Thursday, July 29, 2010

About an advice to the youth of china, equally applicable to us.

I picked up South China Morning Post at Hong Kong airport as I boarded our flight to Bengaluru. I found the article posted below as extremely relevant! I have highlighted the sentences I liked!

( I reread the article the next day and said to myself what is so special but for the fact that he is trying to instill some ideals. Who doesn't at my age! But those who should listen, will they?)

The article: Ordinary lives


Wang Jisi
Jul 29, 2010

A graduation ceremony is an occasion for congratulations and words of encouragement. But although I have been an administrator for many years, I have not learned how to make sensational speeches. I never know when to raise the tone of my voice or when to pause for applause. Of course, saying a few bland words appropriate to the occasion will not be too difficult. But a man past 60, as I am, is past minding what others say of him. So I will speak from my heart.

I'd like to talk about life goals and about being an ordinary person at ease with himself. My main field of study is America and Sino-American relations. Naturally these topics are close to my heart. China can learn from the United States in many ways, but in at least two areas we must not follow their example.

The first is America's prodigious consumption of natural resources and its spending on credit. Both China and the US are vast in size. But while America's geographical and natural resources are far more abundant than China's, its population is just over a fifth of ours. If the Chinese were to consume as the Americans do - living in big houses and driving big cars - it would cripple our country and cripple the earth. So, in terms of material progress and per capita consumption, unless the Americans make a disastrous wrong turn, China can never catch up with America. Nor should it want to. (Think of our horrendous traffic congestion even as it is and our narrow streets and unplanned clusters of small houses in our towns and cities!)

The second lesson for China is that it should not seek to be a superpower. America is unique in many ways. No other country can be a superpower to rival it; the Soviet Union tried to be one but fell apart. Chinese leaders since Mao Zedong have repeatedly said China should never be a superpower. They were not being diplomatic; they decided it must be so, given China's conditions and development goals. (I know we tried to tell America off by aligning ourselves with Soviet union!)

This is why China should not aspire to be another America; we cannot be so even if we try. What, then, is China's strategic goal in the world? I think we should focus on our own development and help create an environment that is conducive to it. International rankings, such as which country is number one, are not important. What is important is that our people are healthy and happy, our society just and at peace, our ecology in balance and our country can stand on equal footing with the nations of the world. (A nice wish list! Interesting to see who will fulfill them better! China or India?)

National goals aside, let's think about our personal goals. After graduation, you will go your separate ways. To those of you who will one day become a leading scholar, a company chief executive, a department head, a national leader, the secretary general of the United Nations, or in any way make your name, I will offer my congratulations. But, realistically, despite your bright hopes for the future and your enviable education here in Peking University, most of you will become ordinary people. Anyone who doubts this will see the truth of it after he attends an alumni meeting or a class reunion. (A sobering thought but true! My wish here is that they should not turn into problematic people.)

Mao Zedong once wrote about the 600 million Chinese [China's population then] who were the equals of the legendary emperors of Yao and Shun. In another verse, he compared the Chinese people with historical giants. Those are inspiring words. But how many of us are the equal of Yao, Shun and their fellow greats? So, to those of you who turn out to be healthy, happy ordinary people, I'll offer my congratulations, too - perhaps doubly so. Because as an ordinary person, you may live a more carefree life, one that is truer to yourself.

Not only do I hope you will become an ordinary person, I also hope you will become a good person. What is the definition of a good person? At the very least, a good person is kind to his family, friends and colleagues. He does not cheat in exams, or plagiarise another scholar's work, or cut corners in construction projects, or sell fake goods or accept bribes. If you aim high and are thwarted in your ambition to be among thecreme de la creme, you will be disappointed, and you may find your grasp on even basic moral standards slipping. Set your goals lower and you will find it easier to be a good person. (One can only hope!)

But being good does not mean being laid back and without ambition; it does not stop you from making a constructive contribution to society. As Zhuge Liang, a famous military strategist of the Three Kingdoms period, said to his son in a letter: "A gentleman keeps a tranquil mind and lives a frugal life to become a highly moral person. Live a simple life to identify your true aspirations; seek inner peace to accomplish your goals."

In other words, the more virtuous you become, the more successfully you can identify and achieve your goals. Speaking of Zhuge Liang brings me back to my work in international politics. Zhuge Liang excelled in identifying and striving for his aspirations but not so much in ruling a country. Although the Shu kingdom had once had a glorious time under his rule, he failed to restore the damaged vitality of his country and eventually failed to unify the three kingdoms. He insisted on waging war with the much stronger Wei kingdom despite the weakness and exhaustion of his own kingdom.

