutva project was about: western political theory telescoped into Hinduism and the West’s political history projected into India. Initially, Savarkar believed in an integrated, secular nationhood and dreamt of a masculine European-style nation-state in India. He was not alone and he was also not the first. Arguably, in the 19th century the idea of Hindutva was first articulated by the Bengali freedom fighter, Bhudev Mukhopadhyay and some would trace to an even earlier period, to figures like Rabindranath Tagore’s friend, Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, a Catholic who called himself a ‘Hindu Christian’. (The protagonists of all three of Tagore’s political novels were partly or wholly modelled on Upadhyay.) Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay, Vivekananda and Nivedita too expressed ideas that could be co-opted by the Hindutva brigade.

But Savarkar was the one to decide that mere geography was too insipid a basis for building a nationality and began to look for an emotional basis and a national community and found them in Hindu nationalism and in the Hindus. The clenched-teeth hatred of Muslims and other minorities came from him. It was not there in the earlier forms of Hindutva, or was present in some in a muted form.

After its defeat in this election, the BJP feels its middle-class base has moved away from it because the middle classes are disenchanted with Hindutva. This is not entirely true. A large section of the Indian middle-class has a weakness for at least the less strident forms of Hindutva. Primarily, this is because the RSS and BJP have strong links with the Hindu reform movements, particularly the Arya Samaj. Both BS Moonje and KB Hedgewar, founders of the RSS, and the Sri Lankan Buddhist nationalist, Anagarika Dhammapala, were inspired by the Ramakrishna Mission. The reason for this in retrospect is clear. All these reform movements contributed to the growth of a new, reformed Hinduism which was perfectly compatible and comfortable with the European concept of a nation-state.

This continuity has led to a form of Hinduism that is perfectly compatible with a modern nation state – in the same way that Protestant Christianity in Europe was the first religion to feel compatible and comfortable with the nation-state, industrial capitalism and secularism. Ultimately, all Indian religious reformers were trying to produce house-broken, tamed, homogenised versions of religion which would sustain a pan-Indian political consciousness and a form of Hinduism for similar purposes. All these reformers had internalised aspects of masculine, Protestant Christianity and so had Dhammapala’s Protestant Buddhism, which many Sri Lankans find very convenient.

Hindu society, however, is notoriously chaotic, diverse and plural. Anyone wedded to the conventional idea of a nation-state obviously finds it unmanageable and subversive. The idea of Hindutva is supposed to be something Hindus can hold on to – become, docile, obedient citizens of a modern nation-state.

All this makes sense to the middle-class, which has naturally invested in the conventional notion of the nation-state and modernity and also wants to protect its Hinduism. The middle class therefore is a natural constituency for Hindutva and its version of Hinduism. In Savarkar’s novel Kala Pani, the only futuristic novel produced by Hindutva, there is an utopian vision of a future India — a totally homogenous society, in which people marry across caste, sect and language and become good, pan-Indian citizens — almost like the insipid, boring predictable versions of Indians one sees nowadays in India’s metropolitan cities. No difference in language or custom: everyone speaking in the same accent, everyone having the same choice in music, cinema, clothes.

Savarkar was prescient because this does look like contemporary, urban, middle-class India. A class that has access to a globalised economy, speaks English as its primary language, and is shaped by its exposure to a homogenising media. What resonance does a Malayali or Bengali or Tamilian of this generation, if brought up in Delhi, have with the vernacular Hindusim of his grandparents or parents? Do all those myriad gods and goddesses with strange names, family priests, ishtadevs and ishta devis make any sense to them? What is emerging instead is a pan-Indian Hinduism that allows you to dip into a bit of Onam and a bit of Diwali and a bit of Durga puja, and that too not very deeply. Contrary to the 'millenia-old' tradition Hindutva ideologues claim, these young Malayalis, Bengalis and Tamilians are a part of a new Hinduism that is a proper religion in the West’s sense of the term. This new faith is no more than 150 years old. It was born in the middle of the 19th century and was directly inspired by Protestant Christianity. And this faith is also a faith you can carry with you wherever you go. It is a kind of laptop Hinduism.

The ‘millenia-old’ tradition Hindutva ideologues claim is actually a very new faith
The Hindutva project in India is destined not to ever occupy centre space though, because when one talks of a Hinduism which is 4,000 years old, we have in mind a religion or tradition that might be shrinking everyday but which still moves a majority of Indians. Most Hindus live with a concept of faith that is diverse, local, intimate and highly ritualised. Hindutva has no access to that world. Apart from economic reasons and the crunch on jobs and infrastructure, one of the reasons why the Shiv Sena could garner so much support for their opposition to the influx of Biharis in Mumbai was the proliferation of chhat puja. The Mumbaikars felt threatened; the Biharis would have faced less of a hostile backlash if they had participated in the Ganesh pujas instead. Interestingly, there are many more Durga pujas in Mumbai and Delhi than there are chhat pujas, but there is no hostility against Durga puja because it has graduated into an all-India phenomenon. Chhat hasn't – yet.

It would be a mistake to conflate the occasional eruption of these hostilities with the belief that the idea of India's plural traditions is a romantic myth. Different castes and sects within Hinduism and different religions have always participated in each other's religious festivals, but they were not steam-rolled into a portable, anodyne faith. Whatever might its middle-class intelligentsia believe, the rest of India has never opted for the Enlightenment model in which you are deemed cosmopolitan only when you feel the other person to be completely equal to you. In Indian traditions, you are equal to others only in the sense that you have the right to think the other communities as inferior to yours, and grant the other person’s right to think that your community is inferior to his – even though neither of you say so openly. In a homogenised, individualised society, the former is seen as cosmopolitanism. In a communities-based society, it is the latter cosmopolitanism that works.

In this continuing war between the traditional, chaotic, diverse Hinduism and the ordered, homogenising Hindutva of the Hindu nationalists, the BJP's electoral defeat is a sign that Hinduism has probably defeated Hindutva. Hindutva expects Indians to live according to European norms of nationhood. But we are Indians: we are incorrigible, cussed and have learnt to live with contradictions for centuries. We have learnt to live with chaos and ill-defined ideas of our selfhood and we have not learnt to be — in fact, we refuse to be — scientific, modern, well-organized and rational. We want to keep options open for the next generation. These are the attributes that have ensured our survival when so many other major civilisations have died. These are attributes that the BJP has to find ways to accommodate.

There is much Advani has to answer for, but he is quite a tragic figure. No one has read him right
(I once interviewed Madanlal Pahwa, one of the assassins of Gandhi and a hardboiled Hindu nationalist, when he was quite old. It transpired that ultimately his most memorable years were his childhood spent in a Pakpattan in the Montgomery district in West Punjab, which had Baba Fareed's mazar. There was a religious fair every year to which he would go to listen to the qawwalis being sung. He called himself a kattar Hindu but his most nostalgic memories revolved around that mazar, the fair and qawwalis. This tells you something. We Indians are accustomed to living with multiple selves and multiple moral ledgers. He was a Hindutvawalla and his language came from there, but his memories came from somewhere else.)

None of these arguments add up to an assertion that Hindutva will die out. What is true though is that, unless it metamorphoses, it will never enjoy the same vigour it did in the last three decades because it is inherently uncomfortable and embarrassed by Indianness and traditional Hinduism. For a generation newly emergent from colonial dominance, there was a fascination and sense of respectful subordination to things Western. But with this new post-independent, post-colonial generation, things are different. Indians have gone back to their own rhythms of life now, so even for the middle-classes, Manmohan Singh's 'West' — with its hair-brained idea that anyone can be a Tata or Ambani — is more attractive to many than Savarkar's 'West'. Aspiration for a global, material identity has overtaken cultural identity.

