Politics Magazine

“The Dawn of Grace” by Vijendra Rao

Posted on the 25 May 2013 by Calvinthedog

Repost from the old site. Nice article about India from the old site. Touches on many familiar issues and will be of interest to everyone on this site who is interested in India.

This is an excerpt of an article by an Indian colleague of mine, Vijendra Rao. Rao is a journalist working in the city of Mysore, a large city in the Indian state of Karnataka. Mysore is a famous and very old city in the far south of India that is known as the City of Palaces. Even before India became independent, Karnataka was hailed as the most progressive state in India.

It made huge strides in various fields – women’s education, electricity, drainage, arts, literature, etc., thanks to the imaginative rulers of those years.

Rao’s prose tends to be inflected with Indian English, a distinct dialect of English. The discourse style of Indian English is often markedly different, at best, from US English. This can make Indian English seem peculiar or awkward to many US English readers. Also, Rao’s prose is deeply rooted in Indian culture, which can make it difficult for non-Indians to understand the references in the prose.

I really liked this little essay, though, and I am hard to please as far as writing goes.

A few explanations are in order. A Mysorean is one from the city of Mysore in far southern India. A Brahmin is a member of the highest caste in India – the ruling class. This ruling class has ruled India for centuries. Aryan Brahmin invaders from the steppes of Asia poured into India 3,500 years ago and pushed the indigenous Indians (now known as South Indians) south.

The darker Indians of South India were originally spread over the entire continent. Brahmins tend to be lighter-skinned than other Indians, but it is interesting to note that despite great efforts to keep their line pure, Brahmins have been getting steadily darker through the centuries.

For those who are interested in the toxic subject of IQ and race, it is interesting to note that Brahmins also score higher on IQ tests than even European Whites. An exception to the typical rule of the lighter the skin, the higher the IQ, and vice-versa, can be found in Southern India, where the Brahmins are darker-skinned, and have higher IQ’s, than the lighter-skinned commoners of Southern India.

Brahmins, like Ashkenazi Jews, probably developed their high IQ’s through some sort of selective inbreeding. Not that either group deliberately engaged in a eugenics program to produce high IQ offspring, but that is the way it worked out.

In this essay, Rao also refers to Naxalites. Naxalites are armed Indian Maoists and this blog supports them totally.

Indian democracy has completely failed; the system has killed an average of almost 2 million people every year just since independence, for a total of 100 million dead in the period (documentation of that astounding figure is here, via Chomsky).

Starvation and malnutrition rates are the same in India, year in and year out, as they were in North Korea at the height of its famine in the 1990′s. Note that the capitalist media turned somersaults to report the North Korean famine as an “evils of Communism” meme, while ignoring, for decades, the exact same situation in capitalist India.

The Indian caste system is a horrible system of cruel ingrained racism that seeps into every pore of Indian society. The proponents of caste have even injected caste into Hinduism, but Hinduism existed before the caste system brought by Aryan invaders, and it can be argued that caste is a foreign and unnecessary accretion to Hinduism. The marriage of Hinduism to caste makes it caste more difficult to uproot.

Combine the above with a royal family that, as usual, claimed to rule in the name of Gods, or be reincarnations of Gods (in this case Hindu Gods) and you have a society shot through with feudalism through and through.

Indian democracy has totally failed to eradicate caste and is probably incapable of doing so. Unfortunately, such a deeply ingrained reactionary feudal system can only be destroyed through total revolution.

Making matters worse is the systematic oppression of women. I conducted some research on women’s rights around the world. The disastrous treatment of women in Hindu Nepal and India combines with the equally disastrous treatment of women in Muslim India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, to make South Asia the most backward place on Earth for women.

Sexism, more than being tied to religion in this part of the world, is actually a regionalism that has grafted itself onto the major religions in the area.

An unbelievable 350 million Indians are still illiterate. You would think that any decent independent India would have taught them to read by now.

The numbers of young children permanently dropped out school are in the tens of millions. Many of these kids, as young as 9 or 10, are working up to 18 hours a day on jobs, suffering under Medieval working conditions. Many of them are virtual slaves.

India has one of the worst child labor problems in the world, and Indian democracy has totally failed to deal with this Dark Ages institution. The whole Indian system, as in many developing capitalist societies, is corrupt to the core. The rule of law is a joke and the courts are sloth-like and barely function.

Armed gangs working for the higher castes run amok across society. Monetary disputes are often handled by hiring Mafioso-type thugs to go out and convince reluctant creditors. Even major Indian banks hire these freelance criminals. Construction of buildings and roads is often shoddy, leading to the inevitable injuries and deaths.

It is estimated that there are – get this – over 200 million homeless Indians who are actually living on the sidewalks of the big cities. You will step over them as you walk in the big cities. Some of the people you step over will no longer be alive – they died the previous night.

