Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Gay N' Straight

Bless them all, gay & straight

From The Statesman
ND Batra

‘We must recognise that many gay and lesbian couples in New Jersey are in committed relationships and deserve the same benefits and rights as every other family in this state,” said Governor Jon Corzine of New Jersey at last week’s Bill-signing ceremony that legalises civil unions between same-sex couples.
Last October, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a directive that gay couples be given the same rights as hetrosexual married couples, whatever the lawmakers might call such a coupling, civil union or marriage.
The biblically minded Americans believe that their children should never crouch toward Sodom and Gomorrah. And contrary to scientific evidence, many Americans consider homosexuality to be a cultivated lifestyle and wistfully think that one could be weaned away or deprogrammed out of it.Every year, schools witness fierce battles between parents and teachers as to what kind of books children should read, which sometime triggers the banning of books related to homosexuality.
Homophobia has led to violence and killing of the innocent, though in public discourse it is politically incorrect to talk about gays in derogatory terms. When the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirmed its earlier decision in February, 2004 that gays have the legal right to say “I do, I do… for richer or poorer… till death do us part,” many Bostonians went crazy. And when the Massachusetts legislators met in a constitutional convention to consider how best to nullify the divisive ruling of the highest court, hundreds of people milled around the Statehouse in Boston, some carrying placards, others shouting slogans and chanting: “Hey, hey, ho, ho/Homophobia got to go; Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve; One Man, One Woman; Equality Now.” It sounded like the beginning of another civil war.
Nothing has divided the American people so painfully since the question of slavery as the issue of what to do with “the queer” amongst them, gays and lesbians, who have been outing themselves in hordes and getting into their faces everywhere, in television sitcoms, school textbooks, magazine covers, dance floors and legislatures. Although Americans by and large oppose gay marriages, they are inclined to accept civil unions for same sex couples that would grant them the same rights as heterosexuals have.
My home state, Vermont, was the first state to recognise civil unions for same sex couples but only after the state’s highest court ruled that gays were being deprived of the constitutionally guaranteed equal rights, and directed the state legislature to eliminate the discrimination against gays.
The Vermont highest court did not rule on marriage; rather it ruled on equal rights for all citizens, which included healthcare benefits, inheritance, separation, and other rights that go with marriage.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court went to the extreme and challenged the very definition of marriage: If marriage is essentially a union of hearts, commitment between a couple, it could be between Evelyn and Steven or Even and Steven; therefore, the concomitant rights and obligation of such a commitment must be respected.
But that’s not what the Bible says. That’s what the Constitution says.
It is only in the mass media that you see the USA as a homogeneous country.
In reality, the USA is one nation divided by diverse cultures, creeds, colour and lifestyles. Massachusetts’ legislators failed in passing an amendment that would have banned gay marriages. Fearing the tide of gay unions, 38 states have passed laws that recognise only heterosexual marriages. So what would happen to a Massachusetts gay, married couple, let’s say with adopted children, when they move to a no-gay marriage state?
The state of union today is no different from what was before the civil war when in some states slavery was legal and in other states, illegal. No politician who seeks a public office can duck the question of gay marriage. Many favour the civil union route to solve the thorny problem. President George W Bush, a devout Christian, has said unequivocally that marriage is between a man and woman but he got no support for a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriages.Nonetheless, a 1996 federal law defines marriage between a man and a woman, which means that a gay partner won’t be able to collect social security benefits from the federal government after the death of the partner.
The best solution may be to eliminate the word marriage from the American lingua franca and replace it with civil union for all whether gay or straight. Eliminate husband and wife and replace them with spouse. The priest should say: Now I pronounce you spouse and spouse. Now you may kiss the spouse, blah, blah. Words have unstable meanings in the digital age. They change, they die, and they are born again.
Occasionally, I see advertisements in my local newspaper that run like this: A husband (handyman) for a day at a reasonable hourly rate. Wife (sewing woman) wanted, good salary and benefits. Living together and having children out of wedlock used to be considered an unpardonable sin (Consider Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter) but it is now so commonplace that wife and girlfriend or husband and boyfriend have become interchangeable.A recent survey said that 85 per cent Americans, both men and women, admit to having pre-marital sex.
The USA is indeed a melting pot; but of what? Confusion worst confounded. Nonetheless, I would say, this is the best country to live in, the shining city on the hill.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Think digitally, act globally

From The Statesman
ND Batra

For most businesses, the best digital strategy is to look for an innovative technology, an idea or a business method that creates something new, a cyber-niche that never existed before, and establish market dominance, as long as possible or until another one appears and makes it obsolete.
But a company doesn’t have to be innovative all the time; instead it could troll the digital world and adopt innovations. This is one of the reasons that US companies are offshoring their businesses abroad because offshoring captures unutilised brainpower.Remember: brainpower has no nationality in the borderless world.

You can pick anyone’s brain anywhere, if you can pay for it. If we network the world’s best brains, the rate of innovation would increase dramatically.But it also means that the rate of obsolescence too would increase, leading to a prolonged state of turbulence. Turbulence could be a source of self-renewal or self-destruction.

File sharing in creative expression, for example, in music recording, has been generating turbulence that has necessitated new business models, such as iTune on iPod and so on.The Internet is challenging old thinking and old methods of doing business. Businesses, however, flourish in a stable environment. Whatever one might say about Microsoft Corp monopoly practices, its operating system, Windows and now Vista, has provided a universal standard and created operational stability.

But sometimes an innovative application could be replaced with a substitute without adverse effects or disruption. For example, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer overtook Netscape browser, Navigator, which had reached a critical mass.In the digital age, technological innovations have a short life span. Google’s innovations might dispatch Microsoft to the dustbin of history one day. China’s software companies might soon eat India’s lunch. In the digital age, Bangalore cannot afford to take a nap.

Bangalore and Microsoft must ceaselessly innovate or perish.

Global digital connectivity and the marketplace are the primary forces breeding today’s innovations. The Internet has transformed the world’s economy from an industrial to a information economy in a span of one generation. Gordon Moore predicted that every 18 months, computing power will double at constant cost and his law has surprisingly held its sway.

The same has been true of the bandwidth, which is becoming faster and cheaper, giving rise to myriad opportunities, for example, electronic trading marketplace, in which split seconds count, as The Wall Street Journal recently reported in a front page story (“Firms Seek Edge Through Speed As Computer Trading Expands”) enabling traders to make millions by the end of the day.Miniaturisation and speed have gone hand in hand with the power of networks, whose value increases dramatically with each additional node.

From automobiles to public buildings, from cardiac pacemakers to battlefields, inexpensive digitisation has begun to penetrate everything. Whatever is digitised could be networked and shared and enhanced. In theory, every human activity can be digitally designed and built with an Internet connection, which would make every entity that is network-connected both as a consumer and a supplier of information. The global supply-chain system of information would become an inexhaustible source of value-added information. Networked databases are capable of profiling potential customers as well as terrorists. Offshoring not only reduces transaction costs but also generates new ideas and applications.

Core and the ring ~ a dynamic and stable core of senior executives and a fluid and flexible ring of contractual employees, such as outsourced contractors or offshored workers ~ is the emerging shape of a modern global business. And from this point of view, a modern global corporation has become a complex system of international relationships, both cultural and diplomatic, with business partners and customers digitally spread.It is not that the brick and stone aspect is no longer important; nonetheless, it is the rule of the digital. That’s the future.Smart global corporations are always trawling for newer applications and knowhow to use them before anyone else does.That’s how they go from incremental to exponential change.

But this is not the first time that a killer application is changing the world fundamentally into a networked world, a world of collaboration.Networking first began when telegraph reached a critical mass in 1843, making possible the rise of the Associated Press, the first network of collaborative information gathering and distribution, which eventually led to US and Western domination on information, the way we see the world and ourselves. But not all killer applications have the same impact on society.

Chinese invented the moveable clay and metal type printing press in 1041 with little social consequences for the Chinese society. But when a German craftsman Johannes Gutenberg re-invented the movable type printing press in 1436-1440 and published the Bible in 1452, he couldn’t have predicted the unintended consequences.In the hands of Martin Luther, printing became a killer application, which he used with devastating effect against the Church and unleashed Protestant Reformation that led to prolonged civil strife in many European nations; and the beginning of Renaissance, and some would say, the age of the European colonisation. Printing and telegraph, from our standards, were slow.

Digitisation transforms whatever it touches at the speed of light.