Given the perceived, electoral defeat of Hindutva, it will be interesting to see what future route the BJP charts for itself. In many ways, Advani is a tragic figure. It is possible that no one has yet been able to read him correctly. Unlike Vajpayee, Advani had lived in a Hindu minority state and went to a Christian missionary convent. Having lived in a Muslim-majority state, Muslims are not strangers to him, and, perhaps, he did not feel the intrinsic discomfort with them that many Maharashtrian, Brahminic politicians do. He was a part of the RSS — and believed in it — but there is a strong possibility that he also recognised in some ways that Hindutva was a political instrument rather than an all-encompassing ideology.

There is much Advani has to answer for. He is culpable for the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and cannot escape history's judgement by saying he was talking of Ram as a cultural icon and not a religious figure. He knew he was creating a explosive communal situation. But his party's reaction to his statement on Jinnah makes him a tragic figure. There was nothing new he said about Jinnah – it is an indication of the state of our political culture that no one seemed to understand what he was trying to convey. Strangely enough, despite the basic differences in their personalities, Jinnah like Savarkar was a person who thought entirely in western terms. Advani was only recognising that when he called Jinnah secular. Let us not forget that Pakistan's first law minister was a Dalit like ours, its first national anthem was also written by a Hindu, upon Jinnah's invitation, and Jinnah avoided the Mullahs like pest. Both men shared the idea that nationality was crucial to a nation-state and a certain amount of violence and bloodshed was normal in the jostling for dominance. Though, I have to admit, Jinnah probably was less open to the idea of violence than Savarkar.

Advani tried to cast himself as a statesman in the Vajpayee mould, but could not repudiate his past. At the same time, he could not project himself as an ideologue with heroic pretensions either as, say, Narendra Modi has done for the sake of the Gujarati middle class. Advani did wear different masks at different times in his career to gain political mileage, but it is likely that he personally has remained somewhat distant from all of them. For all I know, he may be too human to be a perfect politician.

But this only intensifies the problem for the BJP, for if Advani is not fully convincing in his new incarnation, even Narendra Modi seems to have passed his zenith. This election has revealed the limits to his popularity. And his case in some ways is worse because he has not left any escape routes for himself, not even with a cosmetic, dishonest, hypocritical apology or expression of regret for the events in Gujarat 2002. This is likely to haunt him for years, if not for his entire career. So the search for the right leader for the moment has become the BJP's biggest headache – a leader who can lower the divisiveness and high-intensity politics the party has become associated with.

If the BJP abandons Hindutva, what shape can its right of centre politics take? Its economic program cannot go too far right because a majority of Indians live outside the spoils of the neo-liberal economic system. If only for electoral gains, they have to be appeased. What this means is that the BJP could be headed for a different kind of ideology, in which Hindutva will play a part, but there will be other competing, coexisting concepts. There is no reason why even Hindutva itself cannot take on a more benign form. Some of the early thinkers who toyed with the idea of Hindutva — Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, Bhudev Mukhopadhyay, Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay, Vivekananda and Nivedita — were not light-weight thinkers. Even Tagore had played footsy with Hindutva during the Hindu mela days in the first decade of the 20th century. His Gora was not only a response to both Kipling's Kim and revolutionaries like Savarkar but also to his own weakness for Hindu nationalism.

Vajpayee, for instance, held Hindutva as a kind of vague, emotional frame. There's no problem with that; in fact, it can in sometimes be a help. Nawaz Sharif once reportedly told Vajpayee that he, as the leader of the Muslim League, and Bajpai as the leader of the BJP, were best positioned to break fresh grounds in Indo-Pak relations as their constituencies could never accuse them of being wishy washy liberals and ignoring national interests. Above all, like the Maoists must be encouraged to come above ground and become part of the democratic process, the Hindu right too must be politically accommodated. They cannot be annihilated or wished away, just as the Naxals cannot be wished away. (The Charu Mazumdar group in Bengal was wiped out by the police rather ruthlessly, but in barely 30 years, Naxalism has come back as a more powerful political formation. These are idealistic people. It is a pity they have opted for the gun, but the problems and grievances they represent are real. Sitting in urban citadels, one might imagine that one can solve these problems and meet these grievances over the next 100 years and wait for the "trickle down" effect to work, but one cannot expect everyone to wait patiently in the meanwhile.) The same way, if there are rump groups that are rabid enough to believe that they must break down the Babri Masjid, they cannot just be wished away. They have to be politically handled and tamed.

India’s pre-colonial states probably have something to say to us. The Mughal empire, for instance, was a quite a successful state and made some interesting experiments. Contemporary India might get some new ideas from them. The conventions of the empire were in some ways so attractive that the British left them more or less intact for the next 100 years or so. Even the Delhi Durbar of 1911 followed all conventions of a Mughal court. One of the most important of these conventions was that the empire allowed different degrees of allegiance to the centre. The Jaipur state, for instance, was more central to the Empire than the sultans in Bengal.

The BJP has been demanding that Article 370 be abolished and the Uniform Civil Code introduced throughout India. These are legitimate demands in a European-style modern nation state. But why must we follow that route? Instead of haggling on Article 370, one should use it more effectively: go the whole hog with it. Could we have deployed it or some variation of it in Sikkim instead of gobbling it up? Maybe we could have used other versions of it at Nagaland and Manipur, instead of opting for 30 years of bloodshed which has made a whole generation bitter? I am giving off-the-cuff, random examples how we might have thought about the Indian state and given it greater manoeuvrability. We could have even used some of the ideas of Gandhi to avoid overloading our State; we are uniquely well-equipped to design our own version of a State. We did not have to build a standardised nation-state. By default, we have gone in for some innovations — Indian secularism is one example. Both secularists and communalists complain about the compromises we have made with our concept of secularism. So, even though I am a critic of the concept of secularism and do not think it is working well in India, I cannot consider it all bad. But we shall have to innovate and experiment with the building blocks of our polity; we cannot allow the core concepts of our polity to harden into ideas that are too defined. Ours is a political culture in the making.

The current upheaval could be a creative moment both for the BJP and the RSS. Unlike earlier RSS heads before him, Mohanrao Bhagwat is neither a charismatic figure nor a conspicuous ideologue. Nobody expects anything from him and he, therefore, has the opportunity to be more creative. But then 19th century Western political thought, combined with self-hating, compensatory nationalism, Brahminism and half-digested modernity, is a lethal combination. It cuts you off from your native Indian genius. So one remains doubtful whether they will be able to cease the moment?

Eddie Vedder Society lyrics

on Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Oh, it's a mystery to me
We have a greed with which we have agreed
And you think you have to want more than you need
Until you have it all you won't be free

Society, you're a crazy breed
Hope you're not lonely without me...

When you want more than you have
You think you need...
And when you think more than you want
Your thoughts begin to bleed
I think I need to find a bigger place
Because when you have more than you think
You need more space

Society, you're a crazy breed
Hope you're not lonely without me...
Society, crazy indeed
Hope you're not lonely without me...

There's those thinking, more-or-less, less is more
But if less is more, how you keeping score?
Means for every point you make, your level drops
Kinda like you're starting from the top
You can't do that...

Society, you're a crazy breed
Hope you're not lonely without me...
Society, crazy indeed
Hope you're not lonely without me...

Society, have mercy on me
Hope you're not angry if I disagree...
Society, crazy indeed
Hope you're not lonely without me...

Interview of Angel Pui, CEO of My Wedding Notes

on Monday, June 8, 2009

Chris Wilkinson, CEO of HabiTECH interviews Angel Pui, CEO of My Wedding Notes

Why did you become an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurs never plan to become one. We are simply not satisfied with the status quo in our everyday lives and we are arrogant enough to want to scratch the itch ourselves while thinking we are the best person to do it.

