Renaming Aurangzeb Road: A Proposal

Indian politicians talk a very loudly talk about India being a democracy, meaning Indians have some say in what happens in India. But when it comes to reality, they are understandably reluctant to put their money where their mouth is. Indian democracy should not be limited to Indians merely having the vote for choosing who is going to be their mai-baap, to dictate to them. To be meaningful, democracy should be extended to the relatively unimportant matter of people deciding who are worthy of being honored by having major roads, schemes and institutions named after them.

So far, most of the major roads, institutions and public schemes have been named after members of the Nehru-Gandhi clan. It’s high time to change that high-handed, dictatorial method and go with a more “democratic” process. The means exist. A significant proportion of the population has the means to vote for all proposed name changes — and there’s a crying need to change all those names. Here’s my proposal.
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Naming “Dr” APJ Abdul Kalam Road: The Administrator

The proposed renaming of “Aurangzeb Road” into “Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Road” is doubtless an improvement. It marks a welcome transition from honoring an ancient terrible tyrant to honoring a contemporaneous much-admired administrator who passed away very recently. It could be better but one should be grateful for small mercies in an otherwise merciless world.

I briefly noted in my previous post (“Renaming Aurangzeb Road: The Tyrant“) the tyranny of Aurangzeb. Here I will consider why I believe that we could do better than renaming the road after Mr Kalam. I don’t harbor any illusions that my views will be taken seriously by anybody, least of all the hordes of “Dr” Kalam fans whose first knee-jerk reaction to my characterization of Mr Kalam is name-calling. A thick skin is the first requirement for being a contrarian. I wouldn’t get in the business of calling bullshit if I couldn’t tolerate the reaction from the purveyors of bullshit.
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Renaming Aurangzeb Road: The Tyrant

Though not unique in that respect, India does appear to suffer from a severely debilitating case of personality cult disorder. It is not a minor affliction because, as I will argue later in a separate post, it leads to serious social, economic, and political dysfunction. The condition is chronic but thankfully it is not incorrigible. A little bit of critical thinking among the public at large can eradicate the disease and with it the harmful consequences. Among the many symptoms of this disorder, particularly evident ones are the naming of roads and a variety of institutions after rulers and politicians (which amounts to the same thing.) It can escape no one’s attention that names of the Nehru-Gandhi clan adorn thousands of roads, institutions, and public schemes in India. I conjecture that a list of institutions and schemes not bearing one of those clan member names would be shorter than a list with their names.
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Flash mob performance of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”

One of my favorites, Beethoven’s 9th symphony is his final complete symphony. Composed between 1822 and 1824, it is considered to be his finest and some even think that it is the greatest composition in the Western classical music canon. In the final movement of the choral symphony, the chorus sings the words to Friedrich Schiller’s poem “An die Freude” (composed 1785). Beethoven conducted the symphony when it premiered. He was totally deaf by that time and so he had to see the ovation that followed, rather than hear it.
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The Cycle of Wealth and Poverty

Some years ago, a very wise gentleman told me of a saying that succinctly describes the decline and fall of family fortunes, which happens to cycle in approximately four generations. “Khattu, Nikhattu, Udharichand, Baychumal”.

It begins with the generation that works hard (Khattu) and builds up the family fortune. It is followed by a generation that is lazy (Nikhattu) and lives off the wealth. The third generation becomes more lazy and lives off borrowings (Udharichand) against the remaining assets. Finally, the fourth generation ends up selling the assets and ends up poor.

A version of this cycle must apply at larger scales too, that of societies and nations. It could be a global phenomenon and if so, other societies must have recognized the phenomenon and therefore also have similar sayings. And indeed they do. Here are a few from around the world. I got them off the web.
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Of Yogis, Grihastis and Institutions

If people were self-sacrificing, self-effacing, other-directed, rational, visionary, benevolent beings — “yogis” — then it would not matter very much what kind of institutional arrangements they lived under: the resulting social welfare of their collective actions would be fairly even regardless of whether they lived in a market-oriented capitalist order or a collectivist socialist order. But unfortunately for all of us, people are self-interested, myopic, irrational, imperfect beings — “grihastis”. Given the reality of living in this material world, the institutional arrangement does matter.
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Karl Popper on the Limits of Tolerance

“Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.”

– Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945), Vol. 1, Notes to the Chapters: Ch. 7, Note 4.

“I have insisted that we must be tolerant. But I also believe that this tolerance has its limits. We must not trust those anti-humanitarian religions which not only preach destruction but act accordingly. For if we tolerate them, then we become ourselves responsible for their deeds.”

— Karl Popper. After the Open Society.