Two Cultures

When C. P. Snow talked about Two Cultures, he had in mind the two supposedly different ways of life. The sciences and the humanities. Snow tries to see the differences between the two cultures and makes it a point to show that the two are indeed different. Recently I read Stephen J Gould’s The Fox, The Hedgehog, and the Magister’s Pox. Gould tries to establish that the so-called divide between the sciences and the humanities never existed but was created unnecessarily.

In this article, I am also going to talk about two cultures, but not the ones that Snow choose. I am going to talk about academic and administrative cultures. Any research institute along with its academic staff has a `supporting’ administrative staff. Theoretically, if you ask, the tasks of the two are defined clearly. The academicians are supposed to do academics, that is, to do research, or at least what they consider research or worth doing. The outcome of academicians is to be measured by fellow academicians, in terms of the quality and the quantity of research or visible work done by them.

The academic life is usually one which is not-so-high paying. At least in India, this seems to be the case. A person who retires as the Director of an Institute hardly draws a salary as compared to the ones in the industry with their kind of experience. But that will take us into another discussion about Academics and Corporates, which I don’t want to enter into now. The perks of academic life are in many cases, if not in all, are the curiosity and the associated satisfaction that one derives from the problems that one tackles. When a person starts an academic career, the paths diverge sharply from their colleagues’ paths who have to choose a corporate way. When one enters academics, one of the things that are retained is a sense of freedom. Again this might not be true in all cases, I have seen juniors, especially the Graduate Students being ruled upon like a dictator by senior Professors. But this misses the point that I want to make. The point is that if you can, at least theoretically speaking, pursue your own research agendas, your research questions. For some people, it is the question that drives their academic lives.

Every now and then you hear examples of so-called `nerds’, who do weird things. They are the people who have `devoted’ themselves to their field. I am not trying to defend anyone here for doing all the weird things that they do, but just trying to illustrate the fact that the field that the researcher chooses, is what drives them on in life. It is just due to the handful of these people that makes the difference. Many times it is just sheer genius, many times it is hard work of years. They are the leaders of their field. Well not always, you may find a mediocre person leading the field, with all the proper political connections…

But this is not always the case; there are always misfits. I do know of people who do not have any commitment to the field that they are working in, per se. But they choose the research field as any other job, the enthusiasm is lacking. And they lament upon those who show some enthusiasm. And such people may be quite numerous. They are the followers. In many cases, it is not that they lack the enthusiasm, but it is entirely missing. What I mean by that is they just like workers in a stone quarry, just doing what the supervisor tells you to do, without much understanding. They are like academic coolies. Maybe the term sounds harsh, but that is what it is supposed to be. Whether you are like this or not will strongly depend on who is your reporting authority in the field. These people, if asked, will have no opinion themselves, and even if they do, it will be a carbon copy of somebody else’s.

The way one is moulded in academic life strongly depends upon one’s own capacity for independent thinking and the kind of support that one gets from the colleagues, including and most importantly from the supervisor. The graduate student years decide what kind of academic person you will become. If all your thoughts are nipped in the bud, at all the times, will you be able to think independently? This is also the question that the supervisor has to ask himself/herself: What my student should be like? I guess many of them would differ in the answer that they give and the thing that they actually practice.

Research Institutes are constituted so as to make an academic atmosphere. By this it is meant that the place should provide support for the activities that the researchers do, that is those activities apart from doing research per se. This support if necessary so that the researchers can concentrate on their work completely. Well isn’t that the idea of having a research institute. The researchers are paid for doing that, and many of them if not all do precisely this. They are not doing research as some part-time job, they are professionals, and at least some of them are committed to the field.

A Paradigm as variously defined by Thomas Kuhn would be a more proper term here for the field. As a philosopher, Kuhn redefined many of our existing understanding in the field of science, especially our understanding _about_ science as a field of human endeavour.

Researchers come and join a paradigm, most of them stay within the paradigm and solve puzzles. Only a few lucky of them come up with problems that are unsolvable within the paradigm, and then the revolutions follow. But let us not go further in this interlude. We
will talk about Kuhn some other time.

So coming back to research institutes, we can settle on one thing that a research institute is a place where research is done, and it is meant for that purpose. In a research institute, the agenda is to provide facilities for research. Various people form the infrastructure that is is thus required. Generally, any research institute has a few categories of people. The faculty, the graduate students and the scientific staff other than the previously mentioned ones. The other staff in the institute includes the technical, administrative
and the auxiliary staff, peons, cleaners etc.

The administrative staff is supposed to help the academic staff to lessen their burden from the non-academic work that they have to do. This `non-academic’ work includes managing the finance of the institute, maintaining the premises, handling at recruitments, and looking at various other facilities and services. But in some institute, the administrative staff becomes increasingly powerful, so much so that they dictate the terms to the academics. Promotions are stalled, so are new recruitments and procurements. All this by citing some obscure rules or just sitting on the files for months. This particularly happens when the incumbent person perceived to be “weak”. On the other hand when the incumbent person is perceived to be “strong”, the administration falls in line. The “strong” person at the helm, can ask the administration to bend the rules, or keep them on hold, or even circumvent at times. This makes the institutes grow. On the other hand, following the rules too strictly and with convenience denial makes it difficult for any growth.

Personal vendettas and fragile egos mark office politics. This is a power struggle, which decides the fate of the institute.

On cooking or how to deny convenience to people

1 Citchen

When they built the hotel, they built it on three levels. The top-most was for the elites. The commoners had no entry there, neither they had any business. Then was the second level, here a sort of compromise was reached. The rooms had provisions for the kitchen, to be shared amongst the two, who would also incidentally share the bathroom and the toilet. It would be very naive, even seem stupid to ask, what was the purpose of building the kitchenettes? Well, of course, the answer is that the kitchen is meant for cooking. Every Tom, Dick and Harry, ahem I am sounding too male chauvinist here, so after rephrasing, every Pam, Dick and Mary would answer, that kitchens are meant for cooking. Even those females [I happen to know a few] who think cooking is a male chauvinist thing imposed on them in a male-dominated society, would answer the same to this question, that Kitchens are meant for cooking. I mean, what else could be a kitchen be used for. Perhaps, we do use the kitchen for other purposes, for example, drying clothes [as the clothesline is inside the kitchen], brushing my teeth [as the wash basin is also a part of the kitchen]. Doing all this is okay in the kitchen, but people here have serious problems when it comes to cooking in the kitchen. If you think this is weird, I think you have not heard about cigol and convenience denial in your life. So read on….

2 Cooking

First of all, let me confess, I love cooking, and I think cooking is an art more than anything else. There are times when I have no mood for cooking but I never fail to appreciate good cooking and efforts that are put into that. But then there are people who

Don’t know [and don’t want to know] how to cook [too proud males
and also too proud females who think it is below dignity to cook [both cases are known to me].

Don’t want to cook [either because of general sloth they have, or
for the fear that they might screw up the food [sometimes I am
myself the first case]]

Don’t want other people known to them to cook, as it makes them feel
guilty, so for them to not feel guilty the other person should not cook. And
these people, in general, don’t like people doing anything they
don’t want to do, because they then feel guilty and they do not
want to feel guilty. [I know a very good case of this particular kind]

Don’t appreciate good food, or good cooking, or at least the
efforts one puts in cooking.

Anyways, the point of telling this was that, when I cook in a small kitchenette given to me, the food usually comes out to be good and in edible form. Once in a while, there is a screwup, but that does not deter me from trying further on. People mostly type 1, 2 and 3, who are out there are envious of this. And I really believe the previous line of what I have written. So envious they became that they hatched a plot to take away my little kitchenette which was my personal space. More than a kitchen, it was a laboratory for testing the taste buds and culinary skills. It was a place that I went to refuge when my spirits were down [no pun intended].

Cooking food gives me enormous relaxation and self-satisfaction, which only a few other activities give to me. I have even had the feeling “This is so much better than sex!!” while cooking on many occasions. The joy that you get when you are mixing the flavours, the spices and the vegetables with the meat and masalas is just amazing and then relishing on the results and finally being appreciated by the people who you care about is just beyond words. I have a very hard time trying to understand, how can someone not like cooking, when they have access to a good kitchen and other resources? I think it has to come from within, it cannot come from without.

3 Cigol

But, then, there are people who are unhappy, when I am happy. And they don’t want to be unhappy. So they want to make me unhappy. Then they can be happy. And cooking makes me happy. They know this. So, they don’t want me to cook. Not cooking will make me unhappy. Then, they will be happy.

So they hatch a sinister plan. They form something called as logic. Or to put it, in other words, they invent something they want to call as logic. Whether it is logic or not, I leave it to you to decide. I call it cigol. Now in cigol, since cooking in the kitchen gives me happiness, it has to be taken away from me. This will make me unhappy. Then they will be happy. Since on the second level, all the rooms have the kitchens, I am to be barred from those rooms. The cigol they give is different at different times. At first, they say that there are ACs in those rooms. ACs are available to a very specialized class of people in India. They are for the elites [and incidentally, I am an elite in the office since I have an AC there but in the hotel, it seems, I am not elite enough. The world seems more and more Orwellian as I spend more time here. As Orwell would say “All Elites are equal; some elites are more equal than others.”].

And we commoners have no right to have them in our puny rooms. Well, I said, I don’t want an AC. Since they don’t, believe me, they lock the AC, fearing that I will use it when I am not supposed to. Well, it sounds funny, but they actually have built a small wooden cabinet around the AC switch whose key is with the guards. So only for proper elite persons, the ACs are to be turned on, who are elite enough. And the elites are all visitors for a few days to a maximum of one or two weeks. Now the elites, since they are elites also get something else with the ACs. Namely, the kitchenettes. Whether they want to cook or not, or whether there is anything to cook there or not, does not bother the concerned people. But the elites should get a kitchen along with the ACs, that is the norm. If you ask them why then they say, this is the way things are, can’t you see the simple cigol here. Once cigol enters the picture, everything else becomes irrelevant. Another thing is that perhaps it is a kind of ‘show-off’ for the visiting elites. This is what we give to everybody, even who are visiting us for a short time. So think what we must be giving to our regular staff members.

So the elites get the kitchen sans the cooking instruments, there is not even a water heater in the kitchenette, just in case an enterprising visitor wants to make black tea or coffee, let alone anything else, worth cooking. As per cigol, the kitchenettes become dirty when you cook, so it is better to leave them just like that, as cooking in the kitchen will spoil its beauty. Truly empty kitchens look better than full-fledged ones. To cut the long story short, kitchens are there, and they are not being used, simply because some people don’t want other people to use them [and they themselves don’t want to use them either. The case is more like a dog who cannot eat the grass but doesn’t let the cow eat it too]. And when asked why were they not used, they told us, because nobody ever used them. This is cigol. Then why not give it to us, who want to cook in the kitchen. Again this is not possible. Why? Because it was not done in the past. This is cigol.