Here’s an unpardonable, sinful and sinning, digital afterthought: God must be: Binary, Zero-One, She-He, Ying-Yang; not the One and Only One.In the binary world, there’s no clash of civilisations.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Digital Future

You can’t hide in the digital world

ND Batra
From The Statesman

It is a transparent world. You can neither hide nor run.
When jobs could be moved from one digital hub to another, one never knows where the axe might fall. Or who might run away with company secrets.
Since most office workers use the Internet and communicate via e-mail, companies are watching closely how their employees use the office electronic resources, including what they save on their laptops or access through their BlackBerrys.
Several court decisions regarding workplace privacy indicate that in the USA employees have few privacy rights over their e-mail if it is stored in the company’s system. Employers no doubt have legitimate concerns especially regarding the confidentiality of their trade secrets; on-going contractual negotiations; pornography and messages exchanged among employees that might lead to legal liabilities for the company; and whistle-blowing and other activities that may affect the reputation of the company.
These concerns are not new but the speed with which transactions are done on the Internet has created a state of perpetual paranoia. Frequently, employees also visit popular sports websites to check scores and also do online shopping and stock trading. Many of them keep chatline or instant messaging service open while doing other work.
Some multi-tasking in the workplace has always been there but the Web has created new opportunities and now it is becoming a common occurrence. With continuous restructuring and layoffs, many working people keep networking and looking for new job opportunities. Companies are watching who is applying for jobs and if anyone is trying to cross over to a competitor, he should not expect his boss to be merciful. Ironically, as offline and online worlds collide and converge, workers do not regard the office as a place of work only.
Nor is the home exclusively for the family. If a person is expected to carry his office on laptop to his home, why can’t he do his family chores in the office? The question can’t be ignored because the number of people who telecommute and have their home computers networked to their office server is increasing.
When home and office couple with each other, privacy ends for an employee. Putting employees into a digital straightjacket generates a coercive environment and might eventually adversely affect productivity. If monitoring is being done for measuring and evaluating efficiency, preventing fraud, protecting intellectual property and trade secrets, maintaining conducive workplace environment or whatever reason, the rationale must be explained to employees and the policy clearly laid out. Although courts favour employers at present, productivity depends on workers. We are slipping into a low-intensity surveillance society. Since 9/11 our sense of insecurity, both physical and economic, has increased manifold.
The American people are quietly submitting to whatever brings them a feeling of assuredness. Protests against intrusiveness by the government and businesses into our personal lives have become muted. Our computers know all about us and could tell tales.
Web bugs and other online surveillance devices are being increasingly used by businesses to track users when they surf their websites. Tracking is done unobtrusively and the user can never suspect that he is being watched; nonetheless, the practice is questionable, especially when the website does not declare in its privacy policy.
Advertisers surreptitiously place cookies, small software programs, on our hard drives to track where we surf so that they can customise the most appropriate advertising message for us to achieve target marketing, reaching the right person with right message. But web bugs are different. They can be programmed to collect whatever data is required without the knowledge of the user. For example a web bug can be programmed to look at a data file on a networked desktop without leaving a trace that data has been touched at all. When you look at your bank balance online, the web bug too could be monitoring it.
Some companies use web beacon, a single-pixel picture, to count and identify users. A web beacon can track whether a particular message, including junk mail, has been opened and acted upon or not. Any electronic image that is part of a web page, including a banner ad, can be programmed to act as a beacon and spy on the user.
Companies claim that the information enables them to personalise the surfing experience when a frequent user visits their portal, but they assure us that no personally identifiable information gathered from the beacon research is shared with the clients. Surveillance technologies are not limited to the Net. Several companies are using biometrics, face recognition, radio frequency and global positioning system (GPS) technologies, to keep a watch on their properties and track suspects. Many car rental companies in the USA use GPS to keep track of their rental cars. If a car is stolen or is involved in an accident, the company would know the exact location of the car. GPS also enables them to check the speed of a rental car.
I see the future now.
Along with our baggage, we too might have to wear radio-frequency ID tags so that we can be monitored as we move from one airport to another, from country to country via GPS. It may not enhance security, but it surely is going to be multi-billion dollar business. The security marketplace may determine how much freedom we would enjoy in the digital future.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Wal-Mart's Indian Diplomacy

Wal-Mart comes wearing Bharti sari
ND Batra
From The Statesman

I was buttonholed the other day: If China is not afraid of Wal-Mart, why should India be? Irrational fear; may be, of another East India company setting foot on India?

When small things aggregate, they bring about great changes. The world’s biggest retail giant, Wal-Mart sells almost everything and at the lowest prices, providing low and middle-class people affordable access to goods which would have been otherwise beyond their monthly budgets.

Small entrepreneurs are the backbone of the Indian economy and they need to be exposed to the challenges of globalization and organizational innovations of Reliance, the Tata group and the Aditya Birla group, Bharti-Wal-Mart, Carrefour (consider its plan for opening an environmentally-friendly green supermarket in Beijing in 2008), and others. Fortunately due to the burgeoning middle-class unafraid of using credit cards, the retail space in India is expanding rapidly and giant retail stores like Wal-Mart would partly grow from within in joint ventures and some would come with FDI in different forms and shapes.

If India’s $250-300 billion retail market grows at the same rate as India’s GDP (8-9 %) modern retailing must emerge to satisfy the demand of the growing middle class. The government allows 51 % foreign direct investment (FDI) to companies that sell goods through single-branded stores. Through its Bharti franchise, Wal-Mart has found another passage to India and opened doors for other international companies. India is not only “a huge organic growth market for Wal-Mart,” but also a fast growing outsourcing market, with expected $1.6 billion merchandise export to Wal-Mart’ stores this year. But that is nothing what Wal-Mart buys from China, ($28 billion according to some estimates), and has created myriad entrepreneurial opportunities by establishing a most modern supply chain system. That could happen in India too.

There is a genuine apprehension that small shopkeepers and intermediaries would be adversely affected by the arrival of the global retailer, as it has happened in many places in the United States where many mom-and-pop corner stores have shuttered down and others are struggling to survive. “The High Cost of Low Price,” a documentary by Robert Greenwald showed the seamy side of the retail giant, including the denial of health coverage to employees, exploitative wages for women and the elderly, ethnic and gender discrimination and many other not so legal practices, for which ultimately the taxpayer bears the burden.

The Indian Left should focus its attention on not only how Wal-Mart treats its employees but also whether India could be another outsourcing hub for the hungry global giant with 2000 worldwide stores, including 66 in China (plus another chain of 100 Trust-Mart stores it plans to buy for a $1 billion deal). The retailer is able to do so by buying massive quantities from inshore and offshore sources and hiring people at low wages, mostly women, and that may be of some concern to Left political leaders in India. In the long run such business practices of global companies may have greater impact upon the world than terrorism and natural disasters. As Nelson Liechtenstein, professor of US labor history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, wrote in the Globalist, “Wal-Mart rezones our cities, determines the real minimum wage, channels capital throughout the world — and conducts a kind of international diplomacy with a score of nations.”

In the United States it keeps overheads low by hiring mostly female workers at wages much less generous than it pays to its male employees. In 2001, six women sued Wal-Mart for discrimination. Six women snowballed into more than a million current and former women employees who in a class-action suit charged that Wal-Mart paid less and gave fewer promotions to women than to male employees.

In the land of presumed equality, that was a serious accusation and had become a public relations disaster. And the U.S. District Court Judge Martin J. Jenkins found that the plaintiffs did “present largely uncontested descriptive statistics which show that women working in Wal-Mart stores are paid less than men in every region, that pay disparities exist in most job categories, that the salary gap widens over time for men and women hired into the same jobs at the same time, that women take longer to enter management position, and that the higher one looks in the organization, the lower the percentage of women.”

Gender and race-based discrimination is an unacceptable practice in American society; and that’s how it should be in India, whenever a foreign company is allowed to do business.

This is however not the first gender-discrimination class-action suit against corporate America. Home Depot, Texaco, Coca-Cola, Public Super Markets and many others were hit with class-action suits for discriminatory employment practices and paid millions of dollars in settlement.

Legal and humanitarian precedents set in the United States should be followed whenever Wal-Mart and other multinationals come to India, where local companies too should have no choice but to offer competitive opportunities to their female employees at par with what they offer to males, which should another benefit of globalization. These should be the terms that political leaders offer to Wal-Mart (which should be more than wearing an Indian sari and bindi on the forehead) wanting to do business in India.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Chinese bull in an Indian shop

Chinese visit was just sweet nothings

From The Statesman

By ND Batra

President Hu Jintao’s repeated statement during his four day visit that India and China were “partners for mutual benefits,” rather than “rivals or competitors” was nothing more than what a year and half ago Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s had said at the conclusion of his visit: “India and China are partners, and they are not rivals. We do not look upon each other as adversaries.”

It seems both leaders received the same expert diplomatic advice: Stick to the message. And the message: Exchange of diplomatic platitudes to advance China’s business interests. In diplomatic terms, judge China by what China does, not by what it says. Look at the Chinese activities in Pakistan, an all-weather friend ~ from financing the building of a deep seaport, Gwadar, at the gateway to oil-rich Middle East to its overt and covert contribution for developing nuclear energy and weapons; investing and building road links with Bangladesh; and its surveillance station in Myanmar’s Coco Islands. Myanmar like North Korea has become heavily dependent upon China for trade and diplomatic support.

Nor should it have gone unnoticed China’s non-committal support for India’s efforts to access civilian nuclear fuel through Nuclear Supplier Group. President Hu’s vague official statement that “China does not seek any selfish gains in South Asia and is ready to play a constructive role in promoting peace,” has no constructive and operational meanings. China would like its presence to be felt in the Indian subcontinent. India might put up a brave face and assert that it has transcended the feelings of betrayal and humiliation when China attacked in 1962, but it does not have a definitive answer to the question whether Chinese intentions have changed. China is still holding a large chunk of territory in Kashmir, 38,000 sq km (14,670 sq miles) of Aksai Chin, which it seized after the 1962 blatant aggression, and claims more. Just before the visit it re-asserted its claim upon the entire state of Arunachal Pradesh. Another 5,180 sq km (2,000 sq miles) of northern Kashmir was given by Pakistan to Beijing as a bridal price for an all-weather friendship pact signed in 1963.

China had already built a road through Aksai Chin linking Tibet with its Xinjiang province before it laid an aggressive claim on it. Now it seeks a diplomatic solution by keeping silent over the border problem. During the eagerly visited by a Chinese President in ten years, border problems were hardly discussed. So India might eventually be persuaded under the pressure of future benefits of trade to give up its claim on Aksai Chin in lieu of India keeping what is already an integral part of the country, Arunachal Pradesh. That’s what Prime Minister Zhou Enlai said after the post-1962 aggression that India should accept “the present actualities”.

So it is back to the future with the same old Chinese argument: You may claim Aksai Chin, but we control it. China has not withdrawn other claims it makes on Indian territories. India has to create new bargaining chips in dealing with China. Trade and technological cooperation could continue to grow as they have been doing in the past few years even without a final resolution of the border dispute, though much is being made of India-China trade relations. If China is now India’s second-largest trading partner, after the USA, with a bilateral trade of $20 billion, it shows how small is India’s total foreign trade in comparison with that of China.