If the rich and big corporations in India want some land, they just up and take it. They drive bulldozers to a village, clear out the people, and wipe the settlement off the face of the Earth. Then they steal the land, which may have been communal land for centuries. It’s all legal with a corrupt judge’s signature, or if it not, there is no recourse anyway.

If you anger a rich or upper caste person, they will often threaten you with their private armies. All of this reminds one of various Third World capitalist terror states that US imperialism is so enamored of, where the armies of the rich keep the aristocracy in power by sheer terror, never mind voting, never mind “democracy”.

The state of Bihar is an example of the catastrophe of Indian democracy. The per capita income is an unbelievable $94 per year. Only six nations, all Fourth World failed capitalist states in Africa, have worse development indexes than Bihar. Over half of all adults are illiterate, and only 1/3 of women can read and write.

Bihar has gone from the least corrupt to the most corrupt state in India since independence. Out of control coal mining has devastated huge tracts of forest and farmland.

The tentacles of crime and caste tangle themselves into the morass of Bihari politics to the point where Bihari politics can be said to be castecized and criminalized. For hundreds of years, caste and crime went together in Bihar like bacon and eggs. The entire edifice of Bihari politics, along with most other Bihari institutions, have been taken over by the caste-crime networks, to the point where they now control the state.

Violent crime, as in so many Third World capitalist states, is out of control. Bihar is starting to look like Iraq, albeit on a much-reduced scale. The kidnapping industry has exploded. While kidnapping has been common in smaller towns in Bihar for decades, the fact is that now, on any given day, a wealthy Bihari professional can be nabbed by kidnappers.

Upper-caste gangs called Senas roam the countryside at will, looting property, extorting money and fighting wars with other Sena gangs. The Senas are best seen as analogues to the death squads run by the oligarchs in various Death Squad Democracies like El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Haiti, Philippines and Nepal.

This is basically the age-old means of staying in power that aristocrats have always used – terror. “Democracy”, electoral fraud and “demonstration elections” as a means of maintaining aristocratic power are an invention of the new field of Public Relations a century ago as maintaining aristocratic rule through terror became less tenable in parts of the world.

A criminal Mafia, largely an upper caste nexus of landlords, politicians, government administrators, contractors and sectors of the business community, holds sway over much of the countryside.

The Bihari Mafia differs from, say, the Italian Mafia in that many of the Bihari mobsters actually hold seats in the Indian Parliament. The Mafia attacks the peasants, any landlord who does not pay their protection money, and anyone else who gets in their way. An overview of the Indian Mafia is here.

A criminal oligarch named Laloo Prasad Yadav has run Bihar into the ground for the past 15 years. Yadav has done absolutely nothing while kidnappers, Sena gangs, and the Mafia wreak havoc across the state. The cynical conclusion is that Yadav was allied with the Mafioso, Senas and kidnapper gangs.

Bihar is now seen as the “Basket Case of India”. Seminars are held across India about the “Bihari problem”. Thus far, these seminars have not accomplished anything.

This is the capitalist success story called India that the MSM swoons over!

What the depressing picture above adds up to is a society that simply does not function for the vast majority of its citizens.

For all of the reasons, this blog supports the armed Indian Maoists, or Naxalites, a movement that is exploding across Eastern India, especially in Bihar, West Bengal, Chattisargh, Orissa, Andra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Jharkand, in some of India’s most backwards and feudal areas.

Some of the groups this blog supports are the Maoist Communist Center (MCC), Communist Party India – Marxist-Leninist (Janashakti) or CPI-ML, the People’s War Group (formerly made up of such groups as CPI-ML (Party Unity), the armed factions of CPI-ML (Liberation), the People’s Guerrilla Army and the CPI-Maoist. See the People’s March link on this site for more on the armed Maoists of India.

The Naxalites are a particularly large and growing problem in Bihar, and apparently they are networking extensively with the huge Nepalese Maoist guerrilla movement, which this blog also supports.

The author and I had some discussions about Brahmins and Maoists. Here are some of his interesting comments on the matter.

He touches on the relationship between Maoists and Brahmins (Not necessarily as simple as you think!) and show how one can manage to be both, to show that Brahmins have been and continue to be progressive, and to note that India is now dealing with reverse discrimination, the common lot of many societies that undertake a systematic, government-decreed, anti-racist initiative:

Basava, the great eighth century reformer from Karnataka, was a Brahmin, too. There are many others. I think only a Brahmin can turn into a Maoist. I don’t know how much you are aware that Brahmins are a much-maligned lot. Well, Brahmins cannot be condoned for what they did, but I know of more Brahmins who are reform-minded and who don’t discriminate. Unfortunately, reverse discrimination has started and is rampant now. It is there everywhere. The reason that I quit my job with one newspaper was because I had become a Jew in my office.