4 Convenience Denial

I ventured out to change this trend. I started to cook in the kitchen, which they had to finally give to me. It made me happy. Very happy. But unfortunately for me, my happiness was unbearable to some. So they began to complain. In this complaining, they use a superior and totally unbeatable form of cigol, which I call convenience denial. The convenience denial is used so many times and in so many different ways and different places, that I will have to write an entire blog about it. One of the meanings is straightforward, as the words read. It is the denial of convenience to you. If you find anything which is convenient, they will deny that thing to you. If they find anything that gives you happiness, they will deny it to you. But apart from this convenience denial has another meaning, apart from the straightforward one discussed above. There is a pun being intended here.

The other meaning of convenience denial comes in when some of the fundamental rights of ours are denied to us, just for the convenience of the few. When they know something will be convenient to you, they will say, ”Oh. Okay. But you see, it really doesn’t fit in the rules of the Banyan Tree. And we are part of the Banyan Tree. So we are denying this.” On the other hand, when the rules of the Banyan Tree do form a convenience for us, they say “Oh. Okay. But you see, it really does fit in the rules of the Banyan Tree. But we are not the Banyan Tree. So we are denying this.”

The two reasoning’s may sound contradictory at first. They should. Because they are. But this is the pinnacle of cigol. But if you look through cigol, this contradiction is only apparent. It is like an apparition, which vanishes when you look at it with a skeptical eye.

Of course, there is no contradiction. ”We are always right. Only we can interpret the rules and we can deny them as per our whims and fancies [read convenience]. So it really doesn’t matter what the rules are [and what they are not], they are not going to help you in any way. Period.”

5 Cylinders

“Cooking gas is a dangerous thing. If left open, it can lead to accidents. It is too dangerous to be used in the hotel. So you cannot use it. There is a rule which says so. Your safety is our first concern”

But again the Orwellian rule applies, that is to say, rules are meant to be broken. If you are elite enough, you can use the cooking gas. Suddenly, the cooking gas is no longer a dangerous thing. Of course, cooking gas is not dangerous. And what about safety you ask, of course cooking gas is a safe thing, but only if you are elite enough. Otherwise, it is as dangerous as it can be.

“Who will be responsible if you accidentally blow up the entire building, you see there are people staying there.”

But then again as cigol rules, these questions are not asked to all, but to unfortunate few, who do want to cook on their own.

“Instead of the cooking gas, we give you a better alternative. Use the hot plate! There is no pollution, no danger of an accident, where the whole building can’t come down. Use the hot plate! Hot Plate ki Jai!

And the microwave too. There is one common kitchen which is set up in the old hotel [by our grace], where people from all the rooms are supposed to come and cook. Does it matter, if you have to walk 200 meters just to boil a cup of water? Of course not! It will give you good exercise.

Only the truly spirited persons will come, those who don’t anyway did not need it.

So as a result only a few will turn up. And this is recorded that a few people use the common kitchen. So there should not be more common kitchens, as the

one that is there is underutilized. This is statistics of nihilism. Of course, the convenience denial is ON in all this in the normal state, if you failed to notice already.

And when we remind them that the Banyan Tree does not make this distinction, the answer we get is this:

“Oh. Okay. But you see, it really does fit in the rules of the Banyan Tree. But we are not the Banyan Tree. So we are denying this.”

6 Charges

“Do you have any idea how much electricity bill we are paying for the hotel?”

No. I don’t have any idea. And I don’t want to have any idea about that. Why the efff should I have any idea regarding the electricity bill that you are paying for the hotel? Am I paid for having any idea regarding electricity bill that you are paying for the hotel?

No.

Then why the efff should I bother or worry about it. Anyway, you are not paying that monies from your pocket, are you?

No.

It is the taxpayer’s money, my money being used to do that. But let me ask Are you paid for having any idea regarding electricity bill that you are paying for the hotel?

Yes.

Then isn’t it your efffing job?

Yes.

Okay.

So we will do our job!

How?

By trying to reduce the electricity usage on the campus.

Good. This seems to be a really good effort on your part.

It is! And we will see that you don’t enjoy this either!

What is that supposed to mean?

You see, you use hot plates for cooking.

But it was you who denied the use of cooking gas, so we had to use the hot plates.

You are trying to mix things here. We are talking about hot plates and you are bringing up the issue of cooking gas, which we left in the last section! It is of no relevance here. Period.

You contradict your self.

No, we don’t. Cigol is strictly under application here. You see we are trying to reduce the electricity bill.

So?

Oh, we found that your usage amounts to 0.1 % of the total bill. This is a huge amount. If we are able to stop this usage, we will have to pay only for 99.9 % of the amount due! See what foresight we have!!

But 0.1 %, is it a huge amount?

Yes, for the hotel it is! But for you it is minuscule. You have so much money to spend. Why not give it back to where it came from?

Does not compute. You talk the exact opposite!

Well, it is cigol, you won’t understand it.

I bet, I won’t.

It is better for you that you shouldn’t. Our workings are mysterious and are strictly based on hierarchy and personal relations.

But aren’t they supposed to be, ahem, transparent and equitable?

What transparency? Everything is as transparent as it should be.

But then why are you not trying to reduce the rest of the electricity usage, the remaining 99.9 % of it?

Well, it is not on our priority list. But your usage is. We have reasons. You see 70 % of the usage is by ACs. And ACs are essential for working, you cannot work in an office if the AC is not ON, can you? And the remaining usage is for the other activities of national importance. Since we cannot stop these, we have to stop something. We are also answerable to people above us.

Hence, you choose us. Because we are soft targets. In spite of knowing the fact that a single AC running a day, will cost you more energy than used for entire months cooking? And if it is so essential to have ACs, why keep them locked from us in the hotel?

What nonsense you are talking about? Those things cannot be compromised. And for the ACs are a must for office work. We work more efficiently in a cooler environment.

Okay. And we can be compromised?

Yes… No, no. I mean it is not that simple.

Then? [Why I am even bothering to ask, this is cigol!]

And what about the highest rates that we are being charged for?

Well, since the hotel pays at that rate, you will also have to pay the same.

But ours is a residential zone and we are being charged at industrial rates? Why?

Because we can charge you at the industrial rates. That’s why. And for all your strengths and powers you cannot do anything about it.

But why us?

Well by choosing you, we will make sure that you pay for the hotel and make a good example of not trying to mess with us.

But you do have the funding, right? And will the payment that we make be enough?

Yes, we have got enormous funding, but when it comes to you, particularly there is a crunch. And of course can you not do this bit to help us? It is of no concern to us whether it really matters in the reduction of energy usage or not, but we want to show that we have taken some steps to lower the usage. And that is sufficient for us. Its efficacy is irrelevant here.

So, you mean to say we are not on the priority list?

You see you are on the priority list but not at a correct position in either of them. You are at the bottom end of the fund’s priority list. And at the top end of the consumption reduction list!

But you see, in the Banyan Tree, they do not charge anybody for any usage, and the number of users is very large there. So why do you charge us?

Oh. Okay. But you see, it really does fit in the rules of the Banyan Tree. But we are not the Banyan Tree. So we are denying this.

Does not compute. [How could I forget Convenience denial?]

It is plain simple cigol.

So you are giving justification, not justice.

No comments.

But tell me, how is this going to reduce the consumption of electricity. You have yourself set up a common kitchen, if we use the same amount of electricity there, we cannot be charged, and the consumption is not reduced either. So, your original plan does not work.
You are very naive and think in a very limited fashion. You see, we don’t want you to cook. In fact, we don’t want you to do anything. Just be as non-functional as possible. Because we know it gives you happiness. In the common kitchen, since it is far away from most of the people, they won’t come and cook. And even if they cook it is acceptable.

And the same people cooking in their own rooms is not acceptable?

No. It is not.

Why?

See, the idea is that if people cook in their own rooms they will cook more and better food and will be happy. That is something we don’t want. We would want them to eat the canteen food all the time. And anyway how can anyone who is working hard find any time for cooking?

So, you mean to say cooking is a waste of time?

Yes.

But we still want to cook, and that too in our own rooms!

Well if you are so adamant for cooking. And cooking gives you happiness. Then happiness cannot come for free.

???

If you want to use a hot plate in your room, you will have to pay for it.

But you are making us use the hot plate.

This is part of convenience denial. It is a grace on our part that whatever you are getting, is there. If we had it our way you would not get anything that would give you happiness.

But we won’t pay for it.

We are not asking you to pay, we will directly deduct it from your salary.

Without my consent?

Yes. We don’t need your consent for this. We are elite enough to do this kind of stuff.

Are you sure? You are cutting monies from my salary and you are claiming that you can cut it without my consent?

We are not sure. But this is cigol, so it doesn’t matter anyway. At the most, we will have to revoke it some day. But till then we will make sure you pay. And apart from this, you are causing great inconvenience to our elite guests.

How so?

By cooking in the kitchen and by keeping your stuff in the common area.

Well, aren’t these two areas meant for that. Kitchen for cooking and common area for keeping stuff.

Yes, they are indeed. But it does not apply in your case.

How come?

You see, kitchen in meant for cooking, but it does not follow that one must cook there.

Means?

You cannot cook there. And before you ask the next question, I will already give the answer, no, you cannot keep your stuff in the common area.

So what’s the use of building them and not allowing them to be used, even by the people who want to use them?

Maybe it was a mistake to build them in the first place.

But not using them, once they are built, would be another mistake.

Well, this is cigol. You don’t ask the government why they build things which one cannot utilize or use. This is just a continuing legacy of that. We make things that are not accessible to the general public, of course, elites are a different matter.

You mean, they are not made up of ordinary matter? I smell that the dark matter problem in cosmology has a potential solution, in form of the elites of the Indian government.

No. Not that way. You are straying away from the matter. You are charged with not being fair to others?

I am not being fair to whom?

To every one. You see you are effectively having more than your share at this place.

And what about you and the other elites? Are you not having more than your share at this place.

What do you mean?

Well to tell it simply, are you not occupying much more rooms than I am? And that too by doing modifications to the fundamental structure of the construct?

Yes. I am. And there is nothing that anyone can do about it.

And this I guess definitely does not conform to the rules of the Banyan tree. Does it?

Oh. Okay. But you see, it really does not fit in the rules of the

Banyan Tree. But we are not the Banyan Tree. So I can do this. And how can you forget Orwell: “Some are more equal than others.” I am one of those some and I also have the power. And who will dare to speak about this? Will you?

Of course not. Who wants to bell the cat? Then you will occupy space not meant for you, as there is clearly a separate place for you to stay. Even then you mean to say, I being not fair is unfair, but you being unfair is fair?

Yes. Even Mr Orwell will tell you so. And there is a difference between I being unfair and you being unfair. You see rules that apply to you, don’t apply to us. And even if they do apply, we have the ultimate weapon of convenience denial in our repertoire.

But my being unfair, is it even true when there is no one in the next room?

Yes. You are not being fair to other people, who might be sharing this room. And those people who might be sharing this room, are the elites. So when they come to stay here, it becomes imperative for us to make their stay comfortable.

Even at the cost of people who are staying there for a much longer time?

Yes. You see it is like this. The more you stay, the less important you are.

But then by that logic, who will be most unimportant?

Orwell: All are equal, but some are more equal than others.

But does this not fair thing apply even when there is no one who is sharing this room with me.

That is why it becomes even more important if you are not fair to no one who is not sharing your common area, how can you be fair to everyone who is not sharing your common area?

