Sunday, 30 October 2011

"Interesting Facts About India"

A friend sends me the following "Interesting facts about India":

The Official Figure of Mother Tongues Spoken in India is 1,683, of which an estimated 850 are in daily use. However, only 21 are officially recognized languages in India, namely :
01. Assamese,
02. Bengali
03 Bodo
04. Dogri
05. Gujarati
06. Kannada
07. Kashmiri
08. Konkani
09. Malayalam
10. Maithili
11. Manipuri or Meithei
12. Marathi
13. Nepali
14. Oriya
15. Punjabi
16. Sanskrit
17. Santali
18. Sindhi
19. Tamil
20. Telugu
21. Urdu

• The famous board game, called Chess, was invented in India.
• In India's 100,000 years of history, it has never invaded any other country.
• India is the 7th largest country in the world, the largest democracy and one of the oldest civilizations.
• India was one of the richest countries in the world before the British invasion in 17th century.
• The value of "pi" used in mathematics was first calculated by the Indian mathematician Budhayana in 6th century.
• India is one of the largest exporter of computer software products. It exports software to over 90 countries.
• India originated Yoga about 5,000 years ago.
• India has the most number of mosques. It has 300,000 mosques which is much more than the Muslim world.
• Christians and Jews have been living in India since 52 A.D. and 200 B.C. respectively.
Unusual Facts About India
• India has the highest bridge in the world . It is called Bailey Bridge and is located in Ladakh between the Dras and Suru rivers in the Himalayas.
• Before 1986, India was the only place in the world where Diamonds could be found.
• The world's first University was established in India . The University was established in 700 B.C. at the place of Taxila.
• The biggest and the largest employer in the world is Indian Railways which employs over a million people.
• India has the biggest cricket ground in the world. It is located in the northern state of India called Himachal Pradesh. The cricket ground is 2444 meters above the sea level and was built in 1893.
• Most important studies of Mathematics like calculus, trigonometry and algebra were originated in India.
• Taj Mahal which is among the seven wonders of the world is in India. Taj Mahal was built over a long period of 11 years.
• India has the most number of post offices in the world.
Funny Facts About India
1. There where no plastic bags in India before 1985?
2. Over 1000 elephants were used during the construction of the Taj Mahal?
3. The mobile users of India grows every month with about 2.5 million people?
4. There are over 1500 software companies in Bangalore India?
5. The number of births that occur in India each year is higher than the entire population of Australia?
6. The word mongoose comes from India?
7. The airline company Air Deccan was the first low-cost flight company in India
8. About 50% of the residents in India are under 25 years old
9. Indian Railways transport about five billion passengers annually
10. The longest station name on the Indian Railways is Venkatanarasimharajuvariapeta
11. The only country in the world that has a Bill of Rights for Cows is India
12. India is the world's largest mango producer
13. Hockey is the National Game of India
14. In India nearly 1200 species of birds can be found
15. Indians go out to the cinema about 3 billion times a year
16. India has about 800 dialects and 15 major Languages
17. Algebra, Calculus, and Trigonometry comes from India
18. India has health laughing clubs where people get together and laugh
19. India is the largest tea producer in the world
20. The biggest ant in India is about an inch
21. India used sugar before any other country
22. 4 major religions has India as birthplace Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism
23. India buys more gold than any other country
24. Curry powder gets its yellow color from a spice, turmeric
25. The number system and decimal system was invented in India
26. Before 1896 India was the only diamonds producing country in the world
27. Films made in Bollywood are often seen by people in South Africa
28. India is home to about 200 million cows
29. India is the world's number one producer of vegetarian cheese
30. The first bathrooms is said to have been built in India about 4500 years ago
31. India is the second most populated country in the world
32. Shampoo is derived word from Hindi

I responded to him as follows:

Dear ...

Interesting indeed - though, like most such compilations occasionally inaccurate or tendentious. For example, the list of languages entirely ignores the most important regional language Hindi (which is, with English, one of our two "official languages"), presumably the compiler of this list did not want Hindi to be included in the list of Indian regional languages - and did not want to put Hindi on the same level as English! Or consider:"In India's 100,000 years of history, it has never invaded any other country". First, India does not HAVE a history of 100,000 years (in fact, our historical records were badly preserved and actually distorted since we deliberately started suppressing and mythifying our past. Second, of the historical records we do have, whether or not we invaded any other country is a matter of how we define "India". What is currently "India" is a creation of the British in 1947, and whether or not we invaded Tibet to start the Indo-Chinese war, invaded Kashmir, and invaded what was then East Pakistan to create what is now Bangladesh, are matters of opinion (I still have not been able to make my mind up about them - it depends on what facts one considers how important). What is certain is that we invaded the independent states of Hyderabad, Goa, and so on, immediately or soon after independence.... Finally, we may or may not ever have invaded "any other country" but we have a most shameful record of internal violence against our own people through the invention of the cruel doctrine of untouchability and the wicked theory of Karma - and, if we forget that, then our record is not entirely without blemish in the matter of our treatment of "Indian Kashmiris", Nagas, Mizos, Tribals, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians and Buddhists since Independence. This is not to say that I am ashamed of my country. Rather, I am proud of many positive things in our country. But pride in our country needs to be balanced by honest recognition of the wrongs that we have done and are still doing, some of them deliberately, and some without realising it.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Do military and para-military actions reduce civil unrest better than policies that foster more equality in society?