What did you want to become as a child?
I wanted to be an architect, to build small-scale models all day. I also wanted to be a race-car driver, a pilot, an olympics athlete, a video games or toy maker, and a fashion designer.

What's your favorite part of a typical day?
End of the day, because I know I've done a little more than yesterday, and just a bit closer to tomorrow.

What skill would you most like to improve?
Concentration. I might have ADHD. I can only spend 10 minutes on one task at a time. So I have a comprehensive system doing task 1, task, 2, task 3, then back to task 1 and task 2. 60% of the time, it works every time. (chuckle)

What is the one skill you'd most like to have as an entrepreneur?
Decisiveness. I am a libra, we are known to be indecisive and evaluate all angles of a situation. I'd like to trust my instinct more, sometimes I question why I think or feel a certain way, when it comes naturally or seem too simple of a solution.

What is the one skill you possess that contributes the most to your success?
My ability to mimic and learn quickly. As an entrepreneur, you are often stuck doing everything yourself, so you must be a great salesperson, fundraiser, strategic planner, cold-caller, innovative marketer and designer, all with the shortest amount of learning curve while outputting world-class work that no one can detect is your first jab at it.

What is the most difficult thing you have learned to do?
To cold-call and in a few minutes, convince someone to invest in time and believe in you.

What is the most successful cold-call you have done?
While driving in LA heading to the airport. I saw the Disneyland billboard. I called their 1-800 number, convinced the front-desk to give me the number of the Director of Disney Weddings and then convinced him to see me that same day. He gave me 2 minutes to pitch him why my business will benefit Disney Weddings. I skipped the exit I intended, missed my flight and headed straight to Anaheim. To collaborate and integrate our website would have costed millions of dollars, even just for insurance. He asked me to revisit the idea next fiscal year when their budget renews, I considered that a success. (I even saved the ticket)

What is the best advice you've given other entrepreneurs?
Whatever you do, do the best you can and never set a limit on how far you can go. There is always a better way, a more efficient, faster, smarter way to do things. It doesn't matter what you do, it only counts when it's the best you can do, always try to achieve more. Don't get comfortable, usually your best ideas and best work come from being challenged and in an uncomfortable state.

What has been the most rewarding moment in your years of entrepreneurship?
When I realized my business or my work has benefited others. When a former team member tells you she learnt most of her skills from working with you, and now she's successful and achieving her dreams. When you know you have inspired someone else, it feels great. Be generous with what you have and know.

What has been the most surprising thing you have learnt?
It always seem tougher than it really is, just take it one step at a time, and it can be done. Timing is as important as any skills.

What inspires you the most?
Children and their imagination. We, as children, have the abilities to live in reality while creating a fantasy world constantly. As entrepreneurs, we have the same abilities to better any aspect of our reality, whether on the net or with a prototype

on Wednesday, June 3, 2009

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the final quarter being dropped into the world’s first commercial video game, for it was in May of 1979 that Galaxy Game was removed from the Coffee House café at Stanford’s Tresidder student union. I spent a good part of five years feeding coins into Galaxy’s wondrous console, and in return it taught me and several other Silicon Valley denizens valuable lessons that laid the groundwork for much of what we have done since.

I met Galaxy Game in the Summer of 1974. My family had just moved to Palo Alto and I had no friends, so my brother and I rode our bikes around the Stanford campus looking for things to do. I was in 8th grade and the bowling alley got boring quickly, but next door, amidst students and lattes (also a novelty at the time) stood two large consoles, side by side, with odd-looking little black screens. Behind those screens sat a DEC PDP-11/20 powering a riveting game built on a simple concept: use a joystick and a couple of buttons (one for torpedoes, one for hyperspace) to destroy the other spaceships. Best of all, unlike its descendants such as Asteroids, Galaxy was a multi-player game. Those opposing spaceships were controlled by the people sitting next to you, and if you won the game you kept your quarter.

I knew a good deal when I saw one, so I hung around the Coffee House and got to know the game’s co-creator, a Stanford grad named Bill Pitts. That's how I got my first job in high-tech: in exchange for keeping the consoles clean, I got a few dollars per day and a bunch of insider tips about how to play. For example, if your torpedo was on course to destroy an opponent’s ship and that opponent escaped into hyperspace, you could follow him there, shoot again, and destroy him. Imagine the face of a graduate student who thinks he has outwitted that annoying kid, only to find when he releases his finger from the hyperspace button that his ship is nothing but fragments of white floating randomly into the blackness of space. Nothing on Wii matches it!

Galaxy's lessons have stayed with me. Its design was simple and easy to use but with the depth to satisfy the most committed players. Its on-screen dashboard fed players real-time information about fuel, torpedoes, and location, my first inkling that data is critical to making smart decisions.

Finally, in Galaxy achieving your goals sometimes required a jump to hyperspace. My opponents thought hyperspace was a last resort, a refuge from a losing path. I discovered that it was a way to win — high risk and scary, but with a huge payoff. So when in doubt, press the button and make the jump! At worst you’ll lose a quarter, but at best you’ll rule the Galaxy.
-From Google Blog
Posted by Jonathan Rosenberg, SVP, Product Management, Google.

Patience In The Trenches

on Monday, May 25, 2009

RAHUL GANDHI

SHOMA CHAUDHURY, Executive Editor


IF ANYONE had cared to look, the makings of ‘the Rahul factor’ — the new phenomenon on the political landscape that everyone is now agog about — was always there in the making. At its core stands a dignified young man — quiet, thoughtful, measured. A redeeming pool of reason in the noisy indecencies of Indian politics. A man who has taken his time to explore his relationship with power and slowly, almost imperceptibly, transformed the meaning of dynasty. A man whose public utterances mix refreshing candour with an almost academic nuance. A man — unusual anywhere in history — not visibly hungry for personal power; not willing to catalyse it at any cost. If Indians were searching for their Obama — a figure capable of changing the axis of contemporary political conversation — he is here. Not in the symbolic shape of someone overthrowing the oppression of centuries, but (in the curious inversions often common to India) in the shape of a privileged man who has used his privilege to inject a new seriousness into the debased and infantilised public discourse in India.

With the Congress striding into its most significant victory in two decades, suddenly everyone is agreed — Rahul Gandhi is the new elixir of Indian politics. His admirers — across social strata and geographic lines — are totting up his impacts. A high wind of approval is swirling around him. He was the party’s key campaigner; a lot of the victory is his. (The Congress won 75 of the 120 seats where he campaigned.) But Rahul looks intriguingly unmoved by the wind. Happy, but a little bemused, a little outside of himself, as if he understands that the real story lies elsewhere. Understands that true excellence always gathers in slow accretions. This understanding — this dignity and restraint — is key to ‘the Rahul factor’ more than any psephological calculation.

In fact, when everyone is fêting his victory, it is much more revealing to remember how Rahul handled his first taste of defeat. In 2007, he was injected into the Uttar Pradesh (UP) assembly election to revive the Congress’ comatose fortune. This was old-style politics. He was to be the magic potion: one shot of him and a forgetful people would put the party back in power. Instead, the Congress got a humiliating 22 out of 402 seats, and Mayawati shot to 206. The knives were out in an instant. He lacks charisma, the media clucked knowingly. This Gandhi’s a dud, the party said darkly. Yuvraj, yuvraj, his opponents taunted gleefully. “This failure really churned him,” says a young Congress politician from UP.

