Gandhi and his Civil Disobedience

It was the winter of 1930, almost 90 years ago. Millions of underprivileged Indians, were trying to bear the cold wave with scanty resources at hand. But the political atmosphere in India was nowhere close to being cold. Political diaspora was abuzz with excitement. Simon Commission had come and gone. under the Presidentship of Jawaharlal Nehru, tri-colour was unfurled and a call for ‘Poorna Swaraj’ was given by INC in its Lahore session in Dec’29. Britishers had done their bit in antagonising, INC had done its bit. Now, every eye in the nation, Indian and Britishers alike, was looking at just one man, and waiting for His call to action.

But the man, commonly known as Bapu, was a wily fox. He wasn’t to be moved by the emotional turmoil into a hurry despite the cajoling of a whole nation. Instead, the man, who had recently turned 60, just retired to his ashram in Sabarmati to contemplate over the _possibility of launching_ an agitation. The young nationalists not to be shut down by the Old man, decided to observe 26 January 1930 as Independence Day with a series of meetings across urban and rural India. The final push or perhaps the end of his sadhana, we will never know. At last, Gandhi sprang into action with a memorandum to Lord Irwin on 31 January. The memorandum, contained 11 points varying from Prohibitions, Right to Carry Arms, reduction of exchange ratio, tax on salt, reduction of various expenditures like military, salaries, coastal shipping rights, condemnation of political prisoners, abolition of CID.

As well intentioned and wide appealing as these demands were, none could make any sense of the demands in the times of heightened political anticipation. Looking at it in retrospect, 90 years down the line, we can easily guess what he was getting at, but at the time, it would have been a mystery to friend and foe alike. The magic of how these seemingly innocuous demands turned into a powerful pan India movement forcing the passing of Government of India Act,1935 by the British parliament, is the essence of Gandhi.

Salt_March

The way Gandhi acted through the hot winter of 1929-30 to the eventual breaking of Salt Law followed by the epic Dandi march gives us more than a few lessons. Some of the points that we can learn from this bracket, I have tried to list below:

  1. Timing and theatrics – Mass mobilisation is all about how you can connect with the people and Gandhi was the master at this! Congress call for Poorna Swaraj, observance of Independence Day, were symbolism of new age. But when Gandhi came, he brought his own new dimensions. A peaceful march of 400 kms through the Indian hinterland with a select band of 78 Satyagrahis from all parts and sections, was a managerial nightmare no administration would want to face. Through 24 days of walking, 10 miles a day, Satyagrahis covered a distance of 384 kms from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi, thereby giving the press, both Indian and International, enough time and material to report on the Mahatma waging war against the mighty British with a walking stick. We have had great orators who have moved millions with their call, most notably his contemporary, a certain Adolf Hitler. And yet, this man, leading a nation of 350 million towards their tryst with destiny quite literally moved them from their homes to the sea. The pot-pourri of 24 days was the perfect pressure cooker for Indian populace to unite in an all drawn battle against the British. The morning of 6th April, Gandhi just added _salt to taste_ and brought the country to boil with his _Soul Force_. Added to all this, one can only imagine, the influence he would have exercised on the multitude he met over the course of this march.
  1. Planning – The 11 demands as listed by Gandhi would seem to be more of a hogwash when looked at from the lens of Poorna Swaraj. But, when seen through keener eyes of a political observer, we begin to realise the genius and ingenuity of the man. A mass movement needs the masses, goes without saying but a prolonged and sustainable movement of any sort also requires the resource base provided by the sympathetic rich, the industrialists of the day. Thus, while his concern was always the common man. But, his list also contained 3 demands specifically for the capitalists which referred to Rupee-Sterling exchange ratio, Textile protection and reservation of coastal shipping. Abolition of salt tax, reduction of land revenue were intended for the peasantry. Reduction in civil and military expenditure, abolition of CID etc were for the populace as a whole. Demand for release of political prisoners was in line with the milieu. Right to carry arms was a clarion call for self-respect. These non-political demands served the political purpose much more than any other means, With the alignment of national interests with the interests of different sections of the society, Gandhi ensured heart felt support across the spectrum. For the first time, Industrialists were in active support of the nationalists during Civil Disobedience movement. It was the Gujarati baniya buddhi which kept thinking of innovative solutions which held him in good stead through his life.
  1. Autocracy – Gandhi is quite frequently blamed for being an autocrat. I am quite inclined to agree with the assessment. My way or the highway was quite often the case with him, bending nationalists, INC or the people as per his wishes. That, was perhaps a character flaw, but, it will always remain a conjecture, if, and how much successful would a less staunch Gandhi be against the British, his unflinching resolve was perhaps the greatest strength of his Satyagraha. And yet, there is one point, which manifests on a deeper understanding. Gandhi’s means were more of Highway or My way, he always gave the option to the party rather than ordering the party out of his domain. True to his training as a lawyer, his calls to action, carried an implicit contract between him and his fellow Satyagrahi and any breach would effectively be loss of trust and he would dissociate himself with the party rather than ousting them, (Netaji, might be looking at this line in a frowning sort of way!) which is what he most frequently did with Congress or most famously after Chauri Chaura.
  1. Strength of Character – They say, it takes courage to stand against your enemy, but infinitely more courage is required to stand up against your own men, especially when they trust you to the extent of worship. If Gandhi was a man of masses, he also had the courage to stand up to them if they strayed from the path of right. Even this time, he was not to be lured into action due to inducement by the people and INC until he didn’t believe in the timing and efficacy of the act that he was about to initiate.