What does India export to China? Mostly iron ore, raw material for its construction industry and other semi-finished goods in exchange for electronics and high value added manufactured goods, which are hurting small manufacturers. China sells value-added goods to India, much as the British did during colonial times. What would India sell to China to increase to the two-way trade to $40 billion by 2010? At the current state of affairs, it would be an unequal trade relation. With its future trade surpluses, China might become a moneylender to India as it is to the United States.

It is important however to acknowledge that trade helps create jobs and reduce tension in international relations, but raising the expectations high to the level of “strategic and cooperative partnership” is not only ridiculous but also dangerous. A free trade agreement with China at present would be counter productive because it would give it an unlimited access to Indian market, which would cripple Indian manufacturers, as it has done in the United States. While the United States is a complex and dynamic economy and creates alternative jobs to replace the ones lost to Chinese manufacturing, India cannot follow the US example. As is being noticed that India is competing with China for energy, scarce raw materials, intellectual property, and outsourcing. While there are possibilities of cooperation, the competition between the two unequal countries is getting tougher.

China would cooperate with India only when it cannot compete and beat India. India’s cooperative and strategic relationship with the United States, Britain, Germany, France and other European countries ranging from fighting terrorism and the security of the Indian Ocean to sophisticated technology sharing (including nuclear energy) and building a knowledge society is far more important than another round of hype about India-China partnership. When American and European political leaders visit India, they come with business plans. Their smiles and handshakes are meaningful. Just watch what happens during the visit of a most high-powered Business Development Mission, led by Under Secretary for International Trade, Frank L. Lavin, currently touring India.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Look at China, again

China: A global role model?

ND Batra
From The Statesman

President Hu Jintao of China is visiting the Indian subcontinent this week to bolster trade ties with India as well as re-establish balance of power between India and Pakistan by offering the latter, according to reports, nuclear energy deals.

China has been growing at the rate of more than 9 percent for the past two decades or so, and is expected to become an economic and military heavy weight in the coming decades. Since the authoritarian rule has not held back China from growing at a phenomenal rate, it is legitimate to ask: How could they do so much in such a short time without freedom and civil liberties?
Even Vietnam, growing at more than 8 percent, has begun to follow the Chinese model.

May be Francis Fukuyama should revise his thesis which he prematurely delivered soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union: “What we are witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or a passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”

Rather too soon, I am afraid, the end of communism brought about a sense of complacency, a grand illusion as if it were the final triumph of freedom. Of course that did not happen. It did not happen in Russia after the Soviet Union disintegrated; and it did not happen in China in spite of 1989 Tiananman Square pro-democracy protests; and in spite of rapid economic growth and broadening prosperity under state controlled national mercantilism. China has no doubt ceased to be an imminent threat since its economic growth has become increasingly tied up with search for energy and other raw materials, foreign direct investment, and exports, especially to the United States.

Today China, ironically, is the United States’ biggest foreign lender; and so, unsurprisingly, human rights have ceased to be an issue in the United States-China relations. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker-elect of the House of Representatives, has been a great critic of China’s violation of human rights and unfair trade practices. But now that Democrats control both the Senate and the House, it has to be seen how far Speaker Pelosi would let her grandmotherly compassionate idealism be compromised by international realities of Chinese economic clout.

Recently when China said it might diversify its foreign exchange holdings, lo and behold, dollar began to slip. The dollar regained its dignity only when China assured that it had no intention of diversifying its dollar holdings in the United States. China holds $1 trillion in foreign currency reserves (a substantial portion in the US) and it is growing $20 billion annually, thanks to its export driven economy and controlled currency value, which some call as currency manipulation.

Between the United Sates and Saudi Arabia and other seemingly pro-American Muslim-Arab countries in the region, where fundamentalism has been holding a long sway, human rights and freedom were seldom an issue. After the 2001 terrorists attacks, the United States bonded with Pakistan using financial and military ties to make it an ally against the Taliban and Al-Qaida terrorism. And to maintain its relations with Pakistan, the United States soft peddled the issue of even the black-marketing of nuclear technology by one of the world’s most notorious scientists, AQ Khan. Military rules the land, albeit partially. “Jihadis” flourish.

Pakistan is not a failed state, but it is in a state of failure. It cannot govern itself alone. The United States has not given up the realpolitik of cosying up with authoritarian regimes regardless of its messianic fervour of spreading freedom universally.

The rhetoric of freedom and liberty seems to be a posture of public diplomacy for winning the hearts and minds of the Arab-Muslim world, but it is not working. Bush earnestly believes that the United States would remain vulnerable to terrorism so long tyranny and hate ideology prevailed abroad and for which, according to him, there’s no other solution except to expand freedom.

“The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world,” said Bush long ago, at the beginning of his second term; and so much has changed since then. But an Arab/Muslim might say, look at China, where 1.3 billion people work day and night to churn out goods for the entire world without much fuss about freedom. Bush dare not tell China, democratise or else, because China is America’s major moneylender.
One day China would say: Dollar or us (Yuan).

With Iraq in mind, Bush has no doubt been steadfast in his rhetoric that the US “has accepted obligations that are difficult to fulfill, and would be dishonorable to abandon.” Earlier elections in Afghanistan and the Palestinian Authority raised some hope that eventually elections and sharing of power in Iraq too might bring about the beginning of law and order in Iraq, but it hasn’t happened. Freedom to vote is not enough because it does not mean the end of violence, poverty and unemployment, which provide a fertile ground for more terrorism.

Many countries, from South-East Asia to Africa, look up to China for aid and trade and as a working model, rather than the United States. That is the biggest challenge for the US diplomacy today, and may be for India too.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Bush's Legacy

Bush can’t be a lame duck

From The Statesman
By ND Batra

The US mid-term election has swept Democrats into power both in the House and the Senate raising hopes that the excesses of the Bush administration, which to a great extent arose out of the events of 9/11, would be corrected.

The election was in fact a serious scrutiny if not a referendum on Bush whether the President’s policy of keeping the course was meeting the policy goals of bringing peace, if not Jeffersonian democracy, to Iraq, without the US troops getting bogged down for long. Recognising that a seismic shift has taken place in the political landscape, Bush withdrew his unflinching support for his embattled Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld and discarded him like a worn- out horseshoe.

Only weeks before the elections Bush had asserted that the guy was doing a fine job and the country could not do without him, which was nothing but whistling in the dark. He knew which way the wind was blowing and had to change the course. Seeing the gentle but determined face of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, the presumptive Democratic House Speaker, rising as an apparition over his presidential legacy, Bush quickly realised that sticking to the old rhetoric might be part of the problem, and so he put up a new façade of sweet reasonableness and cooperation with Democrats. That’s what makes Bush a deft politician. He is the prime political mover in the country.

The speedy removal of Rumsfeld, who had become a metaphor for whatever went wrong with Iraq, made it easy for Democrats to come to the table and has opened the doors for bipartisan negotiations not only about how best to bring about disengagement in Iraq but also about other contentious domestic issues such as immigration, taxes, healthcare, education, climate change, and China.

Democrats too have begun to realise that the overwhelming electoral victory, which few of them were expecting to the extent they achieved, would make them vulnerable if they failed to make strategic use of their newly attained political power. During the election campaign they had much to complain about but offered few new policy alternatives including on Iraq.

Now that they have power both in the Senate and the House, Democrats have two choices. They could spend the next two years in investigating the failure of pre-war intelligence (WMD) and how the Bush administration conducted the war in Iraq that has led to deeper and unmanageable troubles. Or they could sit with Republicans and the President to find a workable solution how to stabilise Iraq and bring about gradual withdrawal without damaging the US long-term interest in the region. Last spring Congress established a bipartisan committee, The Iraq Study Group, headed by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton of Indiana to work out recommendations for ending sectarian violence and insurgency in Iraq and enabling the US troops to return home.

The group’s recommendations, which are expected to be available by the time the new Democrat-led Congress assumes office in January, would provide a focal point for the White House and Democrats to work together on Iraq.

Democrats don’t have much time before they begin the process of putting their own agenda for the next two years to cement their control over Congress as well as prepare for winning the White House in 2008. Indications are that they would eschew vindictive politics and try to win the hearts and minds of the people so that the next occupant of the White House is a Democrat. They know that most of the voters in the mid-term elections voted against Bush’s conduct of Iraq war rather than in favour of Democrats’ alternative, which they had none to offer. Iraq would play as much a significant role in the 2008 presidential election as it has done in the mid-term elections.

No one believes that Iraq, Afghanistan or terrorism would go away soon, which means that Democrats whether they control Congress or the White House or both in 2008 would have to deal with the international situation, even when they claim that the mess was created by the Bush administration.

In the next two years both Democrats and Republicans, whatever policy issue they contest, whether it is domestic or foreign, would share every failure or success, as it is meant to be according to the system of checks and balances of a divided government. 9/11 diminished freedom in the United States and opened space for President Bush to exercise immense political power during the past six years. He had many successes and made many mistakes, but now it is a question of consolidating the gains in Afghanistan and Iraq, and preserving his legacy; his legacy of going where no one had gone before: into the face of terrorism.

Only the British, and perhaps Indians, understand what terrorism is.

It might be politically unthinkable that Bush would let Vice-President Dick Cheney go at this stage, as he did in the case of Rumsfeld, but it would be wise to turn his Vice-President into a lame duck by letting him remain out of sight for the next two years.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

The re-education of GI Joe

Re-educating GI Joe
How should the US Military educate GI Joe so that he fits into the new global environment of terrorism on the one hand and multiculturalism on the other?

