Monday, June 18, 2007

Subroto Bagchi at NIT, Rourkela convocation on Dec, 2006, 2006

4th Convocation Address by Subroto Bagchi, co-founder & chief operating officer, MindTree Consulting at National Institute of Technology, Rourkela, December 16, 2006

Chairman Dr. Bansidhar Panda, Members of Senate, Director Dr. Sunil Kumar Sarangi, graduating students, members of faculty and staff, ladies and gentlemen:

I am deeply honoured to be invited here for this great occasion. I can imagine the excitement, the sense of completion and voyage, this momentous occasion brings to all of you.
Fifty years back, I was born in this land; this very land sustained me and raised me and gave me the displacement necessary to experience the miracle of the world. Consequently, I have gone to many places, met many people, stood in wonder and awe and felt a sense of joy in being alive every single day of my existence. There is something eternally great in this land that gave me the capability to go, kiss the world. I pray to that power to make your journey worthwhile, beautiful and more memorable. I bless you to be eternally enchanted in your voyage. The sense of wonder and enchantment are very precious, I pray that you keep them in every step of the way.

Journeying along, your life will take you to so many places; you will get there with many avowed purposes. Today, I want to leave behind a few thoughts; a few ideas that would make your journey little more worthwhile, as mine have been.

I so clearly recall my first train ride from Koraput to Cuttack when I was a little boy. I sat mesmerized by the window throughout the entire journey. I saw the land extend from the railway tracks, cross the phone lines with a lone blackbird on them, to the patch of water with white lilies, to the changing magical landscape dotted with stoic palms, sometimes the harvest ready paddy, sometimes the arid tracts that led all the way to the timeless mountains and beyond them all, a horizon that changed every time I looked at them.

Ever since, whenever I get the chance to travel, I seek a window seat. Aboard a train, an airplane, a bus or a car, I must have a window next to me.

I want to gift you that window so that you too feel it’s magic.

As you graduate and enter the world of work, like me, you will travel on work to many places around the world; each time you do, ask for a window seat.

Experience the cruise over clouds in the big blue sky and watch the sunrise and the sunset at a height of thirty-thousand feet above ground. Never be too tired or too pre-occupied for it. If you have not felt the receding darkness and the first, thin, crimson line that then fills up an entire horizon before the day dawns, it is a life less lived. Just the same way, if you have not seen the day fold itself in the womb of the last crimson rays, like an innocent child that now must sleep, how would you wake up to the possibilities the window will present when your plane lands?

Born in 1957, I belong to the first of the “free generations” of India. You are part of the second free generation that this land has produced in many centuries! Your freedom is purer, because your parents were never subjected to the foreign yoke as were mine. Your parents were born under the Tricolour. You will therefore be free from all shackles political, economic and intellectual. And you can go anywhere.

Your journeys will take you to so many distant lands. One day, you will go to New York and to London and to Paris and to Istanbul, to Nagoya. Be fascinated by their history, their culture, their progress and their people. When you get there, take a moment to go to their rivers.

Take a long walk by the river bank all by yourself and sense time and timelessness.

In New York, stand by the river near Queens and see the expanse of water that separates and unites the land, look at the seagulls that watch the giant ships go gently past and ordinary people with simple needs and aspirations sit with their young children to hold a moment in their hearts or just walk past or jog or simply watch the waves lap the land.

In Paris, take the time to walk slowly past the Seine and alongside her banks, watch the artists take out their easels, their colours, set up their canvases and pour their heart into the portraits, the landscapes, the still life and the abstracts.

When you go to Lahore, walk past the Ravi flowing in from the border across India, take a moment to dip your feet and feel the molten snow that travels the Himalayan slopes, into the Punjab and across the artificial borders that separate two people who look the same, eat the same food, wear the same clothes, have the very same hopes and fears and aspirations but can not cross over at will, because unlike the water that is caressing your feet and flowing on, they have been taught the language of hate. When you know no hate, your heart will take you wherever you want to go.

Go to Nagoya and watch the Shonai, the Shinkawa, and the Nikko rivers as they flow into the Port of Nagoya. Look at the snipe and the plover and the many other migratory birds of the wetland that is an important halfway point in their flight to their breeding grounds in Siberia, and to their winter habitat in Oceania and other places in the Southern Hemisphere.

If you do not go to the river and watch how it flows even when it is bound by the banks, how would you ever know what it means to be free?

When I grew up in this land and I traveled from place to place, I crossed her many river’s the Mahanadi, the Bramhani, the Baitarani, the Suvarnarekha and the many others. While doing all that, I started my fascination for bridges. Every bridge to me is as unique as the river flowing below it. Men build bridges over rivers, over time and over human constraints. How many times I have woken up from my early morning slumber of a three-tier railway compartment of the Puri Express, as the train would rumble over the Mahanadi Bridge, signaling one more arrival.

Or when I have woken up startled in the middle of the night as the train went over the long spans over the Godavari. As everyone slept, I would look out of the window, enchanted to see the moon over the silvery water.

In those moments I felt one with a certain stillness far below, a kind of silence in the moonlight over the waters, even as the wheels made their metallic sound rolling over gridlocked iron spans. The ability to hear the din and the silence at the same time is a precious gift you must never lose.

I have seen bridges big and small over rivers, backwaters, lagoons and canals. I have seen them in the midst of bustling cities and in the silence of the canyons. Of the many bridges I have gone over in the course of my work with the world, I remain fascinated with the Brooklyn Bridge over the Hudson River. When you have the occasion, I want you to see the bridge. They started building this 5989-feet-long suspension bridge in 1870 and it was completed thirteen years later. At the time it opened, it was the longest bridge of its kind in the world, the very first to use steel-wires for suspension. At the time, it was the tallest structure in the entire western hemisphere. The Brooklyn Bridge was designed by a man named John Augustus Roebling. Right at the beginning of the project, Roebling's foot was seriously injured by a ferry when it crashed into a wharf; and within a few weeks, he died of tetanus. His son, Washington, took over the task, but was stricken with something known as the caisson disease. It is a disease that occurs commonly among divers who work under pressure. As a result, he became crippled and could no longer visit the site of the construction. It seemed for a while as if the bridge was doomed. It was then that Washington's wife, Emily Warren Roebling took charge. She became his aide; she learnt civil engineering from her husband and started overseeing the project on-site. When the Bridge finally opened, she was the first to walk across. Bridges are work of architectural design, tensile strength of material and sheer human labour.