Rahul could have retreated into the ivory tower of his birth. Instead, while the world dissected him rudely, he courageously began to re-examine what it means to be a Gandhi in contemporary India. In March 2008 — as Mayawati, fresh on the wings of victory, journeyed away from the common man towards rarer and rarer worlds of luxury — he, fresh out of failure, hit the dusty road, meeting small groups of people behind closed doors, out of the eye of the media, asking questions. Tribals, farmers, schoolchildren, fisherfolk, dalits. He went to Orissa and Chhattisgarh, to Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh, to UP and Karnataka. Once again, the media mocked him, sneering at his ‘Discover India’ trips, booing his desire for research. (TEHELKA, on the other hand, put Rahul on its cover, calling him “The Long Distance Gambler” exactly a year ago.)

And slowly, as he listened, Rahul’s understanding changed. The difference in Rahul 2007 and Rahul 2009 is that his rhetoric is no longer trading emptily on the Gandhi name, it is no longer about what his father and grandmother and great-grandfather did for this country. He is not asking for votes in the name of the past: he is articulating a new future.

Yet, ironically, it is the name that has made all of this possible. Rahul understands the nature of power. Wisely, instead of repudiating his legacy, he has turned it into the most positive instrument he has. He has wielded dynasty to strengthen democracy. He has used the Gandhi name to open doors that no one else in his party could have. In the process, he has leached it of all negative accusation. Everywhere Rahul goes, he tells the young, “I am the product of an unfair, closed world. I want to use my unfair advantage to prise the world open for you.”

And he has. In an innovative move geared to revive the dead old party root upwards, he hired a firm run by JM Lyngdoh and KJ Rao — former election commissioners and men of impeccable reputation — to run intra-party elections for the Youth Congress and the party’s student body, the NSUI. In the recruitment drives preceding these elections, threeand- a-half lakh new members have been signed on in Punjab; more than six lakhs in Gujarat. Sixty-five thousand new student members in Uttarakhand. Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry are next. Oxygen is coursing through the party.

“You get a true measure of Rahul if you ask the bright young people around him why they have given up brilliant futures to work in his core team,” says Lyngdoh. “As for intra-party elections overseen by an independent body, why has no party tried this before in 62 years? Every party should follow this now. It will strengthen the roots of democracy in India.” Says Rao, “We told Rahul people with criminal records should not be allowed to stand for party posts. He agreed immediately. He has also supported independent audits and complete transparency. What this means is that people doing actual grassroot work now have a chance to get elected into positions of power.”

The Congress has had unexpected victories in Rajasthan — 20 out of 25 seats; Gujarat — 11 out of 26 seats; Uttarakhand — all 5 seats; Madhya Pradesh — 12 out of 29 seats; Punjab — 8 out of 13 seats; Andhra Pradesh — 33 out of 42 seats. And finally, UP — 21 out of 80 seats. All of these successes are being laid at Rahul’s door. But that would be an exaggeration. The Congress wave this election is an aggregation of many things, primary among them people’s gratitude for the minimum decencies of Manmohan Singh, Sonia and Rahul, the NREGA, the RTI, the loan waiver for farmers, the stress on inclusive governance, and the clumsy mistakes of Congress’ political opponents.

UP, in particular, is almost an accidental victory. Mooted strongly by veteran leader Digvijaya Singh, Rahul’s decision to go it alone in UP without the Samajwadi Party (SP) will probably prove epochal in the long term. But this election, though the Congress has won many seats it has not won since Emergency and the tidal wave of sympathy post Indira Gandhi’s assassination, most of the victories have been powered by the Opposition. As one Congress leader from UP puts it, “People were fed up of the ‘Bunty-Babli’ politics of Mulayam and Mayawati. Rahul’s clean, inclusive image became a kind of lightening rod.”

Rahul himself is unlikely to be taken in by the euphoria around him. A stickler for detail and empirical data — the crucial social audit that must go with grand assertions — he will study the statistics. They will tell him that the Congress’ victories in UP have largely been driven by the Muslim vote, alienated from the SP by the Kalyan factor and the Azam Khan fight. They will tell him that a tally of 21 definitely speaks of a “new pro-Congress mood” in UP, but big work remains to be done. They will tell him that Congress has not yet opened its account in Bihar because Nitish Kumar is running a credible government there.

ALL OF THIS will tell him something he already understands deeply: the heady ‘Rahul factor’ is not based on some disembodied Gandhi name or whimsical personal charisma. It is rooted in hard, unglamorous work and the promise of a new kind of politics. This is why, unlike Lalu and Mayawati, Rahul does not seem in danger of falling into the trap of identity cults. Unlike them, he understands the only key to real and lasting power is the work you do for people. It is the dusty road that creates the lightning rods.

On May 16, as the results rolled in, Rahul was not in faraway Delhi. He was in his constituency, thanking people for his victory. As the media crowded around him, expecting the cynical turnabout, asking if he would now take centrestage as PM, or at the very least, as cabinet minister, Rahul reiterated the positions that have made him luminous. “I am committed to building back the party organisation,” he said. More significantly, as brokers and industrialists across the country began to salivate at the imagined benefits of a Manmohan Singhdriven economy minus the Left, Rahul put in a timely wedge: “Progress belongs to everyone,” he said. “We cannot leave huge swathes of India behind. It is the poor who have given us everything, the poor who work in very difficult circumstances.”

Key electoral milestones ahead will tell the real story about the depth of Rahul’s electoral impact. But no one can dispute his psychological impact this election. It is probably giving men like Narendra Modi and Lalu Prasad Yadav some introspective moments. And it might just drive Behenji to a ‘Discover India’ spree herself.

Also read 'The Pilgrim prince' which I had posted in May 2008.

The Humble Tread Of History

MANMOHAN SINGH
HARINDER BAWEJA, Editor, News & Investigations


FOR THE five years that he remained Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh was credited with little. The only things that came his way were invectives — he is weak, he is a selected, not elected PM, he takes directions from the Madam at 10 Janpath. In short, that he is a mere puppet, a rubber stamp, a man who was selected not because he had any great vision or political acumen; but because he lacked the one singular thing: Ambition.

The dutiful doctor, in fact, made a habit of not displaying any stellar traits. He coursed on, content. Content with not saying or doing anything that the Gandhi dynasty may or may not like; content with being the chosen one; never joining the ranks of his own cabinet colleagues who appeared like power brokers and power hustlers.

Hindsight often lends itself to great wisdom and as Verdict 2009 is now being hailed as a victory of the troika, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi stand out as the two leaders who reaped great benefit for the Congress Party. The third (not necessarily in that order) stands tall as the Governance Man. As senior Congressman Kapil Sibal put it, “The Manmohan Singh government’s contribution was huge and so was his persona, his gentlemanliness and statesmanlike demeanour. In contrast, the Advanis and Karats were seen as political animals and power-hungry opportunists.”

The invectives — again on hindsight — seem to have worked. Manmohan has become the only prime minister since 1971 to win a successive victory after serving a five-year term. And suddenly, many in the Congress who have rediscovered the merits of the ‘selected’ Prime Minister are all praise for achievements they never credited him with — till the EVMs threw up the magical numbers.

The mother and son Gandhi duo had, however, invested faith in him throughout — so much so that Manmohan became the only Congressman to have ever been named as the party’s candidate in advance. On earlier occasions, it was perhaps never necessary, as the Gandhi surname always came with the prime ministerial tag firmly in place. In an amazing display of faith, just before the big battle, Sonia Gandhi covered her photograph with her hand as she held up the manifesto, and said: he is our prime ministerial candidate. And so, as contemporary history is now being written, no analysis of the Victory is possible without accolades being sung to the tune of ‘Singh is king’.