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Podcast:Hello America

America Needs New Diplomacy

Most of the US news media including all its notorious investigative reporters silently went along with the idea of WMD. 9/11 had dumbed the American power of contrarian thinking, the ultimate source of its vitality.

Click here for podcast.
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Saturday, November 4, 2006

A Tagore's Poem: Ami

Ami (Myself)

Written by Tagore on 29 May 1936 at Santiniketan (where the Poet’s University Visva Bharati situates)

Translator: Rajat Das Gupta
E-mail: rajarch@cal3.vsnl.net.in

[Translator’s Note: Whether matter is dependent on mind or it is the other way, will ever remain man’s enigma. Tagore had inclination for the former. His difference of opinion with Einstein on this question made history in metaphysics. However, Tagore had a conviction that the Creation comprises a Universal Mind which manifests itself through every individual human being as his’ ego’ with which we perceive Creation. That Creation would be inane without this ‘ego’, has been marvelously upheld in this poem, not as a fundamentalist’s dogma, but with a poet’s deep love and piety for the marvels of Creation around us.

The apprehension haunts the Poet if this ‘ego’ will be wiped out one day by some stellar disaster. The following media (The Hindu) news on the 8th Aug. 2K was quite reassuring that this human ‘ego’ will have an escape route even if the Earth will go to hell –
{“Nine new planets have been discovered orbiting a distant star , bringing the number of known planets outside our solar system to 51 and raising prospects that alien life may be found to exist. The discovery, announced at a major astronomy conference in Manchester, England, includes only the second solar system to be found outside our own. Astronomers now believe that planetary systems may be relatively common throughout the galaxy, and that some might be eventually capable of supporting human colonists. The planets orbit a bright star, slightly smaller than the Sun which lies in the constellation Vela. The system was found by a team led by Prof. Michel Mayor from the Geneva observatory, who studied ‘wobbles’ in the star caused by the planets’ gravitational pull. “We’re now at a stage where we are finding planets faster than we can investigate them and write up results”, said Dr. Geoffrey Marcy of the Berkeley team. “Planet hunting has morphed from the marvelous to the mundane”}

Before the ink of this gratifying news was dry, the following news in ‘The Statesman’ of 6 September, 2K passed a shiver down the spine of Mankind –{Asteroid just misses Earth: The Earth had a cosmic near miss with an asteroid half a kilometer wide. Had it hit this planet, a fourth of the human population could have wiped out, say scientists.}

So, are we back to square one as regards the Poet’s apprehension about the doom of human ‘ego’?]

With my senses’ hues
Emerald as green I muse
And the coral as red;
As my sight I spread
The sky is luminous
East to West with light glorious;
To rose I said, “Bonny is thee”
And so did she be!
Esoteric it is, you’d say;
Words of a poet, nay.
I’d say, “’tis truth and poetry so;
For the mankind, my ego;
On which canvas
The Creator’s artistry does pass.
The hermit breaths “no, no, no;
Mere myths are these that go;
No emerald, no coral, no light, no rose,
Neither ‘you’ nor ‘me’ should you suppose.”

On the other hand, He the Infinite
Self divulges in His delight;
Within ‘I’, the Man’s confine
Light and shade combine –
Emotions to flare ,
Beguiles ‘nay’
Unwittingly, into ‘yea’;
In color and sketches
In emotional stretches
On weal and woe
As we go.

Call it not a conjecture;
My mind had the pleasure
To appear on the creative stage
Of the Universal ‘I’ of all age,
With brush in hand, color in pot,
My freaks to jot.

Says the erudite,
That ancient Moon, don’t slight;
Sly is its smile
Cruelly to beguile ;
A Death’s harbinger,
Stealing its crawl every hour
To the heart of this Earth
Since its birth;
For its final pull one day
To cast doomsday
To its oceans and mountains
And leave all lifeless remains.
In Eternity’s fresh book a zero to drop
Upon the mortal world’s flop.
The debits and credits of days and nights
Man’s all euphoria and blights;
All his feats grand
To lose feigned immortality , nowhere to stand,
All these his history no more to smack
Blotted by an eternal black;
The departing human eye
On last glimpse of color will sigh;
Will perceive his last emotion
While from this world passing on.

The cosmic energy’s play not to stint
Yet, a life’s spark never to hint;
The Artist’s finger will dance
No more a music to chance
In that court without a lute
A lone seat of the Absolute;
Without His poesy
Devoid of personality;
Left with the mathematics of Existence
Beauty nowhere to sense;
None to say, “Bonny is thee”
With admiration to see.

Will the Creator sit in meditation
Again over ages for incantation –
“Speak up, speak up, say thou art bonny
I love thee honey!”

Translation of a poem by Rabindranath Tagore (7 May 1861 AD – 7 August 1941 AD, Nobel Laureate of 1913 AD), adopted from author’s book of Tagore translation, THE ECLIPSED SUN

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Remembering Rabindra Nath Tagore

A few leaves from the letters/diaries of
Rabindra Nath Tagore

Nobel Laureate 1913

Translator’s foreword

Literature of Tagore along with his songs is a vast ocean with inexhaustible treasures in it where paramount aesthetics, spirituality, philosophical insight, cosmic perception etc. abound. Very reasonably, this should not be a benchmark to assess Tagore’s letters and diaries behind which there was no creative goal neither these were primarily for the public eye. Yet, the Poet’s sparkling wisdom in scores of these letters/diaries is worth sharing by us even to-day when they have hardly lost their relevance.

So far, about 4200 of the Poet’s letters both in Bengali and English have been classified, besides the numerous others lying in heaps in Visva Bharati. ‘Shayan’ is a bi-annual magazine running for last 8 years. The January-June ’03 issue is a compilation from Tagore’s letters and diaries. Stress has been given on the letters which voice the question, how should we survive in this genocide afflicted world, which process had a great upheaval in early 20th century and is snowballing alarmingly even to-day. No letter has been produced in full. Only their extracts have been presented which have been found serving the purpose of the book.

The editor of the magazine Mr. Pathik Basu has done this hard work with amazing dedication which has made these invaluable documents handy to us. One might opine, these documents, though originally meant for consumption at personal levels, their publication will give opportunity to all and sundry to have a glimpse of the Poet’s brilliant mind, though somewhat less than his creations purely with literary and aesthetic pursuits.

It is my pleasure to translate a few selected passages from Mr. Basu’s 343-page book, at his desire, into English, hoping these will reach worldwide across the narrow Bengali circle. Here follow a few samples.

August, 2003 RAJAT DAS GUPTA (rajarch@cal3.vsnl.net.in)

1) True picture of Europe

My tenure abroad is not yet over, but I am indeed impatient for this already. I am ashamed to confess – I am no more liking to linger on here. This is not a matter of pride, but it is a shortcoming in my nature.

When I look for its excuses, it seems, the image of Europe which glares our mind has evolved from reading her history and literature which is the ideal Europe. It is not obvious unless you have probed into their heart. On our stint here for 3 or 6 months or even 6 years we merely observe the external motions of the European civilization, with its mansions, big factories, various entertainment spots where people are moving around amidst great grandeur. It may be multifarious and even amazing, yet it brings the observer an exhaustion. The excitement of wonder does nor fulfil the heart but fritters the mind.

At last, I cannot help the thought – Well Man! Yours are the big cities, a vast country with unlimited treasures.. But no more evidences are required for that as enough is enough; now, only a return home will rescue me. There (at home) I know and understand all to savour humanity at once breaking through their outer shell. There I can enjoy, think and love easily. If I had a free passage to where the real man is, then even in a foreign country I would have seen my own men and the place would not appear to be alien. But here I see only the British, the foreigners. Whatever novel in their manners and new, strikes my eye, but the eternal remains veiled. That’s why we have mere acquaintance with them, but no camaraderie.

Here comes to my mind a fable. One clever jackal invited a wise crane for a feast. The crane saw at the invitation spot large dishes full of delicious sauces. After initial pleasantries, the jackal requested the crane to start the feast and at once started licking the dish. The crane with his long beak failed to lift anything to his mouth even repeatedly hitting the dish. At last he gave up and with his natural solemnity he sat in meditation by the side of the pond. The jackal once interrupted with his scoff, “Brother, why you are not eating? You have been given unnecessary trouble. My arrangements have not been up to your standard.”. Maybe the crane replied with modesty, “Ah no; your menu has been excellent, But due to my indisposition I have no appetite to-day.” Next day, on the crane’s invitation the jackal went to his place to find again arrangement of delicious foods but inside a long jar. It was tempting, but the jackal could not thrust his mouth inside the jar. The crane at once dipped his beak into it and engaged in eating. The jackal licked the outside of the pot and some waste straying here and there.

In our national feast the foreigners are similarly placed. The food is equally delicious for both, but the containers are different. If the British are the jackal, the pudding on their wide stretched bright silver dish are merely for our eye and we must return hungry. And if we are the meditative crane, the jackal cannot even see well what is there in our deep container. From far they have merely to smell its fragrance and go back.

Every nation’s past history and external manners are to their convenience, but is hindrance for other nations. So, though the English are apparently overt, but at our eye’s corner we merely glimpse an infinitesimal fraction of them, but it does not meet our appetite. International feast is possible only in case of literature. There neither the long beaked nor the long-tongued are deprived.

Be the logic obvious or not, I am tired of how-do-you-doing with the people here and also of my amazement while wandering the roads, visiting the theatres, shops, factories and even looking at the beautiful faces.

So I have determined to return home.