 

In the 150th year of his birth, we might think of taking the man out from our wallets and bring him and his teachings into our lives. In a world loaded with single minded democratic autocrats, we might look at the inclusivity, the staunchness of that gentle autocrat who wielded a walking stick and frail body as his only weapon and yet, went on to tame the Shrewdest of Shrews!

Respect

Anyone looking at the title of the post would be inclined to think, this as being another eulogy to the ‘Queen of Soul’. Yes it is, about her but no it is not really about her. The beauty of the initial rock/rock n roll/blues was the interconnectivity through one to other. Artist to other, they were covering some of the legends and at times they were just covering and appreciating the contemporaries. 60s-70s the golden ages of English music, never to return.

So, coming to our story, Respect, I was introduced to Aretha Franklin through some of the best or top 100 songs type list and i got to know about the brave strong voice of Aretha. I wouldn’t say that this is my favourite song but I can fully appreciate the magnitude of the song and singer. One thing lead to another, and I landed up at the original ‘Respect’ guy, our dear old Otis Redding, I had heard the name a lot, having had some sort of charisma and charm. And yet, I hadnt heard much of him except the mellow (Sitting on the) dock of the bay. So, expecting dock of the bay, I tuned into Respect by Otis Redding and it was my turn to be blown over. When he starts, “What youuu wantt” louder than the loud thumping and trumpeting going on, I just forgot Aretha Franklin’s voice. His voice didnt carry that message, the earnest but here then, just listening to the song, I will swear to my death bed, I would prefer listening to Respect by Otis Redding over Respect by Aretha Franklin.

And yet, the guy died even younger than the 27 club. Surely a great voice, some great lines lost. Adding both the versions for people to make their opinion.

The Merchant of India and his Friendly Nemesis

While growing up, I used to be fascinated about the three Vijays of Indian Cricket, namely, Vijay Merchant, Vijay Hazare and Vijay Manjrekar, drawing parallels with three Ws in my mind. As I grew up, I realised, while Mr. Manjrekar was the better batsman in his family, the other two Vijays were in different class, both in terms of age, as well as batting class and averages.

There are a lot of things, that can be told about the two Vijays, not least Cricket with Vijay Merchant or Mr. Hazare who breached the Don’s defence twice, a feat not many bowlers achieved, leave aside, the person being one of the two best batsmen in the team. But today, the story is different. Merchant is the Indian Numero Uno, the batsman with the highest First Class average after who else but the Don, he was the founder of Mumbai School of Khadoos Batsmanship, a tradition modified only with the arrival of a curly-haired teenager more than 5 decades later. While the biggest tragedy for Indian Cricket according to Merchant was that Hazare (a Test batting average only .07 lower than Merchant) couldn’t be the finest Indian batsman due to captaincy load.

The batting rivalry of the Don Bradman and Wally Hammond is well-known to the cricket literati, their Ashes rivalries where eventually the Don would prevail over Hammond besting Don’s previous efforts. Similar story-line developed in a similar time frame on the grounds of India, most famously in the matches between Bombay and Maharashtra (Baroda later).

The run race for the highest individual innings by an Indian between the two Prima Donnas began in 1941-42. Merchant’s innings of 242(3) for Hindus against Muslims in Bombay Pentangular was the highest score by an Indian till date. A record, duly broken by Hazare in the very next season with a score of 248 in the same championship against the same opponents, for “The Rest” against Muslims.