But no one [except me] wants to use the kitchen. Is it my fault?

Yes. It is your fault. You are not confirming to rest of ones like you.

As I had said earlier, but now I am certain, that building these kitchens was a mistake, as no wants to use them.

But I do want to.

Your want is irrelevant. What no one wants is more relevant. And there is not a rule like that in the Banyan Tree.

But…

Oh. Okay. But you see, it really doesn’t fit in the rules of the Banyan Tree. And we are part of the Banyan Tree. So we are denying this.

[I am rendered wordless, speechless and powerless against such cigol and convenience denial, I choose to keep my silence…]

That is it! There are to be no more words. It is final that you will be shifted soon where you will have a hard time cooking and you won’t be happy. I will make sure that a written order is passed in this regard. And then you can’t do anything, but to confirm what we have been saying all along.

Note: Any resemblance to real places and people is not coincidental.

Or is it?

Or is it the other way round?

😉

Privatization, Responsibility and Corruption

Privatisation seems to have gone from dynamic ideological choice, to route of least resistance for the state to abdicate its responsibility in a variety of policy areas. Anything difficult and measurable – problem schools; elderly care; waste disposal; big infrastructure projects – is left to private capital. In exactly the same way that outsourcing has evolved for private enterprise, it has become an expensive way of getting rid of problems to which those in charge have no solutions.

It is much easier to close a free school than to explain why a state school has gone disastrously wrong.

via theguardian

The same is happening in India. Now they are planning to privatize airports and Indian Airlines on the reasons of efficiency. For education, the government supports private school with aids. When the same money could have been used to better the government schools. In each sector the reliance on private sector to do the jobs is increasing. Even in case of vehicles in government offices, the trend is that you employ a private vehicle and a driver, instead of having a driver on the payroll. So is the case with computer maintenance. In each government office there are private firms which are paid large sums to make sure that the computers are kept running. Why can’t there be an internal department to look after that? The privatization both complete and contractual, lead to massive corruption opportunities for both politicians and the bureaucrats as can be seen in the recent series of scams that have surfaced in India. The main problem that is facing the people is privatization of our natural resources and that of responsibilities of the Government, the resulting corruption is just the tip of the iceberg. It is a symptom of the disease. Even then the major media houses never question, why these mega scams became possible in the first place? They are more eager to make scapegoats out of certain people, but the system which allowed the scams to happen is never challenged.

That said, it seems the ideological stance privatization, resulting in denial of responsibility of state and loss of money from the public purse cannot be halted unless there is a strong pressure from within to halt such measures.

Illegal and Wrong

We have to get out of the mindset of thinking that things are wrong because they are illegal. People make laws and people can change those laws.
via Silk Road

Often people equate being illegal to being wrong. Though this may be true at times, it need not be always true. This is a fact that many people forget and do not think about.The laws that we have were made in a specific time with conditions pertaining to those times. And the fact that  they are made by people. They may not be relevant any more. Or it might be just that the laws presented views of the majority or of the rich and the powerful. And many times breaking the law itself is the right thing to do. Gandhi in his life showed this many times. So was it wrong when Gandhi broke the salt law, for example? If there is a law against speaking about wrongs government does, it would be illegal to break such a law, but would it be wrong?

 

 

Free Press and Democracy

A free press is an essential part of a democratic system. In a society like ours, with its stark inequalities, only a media free of government and corporate pressures can ensure that the voiceless are heard. What we are seeing currently is not just blatant collusion between the media and big business but also a deliberate obliteration of much of what happens to the millions who live on the margins.

via Economic and Political Weekly

This is what Media Lens has to say about the BBC which is supposed to be in public interest and impartial.

Instead of providing responsible, public-service journalism, the BBC acts as a conduit for government propaganda. It is particularly noxious that the organisation relentlessly channels the state’s supposedly benign intentions abroad. This is the diet of daily bias and distortion we are all fed. When will BBC heads roll for that?

But isn’t this true of the media in India also? Or elsewhere in the world for that matter. Tehelka reports that many of the barons of power also control the local media in newly formed state of Chattisgad. And what is the use of controlling media when they are not used for gains. When the so called free media becomes a part of the political parties we cannot be sure of what they report.

If the Congress has Naveen Jindal, the BJP has Ajay Sancheti. If the Congress has the Lokmat, the BJP has the Hari Bhoomi. Barring coal, in which both the Centre and the states had their hands in the till, in the case of other mineral resources, the real corruption lies in the states.

It is not that people do not use media for their own gain, media is used for spreading ideology, there are many mouthpiece outlets for political parties and others which propagate the ideas. But what is worst is that the masquerade that many media houses put on themselves claiming to be honest and working in public interest, and people at large believe them, being obliviousto the fact that these very media houses are the ones who are power brokers and very much in the filth as corporates and politicians. A recent example of this was the Radia tapes.

The complete blackout of the Niira Radia tapes by the entire broadcast media and most of the major English newspapers paints a truer picture of corruption in the country than the talk shows in the various news channels and the breast-beating in all the newspapers about the 2G, CWG, Adarsh, and other scams.

via|G. Sampath – DNA

It was not until the non-main-stream media began to show up too much, there was some coverage given. But the very fact that the accused are in complete denial of what happened is what is disturbing. We usually held names like Barkha Dutt, Vir Sanghvi well but these tapes just show how much they are in the filth of what they pretend to expose. From then on, I have given up on NDTV as a reliable source, which earlier I thought it was. But then what do you trust?

At the same time, it is worth noting that neither Barkha nor any of the other journalists whose names have come up have denied that those conversations took place. So why not let the reader or TV viewer read or listen to the transcripts and decide whether Dutt and Sanghvi’s conversations with Radia are a part of “normal journalistic duties” or amount to pimping for politicians and business houses? Or perhaps they were doing social service for the Congress? Play the tapes on your show, na, Ms Dutt, instead of tweeting about them? Why not let ‘We, The People’ decide, instead of you deciding for us all?

via|G. Sampath – DNA

The media blackout of particular events is what I find disturbing. What it shows the kind of camaraderie that exists between different media houses and their corporate and political cronies. That basically means that the news, sorry the Breaking News that you see is like a managed play, with directors and writers deciding what people see, hear and think. In Marathi novel (Ithink it was Swami (स्वामी) by Ranjit Desai) I had read a sentence which fits these situations well, it reads:

मी मारल्या सारखे करतो, तु रडल्या सारखे कर.

( I will feign to hit, you feign to cry.)

This creates an illusion about real problems. Most of the News channels that are beamed in India follow this line. Put all the focus on some non-issues, or twist them from certain angles so that why all this happens remains oblivious to the viewers. If our media was after all serious about the issues that they present, they would have seen to it that things are done.

Many a times what I have also found reading reports on various different news services is that they are same. I mean many a times they are word to word same, as if the reports have been written at one place and distributed. I do not have links right now, but will update this post when I do. This again creates a picture that what news we see is heavily filtered, and sometimes flavours are added to create sensationalism. And the icing is that we all think this is genuine, with “Free Press in A Democracy”. Orwell had a foresight about this as well:

Of course, print will continue to be used, and it is interesting to speculate what kinds of reading matter would survive in a rigidly totalitarian society. Newspapers will presumably continue until television technique reaches a higher level, but apart from newspapers it is doubtful even now whether the great mass of people in the industrialized countries feel the need for any kind of literature. They are unwilling, at any rate, to spend anywhere near as much on reading matter as they spend on several other recreations. Probably novels and stories will be completely superseded by film and radio productions. Or perhaps some kind of low grade sensational fiction will survive, produced by a sort of conveyor-belt process that reduces human initiative to the minimum.

via The Prevention of Literature | George Orwell

The only reason I see that India is feudal and corrupt is that the so called Free Press was never able to take up the challenge to the nexus, and ultimately now has become a part of it.

In our age, the idea of intellectual liberty is under attack from two directions. On the one side are its theoretical enemies, the apologists of totalitarianism, and on the other its immediate, practical enemies, monopoly and bureaucracy.

via The Prevention of Literature | George Orwell

Though there are dissidents here and there, this now has become global phenomena, with the Indian media people just following the suit. And if this is the case, what difference does it make whether you are living in a democracy or a totalitarian state?

And Orwell wraps it up thus:

A totalitarian society which succeeded in perpetuating itself would probably set up a schizophrenic system of thought, in which the laws of common sense held good in everyday life and in certain exact sciences, but could be disregarded by the politician, the historian, and the sociologist. Already there are countless people who would think it scandalous to falsify a scientific textbook, but would see nothing wrong in falsifying an historical fact. It is at the point where literature and politics cross that totalitarianism exerts its greatest pressure on the intellectual.

via The Prevention of Literature | George Orwell

 

Let us Respect The Flag, Respect The Nation?


Recently I got a forward email…

It read thus:

Dear Indian!
Greetings on Independence Day!!

The National Flag is a symbol of the Nation’s respect and pride. There is a liberal use of the flag on Independence Day and Republic day. There is a new trend of selling flags made up of paper and plastic, which is incorrect.

Do’s and Dont’s

  • Hoist the Flag at a height in a suitable manner.
  • Do not let small children use the National Flag as a toy.
  • Do not use or buy plastic Flags.
  • Do not use paper Flags to pin up on shirt pockets, etc.
  • Take care to see that the Flag does not get crumpled.
  • Do not use the Flag as a banner or for decoration.
  • Take care to see that the National Flag is not trampled upon or torn.
  • Do not let the Flag fall on the ground.
  • Do not join cloth pieces to resemble the National Flag.

What do you say? Do you agree? Of course, most of us would. But why? Why does the respecting the National Flag mean respecting the nation? I do not agree completely though…

I will elaborate what I mean to say…

For most of us Indians, The Flag represents The nation. The Flag is an iconification of our national pride. We like to have icons for everything that we respect. That channels our feelings towards the thing respected. The Flag is just like the idolization of many things, you respect the idol, you respect the thing. National Flags project the identity of a nation, they represent and foster the national spirit. The unique designs and colours the flags embody, reflect a particular nation’s character and declare the nations’s separate existence. It is the identity of The Nation. Thus it is but natural that a national flag has a great amount of significance. The respect and dignity of the flag needs to be fostered and maintained, for which explicit rules have been laid down. The rules provide against the burning, mutilation and destruction of the flag. The above mail was a sort of Flag Hoisting for Dummies which contained do’s and dont’s derived from such rules. Respect for the National Flag would mean that the you are respecting the values for which the national flag stands for. The history and the various protocols related to our National Flag refer to the Wikipedia entry, very comprehensively written.

Our flag, therefore, is both a benediction and beckoning. It contains the blessings of all those great souls who brought us to freedom. But it also beckons us to fulfil their vision of a just and united India. As we confront crucial challenges to our security, our unity and integrity, we cannot but heed to the call of this flag to rededicate ourselves to the establishment of that peaceful and just order wherein all Indians irrespective of creed, caste or sex will fulfil themselves.
R. Venkataraman

“[The National Flag is] a flag of freedom not for ourselves, but a symbol of freedom to all people who may seek it.”
Jawahar Lal Nehru

“…while this is a symbol of our past, it inspires us for the future. This flag flies today as the flag of the nation, and it should be the duty and privilege of every Indian not only to cherish and live under it, but if necessary, to die for it.”
Frank Anthony

More than an object the National Flag is an emseble of ideas, which form our nation. National Flag indisputably stands for the whole nation, its ideals, aspirations, its hopes and achievements. It gives you the feeling that you are an Indian.

