Friday, August 19, 2011

B.R.Ambedkar on Anna Hazare


Excerpts from the speech of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar delivered to the Constituent Assembly on 25th November, 1949. And such was the wisdom of the man that he foresaw Anna Hazare some 62 years ago and warned us against the dangers. 
It is not that India did not know what is Democracy. There was a time when India was studded with republics, and even where there were monarchies, they were either elected or limited. They were never absolute. It is not that India did not know Parliaments or Parliamentary Procedure. A study of the Buddhist Bhikshu Sanghas discloses that not only there were Parliaments-for the Sanghas were nothing but Parliaments – but the Sanghas knew and observed all the rules of Parliamentary Procedure known to modern times. They had rules regarding seating arrangements, rules regarding Motions, Resolutions, Quorum, Whip, Counting of Votes, Voting by Ballot, Censure Motion, Regularization, Res Judicata, etc. Although these rules of Parliamentary Procedure were applied by the Buddha to the meetings of the Sanghas, he must have borrowed them from the rules of the Political Assemblies functioning in the country in his time.

This democratic system India lost. Will she lose it a second time? I do not know. But it is quite possible in a country like India – where democracy from its long disuse must be regarded as something quite new – there is danger of democracy giving place to dictatorship. It is quite possible for this new born democracy to retain its form but give place to dictatorship in fact. If there is a landslide, the danger of the second possibility becoming actuality is much greater.

If we wish to maintain democracy not merely in form, but also in fact, what must we do? The first thing in my judgement we must do is to hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives. It means we must abandon the bloody methods of revolution. It means that we must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha. When there was no way left for constitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives, there was a great deal of justification for unconstitutional methods. But where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods. These methods are nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us.

The second thing we must do is to observe the caution which John Stuart Mill has given to all who are interested in the maintenance of democracy, namely, not “to lay their liberties at the feet of even a great man, or to trust him with power which enable him to subvert their institutions”. There is nothing wrong in being grateful to great men who have rendered life-long services to the country. But there are limits to gratefulness. As has been well said by the Irish Patriot Daniel O’Connel, no man can be grateful at the cost of his honour, no woman can be grateful at the cost of her chastity and no nation can be grateful at the cost of its libertyThis caution is far more necessary in the case of India than in the case of any other country. For in India, Bhakti or what may be called the path of devotion or hero-worship, plays a part in its politics unequalled in magnitude by the part it plays in the politics of any other country in the world. Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul. But in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.
You can do far worse than reading the full speech here.
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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The High - Marathon


After those 42 kms, I existed only in relation to the finish line. And unlike the one that I chanced upon some 27 years ago, this was an existence of my own choosing; one that I had negotiated hard for. In the begining, I had said "I am strong"; but the hills made me walk. The sun then said "You are not strong enough"; but I walked on. "You don't have enough heart" said the altitude; "Whatever it is, it can endure", I replied. The desert tried to trick me; I persevered and it relented. And then after 06:12, there I was, humbled and proud; I wasn't much but whatever I was I was of my own creation.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Is Stupidity Immoral?


For the record -

A friend asked on Facebook: "Is stupidity immoral?"

I replied: "Intellect (or lack of it) precedes morality. So, stupidity is morally neutral."

Friend: "So do you think stupid actions committed which cause lots of damage can be forgiven because the person had no intention of doing so?"

Me: "No, I don't think that.

There's a distinction between the stupid aspect (lacking understanding) and the harmful aspect (causing harm as defined by a moral system) of an act. And a moral system is justified in dealing with the harmful aspects of an act whether stupid or otherwise.

Stupidity is neither sufficient nor necessary for immorality. A harmful act can be committed in the absence of stupidity. So stupidity is not necessary for an immoral act. Also, it is possible that an act devoid of understanding (and thus stupid) causes no harm in the moral sense. So, stupidity is also not a sufficient condition for immorality. The two, stupidity and immorality, are therefore different aspects of an act and a moral system can and should judge the latter and not the former."
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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Running Updates

I just realized that for the last 6 months or so, all of my travel has centered around running. All the trips - whether to attend a friend's wedding or to meet the prospective life partners - were planned around some run.
After 6 months break due to a back injury in Feb'2010, I re-started running in September. Since then, I have been running almost continuously with the only breaks being those that were imposed by the body.  I have run four half-marathons since then. And except for a 1 month period where I had a shin-splint scare, I have been relatively injury free. ( It later turned out that the shin pain was due to worn out shoes putting extra pressure on my shin muscle. The pain went away to a great degree after I started running in new shoes - Asics 2150.)


The four runs/trips since November'10 have been -


Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, 21 Nov, 2010
Since I started from scratch in September and struggled with my increased weight, I wasn't in best of shape and it reflected in the finish time of 2:07. It was my slowest half-marathon ever. But good thing was that I was back on the track.