“Sonia chose well in 2004 and Manmohan performed well,’’ is the common refrain at 24, Akbar Road, the party headquarter that has come alive with fresh energy. But there is also an inside story; a lesser known secret. For the record, of course, Rahul Gandhi wasted not a second when asked the rather blunt question — Is Manmohan Singh negotiable? — by a select group of 10 journalists, including this reporter, he was interacting with. The answer could have been different. After all, it was an informal session. But, a few hours later came an email in which he chose to put this question on record and the answer read, “From my side, I know — and I do know my mother’s views on this — that he is the best prime ministerial candidate. He is our candidate and we are going to stick by him. Like we did in the nuclear deal.” And now for the inside story. A very close aide of the Gandhi scion also let it be known that the young pilgrim of progress was working to a longterm agenda and was not thinking of the next five years. That was well-known. What was not, was that because of this long-term view, defeat would not have come as an irreparable blow. To quote the aide, “It will not be a big deal.”

This little secret is important to make the point that even within the Congress, no one, senior or junior, had scripted a tally of 206 for the grand old party (taunted alternatively as buddiya Congress and guddiya Congress by Narendra Modi). To the contrary, some were prepared for defeat and that’s why hindsight lends itself to great wisdom, for, the UPA emerged only a whisker away from the 272 figure. But their number shot up to 322 with help from unlikely, unconditional support by UP Chief Minister, Mayawati.

Till a little before the electoral battle began, Manmohan was not seen, by his own party, as being worthy of driving the Congress’ ad campaign. All posters and campaigns championed the trio with the slogan: aam aadmi ke badhte kadam, har kadam par bharat bulandh. It was in stark contrast to the BJP, which positioned its entire campaign around LK Advani and the slogan: mazboot neta, nirnayak sarkar (determined leader, decisive government). The irony is inescapable — the ‘weak’ prime minister is the one who has emerged true to the BJP slogan.

KAPIL SIBAL is not wrong when he says that Advani and Modi contributed to Manmohan’s victory by running a negative campaign. Interestingly, BJP insiders agree that Manmohan’s (self) image of sobriety and decency went a long way in the UPA’s victory. If the loyal urban, middle-class voter deserted the BJP and swung towards Manmohan Singh for his record of governance and the Congress’ promise of stability, it was due, again, to Advani’s negative campaign. The Congress trio shone brighter than Advani, Rajnath Singh and Varun Gandhi, who collectively revived toxic memories of Mandal and Mandir-style exclusivist, identity-based politics. Abhishek Singhvi, national spokesperson and Congress strategist, says, “Our troika is unmatched and caught the BJP unawares. The PM symbolised decency in politics, the Congress president symbolised stability and sacrifice. Rahul Gandhi symbolised youth power and the ability to experiment. Their mutual chemistry and DNA made it an unbeatable combination.”

The Slumdog Millionaire tune yielded dividends. “Jai Ho for Bharat, Jai Ho for the poor and Jai Ho for the people of India,” is how Congress general secretary, Digvijay Singh summed up the Congress’ victory. Only last year, the mild-mannered Manmohan had surprised his own colleagues by displaying nerves of steel when pushing the nuclear deal. He risked the fall of his government, and if the electorate did not punish the UPA with anti-incumbency, the credit, in large measure, must go Manmohan Singh’s way.

It would, probably, be accurate to say that the ‘invisible’ Manmohan turned out to be a factor. After his bypass surgery, his doctors wouldn’t allow him more than a dozen-odd public rallies, but Advani ensured that the spotlight stayed firmly on the invisible Manmohan. A senior Congressman says, “The prime minister is not a great orator but he didn’t need to speak. Advani did all the talking on his behalf.” And because the BJP supremo pitched the battle presidential-style, Manmohan stands taller by sheer comparison.

Even by his own colleagues, Manmohan was always seen as a half — half a man, half a politician, half a leader. Adjectives always preceded any introduction, but post-elections, the technocrat-prime minister, economist-prime minister has metamorphosed into a complete person, a complete politician, a man worthy of occupying the top seat in government.

Sonia Gandhi has demonstrated that she did choose well. The chemistry of the troika is evident even now. If Sonia Gandhi’s demeanour is any indication, she respects the man and understands his importance. The two made their first appearance together on May 16 — after it was clear that the mandate had gone squarely in their favour — and both displayed faith and belief in each other in different ways. She waited by the door of her house till he drove in, and walking upto him, congratulated him: “mubarak ho”. The photo-op told a story in itself. It spoke of a partnership the two had cemented. The electorate appears to have voted for this partnership. As a BJP leader remarked, “It’s worked to their advantage that while Sonia spent time on the party, Manmohan had a free hand at governance.”

A neo-confident Manmohan is already visible. Yes, Karunanidhi and Mamata Banerjee could prove difficult allies but there is also the quiet reassurance that they will not come close to playing the role Prakash Karat and his comrades did. But even while he was managing the knives that came out each time he pushed liberalisation, disinvestments or the nuke deal, his government stayed focussed on the common India, on the idea of inclusion. This is how Rahul Gandhi articulated the government’s and the party’s social agenda in his interaction with the 10 journalists: “We have two models before us. One is the private sector, India Shining and a focus on issues that don’t impact the people. The people of India have already demonstrated their silent resilience to this. The other model is growth with distribution, — job guarantee, food in schools and RTI. This is inclusion not just of the poor, but also of the middle classes. That is the idea of the aam aadmi.”

Social inclusion is only one of the many things that has seen Manmohan Singh rise in stature. Verdict 2009 proves that he is not just the Gandhis’ or the Congress’ aam aadmi.˚

Mrs Gandhi And Her Extra God

An Open letter to Mrs Sonia Gandhi, President of Indian National Congress

TARUN J TEJPAL, Editor

DEAR MRS SONIA GANDHI,
We all know the cliché that India moves on faith. We love our gods, and it is at their feet that we place all our successes and failures. It is in this department that those who oppose you — and perhaps even some of those who support you — will assert that you have an unfair advantage. Through marriage and masquerade you have acquired all the gods Indian politicians have, while also possessing one you brought along from your faraway home all those aeons ago.


Since we do not oppose you, we are happy that you have an extra god. As you know, India has so many gods only because it has so many problems. (Yes, there are men on the far left and far right who think god is the problem, to be banished or to be rescued — but let these men not detain us, since they’ve failed to detain the electorate.) So we are glad that you have an extra god. One more is always handy. Our gods are playful, multi-faced, philosophical. Often their moralities are slippery to grasp, sheathed as they are in the complexities of karma and dharma, moksha and maya. The one you bring along, the extra one, is more cut and dried. Quite clear about right and wrong, good and bad, sin and virtue, charity and compassion. We — who do not oppose you — welcome that. Amid the material excesses born of our religious abstractions, a little bit of clarity is not a bad thing.

Since we are agreed that you have one god more than the rest of us, it necessarily follows that your responsibilities must be more. It is an easy catechism: privilege and obligation. Of course it is not easily followed. Our playful gods tend to often muddle it up. But your extra one is quite clear on how this must run. In this case, we’d be quite grateful if you heed him, not for your own sake, but that of a few hundred million others.

To begin with, this means that you must banish the thought that your labours are done. Without a doubt you have been stellar in marshalling an army whose officers did not even know which way the battle broke, and whose chief skill lay in swiftly putting the knife into each other. For long years you did this in the face of great personal abuse (inspired perhaps by your extra god). It is not pleasant for a General to be told she does not know how to hold a gun or speak the language of the troops. But you understood, intuitively, that cheap insults can so easily keep the good and the great from the good and the great tasks. You understood that wars, finally, are won not by the size of bullet and the decibel of bugle but by the strength of heart. By simply staying the course, over 13 years, you have unexpectedly changed the battle-lines.

So your toil has been worthy. Your ragged army of 1996 is a renewed one in 2009. In the process you have so cleverly — and beautifully — played out two key precepts of your extra god. Thou shalt not covet, the last of the ten commandments, so artfully spun as an act of renunciation that it sucked out the wind from the sails of your opponents. And Mathew 5:5, which is also Manmohan Singh 2004: blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. And both have been cleansing of the public in unanticipated ways.