The importance of a National Flag does not depend on its colour, its bands or its other parts. The flag as a whole, is important and other things-the colours etc, that it contains- are immaterial. The flag may be of a piece of white cloth or of any other insignificant material but when it is accepted as a National Flag, it becomes the emblem of national self-respect. It becomes an expression of the sense of freedom of a nation.

Goving Malaviy

The points that are raised in the quotes above, all of us would surely agree. The Flag played an extremely vital role in India’s struggle for freedom and its adoption was one of the indications of the culmination of that struggle. But today, in the light of the present society, The Flag should be something much more than a mere symbol of freedom.

From time immemorial, people have laid down their lives for their flags. Indeed, there is something so compelling in this piece of cloth, called the National Flag, the people make even the supreme sacrifice for its sake. The National Flag stands for the whole nation, its ideals, aspirations, its hopes and achievements. It is a beacon showing to its people the path hen their very existence is threatened. It is at this time of danger that this much length of cloth inspires people to unite under its umbrella and urge them to defend the honour of their motherland.

Let me ask you another question. How many of you have your own National Flag? When I was a child I, people were allowed to hoist the flag only on certain special days, otherwise you could be jailed for hoisting your own National Flag in your own country. People were afraid in their own country to raise their own Flag. And the police are found to be extra alert for locating and taking action on any disrespect for The Flag. [If they could just show equal enthusiasm for implementing the other laws as well!] What kind of free country would not allow its own citizens to raise The Flag? If we were still under the occupation by the British, this would be understandable, but we were not…
It took maybe 50 years for people to realize this, and kudos to Naveen Jindal for fighting the case in Supreme Court on people’s behalf. The result of this PIL is is that now…

Right to fly the National Flag freely with respect and dignity is a fundamental right of a citizen within the meaning of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India being an expression and manifestation of his allegiance and feelings and sentiments of pride for the nation;

But even after this people are afraid, when I bought my Flag, people asked me, What will you do with it? I mean this is just plain ignorance, what do you do with a flag? Another few suggested that I could land in trouble [read jail] if The Flag was “disrespected.” And all of these call themselves patriotic…


But is it just that? Just respect The Flag according to the Flag code and you are done. Is there nothing beyond this? The point that I want to raise here is that respecting The Nation does not start at respecting The Flag nor does it end there. It goes much more beyond.

The Flag code is just a ritual, but the meaning of it goes much deeper than the rituals associated with it. From what I see The Flag code is just a hollow ritual, which prevents you from seeing things that lie beyond. If you really respect the nation, there are much better ways to do it, rather than giving too much respect to a piece of cloth so revered.

I ask you another question, of all the bureaucrats and the politicians who “officially” enjoy the privilege of The Flag, how many actually deserve it? Even with MPs who have dozens of cases pending against them, can boast having a flag. This I find the worst possible disrespect for The Flag. This offence is much more grave than one in which a person does not follow The Flag Code.

What I mean here is that see beyond The Flag Code, and try to understand what it implies in our actions. If you are following The Flag Code strictly but are corrupt or promote corruption, or do not follow the rules [lets say even trafic rules], not pay the taxes, etc. etc. You are dishonouring The Flag more than you could do by doing away with all the rules in The Flag Code.

Just a passing remark…
The Flag Code [3A vi] in particular mentions a punishable offence:

lettering of any kind shall not be put upon the Flag;

Then what do you say about this:

References:

Citation : 2004 SOL Case No. 069
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
Before :- Brijesh Kumar and S.B. Sinha, JJ.
Civil Appeal No. 2920 of 1996. D/d. 23.1.2004
Union of India – Appellant
Versus
Naveen Jindal and Anr. – Respondents
[Available online here.]

The Flag Code of India
[Available online here.]

Prejudice and Pride

Pride and Prejudice
As a part of the graduate courses we had to do a few presentations. During the course on sociology of education I reviewed a book Prejudice and Pride by Krishna Kumar. When I was first told about the book I was not too keen to do the review, as the title suggested nothing about the content of the book. But when I was told about the synopsis of the book I became immediately interested. So what is this book with a title made by rearranging the title of another famous book by Jane Austin about. So we will first talk about the subject matter of the book.
What this work is about?
As the back cover of the book says it is a comparative study of the modern representations of modern history in Indian and Pakistani textbooks. The book consists of an inquiry into the perceptions of the past that the Indian and Pakistani children encounter at the school. So the book is about the kind of history being taught in the schools to children in India and Pakistan. So we being the children and product of such an education do differ from our Pakistani counterparts in our  view of history.
History as it is known is seen by different people differently. For some heroes are villains and vice-versa if change the sides of a given conflict. Thus for us Indians the British officers who established and firmed the British rule in India would be villains whereas for the British they were heroes. So to form an objective view about the history of a particular event is very difficult if not impossible. One of the reason for this is the fact that we depend upon historical evidences for building the image of the past. These evidences may be in form of reports, books or other works and folk tales about that particular event. Thus we will be most of the time biased and subjective about the information that we have to build upon the image of the past we have. It will be no wonder that the images of the past that are familiar to us, are at times starkly different from those brought in a different culture.
In general there is gloom in the education systems of both the countries. India is no more better off than Pakistan in general in the education field. The subject matter of this work in particular is the history as taught in the two countries. In a sense there is an absence of academic curiosity in both the countries towards each other. We have no ‘experts’ in India on Pakistan and likewise for Pakistan. Compare this with the experts that the USA and the former USSR had for each other during the cold war era. There were entire think-tanks dedicated to know about the ‘other’.
In case of India and Pakistan, both the countries live under the impression that they know each other. This emanates from the fact that the ‘other’ is, after all, a former aspect of the ‘self.’ India and  Pakistan are politically so far apart, but, geographically and culturally so close that there is no room for an epistemic space between them. This makes us believe that we know the ‘other’ too well.
One of the roles of education in the modern states in the world is imparting a sense of national identity. The children are indoctrinated via history to have a ‘nationalist’ character. So history as taught in the schools takes the burden of nation building than any other subject that is taught. One of the roles of history to arouse the interest of the young in the past and to inculcate a respect for it is sidelined in modern day India and Pakistan. Whatever debates that are present in India and Pakistan on the teaching of history are political and not pedagogic. The pedagogic uses and role of the subject of history has been given up for the more important role of history as tool for nation building.
Why the modern history?
The author choose to concentrate on the modern history of the sub-continent. The ‘modern’ is meant to connote here the era from 1857 to the freedom and formation of the two nation identities in 1947. The older history of the sub-continent is more controversial in the sense that the views that are portrayed by the history as taught in the two nations are radically different. ‘Invaders’ in India are seen as ‘heroes’ in Pakistan. No wonder that even the modern history of the two nations is subject to the bias of the respective countries.
What most people and more importantly the young children don’t realise that there is always another view of the history, through which the now familiar events look totally alien to us. When we come across such histories there is a sense of  jamais vu involved. Suddenly the things so well known to us are entirely changed in terms of the perspectives. Also the events that we think are important with respect to the history that we are taught, would be trivial in some other histories.
 Modern history has greater potential to for engaging children in activities connected with the study of the social sciences than the history of other periods has. So this has the potential to establish the modern period as a subject matter for advanced studies. It will help promote a better understanding between India and Pakistan by helping readers in both countries to grasp how a common recent past is looked by the other.
In this case the researcher being an Indian the impartiality of the researcher demanded great self restraint and imagination on the part of the researcher. Unknowingly the researcher would be biased in forming the opinions which are so ‘clear and simple’ for us. So one of the major objectives of this study is to examine the rival ideologies of nationalism into which schools attempt to socialize the young. Another objective being a probe into the politics of history writing as a means to understand the contribution that schooling makes to the Indo-Pak conflict.
Many things that come out of this study are interesting and I was surely taken aback by some of them. The familiarity that we have with the events of the past is lost when we take the `other’ perspective into account. The study was based on the sample of textbooks taken from both the countries.  The Pakistani text books that formed the part of the study were both privately published and published by the various state boards. The regional variation in the text books of Pakistan was found to be much less than than in India. The Indian sample consisted of the books by various state boards, ICSE and NCERT and CBSE.
The Challenge of The Past
In this section we discuss the cognitive challenge that teaching history at school might present to children. Before coming to the school the children have some tacit knowledge about the past. By primary socialization it is meant the induction of the child in the society. When the children are introduced in the society they are taught the customs, practices and norms of the society that they are going to be a part of. During this a certain amount of knowledge is essentially passed on to the children, which helps them form an identity for themselves in the contemporary society that they are a part of. So by the time children go to school they have acquired the basic deeper imprint of membership of a society as an outcome of primary socialization.
The school thus gets a child with the basic notions already formed, and these are very difficult to change in the school. The school has no option but to work with the personality of the child thus formed. The schools are seen as instruments of cultivating loyal citizens. And in the secondary socialization the children are socialized into an ‘approved’ past. This ‘approval’ is from the state. Also the difference between the awareness and knowledge is quite often blurred for the children. For example consider the statement
India gained independence from the British rule on 15th August 1947.
Now just to ‘know’ this information as a matter of fact is quite different from having a deeper knowledge about the notions of independence, rule etc. Almost all people know this, but how many of them can actually understand the meaning of a sentence like this, when it is translated in terms of the events, people and the circumstances that were present at that point of time. Events which occured in the past require us to appreciate the circumstances, values and choices that shaped the people who were involved
 To analyze historical events we need to go into a time frame without being completely submerged in it. By this it is meant that we have to see the ‘past’ in terms of the ‘past’. We should not cannot impose the contemporary beliefs, thoughts and values on the people and the events of the past, because if we do that we might loose the view that the people of the past had. Thus the cognitive challenge that history presents is certainly great and it requires much more processing on the part of the learner who is presented with the facts of the history. For in history each event has to be seen in dual mode:
  1. The given event as the outcome of the events preceding it.
  2. The given event as the cause of events following it.
Thus for example when we see the rebellion of 1857, we have to see it in the light of the events that caused it, and at the same time we also have to see it in the light of the events that it caused. How we see a particular event would strongly depend on what framework of history we already we have. The most natural way for us to see any event is to fit it in the framework that we already possess. Also anomalies, if any, are usually ‘interpreted’ in a way to fit the framework. Changing the framework itself is very difficult even for the adults and I guess almost impossible for the children. For example if we are told that ‘Gandhi was not at all important for the freedom from the British,’ then how are we going to react? We have been always ‘told’ that this is so, so we believe it. The point that I want to make here is not just about the role of Gandhi’s involvement in the freedom struggle, but rather just to give the reader a taste of what change in the framework could result in.
Coming back to the two positions that a reader in history has to take into account, cognitively what is requirement for making such conjectures? This requires on the part of the children the capacity of  reversibility. The reversibility as defined here is the reversibility of the Piagetian tasks. Piaget places the ability of the reversibility in the concrete operational period of his framework of cognitive development.
One of the ways in which the reversibility can manifest in the children is reversibility of thought.
The children thus have two main difficulties that they face when they are learning history in the school. One of them is cognitive and the other is sociological plus cognitive. The impact of culture upon the image of the past that we have is tremendous, and this is particularly true for children. A child can be often presented with a version of history as a part of primary socialization, which is not the one which is ‘approved’ by the state. The popular social memory both in India and Pakistan about the events in the past shapes the framework of the children, according to which they try to make sense of the facts presented to them later. In this case it will directly conflict with the knowledge that is presented in the school. For example if a child is told at the home that ‘Great unjustice was done only to Hindus during the partition’, then this is certainly going to conflict with the ‘approved’ version of the history being taught at the school. This is what I call the sociological plus cognitive problem that the children face. How can something be true and also be non-true at the same time? This I guess is not only a problem with children but also [more] with adults. The notion that there is only one truth, and that is what I believe in, the rest are propaganda’s seem to fit the right wing frameworks present in both the countries. The very idea of reality can be seen in a different light is not acceptable to most of us. Why? Because we don’t want to be in a world where we cannot understand something that is not the part of our standard framework.
The other major problem that the children face is cognitive. This relates to the fact that how much the teaching of history at school attunes itself to the cognitive levels of the children. As we have seen the interpretation of historical events requires a notion of reversibility on the part of the learner, how many text books address this fact, or even take into account this. As in India so in Pakistan the role of history as a subject is seen more as a subject to be passed than anything else. The pattern of rote learning the subject without understanding the complexities of the issues involved, seems to be the idea of  doing history in both the countries. More emphasis is on the ‘knowledge’ part than on ‘awareness’ of the subject at hand.
Also as far as the ‘good’ careers are concerned the subject of history is taken over by more fruitful subjects of mathematics and sciences. So history is just seen as an auxiliary subject which has to be passed, and which can be passed without understanding, because it is not going to help you in the future to secure a ‘good’ career.
Frames of Popular Perception
In this section as title suggests we will focus on the frames of perception by which the general population forms a framework so as to understand the past. For this we have to understand the notion of  the ‘other’. What is meant by the ‘other’? In both India and Pakistan the past is intertwined with the current and evolving perceptions of the ‘other.’ Our own national identities are seen in the frames of perception by hinting at the ‘other’. Each side has something of the other in it. Each country presents a strong case of dependence on the ‘other’ for defining itself. Thus question can be raised that ‘If Pakistan is an Islamic state how can India be a secular one?’ For if India were a truly pluralist society there would not be any need for Pakistan. We see that India’s portrayal as a ‘secular’ society as opposed to an ‘Islamic’ one in Pakistan is exactly this. We need to contrast ‘our’ nation with ‘their’ so as to prove our identity.
I liked this part of the book very much. It really shakes you and your perception about the past. So what this essentially means is that there is a Pakistan which we Indians may not have the epistemic means to fathom and same is true for a resident of Pakistan for India. It really provides you with a clue of how hard it is to let go the perceptions we already have. As for the case in Pakistan education there has succeeded in dissociating partition from its painful violent reality and has in turn converted it into an achievement for all Pakistanis. The very idea that India does not accept Pakistan’s existence and Pakistan poses no real challenge for India are the two sides of the same emotion. The point that is being made here is that do define the very concept of Pakistan as a nation in the past and in the current times, the perception of the ‘other’ is being taken into account.  Thus the national self awareness is also determined by reference to the  ‘other.’
For case of India the event of Partition is seen as an inevitable turn of events. While the current view of Pakistan is in terms of an active supporter of terrorism. Also due to the unstable democracy in Pakistan a view is that [I somehow liked it very much] ‘An army looking for a country’. Most of the Indian perception about Pakistan is derived from pre-partition memory and the wars that followed with Pakistan. Thus we see that the notion of the ‘other’ is interwined with our past as well as our present.
Ideology and Textbooks
The state in both the countries wants to present its ‘approved’ version of the history to children to inculcate in them the qualities of an ideal citizen of the given state. No wonder that the history as seen in the different frameworks will be different. In this approach the textbooks are instrumental, and this is a direct descendant of the colonial past. Under the British rule in the sub-continent the history was presented in a version that was ‘suitable’ for the administrators. In case of India the Kothari Commission showed willingness to turn nation building into an ideology and to see the education as a prime instrument to propagate it. In India there is a leftward tilt, with the political ideology being essentially modernist and progressive, while pedagogically it is conventional in character. Why this stark contrast in the philosophy and the pedagogy of the history being taught is the question that we want to ask. This is partly because it suits the state ideology so.
 In the case of Pakistan the urge to define and construct Pakistan as an Islamic nation occupies the central place in the system. The concern for national identity of Pakistan occupies form of an obsessive mission, for which ‘evidences’ are seen throughout the history of the modern era. Thus ideology is used in Pakistan to indicate a rationale for self identity.
  In India recent trends to ‘color’ the content have been started, against the official policy to propagate a secular version of the nation. The colonial past gives a common heritage to both the countries in terms of the central control over what is taught and how it is evaluated. In both the countries the prescribed textbooks form the de facto curriculum. Questions like
In what way did the revolt of 1857 influence the nationalists during the struggle for freedom?
  which do appear in exams relate to the fact that there is a way in which the revolt influenced the nationalists and this is the way which you are supposed to know and write about. Does this not destroy the notion of history itself, for the facts themselves can  be evaluated in terms of framework you see them in.
  I cannot help here but to bring from the philosophy of science the notion of ‘theory ladenness of data.’  This is one of the factors which led to the downfall of the Logical Positivists, in the late half of 20th century. What this essentially means is that whatever observations that we have, can be interpreted by us only in the terms of the theory that we are working with. This is something which you cannot do away with. The Logical Positivists on the other hand believed in the exactly opposite thing. They thought that the observations presented an objective truth which can be evaluated without any reference to theories. But this I guess is a normative position than a descriptive one as regards to the science. This view is obsolete in the philosophy of science and now philosophers do believe in the theory ladenness of data. More cannot be said to be true about the subject of history itself. Though it took some time for the philosophers of science to realize, this has been always the case with history. The notion that science is objective in terms of the outlook,  unlike history was abandoned.
  Here I cannot but restrain myself from giving example from George Orwell’s 1984, where in Ministry of Truth’s dictum says:
 