If Zhuge had set his goals lower and overhauled his war strategies and made use of his diplomatic skills and charisma to call a peace summit in Chengdu, Shu's capital city, and push for a peace agreement, there could have been a win-win situation and co-operation among the three kingdoms. His kingdom and the people would have avoided much suffering, and Zhuge Liang himself could have enjoyed a few more years of peace with his family. (Will anyone in power listen to him?)

I should stop before I make more inappropriate comments. I wish all of you health and happiness. (Lucky for us that we in India have freedom of speech!)

Wang Jisi is dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University. This is a translation of the speech he gave at the school's graduation ceremony earlier this month

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Vancouver celebrating the sun: forest symphony

While in Bangkok it was nice to see some of our Hindu Indian neighbours coming out to their balconies in the morning to offer a small prayer with folded hands to the sun. The sun is particularly hot in Bangkok, especially in the afternoons! In fact, most of us would seek ways to avoid it.

Not so in Vancouver! Summer is eagerly awaited and people celebrate the sun. While I have not seen anyone doing this with folded hands, they are out in numbers along with their children enjoying the sun as much as they can.

The Sun god is inconsistent here, appears only briefly in winters and it is not even warm! The first time I walked out to admire the winter sun in my thin pajamas, I almost froze and realised that while the sun was bright it was still freezing cold!

With longer days (16 hours!) in summer and schools closed it is a challenge to keep the children occupied. It is wonderful to see that many events are organised in the metro city of Vancouver, most of them free, to keep them busy! Events to learn about nature, painting, art and nature photography to name a few. Good to see that there was even 'an introduction to hatha yoga'. Would have pleased our rishi Pathanjali!

A concept that should be adopted by our dear city Bengaluru. I know there are a few activities in place, I have heard of a nature walk! But not in a scale which impacts many of us. However the event 'north American skinny dip event- clothing optional' may not find any participants:-).

Rohini tries to benefit from these events and is constantly planning outings for the children and we are now glad to be a part of this! Yesterday we attended an event 'Forest symphony' close to Rohini's house! Described as 'an extraordinary evening of music floating through the forest by musicians and performers'! It was an enchanting walk through the forest. We did not really walk under the sun but under the shade of the trees. But it was balmy and I was comfortable with just a T-shirt!

It was absolutely a wonderful day for a walk in the forest and I wished I had carried a camera. Luckily for me Rohini's friend Roxanne had one and thanks to her I am able to recreate the day for you in pictures! I also feel a little guilty as she was planning to go back to listen to the opera singers again, but chose to walk with us and take pictures for me! Very kind of her!

Leela and her friends Katrina and Ishan, they learnt Bollywood dance together, had a great time!

Leela and Ishan learn Hindustani music together and Rhea can also sing by just listening to them! Here they are with Katrina enjoying music.

There were many such stations as we walked and we paused often.

Very imaginative use of some great expressions on music!

Yours truly in front of the camera!

Very soon we were at the end of our walk. We wished it would never end as it was magical. We then saw this piece of art and it took our breath away. It was not really a painting, but they had framed a piece of the forest, chosen by an artist, for us to admire.

We were invited to frame whatever we liked and here is what we chose!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I felt cheated with the World cup!

I am sure so did many out of the estimated billion who saw the event. While I am not a fan of football (soccer for some!) I did watch some of the matches!

Surely sports we see today can no more be defined as; '
A sport is commonly defined as an organized, competitive, and skillful physical activity requiring commitment and fair play.' (wikipedia.)

I stopped watching NBA a few years ago when the game, especially when it could have been the most interesting last few minutes, turned into a farce. It is all about how many fouls each player 'had to give' and deliberately foul. This is supposed to be a clever strategy as there was a possibility that the fouled player would miss a free throw. Also as a player of the game I could never get used to extra step the NBA pros are allowed to take!

Anyway coming back to world cup I was happy to see this sensible comment made:
Mike Ingham
BBC chief football correspondent

The good news is that Spain are the champions and worthy champions, but the bad news is the biggest match in the world was soiled and stained and betrayed by the Netherlands.
I know part of football is to stop your opponent, but you must do it legitimately and I don't really see the point of getting to the final if you're going to disrespect it like the Dutch did so crudely. It was a bit like watching a child trying to build a sandcastle and another child then knocking it down.
I think Fifa has a problem because they trumpet this ideal of "my game is fair play" but if you think about this World Cup we had France qualifying through cheating, Uruguay denying Africa's best team [Ghana] through cheating and the Dutch last night with their own slogan - my game is unfair play.