Yet let me assert it without any ambiguity. Manmohan 2009 needs you as much as Manmohan 2004. He may be the scythe that clears the weeds, but you are still the arm that wields the scythe. To slice cleanly, the arm and scythe must swing in tandem.

Since I am convinced that your work is far from over, and since I am on Mathew, let me remind you of the exhortation in 10:7. “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” As one must always do with divine scripture, I could spell out the contemporary burden of every phrase. But that would be fatuous. More than those of us who write of these things, you know best what it is in this calamitous nation to heal the sick and to cast out devils.

Even so — as humble epistle writers must — let me say my piece. Power brings with it a surrounding mist; great power a billowing fog. You may not be blinded by it since you have always lived with great power, but all around you, your partymen will now be tempted to explode in arrogance. They may tend to forget they have merely won a battle. The war, or may I say wars, still rage around us. The bigots — who would divide us — are still at the gates, nursing their wounds, renewing their munitions. They are far from a spent force. They have taken a fourth of our dominions. Be in no doubt that they will storm the walls again, and again. What will serve your legions well then is not hauteur, but what brought them here in the first place — humility, and the steel that is born of it. Across the land we cast our vote against swagger: let it be known, we will bear our ordained abjections but refuse to be hit by misplaced arrogance.

AS I said, the wars are many. Of civilisational ideas, of inhuman deprivations, of lack and want and misery and dying children. In my city — which is also yours, which is the supercilious capital of this limitless nation — at every traffic light, six and seven and eight-year-olds, their skins lacerated, their limbs twisted, rub our car windows for a throwaway rupee. Shining India, booming India, superpower India — these epithets are not just jokes, they are obscenities, when we cannot feed our children, or clothe them, or send them to school. I know you know this: as of now 46 percent of our children below five years of age suffer from malnutrition, with all the physical, mental and emotional impairment that comes from it. A man far greater than you, far greater than any we have known, gave us a talisman which you would do well to thrust down the throat of every person you are now anointing with power. “Recall the face of the poorest and weakest man you have seen, and ask yourself if this step you contemplate is going to be any use to him.”

It is a curiosity of the hour that while the beacon is the future, the guiding light is still firmly the past. There is nothing that can better unveil to us the path that we must tread than the humane luminosity of the founding fathers.

In this regard, if I may say so, you are well rid of the vanity and bluster of the Left, but you might do well to hold on to some of their concerns. As you should also of the dalit queen and the Yadav overlords. They stand at the head of hapless peoples, even if they do nothing to represent them. The causes are great but the leaders are little. Reject the men; embrace the mission. The task of the reparation of centuries must proceed apace.

Inevitably then, ma’am, all this brings me to the rich. Money is a good thing. And it is no secret that we all love the rich — yes, all your partymen too. But will you please ensure that they do not make of their love a public thing. In India, all elected leaders must speak only for the poor. The rich have their money — and the media — to talk for them. Those who have the opportunity to create wealth — much or more — leave them alone to do so, and place no obstacle in their path. But instruct your worthies to focus on those who have no hope, and bring unto them a sliver.

I must stop. It is ungracious of me to deign to sermonise. That, too, at a moment of your high triumph. Let me then offer some praise. No doubt with the help of your extra god, you have done a fine job of bringing up your son. He has humility, decorum, diligence, and he takes the long and inclusive view. We do not like the idea of dynasty, but we abhor the idea of divisiveness more. In an ideal world we would do away with everything feudal and undemocratic, but for the moment let us concentrate on getting rid of the engines of hatred.

Mercifully, your boy seems more in touch with the soul of India than those who try and barter deities for votes. A man from your party once told me, disparagingly, “Sure, he is wellmeaning. He wants to help old ladies cross the street. It’s no good.” I wonder what he thinks now. Young men who help old ladies cross the street can also grow up to steer nations across rocky roads.

Can I leave you with one last quote (though it’s likely you already know it)? A man far greater than you, far greater than any we have known, once said, “To be in good moral condition requires at least as much training as to be in good physical condition.” This man was called Jawahar, the jewel. His books line your room. As freely as ye have received, freely should you give them on to your newly exuberant flock, and that of your son. The jewel’s words will make their morality robust. After all, it is still on this man’s plinth that we build our dreams.

And yes, as I bid you speed and strength, with the extra god by your side, may I make a final plea. You have given us of yourself, and of your son. Now will you kindly also give unto us your luminous daughter.

YOURS EXPECTANTLY,
TARUN

Pre-Launch Jitters and Then... Liftoff

on Friday, May 8, 2009



Contributing astronaut blogger Leroy Chiao continues to enlighten us about space travel, backtracking to the pre-launch period of nervous tension—and steak and eggs—then on to that unforgettable moment of explosive truth.


Today, I was going to write about how to do something else in space. But, I changed my mind. Let's back up to the beginning of a mission. What's it like to go through a launch? How does it feel? Are you able to sleep the night before? Do you get scared? What do you eat before?

Steak and eggs. Medium rare and over easy. This is what the first astronauts ate before launch and why not? I remember during one of my launch counts, the ladies were taking our pre-launch breakfast orders, going around the table. I was hearing things like, dry toast. A little yogurt. Cereal. You gotta be kidding me, what kind of pantywaists am I flying with? They got to me and I replied firmly and evenly, "Steak and eggs, medium rare and over easy." Everyone looked at me funny. I stated the obvious. "Hey, we might go out tomorrow and get blown up. I'm going to have steak and eggs!" Immediately, three guys changed their orders to steak and eggs. I was doing all of us a favor, really. You need a hearty breakfast before launch, you're going to be really busy. Yogurt? Come on.

Sleep wasn't really a problem either, although I tended to wake up a few times at night in anticipation, just like when I have other important morning appointments. We usually wake up about four hours before launch, and hit the ground running.

After breakfast and cleanup, it's time to get suited up. Walk down the hall and meet up with the suit technicians. Seasoned professionals, your suit tech has been with you all through training. He or she makes sure that everything is just right, and after the pressure checks are complete, sends you on your way.

From that point, it's a bit of a blur, as you walk out of the Operations and Checkout Building at the Kennedy Space Center, to the applause of the employees who have gathered at the entrance. You climb onto the Astrovan, which is a converted Airstream RV from the Apollo days. Crews typically joke and banter a bit, the atmosphere is lighthearted, during the short drive to the launch pad. Everyone falls silent as the bird comes into view. She is beautiful. She is ready, as are we.

At the pad, we climb out and ride the elevator to the 195-foot level, where we are greeted by the ingress crew. Time for one more quick pee. Maybe for good luck, but more, so that I won't have to use the adult diaper that I'm wearing! After all, we strap into the Space Shuttle about two and a half hours before launch.

Is this when the jitters hit? Actually, no. This is kind of a time to relax a bit. The environment is totally familiar, thanks to the hours upon hours spent in the simulators. For once, nobody is talking to you. Nobody is asking you for something. It's not unusual to doze off.

As the launch count proceeds, there is a point at which things get serious. Certainly as we come out of the T-20 minute hold. After we come out of the T-9 minute hold, the cockpit is sterile. No unnecessary chatter on the intercom. Is this when it becomes real? Not just yet. For me, it is not until the T-90 second point, when the Launch Director says something like, "Columbia, close and lock your visors, initiate O2 flow, have a good flight." Then it very suddenly becomes very real.

What did I feel at T-Zero? The answer might surprise you. I felt relief.

Certainly, I was keyed up. After all, we were sitting on top of a bomb, being accelerated to orbital velocity of 17,500 mph in less than nine minutes. Pretty heady stuff! But the thing of which astronauts are most afraid is not getting the chance to launch into space. What if I get hit by a car? What if the doctors find something wrong with me at the last minute? What happens if…? All of those worries go away the instant the boosters light!