Who control the past, controls the future.
  Who control the present, controls the past.
Is this not what our governments are doing? The more I think about this more I am convinced that our present state has the form of the Orwellian state. Where in the past is rewritten so as the state is always right. The difference being that our textbooks were written once and have been propagating the same stories since then. Is not the state trying to control the future, in terms of the citizens that are being made by the education that is imparted to them. This I guess is the Nehruvian vision, where the educated elite are supposed to keep out of politics. Politics in most of the ‘good’ families is seen as a ‘dirty’ game, where people from ‘good’ families should not get involved. But does not the history stand against evidence to the fact that almost all of the people who were involved in the freedom struggle were from ‘good’ families. During the freedom struggle it was a prestige to be involved politics, but what has changed in the years in between so that the roles are reversed. What the education has succeeded in doing in India, is to dissociate the learned elite from the actual political situation in the country. Is this not the state at work?
Rival Histories
Now we come to the main part of this work, the rival histories that the school children of the two countries are being presented with in the schools. The words and events which have a common meaning in one country have totally different in the other. The very word freedom has different meaning for both the countries, India ‘woken up,’ whereas Pakistan was ‘born.’ Here again I would like to borrow an idea from the philosophy of science; Kuhn’s idea of incommensurability. The basic idea is that different theories or paradigms can be hard or impossible to compare, in a properly unbiased way. Thus when we see the different events in modern history, in the two different paradigms of the two states, they no wonder appear to be entirely different. To say that one version is correct and another a distorted version of it, is to loose the whole point so what is being said here.
The memory of the struggle with the British has great memory for both of the newly born nation states of India and Pakistan. The emergence of the national identity forms a central theme in the histories of both the nations. For the consolidation of the nation state, this memory needs to be preserved and passed on to the next generation. Only then the nation state will be successful, otherwise be in demise. Thus the state itself works towards its own growth and welfare, just as The Party in 1984. This is done for the respective nations by recasting the record of their freedom struggle into a narrative for the young.
Hence we
have two prototypes of the same event, one which serves the interest of each nation state. Thus were born the two ‘master narratives’ for the two nation states. But the question is, should they be the same? In both the states the school historians take the ‘national’ and ‘approved’ stance on the past.
So what is the framework in which this evaluation is done in? In this work, three themes have been explored in the context of the material presented in the textbooks of the two nations.
  1. Politics of mention: By politics of mention it is meant the decision to include or exclude a particular name or event in the discourse of history. This in turn is directly influenced by larger process of identity building.
  2. Pacing of the end:Both the systems have a different pacing towards the end of the struggle. The aspect of story telling having many linkages to the politics involved, but it also has to do with nature of educational system, how it treats knowledge as a body of fact. More attention is given to the individual facts, rather than to the connections between them. Also there is a rapid movement between events, without ascertaining the causal relationships if any between the end.
  3. Conception of the end: Both the narratives come to a stop in 1947. The end point is conceptualized very differently in the two master narratives. For the Indian master narrative the freedom and partition is seen as a great achievement, along with terrible sense loss and sadness, and a sense of failure to subvert a conspiracy is embedded. Whereas in case of  Pakistan it is seen as a remarkable achievement, which is somewhat mitigated by a sense of injustice. For the Indian master narrative the history starts in ancient times and comes to an end in 1947. And in case of Pakistan, the ‘end’ marks formal beginning of the nation state called Pakistan. In fact the history of Pakistan starts from 1947.
Blurred Divergences
With the given animosity present between the two countries we would expect that the histories present in the textbooks would be mirror images of each other. But this is not the case, the two narratives are related but in a highly complex manner. Both the narratives follow a path which see to it that the events and persons mentioned the master plan of each. It is not that eminent personalities are portrayed as villians in the other history. Both focus on ‘high’ politics rather than social dynamics; decisions taken by eminent leaders and British administrators. The freedom struggle is treated as an allegory, composed for the purpose of reminding the young that they are inheritors of great storehouse values. One of the epistemological difference between the two versions is that the Pakistani version focuses more on ‘how’ was freedom achieved and the Indian narrative focuses on ‘why’ it had to take the form it did.
A Beginning Located
So what is the starting point in both the master narratives? Both the master narratives take the Rebellion of 1857 as a starting point of the route to freedom, which ends in 1947. The textbooks of both sides convey the impression that rebels were inspired by a dream of national independence. But the words such as ‘national’ or ‘nationalist’ are not qualified and are not cautioned against. The very fact that these notions do not apply in that era as they apply now is seem to have been forgotten by the writers on both the sides.  So we come to a question of whether there was there any ‘nationalism’ in the revolt of 1857? Most of the Indian writers answer this question positively, and see the revolt as the ‘first war of Indian independence.’ As of now there is not any clear consensus on the issue. One of the ironies that the revolt presents is that of the so called ‘rebels’ and the ‘educated Indians.’ Whereas the rebels are presented to be against the British, the reasons cited are political and religious, whereas the various religious and social reformers who were contemporaries of the same rebels are presented in an entirely different light. What is forgotten that the very reformers which have supposed to lay the seeds of the social enlightenment in India were very supporters of the British rule.