In "Redistribution, Inequality and Political Conflict", a paper quoted by The Economist and published on the website of the Households in Conflict Network, School of Social Sciences and Cultural Studies, University of Sussex, UK, Patricia Justino analyses the relationship between redistributive policies and civil unrest.

According to her, empirical data for 14 large Indian states during 1973-2000 shows that, in the medium-term, redistributive policies have been significantly more effective in reducing civil unrest in India than more direct solutions,
such as the use of police and military forces.

Further, putting the right (more equitable) policies in place also causes the economy to grow, whereas merely sending in the army/police produces negative results on economic growth.

The lesson is: where there is social unrest, RESIST the urge to send in the police and/ or the army.

Instead, put in place those policies (the rule of law, just taxation, investments in social and physical infrastructure...) which create greater equality and better sharing in the benefits of growth.

Letter to President of India REJECTING objections to the performance of Hon Shri Salman Khurshid's play The Sons of Babur


Madam President

It has come to my attention that some Hindu organisations have decided to protest the performance of the Hon Shri Salman Khurshid's play, The Sons of Babur.

These so-called Hindu organisations are creating huge disrespect for our religions, philosophies and cultures by their mean-mindedness and incompetence.

What do I mean by "incompetence"? While they do of course have every right to protest, that right is valid only if they know what they are protesting against.

But have any of them seen the performance of the play in Goa? Not so far as I can work out from the information that I have been bombarded with....

Have any of them read the text of the play? No, they have not read it (again, as far as I am informed by them).

So what are they protesting against? They don't know what they are protesting against! They are protesting simply for the sake of protesting!

They would simply like to oppose everything that is, in their definition, "not Hindu".

Of course that fits in with their agenda of trying to create a spirituality of hatred.

But that is not Hindu.

At least in the understanding of this Hindu.

Yours respectfully

Professor Prabhu Guptara
Analyses, forecasts and comments:

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Should we or should we not celebrate Diwali?

Of course Diwali is very much a North Indian festival but, leaving geographical considerations aside (as my mother was from the south, my father from the north). But I have never earlier really thought about the question.

I was forced to confront the question yesterday when a friend of mine, a prominent Indian professor, wrote to me as follows on receiving my Diwali wishes:

"Dear Prabhu, Thank you very much for the mail. I do not celebrate this festival as this is a festival that the Hindu celebrate for killing Naraka Suura, the great Dravidian king."

The professor is a Dravidian, so his sentiments are understandable. However, I had never come across such a strong anti-Diwali reaction earlier. I wondered whether he was simply an "eccentric professor" so did a Bing search, which revealed that Dravidians, Dalits and OBCs are now increasingly taking this perspective and such actions - see, for example

Anyway, here is my response to my friend: "I did not realise that you did not celebrate Diwali - but would it not be better to celebrate the death of Narakasuura (and Mahishasuura? And Raavana?) in the same way as Yesubhaktas celebrate "Good Friday" - though of course, the death of Jesus the Lord can be celebrated only because that had both a purpose and a resurrection - but you could name "your" festival as the "martyrdom of Narakasuura/ Mahishasuura/ Ravana" or the "Sacrifice of Narakasuura/ Mahishasuura/ Ravana" because he was willing to die rather than to surrender to tyranny? That way, you would still be able to celebrate but for your own reasons, in the same way as I celebrate Diwali as a follower of Jesus the Lord, the Light of the world....NOT joining in festivities seems somehow negative, whereas having your own name for a festival and your own reason for celebrating at the same time, seems somehow much more enlightened and positive (not to mention, FUN)!

By the way, I am reminded by my son Jyoti (working on his fourth novel, with which I think you will be very pleased) that "Naraka" is of course "hell" in the dominant Indian traditions (but literally "of man" = "of the people with the manly virtues"? - and therefore presumably "heaven" in your tradition?).

On the other hand, Asuras were originally the "wise and powerful" in the Zendavesta AND the Vedas (and continued to have positive connotation in the Avesta but came to acquire negative connotation in our dominant traditions..), presumably because the asuras were originally admired in the same way as Indians were admired by Europeans when they first came to India but later came to look down on us as we came to be ruled by them?