But every bridge is first a matter of man’s vision and then, the sheer tenacity to deliver on that vision. Every bridge is an affirmation of the possible. If you do not develop Emily Warren Roebling’s strength of the heart, how would you build the bridges to our future?
But, what about the bridges to the heart? Sometimes, at the end of your long day, you would be rushing through the peak hour traffic in London or Paris or Shanghai. In the crowd of humanity, you may suddenly see two nuns from the Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. It is amazing that they simply stand out wherever they are; you have no difficulty spotting them. The same coarse white sari, their heads covered with Mother’s trademark blue stripes, a cloth bag and the rosary in hand. I have seen them in San Francisco and in Cochin � in New York City and Calcutta. They serve in 133 countries all over the world hugging new born babies abandoned at birth, healing the sick, the dying, and the destitute irrespective of their religion, caste, color and creed. Even though you may miss the 6.56 to Heathrow or to Charles De Gaul, stop that moment, walk up to the Sisters and just tell them that you are from India.
Just the same way, wherever you go, in case you happen to walk past the signage of the Mother in any city in the world, enter the gate of the Missionaries of Charity and spend a few moments with them. Do not worry � they ask you for no money, they do not enlist you nor they do make you feel guilty for chasing a capitalist dream. In just spending that little time of your life with them, you will come back richer, healed and more complete.

In the quest of the world that you must traverse, I want you take the time to see your own country. Not as a tourist but as a contemplative student of engineering. Some day, I want you to visit the thousand-year-old Chennakesava temple in Belur in Karnataka and behold the breathtaking creation of man. Built under the reign of Vishnuvardhana - legend has it that it took 103 years to complete. I want you to stand in front of the facade of the temple, filled with intricate sculptures and friezes with no portion left blank and be engulfed in its history. The intricate workmanship in the sensuous dancers, the elephants, the lions and the horses will tell you the difference between engineering and creativity. In their timelessness, you will also realise how easily we all reduce our lives to the ordinary. Because, unlike the sculptors of Belur, Halebidu, Konark and Hampi, most of us are not driven by the desire to leave behind a legacy. A life that leaves nothing behind is a life wasted on the Planet.

I grew up in tiny places in Orissa. One of the many happy memories I have is of growing up in the tribal districts of Koraput and Keonjhar. I have felt the innocence in the faces of the tribesmen, their women and children who came down from the mountains once a week to sell their meager produce, a chicken or a dozen eggs, wild berries or the wood they had gathered. To bring them closer to civilization, occasionally, the government sent a jeep with a movie projector that screened patriotic and such other harmless fare. The first time these were screened in Koraput, the tribal folks ran away in fear that the government had indeed brought ghosts to their village. Gradually they started trusting, and we all sat on the ground to watch the shadows.
Many years after, I sat transfixed at the performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, first in London and then in Broadway, in which the angel of music is actually the spirit of Erik who is seeking love from Christine the opera singer who unmasks him to discover that he is a ghost. In revealing desire and distress, Erik banishes himself and the curtain falls just one more time on the world’s most enduring performance of all times. I have watched the ingenuity of stagecraft in Broadway, the brilliance of theatre and stage performance in Westside, I have also squatted on the cobbled town centers of little known places to watch the road side performers and one day, listened to the Vienna school choir sing.
As you journey around the Earth, I want you to feel the music people create in the many different lands. How else will you know that the harp and the lyre are work of great engineering, yet, it is people who make the music and feelings that write the song?
When I was a little boy in Keonjhar, every morning, after the preparations for school got done, my mother would give me a cloth bag, a rupee and fifty paise to get her fresh vegetables from the local market where the sellers brought what they had grown. There they sat with their produce in small bunches and lots, only the traders sold the potatoes and onions with a scale.

Most homes did not have refrigerators so you purchased only that much you needed for the day. I loved the smell of the fresh coriander, the chilies, the cauliflower and the greens that still had the dew on them. After I delivered the vegetables, I would run to the municipal tap under which all the little boys took their bath in the open, to come home with two buckets of water for mother, eat the fresh cooked meal and walk my way to school.
Whenever I go to Hong Kong or Honolulu, even today, I go to the farmer’s market and just walk around to smell the fresh produce, to watch people inspect the pieces in their hand, haggle for the price and return home with the spirit of life that makes living such a beautiful experience. I like the energy of the vegetable market and the fish mongers. I like the sense of living for that one day in a fresh, wholesome manner, the prospect of the aroma in the kitchen, the conversation around the seasonality and the price the many little things that make us not just jostle for existence but find meaning in small things. Nowhere in a vegetable market would you find the rich and the famous. It is here that ordinary people come, devoid of the trappings that the concrete busyness of life imposes on all of us.
So my friends, as you make it a point to conquer the conference room, do find time to feel the energy and the vibrancy of the vegetable market wherever work takes you. How else would you ever meet the real people?
We grew up in small places of Orissa like Patnagarh, Raigada, Chatrapur, Balasore and Keonjhar. In none of these places, you had a public library. For someone hungry to read, there was no opportunity. These were places where the English daily arrived only the next day in the afternoon. Not having enough books to read, we read up every book we could lay our hands on from Gopinath Mohanty to Pablo Neruda, from Radha Mohan Gadanayak to Rabindranath Tagore, from Fakir Mohan Senapaty to Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
The expansive hunger to read was developed in the void of the small places we grew up in. I felt ignorant each time I had not read something new in literature, in science and sociology, in religion and politics and everything else. Today, availability and access are no longer a problem, particularly in Institutes like yours. But I lament the decline in reading habits of young people, especially engineers around me. A few days back, I met two young engineers from Gujarat. Hoping to make conversation, I told them about the last two books I had read; Suketu Mehta’s “Maximum City” and Kiran Desai’s “The Inheritance of Loss”. They looked blank. I persisted, ‘The Booker Prize?’ My effort to create a synaptic link at least for Kiran Desai. The two continued to look blank. The conversation broke.
As you don your convocation cap and gown today and prepare for your long journey ahead, remember to carry a new book each time you pack your bags. Read things unconnected to your profession so that you begin to understand the expanse of the human mind. In the poetry and prose of humanity, all wisdom has been recorded for posterity. If you lost your reading, how would you connect to your heritage and how would you converse with a stranger?
It is time for me to close. I am grateful that I had this wonderful opportunity to speak to all of you today. In joining you for your convocation, for this moment in time, you have become me and I have become you. I hope you will keep this moment with you just the way I will. My best wishes to the graduating students, my gratitude to the teachers and administrators who are gifting the nation with the talent to build a future we will all live in and congratulations to the parents who are here to see their legacy carried forward. Thank you ever so much.