 Children [and I guess even most adults] are not allowed to realize that events of 1857 look remarkably different from different perspectives. In the Pakistani textbooks the events of 1857 have to be placed as the formal beginning of the master narrative. 1857 is seen as an attempt by the Muslim rulers to throw away the British rule and re-establish Mughal rule; attention is brought to the fact that Muslims as a community were willing to fight for rights and status. So who according to the narratives are the heroes of 1857? The Indian narrative answers in plural as
Mangal Pandey, Rani of Jhansi, Tatya Tope, Bahadur Shah Zafar, Nana Saheb. But in case of the Pakistani texts the discussion of 1857 is not elaborated much. For any elaborate discussion on 1857 would show that Muslims and Hindus were capable of fighting as an unified force, and this would certainly not fit in the master narrative of Pakistan. For Pakistani writers any pedagogic narrative should serve a dual role; it should describe how the colonial rule ended and should also explain how Pakistan came into being. So this represents a problem for the writers of ‘Pakistan Studies.’ The other dilemma is in the structure of the narrative itself. One of the key figures in the start of the Pakistani master narrative is Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan, who is presented as a ”great hero” and sided with the British during 1857. So how will Pakistani writer solve a dilemma like this:
 If it is a war of independence waged by the Muslims against the hated British foreigner, how can Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan, who sided with the British and condemned the native rising be presented to the students as “great hero” and “the greatest thinker of Pakistan?”
So what do we make of this?  The events in 1857 can be seen as a last convulsive movement of protest against the coming of west on the part of traditional India. Though the revolt did have great influence on the subsequent struggle, it is hard to say that it was in any logical way connected to this struggle. In both the narratives the scale of the violence that took place in the revolt remains vague. Why should be this so? This is an unanswered question.
 Both in character and content the topic of national character contrasts sharply with the revolt of 1857. The textbooks even at the lower classes attempt to convey to children a notion of the reform movements; terms like ‘tradition’, ‘progress’, and ‘reform’. But how much of this the children are cognitively capable of learning is a question. I guess even how many adults can understand these notions. For the Pakistani writers the aim is to impart the ability to ‘understand the Hindu and Muslim differences and the resultant need for Pakistan’. Whereas for the Indian writers the idea of secularism has to take root in the nineteenth century reformers. Hence they are said to be ‘deeply influenced by the ideas of rationalism and humanism and of human equality’.

We now take a look at the presentation of Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan in the two narratives. In the Pakistani master narrative he is the key figure post 1857 and most of the attention is on the Aligarh movement. The foundations of the Pakistani Master Narrative are established in this era. The categories ‘Hindus’ and ‘Muslims’ are constructed, with some stereotypes accommodating the master narrative. The ‘Hindus’ are given certain essential unalienable properties which are supposed to the part of their nature. They are supposed to be cruel, manipulative, unreliable.
The idea that there was a tacit understanding between the Hindus and British to undermine and rule the Muslims runs through the master narrative. Thus Muslims are seen as the oppressed lot who rose for themselves to create a separate state. Sayyid Ahmad Khan is presented in Pakistani textbooks as solitary person ahead of times; a great leader and a visionary and most importantly who introduced the idea of two nation theory. Though he is verbalized as a great man; he is a as a tool to stigmatize Congress. The connotations that Congress has are that it was a pure Hindu body, and it is used to stereotype Hindus as selfish and sectarian people.
In the Indian narrative on the other hand Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan he is just one of the many reformers that are present during that era. Three major themes of his work are covered in the the textbooks of both sides. They are:
  1. Conciliatory view of the British.
  2. Caution against representative democracy and Congress.
  3.  Institutional work to promote Western Education among the Muslims.
But only the last one is emphasized in the Indian textbooks, so that he becomes just one of many. The special status that is awarded to him in the Pakistani context is absent in the Indian context.
Tools that are required to read into the cultural awakening are not presented to the students. Even if somebody wants to understand the meaning of the terms involved there is no potion but to memorize.
When one reads the texts the unfortunate impression is given that Congress was set up in one day, with clear cut aim for the liberation of India from the British rule. Just as the anti-Hindu sentiments run throughout the Pakistani master narrative, the idea of ‘Divide and Rule’ by the British runs throughout the Indian master narrative. The partition of Bengal on the religious lines is an example of this. But in the Pakistani master narrative Jinnah’s participation in the Congress during the Bengal movement period is suppressed in the Pakistani texts as it does not fit their master narrative, in which Congress is a purely Hindu body and primarily anti-Muslim.
The formation of Muslim league is presented as if it was a natural outcome of the conditions present then. Since the Congress was a purely Hindu body, the Muslims were left with no political organization of their own. So to make the voice of the Muslims to be heard the formation of a Muslim political organization was the only alternative left. The Muslim League was formed as a result. The Muslim League thus steps out of history assuming the status of quasi-divine mechanism that Muslims of India always needed. The formation of the Muslim League is presented as culmination of social and political awakening of the Muslims. On the other hand in the Indian textbooks the creation of the Muslim League is seen as another version of the ‘Divide and Rule’ policy of the British. Thus we see that how one event viz. the formation of the Muslim League ‘fits’ properly in both the master narratives, which have their own agenda of reaching the summit in 1947.
Unity and Breakup [1916-1922]
Even though there were basic ideological differences present in the view points of Congress and the League some sort of communal harmony was present during the events leading to the Khilafat and the Non-Cooperation Movements. So we see now this era of harmony between the two political parties is portrayed in the two textbooks. It is at this juncture that Gandhi enters the political scene in the Indian narrative. As he became the leader of the national movement, the movement is transformed. The transformation of the movement was in terms of the class and the region of the people participating in the movement. Thus the movement became a mass movement due to arrival of Gandhi, and he is seen as a hero in the Indian context. Contrastingly in the Pakistani texts Gandhi is characterized as a ‘Hindu leader.’ The significance of Gandhi’s entry into politics is reduced significantly. The very fact that during this period the freedom of Pakistan depended so much on the freedom of India is oblivious to the writers [and hence to the readers] in Pakistan.
The Khilafat Movement
In the Indian context the Khilafat movement marks the high point of Hindu-Muslim unity. This incidence is always seen in a secular light, hence the triumph of secularism is seen as a guiding value of national movement. The Khilafat movement is to be seen as ‘golden opportunity for cementing Hindu-Muslim unity and bringing the Muslim masses into national movement‘.  On the other hand for Pakistani writers Khilafat along with Hijrat, is remarkable for the fact that Hindus and Muslims worked jointly for their success, but this could not continue because of `the hostile attitude of the Hindus toward Muslims became evident.‘ Also the idea of anti-Muslim sentiment runs throughout the narrative. This statement reveals this idea; `It is obvious that no Hindu could be seriously concerned with whether Khilafat was to survive or not.’ In the Pakistani texts the  Jinnah’s opposition to Khilafat movement is suppressed, as this would not fit the master narrative in the light of the later events. Maybe somebody should raise a question:  How can Quaid-e-Azam oppose the Khilafat movement which was so dear to the Muslims?
As far as the Pakistani narrative is concerned Gandhi is presented as a shrewd character who used the Khilafat movement for attaining his goals. The fact that Gandhi called off the Movement after the Chauri-Chaura incident is portrayed as a decisive moment in Muslims organizing themselves instead of looking for allies. Whereas in the Indian context Gandhi’s role is unique and has three broad dimensions:
  1. A mass leader.
  2. An imaginative strategist.
  3. A social reformer.
Gandhi is the superman of Indian politics, he can do no wrong. The status that Gandhi achieved remains a mystery, so do the reasons for choices he made. There is no way the readers can understand the political games that were played, in the era, as only facts without much interpretation is presented. As far as Gandhi is concerned in the Indian narrative, politician in him is left out; only Mahatma remains. One of the basic premise of Gandhian thought that substituted the value of loyalty to state by self imposed structure of moral behavior is not discussed. The withdrawal of the Non-cooperation gives us the side of Gandhi as a whimsical leader; the explanation. The instinct in the Indian master narrative is to present secularism as an innate value of Indian nationalist movement. This allows the Indian writers to present demand for Pakistan later as sudden and ahistorical an act of manoeuvre on the part of Jinnah and the British, which is seen as a part of the ‘Divide and Rule’ policy of the British empire.
After the mid 1920s after the withdrawal of the Khilafat movement the writers with difficult years to dwell on.   For the Indian narrative there are no dramatic events in this period. There was a lot of communal violence that took place during this period, which is ignored by both the sides. As the Pakistani narrative dwells on the characterization of the people on religious lines viz. Hindus and Muslims, the Indian narrative calls for characterization in terms of  ‘nationalist’ and ‘communalist’. The young are trained to regard ‘nationalism’ and ‘communalism’ as antonyms.Nationalist as ones who fought on behalf of all Indians; communalist as one who fought for their own communities.
Why is this done? Why is the violence sidelined in both the narratives? One of the basic argument given in this favor of is that children should not be exposed to violence. But is this a valid argument? The reason for not exposing the children perhaps lies in the nature of nation building role which schools and history textbooks are supposed to perform. This role demands filtering out of the record of communal violence from the narrative of the national movement to whatever extent possible. Why should be this so?
 In the Pakistani texts a key difference that is evident is in the portrayal of Congress. Congress is portrayed  as a single, cohesive, Hindu body, without any internal differences. The Hindu Mahasabha, which was the right wing political party of the Hindus is politically and ideologically merged with the Congress. This is done so that a Hindu Congress can be well targeted in the Pakistani master narrative.
The Nehru Report
The report prepared by Motilal Nehru, known as the Nehru report is passingly mentioned in the Indian textbooks. But this report is one of the milestones in the history of Pakistan. From what is found that in the earlier episodes of history there is a difference of perspectives and approach in the two master narratives, but in this case there is a total disagreement. This is seen as the last straw of Congress-Muslim relationship. Jinnah presented his fourteen point program in response to this report. Whereas this response by Jinnah is hailed by Pakistani texts, as a step towards the reality of a Muslim nation, in the Indian texts this response is seen as ‘communal’ in character. In fact in the Indian texts there is a tacit policy to give no significance to organized Muslim response at the  secondary level. To regard such demands as purely communal in nature, and to hold such ‘communal’ demands in sharp contrast to ‘national’ demands is to equal to thinking ahistorically. Then in such a framework of  ‘communal’ and ‘national’ where does the support that Khilafat movement got [which was purely religious] fit in? Clearly the Indian textbook writers are missing the point here. How can one movement be ‘communal’ and the other be ‘national’? This clearly shows it as attempt to evaluate a given event with variable standards so as to ‘fit’ the master narrative.
After the 1930s the common points of reference between the two narratives become scarce, and they diverge rapidly. The two narratives employ different persons and events which lead to the desired end. The Indian narrative becomes vary fast in this case, whereas the Pakistani one becomes very slow detailing events that lead to the formation of Pakistani nation state. At this point  how and why make the crucial difference between the orientations of the narratives.  After the naming of Pakistan occurred, Pakistani account finds adequate reasons to under emphasize or altogether ignore even major events afterwards. On the other hand in the Indian narrative the task is to celebrate the struggle and the triumph of the ‘secular’ inspiration; due to this political struggle of religious and other separatists is forgotten. Even the mention of the names of important separatists like Subhas Bose are passingly mentioned.
Since the ‘communal’ activities increased in the last decade, Indian historians have to race through this decade. But in the Pakistani narrative this is the decade worth discussing. In this decade the Indian textbooks mainly concentrate on the civil disobedience movement. And the discussion usually starts with Gandhi’s Dandi march. But the issues and conditions under which this act was done remain mysterious. What exactly Gandhi hoped to achieve by this and why did he do it are unanswered questions. What is presented in the texts is just the factual information about the march without explaining the deeper meaning associated with it. Most of the Indian texts suppress the fact that civil disobedience did not attract the Muslim participation. Also worth noticing is the fact that reference to the Round Table Conferences and  Poona Pact are meagre. The Indian historians looking at the events in the decade with a secular lens, fail to even mention the communal divide amongst the various sections in India. The reader is thus left unaware of the gravity of the communal problem present during this time. Still the image of all Indians, regardless of their religions, fighting against the British rule runs through the narrative. This creates an epistemic shock when demand for a separate Muslim state is made in the 1940s and the demand seems unjustified and ad hoc.
In Pakistani texts the three main things that, have a different focus than the Indian texts are.
  1. Focus on Iqbal’s Allahabad speech.
  2. Lack of emphasis on Civil Disobedience.
  3. Importance given to all three round table conferences.
And the key issue for the Pakistani texts remains the Congress’s refusal to acknowledge the minority problem. This struggle is presented in many texts as the struggle between the Father of Nation on the Indian side and Quaid-e-Azam on the other:
Gandhi insisted that there was only one nation India which were Hindus. But Quaid-e-Azam replied that Indian Muslims were also a separate nation of India which had its own interests.