(From ‘Europe Tourist’s Diary’ – 6 Oct. 1890)

2) From Beauty to Machine

Once upon a time man said – Luxmi (Goddess of Wealth, also implies beauty) lives in trade. At that time the image of Luxmi comprised not merely her wealth, but beauty too. The reason is, at that time trade was not isolated from humanity. There was a harmony of mind of the weaver with his loom, the blacksmith’s with his hammer or any workman’s for that matter with his art. That is why, through trade man could ornate his heart to divulge it beautifully. Else, Luxmi would not get her seat on the lotus. When machine became the medium of trade, it lost its beauty. Comparison of old Venice with modern Manchester holds out this difference. In the beauty and wealth of Venice man has upheld himself in all respects. At Manchester man has dwarfed himself on the contrary to highlight his machine. That is why, wherever this machine based trade has gone it is spreading the epidemic of its own blight of ugliness, cruelty and greed around the world. So this endless rivalry and slaughter; so its untruth is staining the soil of this earth, muddying it with bloodshed.
[On board ss Tosamaru, on way to Japan – 1916 May]

3) Facts and Truth

If you look at the world, you will see, though ages are flowing over it, yet it is not decrepit – bright is the light in the sky, its azure immaculate, the earth has no penury, its greenery is un-blighted. Yet, when my observation is in fragments, I find flowers drooping, leaves drying and the twigs dying. The assault of senility and death is continuous all around; yet, the youth of the world is perennial. On facts I find wear and tear and death, but eternal life and youth on Truth. The very moment the treasures of the wood appear bankrupt in winter, the massive grandeur of spring floods the wilderness. If I try to hold on to weariness and mortality, they shed off their disguise to hold high the banner of life. What appears as senility from the rear, I find that as youth from the front. Had it not been so, this primordial world would infirm to its every bit and would collapse wherever I would step on.

This re-incarnation in every spring of the ever old as ever new in earthly Nature plays within human nature too. It is the vigour of life that perceives itself repeatedly through death. You lose perception of that eternal unless you miss it at intervals to get it anew.
[Written to Manoranjan Bandopadhaya, from Selaidah, 3 Febtuary, 1916]

4) East and West

Judicious people repeatedly forget that accomplishment lies in abundance of Sadhana (=Dedication). This milieu of Asadha (the first rainy month synchronizing with mid June-July period) sent this message. I want crop to fill my tummy. This small expectation shapes up as soon as green treasure from the rain drenched soil far overflows my trivial need. But even a fistful of alms is not available if the generosity of this treasure will not overflow this fist. In the trade of animation, this surplus is the object, however excessive. The austere cries down this excess with which, again, is the festivity of the poets. An assurance of surplus emboldens one to spend and that is why we aspire for a profit which is not to meet our excess consumption, but to embolden us for Anandam (=heavenly joy). More man’s chest measures, more is his accomplishment.

In the present age only in Europe I find this profit of animation is on the rise. That is why she had the world lit up with so much grandeur. In that light she is express in all directions. With paltry oil a single lamp serves domestic needs. But the full man remains obscure. This obscurity is external miserliness – to live less. This is fatigue of the human truth. In the animal world men are like the stars; the other animals simply live, without their existence illuminating. But, man is there not only for self-defence but for self-expression also, for which is needed a glowing soul. From abundance of our existence and its treasures, this glow evolves. At present, only Europe is radiating its glow in all directions. So, there, man is not merely living, but is existing much beyond that. With enough, you can defend yourself, with affluence you can open up your heart, In Europe, life is there in plenty.

I don’t regret this as wherever and whenever man accomplishes, it is a gratification for all anywhere for all time. Europe has reached the world over to-day with her affluence of life, knocking at the doors of all in slumber. Her influence is by her affluence.

Based on which truth Europe has reached all space and time.? Her science is that truth. Her science which has captured all areas of knowledge and come out victorious in all spheres of activities, is an enormous force. Here her demands have no end, neither their satiation. Last year, when returning from Europe, I got acquainted with a German young man coming to visit India with his young wife. Their object is to live for 2 years amidst some almost unknown tribes in Central India to study their life meticulously. For that they would even stake their lives. Man should know more about man and that knowledge does not halt at the threshold of the barbarous races. To compile thus all worth knowing with dedication with an unbiased mind has made man how much great, one knows on visit to Europe. With this force Europe has built up this Earth as man’s. The vigour Europe has applied to remove all impediments for man, would overwhelm us with its enormity had we been able to visualise it before us.

Just here, where Europe’s revelation is great, which may be the pride of mankind, she has another façade which is blind. Upanishada says, those saints who have achieved salvation (te sarbagam sarbato prapya dhira yuktatmnah sarbamebabshanti) gain the all pervasive Truth from all directions to integrate with their soul to have access in everything. Because Truth is all pervasive, it gives man such access. Science is opening up passages to Nature; but in to-day’s Europe there is a deficit of this Truth which blocks the way to mutual human souls. Europe has emerged as a peril for mankind worldwide with evasion of this soul. It is her own peril too.

In this very ship I met a French writer. He told me that after the war an obsession has overtaken the youth of Europe that there was a leakage in their ideal through which disaster has made its way in. In other words, they had slip from Truth which has been brought home at last.

Man’s world is heaven with the treasure of Truth which is not locked in space and time. Ceaselessly man is building this immortal world which is rooted at his intrepid aspirations. But as soon as smallness of man starts pilfering the elements to build the great, the calamity befalls. When the boundless power of human aspiration is channeled into narrow passages , the shores disintegrate and inundation of calamity is rampant. That is, when man’s boundless aspiration aims at his small selfish interest, all turmoil starts. Where his dedication is for all, there man’s aspiration is fulfilled. Gita calls this dedication as Yagna, which is the protection for the populace. The principle of this Yagna is selfless work, which will be neither feeble nor dwarf, but must not be expectation of fruit for self.

The pure dedication that Science has ushered in is for all country, all time and all men; so it has imbibed in man the power of God, to drive out all woe, penury and ailment from human family with its weaponry. The Viswakarma (God of Engineering) for creation of heaven for man is this Science. But when this very Science laboured to shape up man’s desire for fruit to an enormity , it became the Yama (God of Death). If man on this earth will annihilate, it will be for this reason – he knew Truth but not its use. He achieved divine power, but not divinity. In modern time that divine power is manifest in Europe. But has it been so for genocide? In the last war this very question has emerged stark. Europe has become a terror outside her boundaries, as evidenced throughout Asia and Africa. Europe has not come to us with her Science, but with her greed. So the blockade for manifestation of Europe within the heart of Asia. With impertinence of her Science, hubris of her power and her greed for wealth, for long Europe has cultivated this hassling of man all over the earth. When it boomeranged at her home she is anxious. She put others’ pasture on fire which has now caught on her wood. She is now wondering where to stop. Is it by halting her machinery? I don’t say so. But they have to halt their greed. Will it be achieved by religious sermons? That won’t be enough. Science also must complement it. The dedication which controls greed inwardly is of religion, but that which removes the external causes of it is of Science. These two combined, accomplish their dedications. Wisdom of science to-day awaits union with religion’s.

But why all these debates are labouring my head on my way to Java? The reason is, India’s erudition once went abroad. But those aliens had regarded it favourably. Tibet, Mongolia, Malayas, wherever India had preached her wisdom, had been through genuine human relations. To-day my pilgrimage is to witness those historical evidences of man’s holy access everywhere. Also to note is, that India of yore did not preach some cut and dried sermons, but inaugurated the inner treasure of man through architecture, sculpture, painting, music and literature, stamps of which remain in the deserts, woods, rocks, isles, rugged terrain and difficult resolves. It was not the mendicant’s psalm that bankrupts man to nudity, cripples his youth and dwarfs his instincts variously. It was not the message of the senile, but was full of life, vigour and youth.
[Java diary, July, 1927]

5) Wisdom above Science

I think, what deserves special attention in the book of Wells is not its esoteric, but the bent of his mind. It seems, they have woken up to a great shock – what to their complacence they took as infallible support, it does not take the load, they discover. This psychology of theirs is for us to ponder. In fact, in the religious history of man, more than the configuration of his religion, its ethos counts which leads to the path of truth. In the book of Wells, I peer that path through the garbage of Science piled up for a long time. It may be seen, man cannot be confined only in Science; through its refuses he makes an escape route. Is this not the greatest highlight of Religion as I find this endeavour of man in his various historical milieus?
(To Pramatha Chowdhury; Santiniketan: October, 1917)

6) My dedication in a genocide afflicted world


Man’s world is fast going topsy-turvy. I had great confidence in the Western civilization overlooking that meaning of civilization is increasingly becoming amazing skill in use of matter. We were ill at ease with our inhibition and apprehension about the deadly instinct behind it. This vampire is sitting right behind the pulpit in the college campuses and all eschatological, scientific, sociological and economical discourses, but their myriad babels just fail to touch this evil which is deepening its foundation. There seems to be no way out of its onslaughts without an end in sight. The impact of the despair it causes makes me think that a personal life has its own distinction, around which I may build up an aesthetic pattern where I may dominate, the helping agents will be the greenery around and frolic of the seasons. Will you call this self-centric? It is not exactly so; its centre is within that enormous, which remaining within all pollution, complexity and blights, transcends those for an omnipresence. You may call it mystic.
[To: Amiya Chakraborty- poet: 18 Sept. 1939]

7) Pleasure of Leisure

When I am in my community, I am afraid of leisure. Because, the community is a compact body. Any gap therein is a loophole. To fill that up we must have drinks, cards, chess and throw our weight about, else the time does not pass. That is, we don’t want the time but want to expel it.

But leisure is the throne of the Great. The Universe situates in endless leisure. Where Great exists, leisure is not porous there, but is packed fully and is deeply beauteous. Wherever the Great is missing, leisure is vacuous. The inhibition an unclad feels, so does one with leisure, that it is a vacuum, which we call inert laze. But for a true austere there is no scope for inhibition as his leisure is entirety, where there is no nudity.