The game is all about 'Natak' (drama!) and as the correspondent observes 'cheating' now! To foul and not be caught. To distract the referee by any means. Pretend to be injured! Grab the opposing player and make him ineffective and so on! I am sure someone would have already suggested academy awards for the best acting for injury and the most clever foul in soccer matches!
There are many instances but the last minute goal disallowed by the referee and that Ghana was forced to take a penalty kick was totally disgusting as it was a very clear victory for Ghana! I wished that with the number of blunders the referees had made they could have made one decision which was morally correct. I also had feeling that the ball had crossed the posts!

One has to see the hair line width decisions made by machines in Tennis to declare a ball in! I would not even comment about golf where the player is expected to honest and being caught would mean a disqualification!

My memory goes back to the sixties when I watched Matunga Athletic play in Bombay and have good memories of the game! They played a very clean game and were a pleasure to watch! The team was made up of educated college kids and they were likened to breath of fresh air in the game by the lovers of football!

I guess I should mention my cousin Prasad and Anantram and others who were the main reason I would go all the way from Pune to watch them play!

Then I checked about the rules of the game and this is what I read: Since soccer sparks some pretty intense competition at times, playing it without a lot of strict rules and without a referee to enforce them caused serious troubles in mid 19th century England. Soccer fights became something that was seen as normal and they gave the game an aura of violence that in truth it didn't deserve. (

Surely things have not changed much since then!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Raji Narayan is back! This time with Art Mantram

Raji's back in London!
People who read my blog would know Raji and about her voluntary work with Dwaraka. She designed and developed many artistic products based on Kalamkari and helped hundreds of women artisans in Kalahasti to come out of debt.

(Raji at the Regent street festival, Indian Summer in London. )
She participated in an exhibition in London showcasing their work a few years ago.

Recently she was back in London again!
Now as the curator on behalf of Artmantram , participating in an exhibition at the Nehru Centre introducing paintings from well known and not so well known but very talented artists from Karnataka !

Raji welcoming the guests!

Arunabha and Meghana in the centre of the picture!
While it is a pity that I missed being there, it was fortunate that her daughter Meghana and son-in-law Arunabha were there to witness the event!

Raji obviously did not hear the photographer asking her to smile. Typically her mind would be busy with some important detail of the event!
( May be she was worried that the 200 samosa's they had ordered was not going to be enough:-).)

It is her nature to be behind the scenes taking care of many things that needs to be done and done well!

Introducing the paintings to the chief guest!

She told me that the event was a grand success and they sold a few paintings. One of the high lights of the event for her was meeting the great Indian artist M.F.Hussain!

To quote: Raji Narayan, curator of the Bangalore Festival of Art said, "This is the first time we are taking the event to London and also showcasing the paintings of well known artists and newer talent. It is a wonderful platform for the new artists to exhibit along with internationally known artists and reach out to a larger group of art connoisseurs."

You can see a more detailed account of the event with pictures on facebook.
The pictures in my blog are borrowed from Artmantram!

Friday, July 2, 2010

About a book writtten about India!

I skimmed through Elephanta Suite by Paul Theroux! Rohini who likes to read India centric books had borrowed it from the public library here in Vancouver! (An amazing library!)

The blurb 'Praise for Theroux' credited him with '..practitioner of a literary tradition honed to elegantly crafted terseness by Somerset Maugham and Graham Greene'.

If you want to know more about the readers' comments on the book have a look at! I did like some portions of the book. Especially the observations about us. Our Indianess as it were! It is good to get some terse comments about ourselves! And we take foreigners opinion more seriously!

Here are some quotes from the book:
..They had not seen much of India, but they knew that whenever they had hesitated anywhere, looking puzzled or even thoughtful, an Indian stepped forward to explain, usually an old man, a bobble-headed pedant, urgent with irrelevancies.
" get these Indians talking and they flog a dead horse into dog food."
....How was it possible for people to talk so much that they were oblivious of their listener?
...That was another thing: one minute it was budget projections and stock analysis, the next minute it was horoscopes and arranged marriages and the wonder of drinking your own whiz.
"... all I see in India is people reinventing the flat tire."
" Nice doesn't seem like the right word for Indians," Audie said. "It is too bland. Lavish, outlandish, pious, talkative, overbearing, in your face, slippery, insincere, holy-- I am thinking they are Indian words"
....The miracle to them was that India was not a country but a creature, like a monstrous body crawling with smaller creatures, pestilential with people --a big horrific being, sometimes angry and loud, sometimes passive and striking, always hostile, even dangerous. And another miracle was that they'd found a remote part of it that was safe.
...Perhaps that was the secret to experiencing India, to bury yourself deeply in it to avoid suffering it.

I suppose this will do to give you an idea of how the book reads! I guess it has given me an other way of expressing myself. Especially when I want to speak more tersely!

I end with another quote from the book and hope to guard myself from being this: travel made this normally straightforward man pretentious.