Sunday, October 28, 2007

How Industrialism in England Affected India

I am reading Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's The Discovery of India these days. I knew before starting the book that Jawaharlal Nehru was an excellent English writer, what I did not know was that he wrote the entire Discovery of India in five months when he was in Ahmadnagar prison during 1944!

The book is a detailed account of the India, its people, its culture, its philosophy and its values from the time of Indus valley civilization. He has written very passionately about how ancient India and Indians have been one of the leading civilizations in the world. A large portion of the book is devoted in examining how the British occupation of India weakened and drained India socially, economically and even culturally upto an extent.

In chapter seven of the book, Pandit Nehru explains how the rise of Industrialism in England sapped out the Indian economy. The very purpose for which the East Indian company was established was to buy goods and textiles made in India and sell them in England. Indian goods were much in demand in England and Europe during the early period of East India Company.

With the rise of Industrialization and with the availability of cheaper production techniques in England, the pressure at home on the British government grew to promote the cheaper goods made in England. Heavy import duties were levied on the goods coming from India. However, the goods made in England had free entry in India. This double whammy crushed the Indian manufacturers affecting a large number of small scale artisans.

The British made no effort to introduce the modern methods of production in India. In the process, an increasingly large number of artisans, weavers and craftsmen who had been employed in the manufacturing industry started returning to agriculture. However, the land was not sufficient to support all of them. As a result, poverty grew and standard of living fell to very low levels. Agriculture became the sole occupation of a very large proportion of the people in the absence of other profitable vocations.

Pandit Nehru then goes on to say that due to the British policy, the development process in India was reversed as the country became increasingly more ruralized and poor. He gives us a statistic too. In the middle of nineteenth century, about 55 % of the population was dependent on agriculture; this number jumped up to 74 % a century later.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

good and BAD

The good news:

1. BSE Sensex crossed 19,000 points recently.
2. Our economy continues to grow at a 9% rate.
3. We are going to make the nuclear energy deal with America.
4. We are the T20 champions.

The bad news:
1. We are below Ethiopia on the global hunger index.

2. We have the highest maternal mortality rate.

3. The perpetrators of Gujarat and Bombay riots still go scot free. They even have the gall to brag about taking the foetus out of a pregnant woman.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Hindi Literaure Links

I've been reading some Hindi short stories and novels recently. It is difficult/expensive to get hard copies of Hindi books but thankfully I've found quite a collection online. I am giving the links with a brief introduction.

This is a CDAC project and has a good collection of short stories. I've read a few by Munshi Premchand and I was awed.

This is a work in progress. At the time of writing it has 13 out of 35 chapters of Shrilal Shukla's Raag Darbari. The book is a milestone of Hindi literature and anyone who understands Hindi will laugh nonstop on the abundant wit and humor on every page. But the book is a Satire. I've read a couple chapters which I enjoyed a lot.

This page has links to more recent works by people like Harishankar Parsai and Kaka Hathrasi among others. I haven't had a chance to look at this one more thoroughly as I found this link just before writing this blog entry.

Happy reading,

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Spice, Smoke and Small Talk

The other day I was at the Jewel of India- the desi restaurant in Hanover with a friend B for lunch.

Though the menu Jewel of India is three pages longs, over time we have established that among those three pages, only a few items are edible. Rest are just there for us look over and retranslate the item description back to Hindi. So limited are our choices at jewel of India is that there really is no choice.We always get the same starter, same main course and mostly the same kind of roti.

However, since Jewel of India primarily caters to the American junta here which likes to "go for an Indian" once every two weeks, the food is flavored accordingly. When decoded, this means that the food, in its normal state is bland. There is absolutely no taste at all. To mitigate this problem, we ask our food to be as "hot" and as spicy as they can make it. Hot is in inverted commas because of the restaurant owner's very punjabi accent which makes one think of a kind of market held once a week.

For the record, B ordered a paneer shahi korma hot and spicy, while I asked for chicken tikka, very hot and very spicy. You cannot imagine what the restaurant waale uncleji told me on hearing this. He was like we cannot make chicken tikka very hot and spicy because it sizzles when it is hot and spicy and we don't want the smoke coming out of your plate to cause any inconvenience to others.

!!! ???

As you can imagine, I was pissed off on hearing this. I was lamenting at this discrimination when uncleji suggested a middle path. He would serve the chicken tikka on a normal plate and not on the iron plate on which it is normally served. That way, it would not sizzle. I happily agreed. Anything for chicken tikka.

Now I am wondering what things other diners can do at a restaurant to cause inconvenience to others. I was at a different restaurant yesterday where there was a big Chinese group- there were about 20 of them. If such a huge group is sitting on a table across yours, your voice is drowned among theirs. It is simply not possible to carry on a conversation without shouting.

Will a restaurant management ask its diners to keep their decibel levels low, so as not to cause inconvenience to other diners? Is hearing loss on the same level as losing your sense of smell?


Friday, October 12, 2007

The Idea of Secularism

It seems heretical to write about secularism on the day of Eid because we must celebrate inspite of what is happening and has happened during the last two days of Ramazan.

However, what I am writing about is this news item which made me laugh at the religious intolerance in the Islamist country of Kuwait:

"KUWAIT: An 18 year old man was arrested for eating in public during the afternoon. Security sources noted that the man was inside a telephone shop and was eating some sweets and drinking some juice. The employee of the shop caught the man eating and then called the police. The man was then arrested and sent to the Jahra police station where he will be jailed until the end of Ramadan."

It sounded so ridiculous to me that I mentioned it to my dad. As always, my dad had a perfect analogy to explain and justify this seemingly high handed rule. He reminded me of the fact that in India, all the slaughterhouses are closed on major Hindu holidays and it is illegal for anyone to buy/sell meat or poultry that day.

Yes, I remember now that on days of Holi or Rakshabandhan or Janamashtmi, we could not go and get fresh meat from the butcher because there used to be none on those days. Nevertheless, it did not deter us from eating meat on those days. It was only that you could not buy/sell on those days.If you had bought it in advance, nobody could stop you from eating it in your house. The idea behind no-slaughter-days is to respect the feelings of other religious groups on their auspicious days

Similarly in Kuwait, the law expects you to respect those who are fasting and therefore it prohibits anyone from eating in public during daytime in Ramazan. However, you can eat as much as you want to in the privacy of your own house or any restaurant any time of the day. They only expect you to do some ehteraam of the fasting populace.

So, to say that India is a secular country and everybody has the freedom his own religion is not entirely true. Nonetheless, it has to be understood that living in a multi-religious environment does introduces some situations where all involved have to give-up something in order to gain from each other.

The sheerkhurma of every Eid reminds me of the ten different types of sweets which I used to stuff myself with on Diwali. And I am sure my feelings are reciprocated.

Eid Mubarak!!