It may be explained by an analogy of an essay and a song. In the former, wherever you pause you face vacuum. But in a song the pauses are full of music. In fact, more the music elongates, more leisurely are the words. The satiety of a singer lies in the gaps between his words, and that of a writer in swarming those.

We men of the society now on a voyage, for sometime have been able to turn our face towards the Universe. From the façade of Creation where there is scramble of many we have turned to the seat of One, to feel that this enormous leisure of the blue sky and sea is a pitcher of condensed Amritam (Immortality), which is full akin to the white light, a culmination of the myriad hues, so is this nectar of Immortality culminating many a mundane delicacy. So, to understand the truth of these multiples you have to understand that of Unity. Man has to bear the burden of the branch cut off a tree, but that remaining in the tree can itself take care of man. The ‘many’ severed from One are man’s burden, but those integral with One can give full shelter to man.

On one side this world is crowded with utilities and on the other with superfluity. The burden of the former we must bear and no dissent there stands, just as we must have the walls of our room. But all is not wall, there are windows here and there with which we maintain our intimacy with the sky. But, I find people among us who cannot stand those windows even. To seal those up they create non-issues like trash work, letters, meetings, lectures, exasperation et al. And this trash mushrooms. At home and outside, in our religiosity or amusements this trash dominates, whose function is to seal the windows.

But it was not supposed to be so, as you cannot get the Complete except through these gaps through which pass light and air. But light, air and sky are not creations of man so he is averse to accommodating those within society. So, whatever leisure is left after providing the utilities, he fills up with trash. Thus, man is solidifying his days and would similarly treat his nights too so far as he can. It is like the laws of the Calcutta Municipality under which all the ponds must be filled up with rubbish. Even attempts are there to choke the Ganges with jetties, bridges and ships. I remember my childhood Calcutta. The ponds were the companions of the sky. In those spots the heaven could step on the Earth to be hosted by those ponds on their seats of water.

The advantage of a utility is that it has a limit and cannot go astray. It permits 10 to 4 duty hour with festival holidays and Sundays; does not laugh out the night with electric light. Whatever it gives while our longevity runs down, has to be paid for in lucre, extravagance of which cannot be afforded.

But superfluity is devoid of a sense of balance. It dispels timeliness. It knocks at your door any time, during your leave hours and even to wake you up at night . Because it has no business, it is more busy than a workaholic (it seems the Poet here refers to the untimely fits of inspirations even at the dead of night which he used to pen down instantly before they will elude, but for which his superb creations would not be so enormous and varied).

Utilities can be quantified, the superfluities cannot. So this devil must occupy his immeasurable seat. It is difficult to push him out from there and we pine for a vagrancy.

Anyway, as soon as I have been out, I realized that there is no credit in frantically denying that with this vast world our relation is of Anandam (heavenly joy). Here there is no scramble neither chock-a-bloc, yet everything is full to the brim, that mirrors my image. The words ‘I am here’ get fragmented and deformed amidst our lanes and buildings. When I spread these words in the sky above, I realize its true implication. Then I transcend the utilities and the superfluities to find their reception in the domain of Anandam and clearly perceive why men were addressed as ‘The sons of the Immortal’.
(On way to Japan 1916)


Received from Rajat Das Gupta, Calcutta

Television Creativity

Some Questions of the Day

How is creativity negotiated in Hollywood for television programs?
How do advertisers contribute to the creation of television programs?
What is the role of a television producer?
How does it differ from the role of a movie producer?

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Can rhetoric change reality?

ND Batra
From The Statesman

At the time of mid-term congressional elections, President George W Bush has been trying to answer the question that most Americans have been asking: How are you going to get us out of the bloody mess in Iraq?
The deadly statistics are staggering but they don’t appeal to people’s imagination ~ unlike the daily images of Iraqis being blown up in the marketplace, mosques, roadsides and their neighbourhoods. In the pre-24/7 live newscast era, no one would have seen the horror on the faces of Iraqis.
Republicans have been saying during the election campaign that all politics is local and voters are likely to be more interested in property taxes, school problems, health issues and jobs rather than what is happening in Iraq. Democrats are trying to turn the daily carnage in Iraq as a referendum on Mr Bush and Republicans who control both the House and the Senate. But Democrats, too, don’t have any new ideas about what do in Iraq.
If staying the course in Iraq is meaningless, so is cut and loose ~ setting the date of withdrawal and getting out. There is a broad national consensus, however, that the USA cannot just pack and run away from Iraq.
Not only Iraq would continue to be a bloody hellhole for decades but also the USA would never recover from its humiliating shame and failure, if US troops were withdrawn hastily. That would be the end of the USA, as we know it: the sole global power that matters the most in the world. Americans are not ready for it. So for the time being, forget freedom and democracy.
Now the goal is to control Sunni-Shia sectarian killings and bring about a reasonable level of law and order and political stability so that President Bush could tell Americans that most of the objectives of invading Iraq have been achieved, which would justify gradual withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.
It is unimaginable that the USA would totally withdraw from West Asia and Central Asia. Strategically, there’s too much at stake in the region. During last week’s Press conference, after a subdued recounting of the achievements in Iraq, for example, capturing Saddam Hussein, free elections in which 12 million Iraqis participated and the death of terrorist Zarqawi, President Bush frankly acknowledged for the first time the failure to find weapons of mass destruction, the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad and loss of “some of America’s finest sons and daughters”.
As of today, 2,791 US troops have been killed, but the loss of Iraqi lives, 600,000 deaths since the invasion in March, 2003 through July, 2006 (and counting) according to a recent study by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, is shocking.
After the deaths of so many innocent people, Iraq is nowhere closer to freedom and democracy than it was during the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein; and now that he is gone, the country has descended into a most heinous sectarian barbarism in spite of US military presence, pouring of billions of dollars, and initial good intentions of transplanting freedom and democracy.
While Kurds in the north who have enjoyed autonomy since the first Gulf War due to the no-fly zone restrictions imposed on Saddam Hussein’s regime by the USA are not ready to give up their gains, including the region’s oil wealth, Sunnis aided by some neighbouring Arab countries and Shias with the full backing of Iran are locked in a deadly struggle for supremacy, not freedom and democracy.
Division of the country into three separate independent states would leave the oil wealth with Shias who dominate the south and with Kurd control the north, leaving Sunnis high and dry and full of bitterness and vengeance, which would not bring sectarian violence and terrorism to an end. The most important step in ending sectarian violence in Iraq must begin with Baghdad, which should be brought under some form of a draconian martial rule imposing day and night curfew, and shoot-at-sight orders.
Every neighbourhood in Baghdad should have a strong and palpable presence of American-Iraqi troops until the last goon is flushed out and killed.
Once Baghdad is brought under control, peace and order would emerge and faith and trust would spread in the al-Maliki’s government’s ability to do the job of providing security, disarming the militias and bringing about reconciliation.
Negotiations based on equitable distribution of oil resources and a federated political structure that keeps balance between the three regions, Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the West and Shia’s in the south as well as the central government should be the beginning of reconciliation for unity and national reconstruction.
Iraq’s neighbours, especially Turkey, Syria and Iran have their own national interests and since it may not be possible to have their active participation in the peace process, they must be neutralised. Iran with its nuclear ambitions and international sanctions hanging on its head would be the biggest spoiler.
It was so easy for the USA to topple Saddam Hussein but rebuilding of the peace in Iraq might need the commitment and sustained efforts of a new administration, may be a new generation of Americans. Fortunately, a regime change in the USA does not need an invasion by an outside power. In a democracy, regime change is periodic. That is the beauty of democracy and it must be spread everywhere.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Corporations seeking synergy

Growth through synergy

by ND Batra
From The Statesman

Recently when a friend in Mexico e-mailed to me: “I would Skype you at 10 a.m.,” I was not sure whether like “google” a new verb was quietly slipping into the American tongue, but I surely felt synergy rising due to the convergence of television, computer and telephone. Synergy characterises the ethos of the age of the Internet. It is also a most important buzzword today.

Corporations seek synergy and self-renewal through mergers, acquisitions and technological convergence, as the Tata Group is trying to do with the Anglo-Dutch steelmaker, Corus PLC. Synergy occurs when discrete businesses cooperate and combine creatively so that “the total effect,” according to Webster’s, “is greater than the sum of the effects taken independently.” Corporations would pay anything to have a business model for creating synergy, but business schools do not teach their students how to develop synergy. Necessity is the mother of synergy. Synergy is not limited to the business world. It is equally important in nature.

Ants, for example, build an unenviable synergetic environment for survival. They transcend their smallness through synergy. Can a small country like Bangladesh transcend its poverty by building synergetic environment with its neighbours? South Korea and Taiwan are examples of countries that have achieved prosperity through synergetic relationship with the USA and Japan. History of technology bears ample evidence that major leaps in technology occur only through synergy. Samuel Morse’s telegraph, for example, combined with Hertz’ electromagnetic spectrum theory to give birth to Marconi’s wireless telegraphy ~ radio; and subsequently to radio with pictures ~ television.

At every step of technological evolution, there was synergism created by combining two or more discrete concepts or technologies. Now you see the same thing happening to traditional television, as the TV set converges with computer. The remote obeys your commands, more like a magic wand, while you lounge on your sofa with a bottle of beer, munching peanuts, watching soccer on television or video clips on YouTube (recently acquired by Google for another upsurge of business synergy). A passive instrument of entertainment is suddenly turning into an interactive tool, making you put aside your beer so that you can seek and search whatever you want. Instead of a couch potato consumer, you become an active seeker. It is a market-driven synergy created by the coupling of computer technology with television.