Thus we see that the facts are once again presented in a way so as to fit the master narratives, leaving out the things that do not fit in, emphasizing only the aspects that do fit in the narrative.
The Government of India Act [1935]
Texts of both the countries mention the main provisions of this Act, in which regional governments were setup, in the different provinces, with the majority being in the hands of Congress. In the Indian texts little is said about the Congress being in power; the era presents no inspiring events for the reader. In the Pakistani texts the results of the election are portrayed as a shock to the League, and which saw a gloomy future for the Muslims if a democracy is setup in India. The Muslims due to smaller numbers will have no say in the government so formed democratically. This brought the Muslim league to the ground reality,  also led the transformation of Jinnah from idealist to political realist.
During this era the Congress governments did some works, which is very sketchily or not mentioned at all. One of the works that Congress governments introduced was the Gandhi’s Wardha scheme for educational reforms. This is not mentioned or elaborated in the Indian texts. But contrastingly in the Pakistani texts this is one of key issues to be discussed. But why should just some educational reforms, that too at the school level should be worth discussing, when other major events are not discussed?
One of the key features of the Gandhi’s Wardha Scheme was the use of child’s mother tongue as a medim of instruction. Particularly in the United Provinces this meant that  the traditional education in urdu to be replaced by that one in hindi. This scheme was seen as an alternative to bookish education. But in the implementation of the scheme many things happened which no body anticipated. The song of vande mataram was supposed to be sung by all school children, which is considered as anti-muslim in nature. Also in every school portraits of Gandhi were placed, which further made muslims irate. And finally the school were to be called vidya mandirs which means a temple of education, but this was very provocative for the muslims. The Muslims saw this scheme as a means to destroy their religion, by aiming at their children. Thus if the children are targeted and taken away from Islam, there would be no next generation of Muslims left in the country. This was a grand plot eliminate muslims forever. The interesting point to be noted is that, Gandhi had deliberately left out religious instructions in this scheme. But the things went the other way.
The contrast between the two texts sharpens as we enter the last phase of the struggle. Quit India movement is the major event in the early 1940s in the Indian narrative, whereas Lahore resolution is the major event in the Pakistani master narrative. The Quit India movement gives the Indian school historian a perfect material to dwell upon and write about in the master narrative. All the key elements of the narrative are present: adventure, heroism, moral struggle and determination. The movement is portrayed as the ultimate patriotic adventure with no trace of politics. The INA follows the Quit India and maybe seen as a continuation of the same. The differences between Subhas Bose and Gandhi are not highlighted. In case of the Pakistani master narrative Lahore resolution is the master narrative, whereas Quit India presented as detached, uninspiring story. The Muslim League is shown to have attained clarity and cohesiveness due to its bitter experience with Congress. The fact that League would push for independence not only from the British but also from Hindus, is seen as unavoidable.  The Pakistani authors appear to be gripped at this juncture by the urge to trace and retrace the familiar record of past references to Hindu-Muslim differences and the idea of partition. The names like Lajpat Rai and Savarkar appear along with Syed Ahmad Khan and Iqbal in context of the idea of partition. Here the Congress is represented as a cohesive Hindu body aimed at destroying the Muslims.
The Cabinet Mission is mentioned, which was supposed to but what it meant or why it failed is hardly explained. The Congress-League relations in this era are not emphasized, while the Cabinet Mission plan is trivialized. In the Indian texts the structuring is around the anxiety to explain why the congress accepted partition. A feeling is created that partition was not completely inevitable but was allowed to take place. Now since the secular nationalism is a superior force, its proponents accepting proposal of division based on religious lines calls for an explanation. A distinction is made between the ‘acceptance’ of an impending course of events and the ‘acceptance’ of the inspiration that this impending course of events was based on. The second part consists of mitigating the scale of success which morally inferior idea of communalism achieved by forcing Partition. ‘The Nationalist leaders agreed to Partition of India in order to avoid the large scale blood bath that the communal riots threatened. But they did not accept the two nation theory.’ Thus Partition is seen as an outcome of circumstances, not as the failure of Congress’s ideology.
In the Pakistani narrative this is the peak of the narrative, the accomplishment of Partition is ascribed to Jinnah. Jinnah is portrayed as semi-divine visionary who succeeded against all odds in getting what he wanted. But the irony about the portrayal of the freedom struggle is that instead of its portrayal as inevitable destiny, it is a product of political happenings. The Muslim League is ascribed the intention of not letting the Congress gets it way, despite the backing of British. Thus we find in both the narratives the British being targeted as being the conspirators with the ‘other.’ A deep mistrust of the ‘other’ along with the British is present in both the narratives.
Here again one finds that the violence and the human tragedies that followed after the partition is not elaborated at all. It does not find more than a few lines in both the master narratives. As with the violence of 1857 the violence and bloodshed is underplayed. There can be three reasons which can be said about why violence is so under represented in both the texts.
  1. Partition is merely one of the topics that has to be covered.
  2. Sanitization of the freedom struggle.
  3. History as presently conceptualized, is incapable of dealing with the violence and suffering.
Some Reflections

We see that the histories of India and Pakistan as represented in their school textbooks have a relation that is far away from simple. The two narratives are related in a complicated way, to understand which it is hard for us as members of the Indian sub-continent to come above and see. It would be very hard for people like us to realize that the history that has been presented to us is ‘biased’ in a way so as to fit the ‘accepted’ or the state approved version of the history. But to have this realization is hard and once you have it it is still harder to let it go. You then tend to ‘see’ every thing with suspicion, with a feeling that you are being indoctrinated into something by someone who is invisible. Then the conspiracy theories are abound. But this realization must come from within, it is hard to come from without.

As for the Indian and Pakistani narratives, I have found a nice analogy which fits both the narratives. If we visualize the path from 1857 to 1945 as a path leading to a mountain summit, we can easily accommodate both of the master narratives nicely. Thus we have the events of 1857 as the starting point from where both the narratives diverge, the paths of the summit are different. Towards the summit the paths take different turns and different events happen in each of the expedition. Some of these events are seen by the people who have taken the ‘other’ path some of them are not. So in a log of the two expeditions which are our master narratives the politics of mention is thus taken into account. Each expedition encounters in their route something that the ‘other’ does not. As for the final summit, when they reach there in 1947, the members of the expedition look past each other and they are looking in different directions as, we see the idea of freedom is different in both the countries.  Partition signifies end of history in India; in Pakistan it signifies birth.

Reference:
 Krishna Kumar
Prejudice and Pride
2003, Penguin
PS: For a very dramatic account of the events leading to the freedom of India and Pakistan, and the violence that followed afterwards I would recommend
Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre. Also for the events of 1857, fictional but highly readable account is Manohar Malgaonkar’s The Devil’s Wind. 

Passport Blues…

The Passport Adventure
Finally the day arrived that I applied for the passport.
This was pending from a long time literally, [6 years to be precise!]. The preparation for this grand event began about two weeks before.
The first thing that we did was to look at the list of the required documents. Sorry boss, no ration cards, electricity or telephone bills or election IDs at the present address. What do I do?
Oh yes, there was one ray of hope for people like us, who are abandoned by the government in terms of our identity. The list read thus:

Proof of address (attach one of the following): 

Applicant’s ration card, certificate from Employer of reputed companies on letter head, water /telephone /electricity bill/statement of running bank account/Income Tax Assessment Order /Election Commission ID card, Gas connection Bill, Spouse’s passport copy, parent’s passport copy in case of minors.

This is from the Passport Department’s website here [italics mine]. Well I has these two, so I was happy. 
The other major thing was proof of date of birth. The website reads thus:

Proof of Date of Birth (attach one of the following): 

Birth certificate issued by a Municipal Authority or district office of the Registrar of Births & Deaths;

Date of birth certificate from the school last attended by the applicant or any other recognized educational institution; or an Affidavit sworn before a Magistrate/Notary stating date/place of birth as per the specimen in ANNEXURE ‘A’ by illiterate or semi-illiterate applicants. 

Well this I had the SSC mark sheet has date of birth.
Also I had to get these two Annexure B and I. Well I got the Annerxure B thanks to our office administration. And Annexure I thanks to a security guy in the office whose brother did the job. Took the photosof passport size [3.5 cm x 3.5 cm] also they have come okay [I guess]. As compared to other photos of mine. 🙂
Also for the ECNR stamp, I was required to show that I was at least 10th pass. So I decided to give the highest one that I have got viz. M.Sc. mark sheet; one of the two achievements of my entire life, the other one being my selection at HBC.