Jyoti and I were also speculating whether the term "asura" comes from the same root as "Assyrian" - these people were the descendants of Asshur, the second son of Shem and the builder of the greatest cities in the ancient world, according to the Bible - which would fit with the theory that the Dravidians/ suuras/ asuras built the great cities of Mohenjodaro etc - and would also explain why they were admired as "great and wise" - "wise" because you need wisdom to build cities, and "great" because of the power associated with them....


Should we all read the Gita? Or any other scripture?

Shri B.C. Bose, IAS, a Deputy Director in the Ministry of Defense, is reported to have said at a meeting at the Jawaharlal Nehru University a couple of days ago: "We should read all the so-called scriptures once at least. I have read the Gita and learned one thing: Don't bother reading it again".

While it may be fine for Bengali intellectuals to say such a thing, I doubt that the rest of us can say such a thing with any conviction.

We need to have reasons for reading OR not reading the Gita or, for that matter, any other so-called scripture.

The Gita is, in any case, according to our traditions, not at the same level as the Vedas.

So the rise of the Gita's popularity due to Western influence is both astonishing and sobering.

Why "astonishing"? Because one would not have expected Western influence to be so influential. Why "soberting"? Because the phenomenon demonstrates that anyone can get away with anything in our culture - without regard to truth or even to religious authority.

When the public is gullible, democracy is unreliable. The alternative is not to abolish democracy, but to wean our public away from gullibility to critical thought.

Monday, 24 October 2011

helping put Indian politics on the straight path

I am very encouraged to see the following report from the Adarsh Rashtriya Vikas Party, which is the true inheritor of the Gandhian legacy in India:

Growing, as the day draws nigh – Training Report October 10th 2011:

This month’s meeting was held in our previous location of APS Lawns. It was good to be back in comfortable surroundings after some months of nomadic wanderings. Nearly 250 persons attended, which implies more and more numbers are being exposed to the ARVP vision and are keen to understand and absorb what this movement for change is all about. A separate training programme held for these new and potential candidates was expansive – necessary, because the news of the elections will draw people for the wrong reasons.

As we draw closer to election-day and as our people realise that all finances and resources necessary for their grassroots work has to be raised by them through membership, there is a natural tentativeness whether this is workable. We have constantly reiterated to our workers that this is a radical movement which calls for a different type of political party if we are to bring decent people into politics. Leadership necessary for this kind of movement is based on a genuine heart to serve the people with sacrificial intent and hard work. Such seemingly novel ideas are therefore received rather tentatively, raising obvious questions in the minds of the candidates. It was thus heartening to see so many of them resolving to walk this path, knowing the difficulties, hardships and risks.

Since July 2011, we have been focusing on the padyatra and it has been extremely difficult to motivate, challenge and help these candidates to undertake this strenuous activity. Many of them have not entirely lived up to expectations, however at least 40- 50 have displayed integrity of purpose. The padyatra will continue until December 2011. We are encouraging our candidates to complete at least 2 or 3 rounds of the padyatra in every village of their constituency. The success of our movement will depend a lot on this preparatory work involved in the padyatra. This whole month is focused on this aspect and the training programme was designed to reinforce this activity by assigning our voluntary workers, mandal leaders and team leaders to be with these candidates on a regular basis. The meeting itself was intense, starting at 8.30 in the morning and finishing at 7 p.m. The sathya nishta training covered the aspect of team building by utilising a game which helped them to understand the importance of team work. They were joyful like little children in a playground, laughing and learning.

General comments

As we draw nearer to the election dates, we are more acutely aware of the difficulty of the task. The intention to fight this election without using much money and without resorting to the use of caste or religion is a challenge and a very necessary requirement if we have to change the political framework of U.P. For this to become real we need not only to fight these coming elections using this format, but we need to show the way towards belief by winning seats. Please continue to advocate and help financially for posters and banners which is vital publicity for the Party.

Special field report - First public meeting

On the 16th of October, we held our first small public meeting in the district of Ambedkarnagar. The candidate fighting from this constituency is Manbod Yadav - a young, passionate leader - whose life has been transformed through ARVP in the last 18 months. The meeting was the first of its kind where people had to come on their own and all expenses had to be raised through contributions at the local level. About 1,000 people came on cycles, tractors and some on foot. They come because they are attracted to the vision and are convinced that this is the only way forward. We were particularly touched because most of these were the poorest of the poor. They came because they hope that ARVP will live up to its promise of making a difference to their lives. Beholding such response and witnessing their dire need has made us stronger in our resolve that we must win this battle for their sake. The audio of the speech and the photographs of the meeting will come up on Facebook shortly. We request you to advocate this cause for change through all related media... i.e. Facebook, blogs, Twitter etc.

Below are the various links for ARVP in the digital space.




We value your commitment in standing with us!

The ARVP Team