The next year, the final match featured, Merchant’s Hindus versus Hazare’s The Rest. Hindus batted first, with Merchant yet again breaking the record with a 250 in the team score. Not to be outdone by the other Vijay, Mr. Hazare scored a mammoth 309 out of a team total of 387, a 300 run partnership with his tailender brother scoring 266 out of them. Thus becoming the first Indian triple centurion.

Final saga of the story again came from the Merchant, scoring a 359* almost a week later, settling the debate for one last time. Hazare although scored another 316 but couldn’t best Vijay Merchant, the Indian Numero Uno.

कहानी मिर्ची की

दुनिया में दर्दनाक अनुभवों की कमी तो नहीं है पर जब कोई अनजाने आपको एक तीखी मिर्ची खिला दे, जिस असीम आनंद की प्राप्ति उस समय होती है, उसका वर्णन संस्कारी शब्दों में करना थोड़ा मुश्किल हो जाता है। मिर्ची नाम से ही अपनी सी लगती है, ऐसा लगता है, और मसाले जिनके लिए भारत का दक्षिणी भाग प्रसिद्ध है, मिर्ची भी उन्ही की विरासत होगी और फिर बाकी मसलों की तरह यूरोपियों ने मिर्ची का स्वाद भी हमारे घाटों पे चखा होगा । पर बड़े आश्चर्य की बात है, कि भारत में मिर्ची का इतिहास कुछ 500 साल ही पुराना है। 15 वीं सदी के अंत में, वास्को डि गामा और उनके साथियों ने ही पहली बार हमारी जीभ जलाई थी। मिर्ची के बारे में ऐसी ही कुछ अनोखी बातें मुझे एपिक टीवी चैनल के एक शो से पता चलीं जो मैं अपनी (बहुत ही कमज़ोर) याददाश्त और विकिपीडिआ एवं अन्य स्रोतों (मुख्यत:) की सहायता से, एकत्रिक करके अपने जैसे कुछ और जिज्ञासु मित्रों के साथ बाँट रहा हूँ।

7500 BC यानी कि आज से 9500 साल पहले से हमारे दक्षिण अमरीकी मित्र मिर्ची का लुत्फ़ उठा रहे हैं। 4500 BC में दक्षिण अमेरिका में इसकी खेती शुरू हुई, लगबघ उसी समय जब हमने चावल उगाना शुरू किया। सन 1492 में कोलम्बस जब भारत की खोज में निकला था, तब उसका एक लक्ष्य काली मिर्च (जिसको ब्लैक गोल्ड कहा जाता था) तक पहुँचने का दूसरा रास्ता ढूंढना था। वो जब अमेरिकी महाद्वीप में पहुंचा तो उसकी मुलाकात मिर्ची से हुई। वहां की स्थानीय भाषा में इसे चिली कहा जाता था, तो रेड इंडियंस की तरह ही पैप्पर की तलाश में मिली चिली का नाम चिली पैप्पर रख दिया। उसके बाद मिर्ची ने दुनिया के कोने कोने तक सफर किया और अब दुनिया की अमूमन हर पाक शैली में इसकी मौजूदगी है। मिर्ची को हमारे भारत की आबो-हवा और हम भारतीयों की मेहमान नवाज़ी इतनी रास आयी कि , आज के समय में भारत मिर्ची का सबसे बड़ा उत्पादक एवं निर्यातक है।

अब मिर्ची का ज़िक्र होते में ज़ेहन में पहला सवाल यही आता है कि दुनिया में सबसे तीखी मिर्ची कौनसी होती और, वो कितनी तीखी होगी? मिर्ची की तीव्रता मापने के लिए स्कोविल्ल स्केल का इस्तेमाल किया जाता है। इस स्केल में चीनी की उस मात्रा को नापा जाता है जिसको मिलाने से इस मिर्ची का तीखापन ख़त्म हो जाये। इस स्केल में सबसे तीखी मिर्ची, अमेरिका की “कैरोलिना रीपर” मानी जाती है जिसका तीखापन 22,00,000 SHU नापा गया है। भारत की सबसे तीखी मिर्ची “भूत ज़लकीया” की तीव्रता 15,80,000 SHU नापी गयी है।

इस पोस्ट का अंत मैं कुछ दिलचस्प मिर्चियों के साथ करता हूँ..