Subroto Bagchi is co-founder and chief operating officer of MindTree Consulting Ltd. MindTree is one of the most admired IT & R&D Services Company. His book �The High Performance Entrepreneur� has been critically acclaimed and is a Penguin Portfolio best seller. Many of his other writing can be archived at www.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Life lessons from Narayana Murthy

Life lessons from Narayana Murthy

May 28, 2007

N R Narayana Murthy, chief mentor, Infosys Technologies Ltd.
Photograph: Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP/Getty Images

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N R Narayana Murthy, chief mentor and chairman of the board, Infosys Technologies, delivered a pre-commencement lecture at the New York University (Stern School of Business) on May 9. It is a scintillating speech, Murthy speaks about the lessons he learnt from his life and career. We present it for our readers:

Dean Cooley, faculty, staff, distinguished guests, and, most importantly, the graduating class of 2007, it is a great privilege to speak at your commencement ceremonies.

I thank Dean Cooley and Prof Marti Subrahmanyam for their kind invitation. I am exhilarated to be part of such a joyous occasion. Congratulations to you, the class of 2007, on completing an important milestone in your life journey.

After some thought, I have decided to share with you some of my life lessons. I learned these lessons in the context of my early career struggles, a life lived under the influence of sometimes unplanned events which were the crucibles that tempered my character and reshaped my future.

I would like first to share some of these key life events with you, in the hope that these may help you understand my struggles and how chance events and unplanned encounters with influential persons shaped my life and career.

Later, I will share the deeper life lessons that I have learned. My sincere hope is that this sharing will help you see your own trials and tribulations for the hidden blessings they can be.

The first event occurred when I was a graduate student in Control Theory at IIT, Kanpur, in India. At breakfast on a bright Sunday morning in 1968, I had a chance encounter with a famous computer scientist on sabbatical from a well-known US university.

He was discussing exciting new developments in the field of computer science with a large group of students and how such developments would alter our future. He was articulate, passionate and quite convincing. I was hooked. I went straight from breakfast to the library, read four or five papers he had suggested, and left the library determined to study computer science.

Friends, when I look back today at that pivotal meeting, I marvel at how one role model can alter for the better the future of a young student. This experience taught me that valuable advice can sometimes come from an unexpected source, and chance events can sometimes open new doors.

The next event that left an indelible mark on me occurred in 1974. The location: Nis, a border town between former Yugoslavia, now Serbia, and Bulgaria. I was hitchhiking from Paris back to Mysore, India, my home town.

By the time a kind driver dropped me at Nis railway station at 9 p.m. on a Saturday night, the restaurant was closed. So was the bank the next morning, and I could not eat because I had no local money. I slept on the railway platform until 8.30 pm in the night when the Sofia Express pulled in.

The only passengers in my compartment were a girl and a boy. I struck a conversation in French with the young girl. She talked about the travails of living in an iron curtain country, until we were roughly interrupted by some policemen who, I later gathered, were summoned by the young man who thought we were criticising the communist government of Bulgaria.

The girl was led away; my backpack and sleeping bag were confiscated. I was dragged along the platform into a small 8x8 foot room with a cold stone floor and a hole in one corner by way of toilet facilities. I was held in that bitterly cold room without food or water for over 72 hours.

I had lost all hope of ever seeing the outside world again, when the door opened. I was again dragged out unceremoniously, locked up in the guard's compartment on a departing freight train and told that I would be released 20 hours later upon reaching Istanbul. The guard's final words still ring in my ears -- "You are from a friendly country called India and that is why we are letting you go!"

The journey to Istanbul was lonely, and I was starving. This long, lonely, cold journey forced me to deeply rethink my convictions about Communism. Early on a dark Thursday morning, after being hungry for 108 hours, I was purged of any last vestiges of affinity for the Left.

I concluded that entrepreneurship, resulting in large-scale job creation, was the only viable mechanism for eradicating poverty in societies.

Deep in my heart, I always thank the Bulgarian guards for transforming me from a confused Leftist into a determined, compassionate capitalist! Inevitably, this sequence of events led to the eventual founding of Infosys in 1981.

While these first two events were rather fortuitous, the next two, both concerning the Infosys journey, were more planned and profoundly influenced my career trajectory.

On a chilly Saturday morning in winter 1990, five of the seven founders of Infosys met in our small office in a leafy Bangalore suburb. The decision at hand was the possible sale of Infosys for the enticing sum of $1 million. After nine years of toil in the then business-unfriendly India, we were quite happy at the prospect of seeing at least some money.