The Dawn of Grace

The face may well be not only the index of the mind but of the soul itself. Just as the turbulence in the mind gets manifested in the show-window of the human figure, that is face, tranquility gets similarly reflected. Man, even the best of actors, cannot for any great length of time bury his feelings and mask his emotions behind the visage. What a man looks is therefore the product of what his inner self is.

Isn’t that why Abraham Lincoln said that if a man does not attain grace by the time he is forty, well, he probably has not led a life of fulfillment.

Some faces have struck me instantly and like lightning. These faces have readily and eloquently advertised for the soul underneath. They are not bound by space, religion, nationality, ideology, profession or avocation. They constitute a motley group.

Let me name them: Bhandarakeri Swami, a religious leader whom I have seen only once as a schoolboy and only for a few fleeting moments and that too from a long range. There was radiance in his face. The halo around him was as bright as the sun. I have not forgotten how he looked a full quarter of a century ago.

It was as if the radiation emitted from his soldering-rod-like countenance etched his persona on the metal sheet of my mind. It has permanently remained there. I was to learn later that the seer was indeed pious and godly.

Not to pick out chronologically, but randomly, Gaddar, the revolutionary ballad singer, has left as deep an impression on me. At his only public performance I have attended he was a man possessed. Singing ballads and dancing to their tunes, he held the audience in a thrall.

I could not help complimenting his spellbinding performance in the only manner that I could have done: I hugged his sweat-soaked body tight. I was speechless. Sometime earlier, it was Arundhati Nag, the famous theater artiste and the widow of Shankar Nag, the brilliant director-actor and winner of national award.

She had just recovered from the shock of losing her husband in a car crash and recuperated from the injuries she herself had suffered in the mishap.

Oh! It was amazing. She was glowing like a million suns and I could not stare straight into her eyes, just as one cannot look into the burning sun for more than a moment or two, although she was at a distance, on the dais at a function.

Then it was, of all persons, Arjunan, the younger brother of Veerappan, the most savage of all criminals of our time. There was an unmistakable spark in his eyes. He was no less a criminal than his more notorious and bloodthirsty brother, but the glint had obscured his dark deeds.

How can I not include the divinity-personified M.S. Subbulakshmi in this list?

One might be perplexed, even intrigued, at the odd bunch of names I have mentioned. They are not my choice; the very magnetism of their personalities selected them for me and attracted them to my soul. I have tried to find a convincing, if rational, explanation for this queer combination.

There is a religious leader (I myself am not slightly religious, indeed I am irreligious); there is a singer of ballads advocating violence to overturn the state (although I am not a Leftist, leave alone being an Ultra-Leftist); there is a widowed actress; and then there is a criminal who is no more, but his picture in my mind is not; there is an angelic musician.

I must tell you, I have succeeded in piecing together the essential human beings in these persons.

What is fundamental to them is the steadfast commitment to their chosen cause, be it the revolutionary Gaddar or the ferocious schemer-killer Arjunan. The two are at the two extreme ends of where a human being can be driven to by his own emotion. One was noble, the other was most ignoble.

Compassion, at least empathy, is at the root of one man’s mission, while the other committed the most heinous of crimes and died as a sacrificial animal. The grace on the beatific face of Gaddar is inescapable for one who has led a selfless life. What gave Arjunan the spark in his otherwise cold eyes was also the result of his love, his love of freedom.

He looked more like Socrates before the Greek philosopher laid down his life. He looked determined. He looked as if he knew he had done no wrong out of his own volition. Once he had paid the wages of his sin, in the form of a murder, he wanted to reform. But the system did not allow him. He was forced to get back to Veerappan.

He thought he would be safer and his life more secure with his brother, whom he had deserted long before. The expression he had was one of disdain against a society that did not allow him freedom. The freedom to lead a respectable life. His eyes emitted fire. The fire, if had spread, enough to engulf the system.

Flame was also found in the eyes of Gaddar, just as aura oozed out of that Goddess of Music called Subbulakshmi. He has striven to bring about equality. He may be an advocate of violence, but it is not violence for its own sake. It is violence for the sake of uprooting cruelty that has for centuries found expression amid us in the form of inhuman discrimination of a whole segment of society.

The love for the have-nots, who form a sizable segment of the milieu he emerges from, rivals his hatred of the discriminators who are found in a minority. However, it is not a question of majoritism versus minoritism for him. His mission is to secure a just society by overthrowing the existing unjust order.

Where does Arundhati Nag fit into the scheme of things of this article? What was (perhaps, it still is) the source of her radiance? Having lost her husband, she was exuding grief when I saw her. Her face depicted a confluence of lost love and a suffusion of sorrow.