कश्मीरी मिर्च – नाम से ही साफ़ है की ये कश्मीर में होती है , पर इसकी सबसे मज़ेदार बात ये है की ये मिर्ची बस नाम की है , इसकी तीव्रता बस लगबगाह 4000 -5000 तक होती है, इसलिए कश्मीरी खान पान में इसका प्रयोग तीखेपन की जगह ज़ायके के लिए होता है।

गुंटूर मिर्च – आंध्रा के तीखे खाना का राज़ ये गुँटूरी मिर्च है। यह भारत से निर्यात होने वाली मिर्ची में 30% हिस्सा गुंटूर मिर्च का है। इसकी तीव्रता 50,000 -1,00,000 SHU तक होती है।

मुंडू मिर्च – आंध्रा और तमिल क्षेत्रों में उगाई जाने वाली ये मिर्ची अपने आकार की वजह से अत्यंत दिलचस्प है। अन्य मिर्चियों की तरह लम्बी और पतली होने की जगह यह मिर्ची गोलाकार होती है। इस मिर्ची का प्रयोग भी तीव्रता की जगह ज़ायके के लिए होता है। मैंने ऐसी गोल मिर्च नहीं देखी पर मेरे आंध्र-तमिल दोस्त ज़रूर खुशनसीब हैं।

The Star Killer

Gold is known as the King of Metals  owing to its intrinsic value due to the relative scarcity and that shiny hue. But the aam aadmi of the Metal family better known as Iron, has a very interesting story from its formation to its availability for our usage. First thing I’d do to Iron would be to rechristen it, giving it the cool name of “Star Killer”, the story behind the title shall follow.

 

 

 

 

 

The story for the day starts with Hydrogen being the only element present in the universe and the universe still being a hot burner, what with big bang just a few million years past. About 200-500 million years after the big bang (which happened 13.7 billion years ago), the universe got its first production plants. The 1st generation of stars which came into being around that time comprising majorly of Hydrogen with only a few traces, if any, of other elements. The stars, under the force of gravity and the heat around started the first constructive process in the universe. Hydrogen atoms under the intense pressure undergo the process known as “Nuclear Fusion” to form the Helium atoms, the 2nd heaviest element in the universe. The process keeps moving forward, smashing the proton particles against the existing elements to form newer elements, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen and so on. These factories  were working very well and the universe was slowly being introduced to newer elements with increasing atomic numbers.

 

Then, the inevitable happened, a Manganese atom bombarded by another of those free-flowing Hydrogen atoms would have produced the newest kid on the block, our very own Iron. This is, where the story changes. Iron, being a heavy element went out-of-bounds for the Star system, the nuclear fusion process didn’t have enough energy to break the Iron chains. The creation of first Iron atom in a star system is the beginning of its end. Slowly the star, having consumed all its fuel in the form of Hydrogen and left only with the heavy elements died its own death. The manner of settling of the dead bodies in stars, unlike humans, is based on size. Thus the largest become Supernova, some become neutron stars, some become red giants. The red super giants was the last stage of most of the stars at that time. The red supergiants crumbled under the gravitational force and scattered off the heavier elements in violent gushes, spreading them far and wide, making up the source for the iron used by humans 13 billion years later.
Thus, almost every piece of our very common Iron, which we use in our daily life, was formed about 13 billion years ago, long before the Earth, the Sun and the Moon could even be conceived of. And not only the antiquity of Iron, but the most interesting thing about Iron is, it defines the natural boundaries of a star. No heavier element is ever produced in the course of the natural production activity of the universe and its arrival sounds the death knell of its founding star. No wonder, the star killer has had such utility in human lives.

Tsar Bomba

Exploring, and then shattering the known horizons has been the biggest passion of the most entrepreneurial of humans. It is this unending drive that has taken human civilisation to the insurmountable heights. But, there come times in the advance of human civilisation that the logic finally overcomes the blinding passion and makes humans to think, pause and wait. There are two such interesting examples, while one concerns biking, other is about “the single most physically powerful device ever deployed by mankind”.

Tsar Bomba, a Hydrogen Bomb tested on 30th October 1961 by the erstwhile USSR at the peak of their powers and the peak of the Cold War, remains the most powerful detonation achieved by human society. The scale of power generated by the single event was awe-inspiringly obnoxious. Power delivered by such atomic, nuclear bombs is measured in Kilotons/Megatons of TNT equivalent. The blast yield of Tsar Bomba was 57MT TNT, just for comparison, the strongest such weapon tested by US was 15 MT. The Tsar was 3800 times more powerful than Little Boy, the bomb dropped at Hiroshima which was measured 15 KT TNT. While the Pokhran tests in 1998 by India had a max yield of 43-45 KT still 1/1300th times the power of TSAR, a feat achieved 37 years later.