* ALSO READ: The amazing success story of Infosys

I let my younger colleagues talk about their future plans. Discussions about the travails of our journey thus far and our future challenges went on for about four hours. I had not yet spoken a word.

Finally, it was my turn. I spoke about our journey from a small Mumbai apartment in 1981 that had been beset with many challenges, but also of how I believed we were at the darkest hour before the dawn. I then took an audacious step. If they were all bent upon selling the company, I said, I would buy out all my colleagues, though I did not have a cent in my pocket.

There was a stunned silence in the room. My colleagues wondered aloud about my foolhardiness. But I remained silent. However, after an hour of my arguments, my colleagues changed their minds to my way of thinking. I urged them that if we wanted to create a great company, we should be optimistic and confident. They have more than lived up to their promise of that day.

In the seventeen years since that day, Infosys has grown to revenues in excess of $3.0 billion, a net income of more than $800 million and a market capitalisation of more than $28 billion, 28,000 times richer than the offer of $1 million on that day.

In the process, Infosys has created more than 70,000 well-paying jobs, 2,000-plus dollar-millionaires and 20,000-plus rupee millionaires.

A final story: On a hot summer morning in 1995, a Fortune-10 corporation had sequestered all their Indian software vendors, including Infosys, in different rooms at the Taj Residency hotel in Bangalore so that the vendors could not communicate with one another. This customer's propensity for tough negotiations was well-known. Our team was very nervous.

First of all, with revenues of only around $5 million, we were minnows compared to the customer.

Second, this customer contributed fully 25% of our revenues. The loss of this business would potentially devastate our recently-listed company.

Third, the customer's negotiation style was very aggressive. The customer team would go from room to room, get the best terms out of each vendor and then pit one vendor against the other. This went on for several rounds. Our various arguments why a fair price -- one that allowed us to invest in good people, R&D, infrastructure, technology and training -- was actually in their interest failed to cut any ice with the customer.

By 5 p.m. on the last day, we had to make a decision right on the spot whether to accept the customer's terms or to walk out.

All eyes were on me as I mulled over the decision. I closed my eyes, and reflected upon our journey until then. Through many a tough call, we had always thought about the long-term interests of Infosys. I communicated clearly to the customer team that we could not accept their terms, since it could well lead us to letting them down later. But I promised a smooth, professional transition to a vendor of customer's choice.

This was a turning point for Infosys.

Subsequently, we created a Risk Mitigation Council which ensured that we would never again depend too much on any one client, technology, country, application area or key employee. The crisis was a blessing in disguise. Today, Infosys has a sound de-risking strategy that has stabilised its revenues and profits.

I want to share with you, next, the life lessons these events have taught me.

1. I will begin with the importance of learning from experience. It is less important, I believe, where you start. It is more important how and what you learn. If the quality of the learning is high, the development gradient is steep, and, given time, you can find yourself in a previously unattainable place. I believe the Infosys story is living proof of this.

Learning from experience, however, can be complicated. It can be much more difficult to learn from success than from failure. If we fail, we think carefully about the precise cause. Success can indiscriminately reinforce all our prior actions.

2. A second theme concerns the power of chance events. As I think across a wide variety of settings in my life, I am struck by the incredible role played by the interplay of chance events with intentional choices. While the turning points themselves are indeed often fortuitous, how we respond to them is anything but so. It is this very quality of how we respond systematically to chance events that is crucial.

3. Of course, the mindset one works with is also quite critical. As recent work by the psychologist, Carol Dweck, has shown, it matters greatly whether one believes in ability as inherent or that it can be developed. Put simply, the former view, a fixed mindset, creates a tendency to avoid challenges, to ignore useful negative feedback and leads such people to plateau early and not achieve their full potential.

The latter view, a growth mindset, leads to a tendency to embrace challenges, to learn from criticism and such people reach ever higher levels of achievement (Krakovsky, 2007: page 48).

4. The fourth theme is a cornerstone of the Indian spiritual tradition: self-knowledge. Indeed, the highest form of knowledge, it is said, is self-knowledge. I believe this greater awareness and knowledge of oneself is what ultimately helps develop a more grounded belief in oneself, courage, determination, and, above all, humility, all qualities which enable one to wear one's success with dignity and grace.

Based on my life experiences, I can assert that it is this belief in learning from experience, a growth mindset, the power of chance events, and self-reflection that have helped me grow to the present.

Back in the 1960s, the odds of my being in front of you today would have been zero. Yet here I stand before you! With every successive step, the odds kept changing in my favour, and it is these life lessons that made all the difference.

My young friends, I would like to end with some words of advice. Do you believe that your future is pre-ordained, and is already set? Or, do you believe that your future is yet to be written and that it will depend upon the sometimes fortuitous events?

Do you believe that these events can provide turning points to which you will respond with your energy and enthusiasm? Do you believe that you will learn from these events and that you will reflect on your setbacks? Do you believe that you will examine your successes with even greater care?

I hope you believe that the future will be shaped by several turning points with great learning opportunities. In fact, this is the path I have walked to much advantage.

A final word: When, one day, you have made your mark on the world, remember that, in the ultimate analysis, we are all mere temporary custodians of the wealth we generate, whether it be financial, intellectual, or emotional. The best use of all your wealth is to share it with those less fortunate.

I believe that we have all at some time eaten the fruit from trees that we did not plant. In the fullness of time, when it is our turn to give, it behooves us in turn to plant gardens that we may never eat the fruit of, which will largely benefit generations to come. I believe this is our sacred responsibility, one that I hope you will shoulder in time.

Thank you for your patience. Go forth and embrace your future with open arms, and pursue enthusiastically your own life journey of discovery!