The hype of webbed-television is that it allows you several features simultaneously, so you could watch television and surf the Web at the same time. Watch “ Jeopardy” and participate in the game show as well. Watch cricket, chat with a friend, send e-mail, and read the latest news about sports drug scandals on the same screen. Most of the newspapers in the USA, as it is happening in India too, seek synergy with competitive media. The BBC, for example, is a marvelous example of synergy being created when broadcasting weds the Internet. The BBC had no other choice for survival in the global market except through convergence with the Internet. The NBC and Microsoft combined to create MSNBC.Com, which created an information-rich multimedia environment. Every major television network anchorperson urges the viewers during the evening broadcasts to go to its website for in-depth reports and live chats with correspondents. So do The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, which are being transformed into multimedia delivery systems. Content remains the king, but the king needs a multi-media kingdom.

Not long ago in the global race for synergy, Rupert Murdoch, whose satellite television reaches more than 100 million homes in 60 countries, realised that there’s no future without the Internet. He has been linking his satellite empire with the Internet to create an alternative delivery as well as a two-way interactive communication system. Acquisition of MySpace by Murdoch’s controlled News Corporation was a wise step in adding to its multimedia platform. It is important to understand that mere clubbing of businesses to create an overwhelming market power does not necessarily mean synergy, as the failure of America Online-Time Warner shows. Sometimes those who seek synergy need a vision. Sometimes synergy just happens. Synergy is not formulaic. It involves risk. What does this mean for a vast nation like India? Think of India as a nation of 200 million families, with an average family of five members.

As incomes rise, the first luxury item a family desires to buy is a high definition digital television set in order to enjoy their favourite pastime, sports and Bollywood. But as television households steadily increase in India, television would create the same problems as in the USA: commercial-driven programmes full of violence and sex, saturating the airwaves and cables, resulting in the coarsening of Indian culture. India could do better. If the national leadership decides that all television sets manufactured or imported must be Web-enabled, you have an Indian television household owning a computer as well, probably the only computer the family would have for sometime to come. If you add to the Web-TV Indians’ growing hunger for cell phones, you have the beginning of a great technological revolution in India.

The marketplace and the ingenuity of India’s world famous programmers have begun to create software in most Indian languages. This is the kind of information revolution the rural India has been waiting for, which can be further quickened if people become aware of the possibility of free telephone service provided by web-calling companies like Skype. Yes, you can Skype as long as you want and it is free, as my friend said.

Monday, October 23, 2006


A Tale of Two Anthems


In early 2003 "Vande Matram" was declared as the second popular most national anthem, the topmost being the Irish one. The news was first broadcast by BBC- World Service Radio, which really bewildered those who are habituated to listening it in the morning. While "Vande Matram" slogan used to pass a shiver down the spine of the British in the Raj days, are they themselves broadcasting this news! Were they really tuned to BBC? Yes, they had to rub their ears to ensure that.
To look back, the song was composed around 1875 by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, the pioneer of modern Bengali literature. It was later inserted in his novel ‘Anandamath’ in 1882 where it became a war cry for the crusading Vaishnavite monks in the famine afflicted land Bengal in the backdrop of the demising Nawab dynasty and the rising British power there in the 18th century. Later it became the war cry of the revolutionaries, both violent and non-violent, rising against the British Raj for independence of India. Thousands went to the gallows voicing this slogan/song which was a major motivating force at that time for the freedom struggle of India. It goes with the compliment – “The greatest and most enduring gift of the Swadeshi movement was Vande Matram, the uncrowned national anthem*.” (The Cambridge History of India, Vol. IV P. 608 – courtesy, website TUHL Indian/Hinduism Home Page. *The status eventually given to it is ‘national song’ as has been elaborated below.). However, nothing can depict the spirit of ‘Vande Matram’ better than the following song of Tagore in as few words, which, in my inept translation also possibly does not lose all its inspiration:

1) “ Ek sutre bandhiachi sahasrati monEk karye sampiachchi sahasra jiban…..
Vande Matram…..”
In one string we stitchMany a thousand mind to pitch;In one mission we devoteOn the divine hymn to float -"Vande Matram"- (=Hail Mother/Motherland)Amidst disastrous storm, Facing many a hurdleOur daring heart will not fail;"Vande Matram" -Undaunted by fright's myriad formHurricane violent, sea in billowWill not put us low,Many a million waveWe'll brave;This life ephemeralWe'll not care to bail;Yet will remain unsnapped The solemnity that us trapped -"Vande Matram" To dispel our hibernation.***************************8 ‘Vande Matram’ drew attention of the Indian National Congress since the beginning. In its annual conference held in Calcutta in 1896, this song was sung and was tuned by Tagore and later on by several others. In its annual conference again in1905 it was accepted as our national anthem which was attended by Sister Nivedita, the Irish lady who had turned Vivekananda’s disciple about a decade back.
As it should be obvious from the reference in the song itself to a population of 7 Crore (as determined by the census of 1881 to be the strength of the Bengalis, including the Muslims, in the Eastern part of the country), ‘Vande Matram’ speaks more of ‘Mother Bengal’ rather than the whole of India. Yet, its appeal transcended this narrow geographical concept surfacing in its original wordings obviously because ‘Mother Bengal’ has been identified here with the Goddess Durga who is an inspiration to all Hindus where no regionalism stands. Besides, the 7 Crore was edited to 30 Crore around 1905 (the then Indian population) by those concerned with the song to extrapolate it in the new national scenario. Now, as the original 7 Crore included the Muslims (so does the 30 Crore) also in the then Bengal, the song itself may be absolved of the charge of communal bias, particularly when it peaked our nationalistic spirit sweeping away all our narrowness. It is a different matter that the song was voiced by the said crusading monks whose uprising happened to be against the misrule of the then Muslim Nawabs of Bengal. Eventually, they also had preferred British rule to the Nawabs’, not to swap Islam for Christianity, but to hail good governance to replace the dilapidated one. Again, the narrow geographical concept of Bengal, as found in Annandamath, should not disqualify the song as a national anthem of India. It may be appreciated, it would be ridiculous if this song sung by Bhabananda, the monk character in the novel during the Nawab dynasty, would have indulged in nationalistic megalomania, by inflating 7 Crore to 30 Crore or so. It appears, Bankim figured his song quite discreetly to fit it well in the plot of his novel. This aside, the fact is, India was never a ‘nation’ in the Western sense before the advent of the British rule which, along with its gradual expansion to the rest of India, starting from Bengal, with atrocity and Western enlightenment also as its integral part, solidified our nationalistic concept/sentiment. To criticize the original format of ‘Vande Matram’ for regionalism is to miss this historical relevance in which context, its said extrapolation to our modern national psyche has been only judicious, without diluting its original core inspiration in the enlarged horizon.
Nevertheless, religious fundamentalism raised its head instead, and some Muslim clerics and politicians (irrespective of religion) argued that this anthem indulges in deity worship against the spirit of Islam and was so unacceptable to its followers. A compromise was arrived at by accepting only the first two stanzas (vide website of TUHL Indian/Hinduism Home page) of the song as our national anthem editing therein the said 7 Crore to 30 Crore, as aforesaid, where Goddess Durga also does not occur. Notwithstanding this, the ghost of ‘deity worship’, if not regionalism also, ambushes even to-day to mar the true spirit of the song, to the extent it has been accepted as our anthem. While I fail to be overwhelmed by the wisdom of such zealots, I also fail to appreciate the highhandedness of the Govt. trying to impose this song in our various institutions in 2006, on the occasion of it being the centenary year for its acceptance as our national anthem. After all, a song is an aesthetic creation and should be left to one’s finer faculties.
Later, Tagore composed ‘Jana Gana Mano…’ sometime in 1911 which was officially accepted as the national anthem of independent India. Since then, in an attempt to distinguish it from ‘Vande Matram..’, the latter is often referred as ‘national song’ while the former as ‘national anthem’. However, this hardly affected the appeal and inspiration of any of these songs. It may be noted, in case of ‘Jana Gano Mano..’ also only the first two stanzas have been accepted as our national anthem (vide the said website), while it comprises three more.
Now, while ‘religion’ was the bone of contention in the anti-‘Vande Matram..’ tirade, the aim of invectives against ‘Jano Gano Mono…’ was Tagore’s assumed sycophancy for King George V who had visited India in 1911, which happens to be the year of composition of the song too that gave scope for such scandal. However, Tagore himself denied such allegation and I never could find any details as to who felicitated George V with this song, if at all he was, and who were the organizers and if at all Tagore himself was involved in it. Yet, it may be speculated if Tagore tried to entice the King to draw his support for some international accolade for him, say, the Nobel. There also, facts no way involve the King which were, Rothenstein, a British scholar, was a great admirer of Tagore’s nephew Abanindranath Tagore, a renowned artist and came to visit him at the ‘Thakurbari’, the ancestral house of the Thakur (Tagore) family. In the gathering Rabindranath was present whose beaming personality attracted Rothenstein who gathered from Abanindranath that Rabindranath was a poet. This was around 1911. However, Rothenstein was gradually attracted to Rabindranath and talked highly about him to other British poets/scholars of that time. Now, in Tagore’s own words, to quote from Maitrayee Devi’s ‘Mangpute Rabindranath’, (=‘Rabindranath at Mangpu’ -near Darjeeling- where Tagore had been intermittently Maitrayee Devi’s guest during the last 3 years of his life) the poet’s dialogue with her was as follows-
“When I first started translating them (poems of Gitanjali, on which basis he was awarded the Nobel) into English, I never thought they would be readable. Many have insinuated that Andrews was doing it for me. Poor Andrews felt sorry and ashamed. When Yeats arranged a meeting of distinguished people at Rothenstein’s house, I cannot tell you how embarrassed I felt. Yeats would not listen to me. He was undaunted. A galaxy of big people came. Gitanjali was read. They never said a word. They listened in silence and in silence they left – no criticism, no approbation, no favourable remark, no encouraging comment. Blushing in shame and disgrace, I wished the Earth would have opened and swallowed me. Why did I ever listen to Yeats? How could I write English, had I ever learnt it? I was filled with remorse, I could not raise my head. Next day letters started coming, they flooded in, overflowing with enthusiasm. Everyone wrote. Then I realized they were so moved that evening that they dared not talk. English people are reserved, it is their nature. It was not possible for them to express their feelings at once. What a surprise it was, unexpected and unimaginable. Friend Yeats was pleased.”
The event was in 1912 on 30 June or early July. It is this group of scholars/poets who had recommended Tagore’s name to the Nobel Committee in Sweden to culminate into the poet as a Nobel Laureate. However, I badly miss King George V in the entire episode!
Other relevant facts are, Tagore gave underhand support to the then ‘terrorists’ who had fought for India’s freedom and was a suspect of the British Govt. His novel ‘Char Adhaay’ (Four Chapters) on this theme of terrorism vouches this.
Secondly, Tagore’s dialogue with Maitrayee Devi may again be quoted in respect of his renouncing his Knighthood in protest against the Jalianwallabag (Punjab) carnage by the British police in 1919, as follows –
“They (British people) took it as a great insult. In England people are very loyal. So, this disavowal of the King did hurt them very much…”
Again, on partition of Bengal by Lord Curzon in 1905, Tagore himself led some of the processions on the Calcutta roads in protest against this partition voicing in chorus with thousands of his followers –

