Random Thoughts

All in the Family; Halal or Haram?

All in the Family
Halal or Haram?
Movers and Shakers
No Bed of Roses for Sharif
Déjà Vu
Think it Through

All in the Family

The boundaries of family converging into larger society have, all through in our history, been rather nebulous. There has always been the custom to keep whatever you possibly could, within the family. The claims of one’s near and dear ones were always far more important than what was right or wrong in the larger interests of the community or your calling. Rabindranath Tagore’s father advised his eldest son, Robi Babu’s brother, not to opt for Bengal to start the first Indian’s career in the ICS where he won’t be able to turn down claims and requests of innumerable relatives and friends. He served in Baroda, instead.

At the dawn of Independence we thought we were going to turn a new leaf. But no. Jawaharlal as the Vice-Chairman of Viceroy’s Executive Council had to appoint an ambassador to the USSR. And whom did he choose? Of course his dear sister, Vijaylakshmi, the most qualified for the job because her brother was on an authority on international affairs.

Under the salary and allowances rules, the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats have to pay Rs 30,000 per month to those employed by our Hon’ble MPs for secretarial assistance. This amount can be paid entirely to one PA-cum-girl-friend or an MP can split the amount between more than one assistant. This has been provided to help them to discharge their work.

Why pay outsiders? Instead, the money should remain in the family by employing their sons, daughters, wives, brothers, sisters and other close relatives as their personal assistants (PAs) – paid for by the State. That serves another purpose too. Attached to MPs, they learn the tricks of the trade at the cost of the public exchequer.

Indian Express has done a special story to gather data under RTI Act that at least 146 MPs – 104 from the Lok Sabha and 42 from the Rajya Sabha – have appointed some 200 relatives as their personal staff so the money stays well within the family.

Halal or Haram?

Writing the piece “Morning Prayer for Baba Buden”, I inadvertently forgot to mention an important fact which has a vast bearing on legitimacy of a few things allowed for enjoyment of life. So, I take the liberty of adding what I left out.

After a good cup of coffee – you know as well as I do – one feels rejuvenated. The killjoys in every prescriptive religion lay down a list of do’s and don’ts. For example, ham sandwiches which Qaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah loved, are on the forbidden list in both Judaism and Islam. Alcohol – mankind’s favorite since time immemorial as a stimulant to transcend the mundane world – is a taboo for the faithful in Islam. Like alcohol and other psychoactive substances, khat is regarded even today with great ambivalence.

When coffee became the rage in almost all Arab cities in the 16th century the scholars couldn’t agree whether this seductive new drink was haram or halal – forbidden or allowed. Those days the real center of power in Islam was not Mecca but Cairo. For days the ulema discussed and debated and of course said prayers without drinking and after drinking coffee, to decide which category should the drink be assigned to. Coffee seemed to drive drowsiness away if taken before saying the pre-dawn prayer called namaz-e-fajr (when the heathens are slumbering).

In the end, the coffee fans won because they proved the popular will was behind them. They were actually drawing on a very important principle of Islamic law: consensus. To paraphrase the Prophet, if the community agrees on something, it cannot be wrong. Hence, the very wise fatwa declaring coffee as halal.

Pray for the day when the community revises its opinion about low alcohol beverages.

Movers and Shakers

That competitive sports have always been and continue to be, a game for fixers has been known to all except those horribly innocent naives like me who thought everything is what it appears to be. So, I was shocked beyond belief to hear that Indian Premier League matches are all fixed.

In 1963, Hannah Arendt wrote Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil which immortalized the phrase. It was her thesis that, generally speaking, great evils in history – doesn’t the Holocaust qualify for inclusion? – were not executed by fanatics or sociopaths. These were the handiwork of ordinary people who accepted the premises of their time and did what they saw others doing. If UPA politicians can fix up things for themselves and stock brokers in Dalal Street do it day after day, why not cricketers fix matches to make a fast buck. All this is accepted in a society which swears by market mechanism.

The arrests of S. Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan, Ajit Chandila and a group of bookies is, I’m sure, just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Good nine-tenth is yet not visible. The utter lack of transparency in the IPL operations did come to light when the League was still in infancy. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) responded feebly by pointing a finger at the man, Lalit Modi, whose brainchild the League was. (Who else other than a shrewd businessman could conceive of the idea?) But practically nothing was done to curb and control the manipulations of off-field players.

Like most scandalous affairs, the practice of fixed matches started – yes, you’ve guessed it! – in the USA. Remember what the Chicago White Sox did in the American baseball championship in a most celebrated case. Since then it’s called throwing a match and almost all are involved in it. Of course a few must be singled out to be pilloried. But don’t worry once the excitement dies, it will be business as usual.

No Bed of Roses for Sharif

Allah be thanked for Pakistan having for the first time in its history spanning six and half decades, one democratic dispensation giving way to another. All previous elections had their quota of coups and assassinations, of murders and dismissals. Once again, Alhamdulillah (“Praise to God”) for the end of Zardari regime which has been as inept as corrupt.

Mian Nawaz Sharif had a far-better-than-expected win. Our cricketer friend Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) has made some inroads here and there and can play the role of much-needed opposition. He has consistently been a critic of US drones and disengagement from the US-led war.

Mian Sahib’s foremost task is to revive the economy. “You see privatization, free market economy, deregulation – they have been hallmarks of our party in government. We are going to pick up the threads from where we left off,” Nawaz Sharif gloated following his electoral triumph. Making businesses pay taxes to bridge the resource gap is not going to be a bed of rose; Sharif for sure would be turning to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to put the economy back on track. Fortunately for it, IMF hasn’t to seek voters’ mandate. The aid-seekers have to. The usual IMF recipe of cutting down subsidies will not be acceptable to the already hard-pressed common man.

In foreign policy, Sharif faces a cluster of immediate challenges. Defining new terms of engagement with the US poses the big challenge, and will continue to be formidably difficult like dancing with an elephant. Notwithstanding effusive gestures of good will, and “you’re most welcome” invitations to each other, evolving a workable equation with India too will be great challenge for Mian Sahib. On our part, we have to be most careful before swallowing the bait. It is case of much-bitten very, very shy.

Déjà Vu

We are once again facing a situation analogous to both 1999 Kargil fiasco as well as the earlier 1962 Chinese war against India in regards to the recent Chinese intrusion in the Daulat Beg Oldi sector in the Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir. There were ample warnings about multiple Chinese intrusions into Indian Territory across the Line of Actual Control during the last few years. All branches of the PLA (army, air-force and navy) have repeatedly intruded into Indian Territory during the last few years.

The former Chief of Army General VK Singh had repeatedly warned the Government of India about lack of military preparedness on our northern border against a very hostile adversary. Our security establishment as well as the government of the day minimized these brazen incidents. Whenever an Army Chief confronts the Government with unpalatable facts dame rumor takes over warning about the possibility of an army coup. This is an old political trick of the trade since Nehru.

The current national security advisor, supposedly a Mandarin-speaking Sinologist, has been in office for more than three years and yet has failed to convince the Government about the magnitude of the threat perception from China. There was, you’ll recall, another fellow Keralite of his by the name K M Panikkar who also was a miserable failure in reading the Chinese intentions. That was over half a century ago. What have we learnt over the decades?

Think it Through

“The curious logicality of all isms, simpleminded trust in the salvation value of stubborn devotion without regard for specific, varying factors, already harbors the first germs of totalitarian contempt for reality and factuality.” Hannah Arendt wrote.

How many of us care to apply this test before accepting an ideology or embracing an ism?


More by :  Sakshi

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