* ALSO READ: The amazing success story of Infosys

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Orissa consists of thirty districts, more than half of which are inhabited by tribal populations. At the same time Orissa is rich in minerals and resources. Due to the existing poverty, illiteracy, population and unemployment problems the state looks towards industrialization in various aspects and this is a valid step towards development. Except NALCO and ten odd other companies, the remaining companies or industries do not satisfy employment and people based needs.

Recently the Kalinga Nagar incident has rocked the state and shocked the country. Moreover, it has given fuel and food to different political parties to play their sophisticated as well as non polished blame games and get maximum mileage out of it. However, as a whole the state is shrouded with sorrow at the death of the twelve tribal people and so also the policemen. Orissa also sheds tears for the gruesome mutilation of the deceased bodies which has turned into a human rights issue.

It is therefore time now to look at why this has occurred and could it have been avoided. An enquiry has to be made into whether it was the faulty decision or policy of the Government, whether there was a communication barrier between the Government and the people, or whether it was the dark hands of such outside agencies that wished and wanted to jeopardize the process of industrialization and the development of the state as a whole. These factors need to be clearly identified and addressed.

If we take a look at the process firstly we find that in the interest of the state, the Government has a right to sign MoUs with various MNCs and thus will provide land, water, electricity etc. to them. The government has the right to give any land of the state for the benefit of the people at large. However, before doing so, it has to look into what category of land it is, who it is inhabited by and what the socio-economic and environmental consequences of such a step. Take an example- IDCO has purchased land in Kalinga Nagar from the tribal people. When we talk of taking land for industrialization, here a fact comes to light that it is very easy to displace families from their native place and as difficult to rehabilitate them elsewhere. No one looks into the sentiments attached to the land over generations. Therefore, when IDCO a Government agency or even the Government by itself decides to take any piece of land, whether rural, tribal or urban, the basic as well as maximum comfort of the displaced families and individuals have to be thought of not just from the point of view of humanity but so also from the point of view of rights. On evaluation of land from Kalinga Nagar, people have been compensated at the rate of ten to fifteen thousand rupees, whereas the same land has been sold to the TATA group at the rate of three lakhs. If that is the difference in the margin of the land that was initially bought from the tribal population and the land that was sold to the TATA group, then at least half of those three lakhs should have been spent on the families that are displaced.

The second point to be raised in this context is regarding the type of compensation. Compensation should have been in the form of landed property, with proper housing, basic necessities like provision of water, electricity, sanitation, education and health. Apart from that each displaced family should have been assured and provided with employment by the company.

The third aspect that comes to light is that of the process of evacuation. Before evacuating people, the Government should deploy spokesmen and social activists to liaison between them and the public. This should be done prior to and continuing till the proper outcome of the project. If it would have been done, this kind of hazard would not have taken place at all. Before setting up anything, the families to be displaced should have been made aware of the Why? How? and What? Of the project as well as the benefits. The local representatives of the Government (irrespective of whether in the opposition or ruling party) should frequently visit the place, interact with people and make them aware of everything. This also holds true for beuracrats. Politics in Orissa is beurocrat dependent, whereas it should have been the other way round. Therefore the beurocrats have a major role to play in whatever is happening and whatever is not happening. They could have played a vital role in the dialogue process too.

The fourth objective to view is that whenever any crisis comes to the state or country, all parties in the democratic method should form an all party committee to solve problems rather than create problems in the country. It is amazing to see that the ruling party at the center bled for the twelve people who died and arrived in Orissa immediately, whereas in 1999 when over fifty thousand people died because of the onslaught of the super cyclone, the reaction of the same people was extremely slow and instant sympathy was distant.

The point is that political parties are at present trying to get popularity at a cheap rate, rather than convincing people, solving problems, clearing the situation and putting the state back on the roads of industrialization. So far the Kalinga nagar issue is concerned, it is a black mark in the history of Orissa because of the way the tribal families suffered physical and mental agony with irreplaceable damage to their very existence. Mutilation of the body or of the mind, before or after death, in any form or shape is against the principles of nature and humanity.

Providing monetary compensation towards the plight of the people and their suffering is not just the question. But henceforth, the Government should have a proper plan and policy as well as a committee comprising of Government representatives, activists and experts from the socio-economic field to carry out dialogues, analyse the situation and give solution for the smoother process of industrialization. Otherwise it will be a big problem for Orissa which stands with thirty two MoUs with different companies at present. If this kind of situation arises, companies will start withdrawing one by one, jeopardizing the process of the state and we will be back to square one on the path of development.

Dr. Swami Arupananda, Ph.D., D.Sc.
Chairman, Arupa Mission Research Foundation
And Freelance Journalist.

Impasse in India - The New York Review of Books

Impasse in India - The New York Review of Books

Impasse in India
By Pankaj Mishra
The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future
by Martha C. Nussbaum

Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 403 pp., $29.95

Last summer Foreign Affairs, Time, Newsweek, and The Economist highlighted a major shift in American perceptions of India when, in cover stories that appeared almost simultaneously, they described the country as a rising economic power and a likely "strategic ally" of the United States. In 1991, India partly opened its protectionist economy to foreign trade and investment. Since then agriculture, which employs more than 60 percent of the country's population, has stagnated, but the services sector has grown as corporate demand has increased in Europe and America for India's software engineers and English-speaking back-office workers.[1] In 2006, India's economy grew at a remarkable 9.2 percent.

Dominated by modern office buildings, cafés, and gyms, and swarming with Blackberry-wielding executives of financial and software companies, parts of Indian cities such as Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Gurgaon resemble European and American downtowns. Regular elections and increasingly free markets make India appear to be a more convincing exemplar of economic globalization than China, which has adopted capitalism without embracing liberal democracy.