First stage on the Space Shuttle is shaky. You can't really read the instruments and screens very well. At T-Zero it feels like someone kicks the back of your seat really hard, the Shuttle seems to leap off of the pad. You hear the wind noise build into a high-pitched whine. You see the blue sky start to get dark, fairly quickly. You don't so much hear the rumble of the engines as feel them. Everything is oddly orderly, even quiet. That's because we are accustomed to the simulators, when all the warning and emergency lights and klaxons are going off, as we deal with the failure scenario presented to us by the training team. On launch day, pretty much everything usually works!

On my first flight, I was up on the flight deck for launch. I had a small mirror, through which I could look out of the overhead windows, which were pointed more or less towards the Earth. (The Shuttle rolls into launch azimuth and heels over as the ascent proceeds.) I saw the ground rushing away, through the flames of the engines.

After about two minutes, the solid rocket boosters (SRBs) tail off as the last bits of fuel in them are consumed. You feel the deceleration, and then see the flash of bright light as the separation motors fire, peeling them away from the stack. It is suddenly very smooth and quiet. My heart leapt into my throat when this happened to me the first time. My first thought was that the main engines had also stopped and we were about to go down! But, that was not the case, I just hadn't expected second stage to be so smooth.

During the last few minutes of launch, the vehicle accelerates to orbital velocity. You are under three Gs of loading, so it feels like a small gorilla is sitting on your chest. It takes a little effort to breath, but it's OK.

Suddenly, right on cue (you're always watching the clock), the main engines cut off, and you are instantly weightless! As I looked out the windows and for the first time beheld the awesome beauty of the Earth from space, I was almost overcome with emotion. I had made it, I had realized my childhood dream. I allowed myself to revel in this moment for just a few seconds. Yes, I was in space, but it was also time to get to work!

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The view from the other side

on Wednesday, April 29, 2009

This is an open letter written by a retired Indian Col Harish Puri to General Ashfaq Kayani and was published in a Pakistani newspaper.The aftermath was a huge furore from the Pakistani elite which led to the newspaper apologizing for publishing the letter.


Col (r) Harish Puri Published in The News: Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dear Gen Kayani,

Sir, let me begin by recounting that old army quip that did the rounds in the immediate aftermath of World war II: To guarantee victory, an army should ideally have German generals, British officers, Indian soldiers, American equipment and Italian enemies.

A Pakistani soldier that I met in Iraq in 2004 lamented the fact that the Pakistani soldier in Kargil had been badly let down firstly by Nawaz Sharif and then by the Pakistani officers’ cadre. Pakistani soldiers led by Indian officers, , he believed, would be the most fearsome combination possible. Pakistani officers, he went on to say, were more into real estate, defence housing colonies and the like.

As I look at two photographs of surrender that lie before me, I can’t help recalling his words. The first is the celebrated event at Dhaka on Dec 16, 1971, which now adorns most Army messes in Delhi and Calcutta. The second, sir, is the video of a teenage girl being flogged by the Taliban in Swat — not far, I am sure, from one of your Army check posts.

The surrender by any Army is always a sad and humiliating event. Gen Niazi surrendered in Dhaka to a professional army that had outnumbered and outfought him. No Pakistani has been able to get over that humiliation, and 16th December is remembered as a black day by the Pakistani Army and the Pakistani state. But battles are won and lost – armies know this, and having learnt their lessons, they move on. But much more sadly, the video of the teenager being flogged represents an even more abject surrender by the Pakistani Army. The surrender in 1971, though humiliating, was not disgraceful.

This time around, sir, what happened on your watch was something no Army commander should have to live through. The girl could have been your own daughter, or mine. I have always maintained that the Pakistani Army, like its Indian counterpart, is a thoroughly professional outfit. It has fought valiantly in the three wars against India, and also accredited itself well in its UN missions abroad. It is, therefore, by no means a pushover. The instance of an Infantry unit, led by a lieutenant colonel, meekly laying down arms before 20-odd militants should have been an aberration. But this capitulation in Swat, that too so soon after your own visit to the area, is an assault on the sensibilities of any soldier.

What did you tell your soldiers? What great inspirational speech did you make that made your troops back off without a murmur? Sir, I have fought insurgency in Kashmir as well as the North-East, but despite the occasional losses suffered (as is bound to be the case in counter-insurgency operations), such total surrender is unthinkable.

I have been a signaller, and it beats me how my counterparts in your Signal Corps could not locate or even jam a normal FM radio station broadcasting on a fixed frequency at fixed timings. Is there more than meets the eye? I am told that it is difficult for your troops to “fight their own people.” But you never had that problem in East Pakistan in 1971, where the atrocities committed by your own troops are well documented in the Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report. Or is it that the Bengalis were never considered “your own” people, influenced as they were by the Hindus across the border? Or is that your troops are terrified by the ruthless barbarians of the Taliban?

Sir, it is imperative that we recognise our enemy without any delay. I use the word “our” advisedly – for the Taliban threat is not far from India’s borders. And the only force that can stop them from dragging Pakistan back into the Stone Age is the force that you command. In this historic moment, providence has placed a tremendous responsibility in your hands. Indeed, the fate of your nation, the future of humankind in the subcontinent rests with you. It doesn’t matter if it is “my war” or “your war” – it is a war that has to be won. A desperate Swati citizen’s desperate lament says it all – “Please drop an atom bomb on us and put us out of our misery!” Do not fail him, sir.

But in the gloom and the ignominy, the average Pakistani citizen has shown us that there is hope yet. The lawyers, the media, have all refused to buckle even under direct threats. It took the Taliban no less than 32 bullets to still the voice of a brave journalist. Yes, there is hope – but why don’t we hear the same language from you? Look to these brave hearts, sir – and maybe we shall see the tide turn. Our prayers are with you, and the hapless people of Swat.

The New York Times predicts that Pakistan will collapse in six months. Do you want to go down in history as the man who allowed that to happen?

Jim Carrey

on Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My favorite Jim quote is: "It is better to risk starving to death then surrender. If you give up on your dreams, what's left?"-Jim Carrey

LIFE
I don't think anybody should go through life without a team of psychologists. I have been through times when I'm literally squatting in the living room, having one of those open-throated cries, where you're crying all the way to your butthole. I always believed I would come out of it, though.

I don't make it in regular channels, and that's okay for me.

My life is not unlike Truman's. I can't go anywhere.

Life is an ordeal, albeit an exciting one, but I wouldn't trade it for the good old days of poverty and obscurity.

I don't think anybody is interesting until they've had the shit kicked out of them. The pain is there for a reason. A lot of times when I was in those depressions, I also had the thing going through my head that this is what I've asked for. I've prayed to God that I would have depth as an artist and have things to say. I've said, No matter what, keep me sane but give me what I need.


RELATIONSHIPS
I'm so wrapped up in my work that it's often impossible to consider other things in my life. My marriage ended in divorce because of this, my relationship with Holly has suffered by this. It's hard for anybody who's been with me not to feel starved for affection when I'm making love to my ideas. Maybe it's not meant for me to settle down and be married.

Creative people don't behave very well generally. If you're looking for examples of good relationships in show business, you're gonna be depressed real fast. I don't have time for anything else right now but work and my daughter. She's my first priority.


MEDICATION
I was on Prozac for a long time. It may have helped me out of a jam for a little bit, but people stay on it forever. I had to get off at a certain point because I realized that, you know, everything's just OK," says Carrey. "There are peaks, there are valleys. But they're all kind of carved and smoothed out, and it feels like a low level of despair you live in. Where you're not getting any answers, but you're living OK. And you can smile at the office. You know? But it's a low level of despair. You know? I rarely drink coffee. I'm very serious about no alcohol, no drugs. Life is too beautiful.