“Amar Sonar Bangla, Ami Tomay Bhalobasi
Chirokal Tomar Akash, Tomar Batash Amar Prane Bajay Bansi”

(Oh my golden Bengal, I love Thee
Thy azure, Thy breeze play flute forever in me…”

The song he had composed on this occasion became a national anthem of Bengal at least. Eventually, the British Govt. was forced to redress the partition on that occasion.
Now, how are these compatible with the story of Tagore’s sycophancy of George V as had been spun?
However, all these razzmatazz had indulgence due to our fiddling with the truncated first two stanzas of the song adopted as our national anthem, as aforesaid, overlooking the rest of it as if that did not matter in determining the real intent of the poet latent in the song. But, some people are not cursory like learned Mr. B. Bhattacharya, who highlighted the penultimate stanza of the song in his letter to the Editor (The Statesman) published on 15 September 2006 which may be quoted as follows-

“Dushapane atanke raksha korile anke snehamoyee tumi Mata….”
which, according to the faithful translation of the correspondent, comes to–
“O affectionate Mother! You have protected me so long in your lap from all nightmarish terror”.
Now, the correspondent leaves the question to us if George V would like to be addressed as an “affectionate Mother”! My conviction is, such effeminacy would be a contempt of the top royal personality (a male at that time!) and Tagore would instantly find himself behind the bar for this offence, which he never did! Hopefully, this hits the last nail in the coffin of the ‘sycophancy thesis’. However, it may be wiser not to escalate this point further as nothing stops one to argue that the ‘Mata’ in this song smacks of ‘deity worship’ for which its forerunner ‘Vande Matram..’ was put on the dock.
Yet, some highly relevant points need stress. Even a dunce with a bit of sincere probing of the song cannot miss that the “Eternal Charioteer” in the 3rd stanza of the song leading “the travellers through ages along the ups and downs of the rugged path resonant with His chariot wheels” could not be a flesh and blood entity, but a spiritual one illuminating India’s people over millenniums aiming proliferation of peace, benignity, welfare and harmony among humanity at large, across the world not fragmented by ‘parochial walls’. This internationalism from humanist angle that Tagore displayed since late 19th Century, as opposed to the politico-commercial noises we hear now-a-days in the name of ‘globalization’, manifests again in the second stanza of the song – “East and West come / By the side of Thy throne..”. Of course, “throne” smacks of a ‘King’ and the sleuths in their relentless effort to detect George V here may jump up to ‘Eureka!’. We should be content only with our envy for them for the extra grey matter they are endowed with. Now, leaving the sleuths aside, we may further observe that no other national anthem thus looks beyond its concerned national boundary and ego, not even our ‘Vande Matram’ and ‘Sare jahanse Acchha’ (by Iqbal), all of which are myopic in their eulogy for a certain population within a geographical confinement. Such international overtone flashes in a large number of poems/songs of Tagore, including patriotic ones, a widely quoted one being- “Where mind is without fear…..”.
All these by no means acquit ‘Jana Gana Mano…’. In early 21st century a legal petition was moved to drop the word ‘Sindhu’ from the text of the song as Sind is no more a part of India after its partition. At length, Mr. Ram Jethmalani fought the issue successfully in the Supreme Court which gave its verdict against the petition for deletion of ‘Sind’.
These two anthems, much pilloried for decades, however eruditely, have still retained their dignity due to their great intrinsic values. All invectives against these have undergone thorough scrutiny of highly eminent and knowledgeable persons many times and nullified also, after which these should have morphed to non-issues long before.
One may ponder, quite distressingly, why they have not! We have observed above that it is the British who had forged ‘nationalism’ in India, not as unmixed blessing though, but it heightened our best human qualities like patriotism, courage, determination, self-sacrifice, foresight etc., whereas, after Independence, with the earlier trials and tribulations gone, our worst qualities are surfacing with the wane of the said best ones. Our long persisting tangle on this non-issue is only a symptom of the forces fast disintegrating our nation, if not pushing us to the pre-British days. In fact, history never records an anthem which had united as well as divided a nation at different points of time more than this duo.


** The author, professionally a Chartered Accountant, also authored a few books including ‘The Eclipsed Sun’, a translation of Tagore’s poems & songs. He lives in Calcutta.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Toward a New Bangladesh

A gentler kinder face of Islam

News from Bangladesh

ND Batra

Given a chance everyone could get out of poverty. Human beings are essentially entrepreneurial in spirit. Entrepreneurship, which means innovating and building new tools for opening new frontiers—not merely a struggle for survival—has been the ultimate fount of human evolution and growth. Charity is the antithesis of entrepreneurship, though it makes the charitable feel good. Charity does have a place in society, as Islam rightfully insists, and as all great religions of the world have been preaching for millennia. But Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel Laureate of Bangladesh who trained as an economist at Vanderbilt University, says that it is “not an answer to poverty. It only helps poverty to continue. It creates dependency and takes away individual’s initiative to break through the wall of poverty.” Social tyranny whether of petty money lenders, religious fanatics, or a well-organized poltical party such as the communist party perpetuates poverty. In 1983 with only a few hundred takas ($27) in hand, as the legend says, Dr. Yunsus told a handful of rapacious moneylenders, one might say in the spirit of Moses, “Let my people go.” Chains of slavery were broken but freedom comes from ability to work. Work means dignity. Nothing comes closer to the American yes-I-can-do spirit than Dr. Yunus’ secular faith that “Unleashing of energy and creativity in each human being is the answer to poverty.” Fighting poverty should be the primary fucntion of the government. When the government gets out of the way of the people, as it has been happening in China and India, entrepreneurs rise and create wealth. It is that simple. Awarding the Peace Prize to someone from a country that most regard not only as an international basket case but also a breeding ground for Islamic jihadism, the Nobel Committee rightfully admonished that "lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty… Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights.” The most unique aspect of micro-credit financing in Bangladesh is that it has been empowering women. A liberated woman can be a powerful regenerative force in a society, especially an overwhelmingly Muslim society mined with petrodollar financed madrassas. Whether Muslim clerics would accept liberated and empowered women is another momentous challenge. In a manner of speaking, the secular liberation theology—liberating the bottom people from poverty— Dr. Yunus may be the answer to Al Qaeda and religious extremism. But micro-credit cannot lift all boats. Bangladesh needs to think big in order to compete internationally in trade and commerce and for which it needs some friendly help from countries like the United States whose markets, homes and hearths, have become a captive of China. Wal-Mart, JC Penny, Target and other global buyers should be encouraged to play the role of corporate diplomats and be urged to import on a priority basis from countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, the quality of whose garments is as good as that from China. That is my personal experience when I shop around for my personal clothing needs.Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, said about Bangladesh in his book, The End of Poverty: "Not only is the garment sector fueling Bangladesh economic growth of more than 5 percent per year in recent years, but it is also raising consciousness and power of women in a society that was long brazenly biased against women's chances of life." The international consequences of a dollar flowing to Bangladesh are far more important in terms of fighting poverty and terrorism, human rights and democracy, than willy-nilly letting China add to its trillion-dollar reserve. Dr. Sachs wrote, "The job for women in the cities and rural off-farm microenterprises; a new spirit of women's rights and independence and empowerment; dramatically reduced rates of child mortality; rising literacy of girls and young women; and, crucially, the availability of family planning and contraception have made all the difference for these women." If there is hope for womankind, you see its bright face emerging in Bangladesh—a crucible for struggle between the old and the new face of Islam. Bangladesh is an open society and a democracy, however, imperfect and fragile, and given a chance it could lift itself out of poverty and become an exemplar for other countries especially in Africa. As Dr. Yunus told a newspaper that some day our grandchildren might to go to a museum and wonder what it was like to be poor, for which of course rural micro-credit schemes would not be enough.Bangladesh must get out of its small-minded siege mentality and irrational fear of its neighbors, emulate countries like South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia, think and plan big, and compete internationally in trade and commerce for which it needs an expanding base of information technology, manufacturing and services, and massive investment to build infrastructure. Its youth is hungry for challenges, for constructive work, or else… Bangladesh must re-imagine itself. One Dr. Yunus is not enough for Bangladesh. ****************************************************************************************(ND Batra, Professor of Communications and Diplomacy at Norwich University, Vermont, USA, has completed a new book, “Digital Civilization: How Much Freedom Does a Man Need?” due for publication in 2007. *****************************************************************************************