However, many other aspects of India today make Foreign Affairs' description of the country—"a roaring capitalist success-story"—appear a bit optimistic. More than half of the children under the age of five in India are malnourished; failed crops and debt drove more than a hundred thousand farmers to suicide in the past decade.[2] Uneven economic growth and resulting inequalities have thrown up formidable new challenges to India's democracy and political stability. A recent report in the International Herald Tribune warned:

Crime rates are rising in the major cities, a band of Maoist-inspired rebels is bombing and pillaging its way across a wide swath of central India, and violent protests against industrialization projects are popping up from coast to coast.[3]

Militant Communist movements are only the most recent instance of the political extremism that has been on the rise since the early Nineties when India began to integrate into the global economy. Until 2004 the central government as well as many state governments in India were, as the philosopher Martha Nussbaum puts it in her new book,

increasingly controlled by right-wing Hindu extremists who condone and in some cases actively support violence against minorities, especially the Muslim minority. Many seek fundamental changes in India's pluralistic democracy.

In 1992, the Hindu nationalist BJP (Indian People's Party) gave early warning of its intentions when its members demolished the sixteenth-century Babri Mosque in North India, leading to the deaths of thousands in Hindu–Muslim riots across the country. In May 1998, just two months after it came to power, the BJP broke India's self-imposed moratorium on nuclear testing by exploding five atomic bombs in the desert of Rajasthan. Pakistan responded with five nuclear tests of its own.

The starkest evidence of Hindu extremism came in late February and March 2002 in the prosperous western Indian state of Gujarat. In a region internationally famous for its business communities, Hindu mobs lynched over two thousand Muslims and left more than two hundred thousand homeless. The violence was ostensibly in retaliation for an alleged Muslim attack on a train carrying Hindu pilgrims in which a car was set on fire, killing fifty-eight people. Nussbaum, who is engaged in a passionate attempt to end "American ignorance of India's history and current situation," makes the "genocidal violence" against Muslims in Gujarat the "focal point" of her troubled reflections on democracy in India. She points to forensic evidence which indicates that the fire in the train was most likely caused by a kerosene cooking stove carried by one of the Hindu pilgrims. In any case, as Nussbaum points out, there is "copious evidence that the violent retaliation was planned by Hindu extremist organizations before the precipitating event."

Low-caste Dalits joined affluent upper-caste Hindus in killing Muslims, who in Gujarat as well as in the rest of India tend to be poor. "Approximately half of the victims," Nussbaum writes, "were women, many of whom were raped and tortured before being killed and burned. Children were killed with their parents; fetuses were ripped from the bellies of pregnant women to be tossed into the fire."

Gujarat's pro-business chief minister, Narendra Modi, an important leader of the BJP, rationalized and even encouraged the murders. The police were explicitly ordered not to stop the violence. The prime minister of India at the time, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, seemed to condone the killings when he declared that "wherever Muslims are, they don't want to live in peace." In public statements Hindu nationalists tried to make their campaign against Muslims seem part of the US-led war on terror, and, as Nussbaum writes, "the current world atmosphere, and especially the indiscriminate use of the terrorism card by the United States, have made it easier for them to use this ploy."

A widespread fear and distrust of Muslims among Gujarat's middle-class Hindus helped the BJP win the state elections held in December 2002 by a landslide. Tens of thousands of Muslims displaced by the riots still live in conditions of extreme squalor in refugee camps. Meanwhile, the Hindu extremists involved in the killings of Muslims move freely. Though denied a visa to the US by the State Department, Narendra Modi continues to be courted by India's biggest businessmen, who are attracted by the low taxes, high profits, and flexible labor laws offered by Gujarat.[4]

Describing the BJP's quest for a culturally homogeneous Hindu nation-state, Nussbaum wishes to introduce her Western readers to "a complex and chilling case of religious violence that does not fit some common stereotypes about the sources of religious violence in today's world." Nussbaum claims that "most Americans are still inclined to believe that religious extremism in the developing world is entirely a Muslim matter." She hints that at least part of this myopia must be blamed on Samuel Huntington's hugely influential "clash of civilizations" argument, which led many to believe that the world is "currently polarized between a Muslim monolith, bent on violence, and the democratic cultures of Europe and North America."

Nussbaum points out that India, a democracy with the third-largest Muslim population in the world, doesn't fit Huntington's theory of a clash between civilizations. The real clash exists

within virtually all modern nations —between people who are prepared to live with others who are different, on terms of equal respect, and those who seek the... domination of a single religious and ethnic tradition.

She describes how Indian voters angered by the BJP's pro-rich economic policies and anti-Muslim violence voted it out of power in general elections in 2004. Detailing the general Indian revulsion against the violence in Gujarat and the search for justice by its victims, she highlights the "ability of well-informed citizens to turn against religious nationalism and to rally behind the values of pluralism and equality." Insisting on the practical utility of philosophy, Nussbaum has often attacked the theory-driven feminism of American academia. "India's women's movement," she claims, "has a great deal to teach America's rather academicized women's movement." She is convinced that from India "we Americans can learn a good deal about democracy and its future as we try to act responsibly in a dangerous world."

Nussbaum thus casts India's experience of democracy in an unfamiliar role: as a source of important lessons for Americans. Such brisk overturning of conventional perspective has distinguished Nussbaum's varied writings, which move easily from the ideas of Stoic philosophers to international development. Few contemporary philosophers in the West have reckoned with India's complex experience of democracy; and even fewer have engaged with it as vigorously as she does in The Clash Within.

Nussbaum, who has frequently visited India to research how gender relations shape social justice, is particularly concerned about the situation of women in contemporary India. She sensitively explores the colonial-era laws that, upheld by the Indian constitution, discriminate against Muslim women. She describes how Gujarat, which has had economic growth but has made little progress in education and health care, became a hospitable home to Hindu nationalists. She details, too, tensions within the Indian diaspora, many of whom are Gujarati, whose richest members support the BJP. She reveals how the BJP initiated India's own culture wars by revising history textbooks, inserting in them, among other things, praise for the "achievements" of Nazism.