You know, I live a monastic lifestyle. No, I do. I do live in extremes, basically. I go back and forth. Once every six months, I'll have a day where I eat more chocolate than has ever been consumed by a human being.

I've tried everything. I've done therapy, I've done colonics. I went to a psychic who had me running around town buying pieces of ribbon to fill the colors in my aura. Did the Prozac thing.


ACTING
Until Ace Ventura, no actor had considered talking through his ass.

I just want to be killer funny. You know kick ass piss in your pants run out of the theatre and rip you dick off and throw yourself into traffic funny!

I try to do something the audience might not have seen before. Like if I'm gonna kiss a girl I wanna kiss her like a girl has never been kissed. Like maybe I would kick her legs out from under her and catch her right before she hits the ground and then kiss her.

My focus is to forget the pain of life. Forget the pain, mock the pain, reduce it. And laugh.

Before I do anything, I think, well what hasn't been seen. Sometimes, that turns out to be something ghastly and not fit for society. And sometimes that inspiration becomes something that 's really worthwhile.

My performing started out as a mixture of things. It's really not all angst and I-gotta-go-onstage-or-I'm-gonna-kill- somebody kind of thing. Some of it is the anger, but it was born from really, truly, just wanting to be special and to be noticed and wanting to make people laugh. It was really born from that, so it comes from a good place. It's just - the tools are your anger, the tools are your sadness, the tools are your joy, the tools are voices, faces - the tools are all those things.

The comedian's who inspired me are, like, Dick Van Dyke. Loved Dick Van Dyke. Jimmy Stewart. Well, he wasn't a comedian, but he was a character that I really, really liked. I learned how to say 'F***', by listening to Richard Pryor. No. But there's guys like that who opened doors to realms for me. Like Richard Pryor and guys like Sam Kinison. You watch them and then you go, well maybe your gotta give up a little more to, you know, push the buttons these days.


CAREER
It's nice to finally get scripts offered to me that aren't the ones Tom Hanks wipes his butt with.

There was a time when people said, 'Jim, if you keep on making faces, your face will freeze like that.' Now they just say, 'Pay him!'

I don't care if people think I am an overactor, as long as they enjoy what I do. People who think that would call Van Gogh an overpainter.

If I had never ventured beyond being a stand-up comic, then I would be sitting in my house today working on my Leonardo DiCaprio impression.

I absolutely want to have a career where you make'em laugh and make'em cry. It's all theater.

One thing I hope I'll never be is drunk with my own power. And anybody who says I am will never work in this town again.

Life opens up opportunities to you, and you either take them or you stay afraid of taking them. I've never been one to sit back and go, 'I'd better do what the audience wants me to do, because I don't want to lose them.'

It was such a leap in my career when 'Truman Show' came along. It's always been a long process for me insofar as recognition goes, but that's OK because you appreciate it when it comes.

I'm afraid, I guess, that I won't be able to watch anymore. Everything I do comes from watching and observing, and I'm concerned that I won't be able to be the watcher because I'm the watched. I've already had so much success, I could quit now and say, 'Thanks very much, you guys have been more than nice to me,' but I really would like to keep working and, hopefully, growing and challenging myself. HIMSELF

I tend to stay up late, not because I'm partying but because it's the only time of the day when I'm alone and don't have to be performing.

I'm a hard guy to live with. I'm like a caged animal. I'm up all night walking around the living room. It's hard for me to come down from what I do.

I need privacy. I would think that because what I do makes a lot of people happy that I might deserve a little bit of respect in return. Instead, the papers try to drag me off my pedestal.

Most of the time I live with my pain. I have pain but I won't show it around. I think that's the nobility of the character. There's something noble in not spewing on people all the time about your problems. I'm the light guy, so I identified.

I enjoy fame except when I'm with my daughter. Kids stop me all the time and I don't want her to be jealous of the attention. Also, sometimes I just want to be left alone and I refuse to make rubber faces. That's when they start asking, 'What's the matter, man, don't you like your job?' I say, 'Yeah, I like my job. But I also like having sex, and I'm not going to do that in front of you either.

Ya know what I do almost every day? I wash. Personal hygiene is part of the package with me.

What I have in common with the character in ‘Truman’ is this incredible need to please people. I feel like I want to take care of everyone and I also feel this terrible guilt if I am unable to. And I have felt this way ever since all this success started.


CHILDHOOD
I used to draw a lot. If my mother would ask me to do something else, I'd have a hairy conniption. I'd just go crazy.

I praticed making faces in the mirror and it would drive my mother crazy. She used to scare me by saying that I was going to see the devil if I kept looking in the mirror. That fascinated me even more, of course.


SCHOOL
I know this sounds strange, but as a kid, I was really shy. Painfully shy. The turning point was freshman year, when I was the biggest geek alive. No one, I mean no one, even talked to me. I was that weird Jim Boy - you know, ' Stay away from him.' Then I suddenly realized that all the shtick I pulled at home could also work at school. I recall the first day that I stood in front of the school and fell up the stairs. People started self-combusting with laughter. I went from 'Jim's a geek' to 'Jim really is a moron, but we like it!' From then on, there was no stopping me - I was relentless. Every class became The Jim Carrey Show. I was like a disease in the class. I remember being sent out of the room a lot. The hall became my domain.

My report card always said, 'Jim finishes first and then disrupts the other students'.

For some reason I did something where I realized I could get a reaction. That was when I broke out of my shell at school, because I really didn't have any friends or anything like that and I just kind of was going along, and then finally I did this zany thing, and all of a sudden I had tons of friends

My teacher in the seventh grade told me that if I didn't fool around during class, I could have 15 minutes at the end of the day to do a comedy routine. Instead of bugging everybody, I'd figure out my routine. And at the end of the day, I'd get to perform in front of my entire class. I thought it was really smart of her. It's amazing how important that was.

My first experience on stage started in second grade. I was in music class and we were practicing for the Christmas assembly. One day I started fooling around by mocking the musicians on a record. The teacher thought she'd embarrass me by making me get up and do what I was doing in front of the whole class. So I went up and did it. She laughed, and the whole class went nuts. My teacher asked me to do my routine for the Christmas assembly, and I did. That was the beginning of the end.


MONEY
When the first big paycheque with Dumb And Dumber hit, I went: 'Gosh, I wonder if this will affect my performance. Will I do a take and think, was that worth $7 million?' But that never happened. If anything, it made me rebel against that thing when people who get rich start playing it safe.

The money can be a hindrance to someone like me because the danger is that you start thinking, 'Is that a $20 million take?' That kind of thing, and being self-critical.

I'm the first to admit this whole salary thing is getting out of control. In the final analysis, it's still about the work. The whole time I was filming The Cable Guy, I kept reminding myself that if a scene didn't work, the $20 million would bite me in the butt.

I refuse to feel guilty. I feel guilty about too much in my life but not about money. I went through periods when I had nothing, so somebody in my family has to get stinkin' wealthy.

I haven't been as wild with my money as somebody like me might have been. I've been very safe, very conservative with investments. I don't blow money. I don't have a ton of houses. I know things can go away. I've already had that experience.


FAMILY
My mother was a professional sick person; she took a lot of pain pills. There are many people like that. It's just how they are used to getting attention. I always remember she's the daughter of alcoholics who'd leave her alone at Christmas time.

My dad was like a stage mother he always pushed me to do what I wanted.

We had problems like all families but we had a lot of love. I was extremely loved. We always felt we had each other.

I got a lot of support from my parents. That's the one thing I always appreciated. They didn't tell me I was being stupid; they told me I was being funny.