SC Mumbai Half Marathon, 16th Jan, 2011
This was my first run in Mumbai. The weather on the day was far better than what I had expected after hearing experiences of runners who ran there the previous year. The best part of this run was the local cheering and support for the runners along the route. Many families had come out on to the roadside and were providing water and eatable to the runners and were cheering them. All this and a small matter of losing 3 Kgs since Delhi helped me get a sub 2 hrs timing of 1:57 mins.


Auroville  13th Feb, 2011
I had registered for a full marathon at Auroville but could not train well for a full due to concerns of injury to my shin. However, I decided to run a half marathon there. I started the run early in the morning with full marathon guys. It was still dark when the full marathon starts and one has to run for about an hour in the pitch dark jungle with a handheld torch before the day starts to break. For me, one of the most attractive aspects of the Auriville marathon is to run during those early morning hours on a thick jungle trail and witness sunrise along with all the accompanying sounds and smells of the jungle.
For full, one has to cover the same route twice, so I decided to stop after first round. However, I missed the starting point and realized 10 mins later that I was well into the 23rd Km. I turned back from there and thus finished about 25 Kms. While going back to the starting area I removed my bib so that people don't mistake my shortened run for a world record.


Running and Living Half Marathon, Corbett National Park, 23rd April, 2011
This is the latest run that I did. The good part of it was that my two brothers and some relatives and friends also accompanied me from Delhi for this trip. We were a gang of 8 and usual fun was had during the 3 day trip. We could have saved ourselves some headache had we given a little thought in planning the whole trip but as it turned out it was fun nonetheless.
The run itself was pretty decent. I was targeting somewhere around 1:50 and was in pretty good position at around 18 Km mark at 1:33. But during the last 3 km the sun came out with full force, the roadside tree cover grew sparse and the route that seemed completely flat in the morning inexplicably turned inclined. The result was that I lost some 3 mins while walking some part of the last km and finished in 1:51.
Latter that day we roamed around Corbett and the highlight was bathing in a water fall after a hot day. The next day we went on the jungle Safari and though we didn't sight a tiger in the wild, it was pretty good fun. One of the things that struck me about the jungle - when we once suspected a tiger and turned the engines off - was how quiet it was.


I next plan to do a full marathon at Leh in August. This should be a very challenging run, not the least because of the very high altitude of the location. The organizers have made it mandatory that the runners report at least a week in advance in Leh so that they get enough time to acclimatize else it can be too risky to run long distances at such an altitude. So, I can use that 7 days period for sightseeing and general vacationing in the Himalayas.
However, given that it's summer and just to get a 5K run in the park one has to wake up at 5:30 in the morning or else it becomes too hot to run, it will take all the dedication and discipline to train for this run. 
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tagged in Dare to Run


I never wrote down the experience of my first full marathon but was pleasantly surprised yesterday to find out that Amit Sheth's book - Dare to Run - has an anecdote that involves me running my first 42.2 Km at Auroville'10.

Relevant excerpt from the book: 

"Many of the runners were first-timers and at 30-35 Km mark I saw them walking with their heads hanging, totally drained of all energy. Although young and strong, these chaps had made the mistake of starting out too fast and consequently they crashed around this mark. I saw one real hunk, walking the walk of death and when I reached alongside him, I saw the dazed and disoriented look on his face. He was taller than I was and much more muscular and he was soaked in sweat as it was now very hot and humid in the forest. On my asking, he told me that it was his first marathon and that he was from Hyderabad. I told him that he had run exceptionally well to this point, this being his first race, and that no matter how many marathons he ran in the future, he would never forget this race. I told him that what will make it special for him is the memory that he ran through the pain and discomfort and these miles will make him strong. When I finished my little speech, something just turned on inside this guy and he sprinted off. I could not keep up with him, but was happy to see him run strong. 
I later saw him at the 41st Km marker and he was once again walking the walk of death. I was about 10 feet behind him and I called out and said, "Hey Hyderabad, come on man, you are looking good, you are strong, come on, you want to run last Km strong. You will always remember that you ran the last km of your first marathon with your head held high!" Without looking back, this guy sprinted out of my sight. I laughed when I saw him sprint ahead; it was great feeling. As I crossed the finish line, I saw him standing to my right. He came up and said "Thank you!". I just loved that moment.
He introduced himself as Sachin."

I remember talking to Amit during that Auroville run. He was training for Comrades (http://www.comrades.com/) - an 89 Km Ultra Marathon in South Africa, which is even more difficult that it already sounds. He (along with his wife) later finished the Comrades that year on his second attempt.

P.S. Will get down to read the whole book in few days and will post a review thereafter.
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