Her interviews with prominent right-wing Hindus yield some shrewd psychological insights, particularly into Arun Shourie, an economist and investigative journalist who, famous initially for his intrepid exposés of corruption, became a cabinet minister and close adviser to BJP prime minister Vajpayee. She suggests that the anti-Muslim views of Shourie, who is otherwise capable of intelligent commentary, may owe to "something volatile and emotionally violent in his character...something that lashes out at a perceived threat and refuses to take seriously the evidence that it might not be a threat."

In a chapter that forms the core of the book, she examines the ideas and legacies of Mohandas Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Rabindranath Tagore, founding fathers of India's democracy. Her admiration for Tagore and Gandhi is deep. However, she offers only qualified praise for Nehru, India's resolutely rationalist first prime minister. Nussbaum laments that Nehru neglected "the cultivation of liberal religion and the emotional bases of a respectful pluralistic society"—a failure that she thinks left the opportunity wide open for the BJP's "public culture of exclusion and hate."

According to Nussbaum, Nehru may have been good at building formal institutions, but it was Gandhi who gave a spiritual and philosophical basis to democracy in India by calling "all Indians to a higher vision of themselves, getting people to perceive the dignity of each human being." She approves of Gandhi's view that only individuals who are critically conscious of their own conflicts and passions can build a real democracy. In fact, much of Nussbaum's own rather unconventional view of democracy in this book derives from the Gandhian idea of Swaraj (self-rule), in which control of one's inner life and respect for other people create self-aware and engaged rather than passive citizens. The "thesis of this book," she writes in her preface, is

the Gandhian claim that the real struggle that democracy must wage is a struggle within the individual self, between the urge to dominate and defile the other and a willingness to live respectfully on terms of compassion and equality.

However, Nussbaum's strongly felt and stimulating book deepens rather than answers the question: How did India's democracy, commonly described as the biggest in the world, become so vulnerable to religious extremism?

Ideological fanaticism stemming from personal inadequacies, such as the one Nussbaum identifies in Arun Shourie, is certainly to blame. But as Nussbaum herself outlines in her chapter on Gujarat, religious violence in India today cannot be separated from the recent dramatic changes in the country's economy and politics. The individual defects of Indian politicians only partly explain the great and probably insuperable social and economic conflicts that give India's democracy its particular momentum and anarchic vitality.

Richard Nixon once said that those who think that India is governed badly should marvel at the fact that it is governed at all. In a similar vein, the Indian historian Ramachandra Guha asks in his forthcoming book India After Gandhi, "Why is there an India at all?"[5] For centuries India was not a nation in any conventional sense of the word. Not only did it not possess the shared language, culture, and national identity that have defined many nations; it had more social and cultural variety than even the continent of Europe. At the time of independence in 1950, much of its population was very poor and largely illiterate. India's multiple languages—the Indian constitution recognizes twenty-two—and religions, together with great inequalities of caste and class, ensured a wide potential for conflict.

Given this intractable complexity, democracy in India was an extraordinarily ambitious political experiment. By declaring India a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic, the makers of the Indian constitution seemed to take the idea of liberty, equality, and fraternity more seriously than even their European and American counterparts. African-Americans got voting rights only in 1870, almost a century after the framing of the American Constitution, and American women only in 1920. But all Indian adults, irrespective of their class, sex, and caste, enjoyed the right to vote from 1950, when India formally became a republic.

What was also remarkable about the Indian Republic was that it came about with a minimum of political agitation. The Indian political philosopher Pratap Bhanu Mehta points out that democracy in India came as a gift to the Indian masses from the largely middle-class and upper-caste leaders of the anti-colonial movement led by the Congress Party. It was a byproduct rather than the natural consequence of the anti-colonial movement.[6]

Modern India's founding fathers, who preferred a secular democratic system, appear to have been great political idealists and visionaries. However, they were also pragmatists, and they couldn't have failed to see how democracy, which was viewed in India as inseparable from the promise of social and economic justice, and the official ideology of secular nationalism were necessary means to contain the country's many sectarian divisions. A former prime minister of India once defined his job as "managing contradictions"; this onerous task, as much moral as political, has remained the responsibility of ruling elites in democratic India.

From the very beginning, India's leaders faced the problem of instituting a secular and democratic state before the conditions for it—an adequately large secular and egalitarian-minded citizenry, and impartial legal institutions—had been met. A secular political culture couldn't be created overnight, and in the meantime citizens with political demands could only organize themselves in overtly religious, linguistic, and ethnic communities. As the experience of Iraq most recently shows, when citizens have few opportunities of participation in political life, a concept of democracy based on elections and the rule of the majority can deepen preexisting ethnic and religious divisions.

Sectarian tensions had opened up even in the anti-colonial movement led by the Congress Party. Muslims suspicious that the secular nationalism of the Congress was a disguise for Hindu majoritarian rule demanded and eventually received a separate state, Pakistan. The promise of democracy also didn't prove sufficient in Kashmir, which has a Muslim majority and where one of Nehru's closest friends, Sheikh Abdullah, grew disillusioned with what he perceived as Hindu dominance over the province. On the whole, however, the Congress, helped greatly by the moral prestige of Gandhi and Nehru, succeeded in becoming a truly pan-Indian party in the first two decades after independence, able to appease the potentially conflicting interests of Muslims and low-caste Dalits as well as upper-caste Brahmins.

Nehru's suspicion of businessmen— shaped as much by the European distrust of capitalism between the wars as by India's forced deindustrialization by the British East India Company— committed him to state control of prices, wages, and production, and to strict limits on foreign investment and trade. These measures, which were aimed at both protecting the Indian poor from exploitation and creating India's industrial infrastructure, checked economic inequality, even if, as Nehru's critics allege, they distributed poverty more than they shared wealth.