To get an idea of the conventional power of the TSAR, the energy released by that one single explosion in Oct 1961 was 10 times the combined energy of all conventional explosives used during the course of the World War II. Everything within a radius of ~35 kms was razed to ground, houses were destroyed 100s of kms, there were partially broken windows even upto 900-1000 kms from the test site. Yet, the m6ost other worldly thing about the Tsar for me, was the height of the Mushroom Cloud. Through all my studies and general awareness of Geography, anything human related, after breaching the Troposphere (the layer of atmosphere closest to earth surface) is only restricted to Stratosphere, a layer which extends upto 50 kms. But Tsar’s Mushroom cloud breached the natural barrier, extending into the Mesosphere acquiring a peak height of 65 kms, a new horizon breached by humans, something the USSR Scientists could be very proud.

Yet, here comes the interesting story. The Tsar had a maximum theoretical yield of 100 MT but after testing the 57MT mega bomb, finally the USSR scientists decided that enough was enough and a bomb any more powerful would pose severe existential crises in the form of fallout risk and escape of the carrier, thus saving our earth to an extent.

Thus, a bomb which was 10 times more powerful than the whole of World War II, still had a lot of gas remaining in the tank, thankfully for human civilisation, even the human greed can encounter some limits at times.

The Winter Tales

My first memory of winter must be a good 20 years ago when I saw the most beautiful white sun. It was an Uttarkashi winter sun. Winters in hills are quite enjoyable, unlike the Ganga plain, hills have sunny winter  days when you can savour the true joy  of dhoop sekna. Most days are like this, but then there are some which are cold, and this, the aforementioned one was such a cold one. The sun unable to break through, sat smarting behind an overarching sheet of clouds, looking like a shiny white halogen light. The clouds and the sun were, amongst the more beautiful afternoons one will see. The literal icing on the cake though, was the first snowfall in my own city. I had seen  snow, many inches of it in places nearby. But, this was my 1st snowfall, that too in my own backyard. A day, I will never forget.

 

My second memories, belong to the last of my school days, those amazing days of class XII, when instead of being all tensed about our careers, we were a bunch of teenagers, having the best innocent fun of their lives with an amazing set of friends. In such fun times, do I place the winters of 2003-04 of Lucknow. Hard gruelling classes of preparation for IIT finished around 8. Wrapped in jackets, some of them wearing mufflers or caps, all picked up their vehicles, ranging from the TVS Scooty to the stylish lucky ones with bikes, there was only one thing on our minds, soon as the class got over. Drive from the coaching centre to our destination was hardly 5 mins, but the hands were almost freezing by the time we reached our destination, the Samose wala bhaia in front of Nabard gate. Piping hot samose with the chutney, both khatti and meethi, were the warmest of hug one could have in the cruel foggy Northern winter. A whole lot of ganging up, leofying, and occasional dose of 2nd samosa, if someone was feeling rich enough to afford it, whole lot of coins were jangled, pockets searched to come up with notes of Rs. 5 and 10 later, someone paying for the other with a grudge and an occasional abuse. Finally, brought a fulfilment to the chilly cold day. 11 years later, after being recruited to NABARD, going to the training college, finding the samose wali shop was one of the first thing I did.

 

Lots of living in hyd left me pining, looking and hoping for some chill every sad, silent winter night! But, my ghumakkad life, thankfully landed me up to deal with the Dilli ki Sardi. There are a lot of nights and days to be remembered, yet the most memorable would be the first day of 2013. 31st December 2012 was a wild drunk night, the morning after was full of headaches and black tea along with sutta, there was a fear of one of the flatmates jumping down from his balcony. All in all, it was a typical boys night out new year who were all set to be sober for a few days. But, the delhi winter seemingly had different plans. The temperature starting dipping appreciably, by the time sun set, our bengali flatmate was trying to warm even his glove adorned hands with hot tea. Those, the north indian ones of us, were almost shaking even in the 2-3 layers of clothing we were wearing. The cold was absolutely bone chilling, poor UPSC students couldnt even think of a heater/blower, Until… The brilliant idea stuck one of us, “Old Monk“, the Dilli ki lifeline. And lo and behold, the guys who were blaming ‘Signature’ in the morning were, 10 hours later, sitting with pegs all in their hands. And slowly, as the Rum started kicking in, the sardi became our muse and thus started a  winter full of rum, joy and life and a life long love story with Dilli ki Sardi.

 

4 years later, I see these pic of my parents in snow of Munsiyari
Winter Snow

 

And me poor chum is stuck in Mumbai, of the three quarters and full shirts fame.
Oh my dear winters, someday… Someday, We shall meet again!