Well then compiled the other documents. The list of documents to be submitted read thus:

1 Proof of Address
Residence proof from the office
Statement of Bank Account
2 Date of Birth Proof
SSC Mark Sheet
3 Annexure B [Office ID Proof]
4 Anexure I [Standard Affidavit]
5 M.Sc. Marksheet for ECNR
Thus we were ready!
Then we filled out the form on the website, which gave us an ‘appointment’ for the application. The date was fixed on 9th April 2008 [Tai’s Birthday] and the time was 11:30 am. This is what the website reads:

Please visit Passport office on the appointed date and time. You should arrive at RPO about 15 minutes before the appointed time and proceed to the respective counter. On line applicants do not need to obtain a  token number for submitting their applications. You will not have to wait long in the queue. 
Well the last line brought a BIG smile to me. Such a care taken at a government office; I was impressed.
Another good news was waiting for me, we could also submit the form at Chembur so that we don’t have to go all the way to Prabha Devi to just submit the forms. The address of the above office was taken from the Mumbai Police Helpline number 1090, where the attendant was surprisingly very helpful. No irony intended here. I mean it. The guy on the other side of the phone was really helpful. I wish everybody in the Government office [at least the PROs] were like him.
I was the happiest being in the universe. 
So the fateful day arrived, we had done everything else except one minor detail of actually filling up the form, of whatever columns was left. We thought of doing this the night before, but Mishraji went to sleep when I was going to the office. So it was decided that we fill up the forms in the morning at 8:30 am, and go to the office in Chembur at about 10, as opposed to 11 suggested by Mishraji.
Had our breakfast and went on the Wind Wolf. Well the address that Mishraji and I had was in exactly opposite directions; so total confusion about where to go. 
First we went to the office behind the fine arts society building. But this was a mistake the Passport accepting office was at the other end in Chembur colony. So went there. There were very few people in line there, but why should we worry we had an appointment at 11:30 and we were early for it, for it was just 10:25 !
When we went inquiring we were directed to a lady who was checking the forms. Yess! We were finally there, my six year old dream of getting a passport or at least the first step towards it seemed to be coming true. 
I told the lady that we had an appointment even though she ws checking some forms. 
But, then, किंतू, परंतू, लेकिन …..
Well this was the end of the dream run that we have had so far…
The lady on the desk in told me in a way characteristic of a a government office person:
अाम्ही ईथे रोज फक्त ३० फॉर्म घेतो. ३० टोकन दिलेले अाहे, तर तुम्ही ऊद्या या, अाज तुमचा फॉर्म घेता येणार नाही. 
Meaning that: ”Everyday we take here only 30 forms only. For today 30 tokens have already been given, so we cannot accept your form.”

But how can this be? I tried to argue that we had an appointment, and were not supposed to stand in any line or take any tokens! But she would not budge and told us that the website appointment did not have any relevance. WTF! 
I mean, I could not believe it. How can a government website be so misleading. Even then I did not loose my cool, I kept on insisting on the word ‘appointment’, so be it she must have thought. Then she told us that if you  want to avail the appointment you will have to go to Prabha Devi head office. When I asked her about how to go there, she was staring towards me in disbelief. Huh, this guy wants to go there?
Anyway without receiving much help from her I went out and met some constables who directed me towards the Prabha Devi Passport head office, which was after Siddhi Vinayak. Well if this is how it is supposed to be, then let it be. Today I had to submit this form.
We still had about 50 minutes to reach there, I estimated that we could reach there in about 35-40 minutes, which was correct. When in the old office at 11:15 so we had a sigh of relief. But this was also short lived. We were told that passport submission happened in Bengal Chemical Bhavan, which was nearby. How much nearby he did not specify. Anyway we found it was really nearby. 
Hmm, spirits were high again, we can finally make up for the appointment at 11:30. Well here I felt more than happy when I saw a long line of people with passport forms in their hand. We laughed at them. Idiots. In this age of internet how could be there fools who were applying directly, waiting for tokens, uggghhh, I was seeing dumb people. With smart asses like us, who were net and tech savvy, we can really be ahead of the rest of the tech haves-not! Ha ha ha ha….
At the end of the line we were greeted by a security guard. Who asked us
क्या काम है?
We with our chest held high told that we have an appointment and we had to submit our forms. So far so good. Then he spoke some pearls of wisdom for us:
अॉनलईन अपॉईंटमेंट का कोई मतलब नहीं. ये लाईन में लगे हुऐ सभी लोगों का अपॉईंटमेंट है. लाईन में लग जाईए, अापका अपॉईंटमेंट भी हो जाएगा.
Ha ha ha, I did not know what to do, neither Mishraji had any idea. This was one of those moments if I had a bulldozer, I would have razed the entire building. Talking to the guard was like talking to a wall. It was not his fault, he was just doing what he was told to. Then whose fault is it? Did the people at NIC made a typo [or several] while making the website? Anyways these questions for me would be like enduring questions for time to come…
Now we ran towards the end of the line, here again a few people were added since we went past it. So we were left at end of a very long line. There we came to know that we were not alone in being fooled by the online submission’s claim of 

You will not have to wait long in the queue.
The sun was laughing down on us. All of us fools who were standing in the queue for the appointment. People around me were relating how they fell for this just like us. Also taking the government machinery for its lethargy and stubbornness. Anyway we were pacing forward at one tenth of snail’s pace. The only aim was to get inside the hall and we thought that all our troubles would get solved in a jiffy. Anyway till 12:45 we got in the hall and…
There was a total chaos in there. We were supposed to go to the 8 number counter. The queues for different counters did start differently but as they grew long, in the end all merged into a mass of people, who barely knew which line was where. One by one the people were leaving and we were progressing in the queue. 
Some of us did panic, as there were boards around saying that acceptance of forms and fees will be only till 12:30. But then someone told us that it is till 5:00 pm. Now all this standing in queue in the sun was showing up. I had not had water in the morning and was feeling really thirsty. The only cooler in the room was not working. But there was another escape root. There was a CCD counter. We ate some sandwiches and shakes which made us feel better. Meanwhile Mishraji had ventured outside and got us a water bottle which was not available at the CCD counter. [Note: Always carry a water bottle whenever you are outside in Mumbai, the thirst might just kill you!].
Till the lunch time we got really close to the chairs. Chairs the all important chairs. Never in my entire life I have craved for one, the way I was craving for it then. We were just one number away from the chairs when the Lunch Time was commenced. Not good will have to stand at least half hour more, without seating. Taking a clue from another person who was sitting merrily on the floor I decided to do the same. What a relief it was!
At last the lunch time got over and our man was back at the place where we all wanted him to be. Well he had become really charged when he had returned. He quickly send out a lot many of them and we finally did have a space to sit!
Some people from the pre-lunch session returned, whom our guy had send running for various things. One of the guys in blue shirt was really made to run and sweat. He was with his wife and mother I guess. But in the end much later he had his work done. 
Well but all this ate upon our waiting time in the queue. So when we were just a few people away the entire thing came to a standstill at least for us.
 
I was loosing all the energy to fight or otherwise. The bottle of water was a precious resort, which we both were banking upon. Just then Mishraji realized that he had not attached ‘two self attested copies of all the documents’ he had only one! In a hurry he went outside, and got the copies. Phew! That was a close one.
Well I noticed another thing, I had not brought the original bank passbook only the copies. Bad. So my short list of documentary evidences was further shortened. I hope that this does not create a problem, so I decide not to attach it.
Finally we were there, at the counter; where they take the forms to give the passport
When I presented him with the documents, he asks me
काय अॅडरेस प्रुफ लावले अाहे?
[What address proof have you attached?]
I explained to him that the office had given me a letter as a proof of residence which fitted in the categories given on the website. He said in plain words:
हे चालणार नाही.
[This is not good enough, it is not acceptable.]
When we insisted we were sent to see a साहेब at the 19 number counter. Mishraji followed the same as we both had evidences. We went to the officer concerned, who was in argument with someone over a passport which was lost.
Finally he had some time for us. He had a look at us and our evidences and asked 
तुम्ही स्टुडंट अाहे, अाणि गव्हरमेंट सरव्हंट पण?
[You are both students and government servants?]
Then I explained to him that I was doing my Ph.D., he assumed the same for Mishraji. Then he finally gave a nod for us and said our evidences are okay. So after thanking him we ran back to8 number counter, where our man was sitting doing others jobs. We told him that the officer has given the nod. Then he asks 
मग त्यांना, please accept, असे लिहायला सांगा.
[Ask him to give in written that this is acceptable.]
We went back to the officer and he duly wrote 
GS + Student and Annx B on our forms with a green ink.
So finally we were back at the 8 number counter. The queue which was  behind us was getting shorter and shorter with more and more people being disposed off. When we went back, he was not happy even after that with the documentary evidences. So he went all the way down to some other guy at counter 10, ad asked him advice about our ‘complicated case’. Well he asked what other documentary evidence did we have. I told him that I have Institute ID, PAN card and Bank pass book copy but I forgot to bring the original passbook. He looked not very happy. He asked me other non-relevant questions like 
तुम्ही काय काम करता? PhD चा विषय काय? Stipend भेटतो का? किती भेटतो? ितथे काय entrance असते का? पारपत्र कशाला हवं?
[What work do you do? What is the subject of your PhD? Do you get a stipend? How much? Is there an entrance to get into the institute? What do you need passport for?]
Then after much deliberation he finally nodded. And asked us to get the copies of the ID, PAN card and we were done. I hurried to Hall number 2, where there was a Xerox facility on a Canon copier. 
Anyway after the copying, I came back and Mishraji was no where to be found. He apparently went all the way out to get copies not knowing that there was a copier in hall number 2. Poor guy.
When I went back to the counter, the guy at the counter told me to come after everybody else’s thing got over. As ours was a ‘complicated case’. It was about 4:30 So we had to wait for 10 more minutes, when finally Mishraji appeared all sweating. And we finally got to submit the documents. We had to make two sets of all the documents ready, which we did. 
Then he asks for a proof of place of birth. Well this was not mentioned anywhere. Any way he also gave a solution for that, that we write a note which claimed that we were indeed born in the places we said we were born. And that was it. Good!
Finally after last scrutiny he affixed stamp on it and I had to sign it. And I proceeded to give the fees 1000 INR. But Mishraji had a problem, he had not attached two copies of the Annexure I or the affidavit. Well I also had not….
Then came back to the person and told him, that I also do not have two copies of the affidavit. He was surely pissed off on me and angry too, but it was all my fault. Okay he had to remove staples and give me the affidavit back. We almost ran back to hall number 2 and got the affidavits copied and ran back to hall number 1. 
Well finally we submitted the form and stood in the line to give the fees. Well at the fee counter if you were paying by 500 or 1000 denomination notes you had to write their numbers. Well we did that and the lady at the counter asked me what was my subject of MSc, when I replied physics she commented physics is hard. Well I never knew doing MSc in physics would come useful in this way. So when I paid the cash I finally thought it was over, but destiny had other plans….
And O remembered this line from Bombay [sorry Mumbai] Boys…
अभी खत्म नहीं हुअा च्युत्ये…
The lady at the cash counter told me that I had not filled the form completely!! Both me and the gentleman at the counter were taken aback. What I had not filled was that the witnesses for my testimony at the home address, in one of the copies of the form.
The guy almost invited me to fill the form in a satirical way. When I did fill it, it was finally over this time.
The guy at the counter told me only due to stamp of TIFR that he had entertained me… 
Well so far so good. 
I hope that there won’t be any further adventures left for me.
And now I am waiting for my passport to come…
P.S. My passport has finally arrived on Friday 15th May 2008 in HBCSE. Unfortunately me being in Pune will have to collect the passport on Monday. Now for the facts the passport did arrive in a record 36 days, 9 days before the scheduled date of 45 days. Thanks to all the officials who were involved. The Indian bureaucracy has large inertia, so that it takes a large time to get it going, but when it does it does get going.
Ciao
🙂