More importantly, her dignity – quiet dignity that many women are capable of under similar circumstances (unlike the distinct absence of it in many men on being rendered widowers) – that almost made her an effervescent statue.

The face, washed with torrents of tears, had the aura of a ripened mango after the first monsoon showers. If Arjunan appeared to me to be “the statue of liberty”, Arundhati symbolized the greatest monument of love. I am trying not to glorify the criminality of the former or the widowhood of the actress.

All these people I have met or seen only once. But the effect upon encountering them all has been the same. They have held out a strong appeal. And with their eyes and eyes alone.

Except perhaps Arundhati, all the others were above forty years of age when I saw them. And all of them had qualified Lincoln’s test. What is so magical about the age forty? Why did he set that benchmark? Curiously, don’t they say, “Life begins at forty?”

Youth fades away by the time one is forty. In most cases one would have by then satiated the most basic of one’s desires and fulfilled one’s creature comforts. The kind of grace Lincoln talks of accrues the same way a hungry man exudes a sense of gratification after a wholesome meal.

Life would have assumed a definite direction, acquired a great deal of purposefulness. Desires of the basic variety would have either been taken care of or sublimated. It is time for grace to dawn on the human face or even don it.

Just when I am all set to send these essays to the printer comes the news of death of Saketh, the Naxal leader from Mysore gunned down in (what we are told) an encounter. I never met this man, but his photograph that I saw in the press on his death guarantees me that his would have been the most impressive face in my list of faces if only had I got to see him.

His face is singularly remarkable for the reason that his heart, full of goodness, has no more place for it that it gently overflows from his face. That he is shy about it if not simply unaware of it is also evident in his delicately sculpted visage. It is not easy to find faces that bear out intelligence and kindness in equal measure. Saketh’s does.

I know I am not going overboard about my adulation for a man that I never met. I am only being led by my hunch that Saketh must have attempted to reform the Naxals. (I would remain firm in this belief even if I hadn’t read all those glowing obituaries that the Kannada press honoured him with or hadn’t heard the rich encomiums a journalist-colleague posthumously spared him).

There is no way, I am inclined to believe, that he would have raised his little finger against anybody. On the contrary, if Saketh did kill in fulfillment of the Mao credo, he should have looked a killer. Like the cops, maybe.

(Incidentally, Saketh is the name of God Rama. Some coincidence that Saketh spent the prime of his youth in the wild. Yes, with his young wife. It was voluntary privation for him. Talk of Rama, Krishna can’t be far behind, though in terms of time, he was. My mind tosses up an intriguing question: Krishna advocated war, righteous war.

Since I have sung the praise of the Gita elsewhere in this book, would terror unleashed by the Naxals acceptable to me? No, just not. Violence, neither by the Naxal nor by the State, can ever be condoned. Unfortunately, State terror is vastly unfettered. Gandhi’s guiding spirit was the Gita, but he was the apostle of peace and non-violence).

This colleague, who said he shed tears for two whole days for this unlikely Naxal, tells me that Saketh was only the second Brahmin after Basava through whom compassion chose to manifest itself. That, I would say, succinctly sums up all that Saketh stood for. I must however say that, if my borrowed understanding of Saketh is right, he lived the way a Brahmin ought to live.

A life characterized by simple living, high thinking, selflessness and self-abnegation. A report says that he was Spartan in his habits and had only one pair of clothes (the Vedas ordain that the Brahmin must be found only in rags and have no flab). If only more of today’s Brahmins could emulate Saketh, Naxalism would be outdated within no time.

Saketh, in fact, gives me a complex when I glare at him. Despite being born in the same year what segregates the two of us, for instance, is grace. He has so much of it.

The quality that leaves me with the wish that I should have had an encounter with him. Especially as a Mysorean. More so as a journalist. Only after his death did I come to know that there were quite a few known to me, including his relatives, that had seen Saketh from close quarters.

Finally, why is it that babies and the aged look alike and appealing? It is all right that they both suffer from the same kind of disabilities and infirmities and they both find themselves helpless and utterly dependent. More importantly, they are free from desires.

They are either unaware of them or have fulfilled them. It is this freedom from desire (like the Buddha’s or Vivekananada’s) which imparts them grace and amiability. You know they won’t use you, and they are therefore approachable.

The same kind of tranquil look is to be found on those who have had a deep and undisturbed sleep. To be graceful is to be free from selfish desires. If you have not dreamt (what are dreams but manifestation of unfulfilled desires), you have acquired grace, however momentarily. The grace wears out as one becomes fully awake, as the state of being awake brings back desires to the fore.

Excerpted from Rao’s collection of essays, Run of the Mind. The book is available for purchase in both paper and e-book versions here. Dr. Ramash N. Rao, professor and Department Chair of the Department of Communication Studies and Theater of Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, has called Rao “the new voice of India”.

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