As democratic ideals and beliefs took root among the Indian masses, the extraordinary consensus Nehru had created around his own charismatic figure and the Congress Party was always likely to fracture. Nehru's successor, Indira Gandhi, veered between populist and authoritarian measures, such as the "Emergency" she declared in 1975; but she failed to stem the decline of the Congress as a pan-Indian party. Powerful regional and caste-based politicians were no longer content to broker votes for an upper-class elite within the Congress, and wanted their own share of state power; during the Eighties many hitherto imperceptible political assertions became louder, turning into what V.S. Naipaul in a book published in 1990 termed "a million mutinies now."

The decade saw the rise of new caste- and region-based political coalitions. Fundamentally unstable, they emerged and collapsed just as quickly. In 1989, the attempt by one of these coalition governments to placate low-caste discontent through affirmative action—for example, reserving a portion of government jobs for members of these castes—angered and alienated many upper-caste and middle-class Hindus. Already disillusioned by the Congress, they turned to supporting the upper-caste-dominated BJP, which until the late Eighties had been a negligible force in Indian politics.

Hoping to replace the discredited Congress as India's ruling elite, the BJP realized that it would have to create another kind of moral and ideological authority. And so, claiming that secular nationalism was a failure, it offered Hindu nationalism, arguing that just as Europe and America, though officially secular, were rooted in Christian culture, so India should revive its traditional Hindu ethos that Muslim invaders had allegedly defiled.

Remarkably, the BJP, while doing away with one plank of Indian democracy, couldn't abandon the rhetoric of political equality. Aware that the party couldn't achieve a parliamentary majority without low-caste votes, its leaders were at pains throughout their anti-Muslim campaigns to present Hindu nationalism to low-caste Hindus as an egalitarian ideology. (The presence of Dalits in Gujarat's lynch mobs attests to their success.)

The liberalization of the economy under Congress's leadership in 1991— through such measures as eliminating tariffs and restrictions on private business—created a new constituency for the traditionally pro-business BJP: the rising middle class in urban centers. Declaring that it would restore India to its long-lost international eminence, the BJP also acquired what Nussbaum calls "a powerful and wealthy US arm": a generation of rich Indians who while living abroad seek to affirm their identities through the achievements of their ancestral land. It was largely owing to the support of the Hindu middle class—the BJP has rarely done well in rural areas—that Hindu nationalists managed, after a string of successes throughout the Nineties in provincial elections, to gain power within a coalition government in New Delhi in 1998.

Six years of the BJP's rule brought about deep shifts in Indian politics and the economy. There was accelerated economic growth, especially in information technology and business-processing services such as call centers. It was also around this time that the faith—first popularized in America and Britain during the Reagan and Thatcher years—that free markets can take over the functions of the state spread among many Indian journalists and intellectuals.

Ideology-driven globalization of the kind the BJP supported, which reduced even the government's basic responsibility for health care and education, further complicated the promise of political equality in India. The world economy had its own particular demands—for example for software engineers and back-office workers—that India could fulfill. And while the country's comparative advantage in technically adept manpower has benefited a small minority, it has excluded hundreds of millions of Indians who neither have nor can easily acquire the special skills needed to enter the country's booming services sector. Many of these Indians live in India's poorest and most populous states—Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh in the north, Orissa in the East, and Andhra Pradesh in the south. Their poor infrastructure—bad roads and erratic power supply—as well as high crime levels make them a daunting investment prospect.

Thus, even as the economy grew in urban areas, preexisting inequalities of resources, access to information, skills, and status came to be further entrenched within India. The country's prestigious engineering and management colleges now seek to set up branches outside India, but, according to a survey in 2004, only half of the paid teachers in Indian primary schools were actually teaching during official hours.[7] Europeans and Americans head to India for high-quality and inexpensive medical care while the Indian poor struggle with the most privatized health system in the world.

Nevertheless, the BJP campaigned in the 2004 elections on the slogan "India Shining." Its success was predicted by almost all of the English-language press and television. As expected, urban middle-class Hindus, who had been best-placed to embrace new opportunities in business and trade, preferred the BJP. However, the majority of Indians, who had been left behind by recent economic growth, voted against incumbent governments, unseating, among others, many strongly pro-business ruling politicians in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka (of which Bangalore is the capital city).

In the elections of 2004, Indian Communist parties performed better than ever before. The Congress, led by Sonia Gandhi, had built its election campaign around the travails of the ordinary Indian in the age of globalization. Much to its own surprise, the party found itself in power, with Manmohan Singh, an Oxford-educated economist, as prime minister.

Singh and his Harvard-educated finance minister P. Chidambaram were among the technocrats who initiated India's economic reforms in 1991. Their second stint in power has disappointed international business periodicals such as The Economist and the Financial Times as well as much of the English-language press in India, which complains periodically that economic reform in India has more or less stalled since 2004. But given the mandate it received from the electorate, Singh's government has little choice but to appear cautious. The rise in inflation that accompanies high economic growth proved fatal for many governments in India in the previous decade, most recently in the state of Punjab where the ruling Congress lost to a coalition, prompting Sonia Gandhi to publicly ask the central government to show greater sensitivity to the plight of poor Indians.

The government's hands are already tied by rules of free trade inspired by such international institutions as the World Trade Organization (WTO). Thousands of cotton farmers in central India have killed themselves, escaping a plight that Oxfam in a report last year claimed had been worsened by their "indiscriminate and forced integration" into an "unfair global system" in which the agricultural products of heavily subsidized farmers in the US and Europe depress prices globally. Unable to persuade the United States to cut its subsidies to American farmers, the Indian commerce minister spent much of his time at the WTO's Doha Round of talks in July 2006 watching the soccer World Cup.

Unlike China, India can only go so far in creating a "business-friendly climate"—the very limited ambition of many politicians today. In China, lack of democratic accountability has helped the nominally Communist regime to give generous subsidies and tax breaks to exporters and foreign investors. The swift and largely unpublicized suppression of protesting peasants has also made it easier for real estate speculators acting in tandem with corrupt Party bosses to seize agricultural land.[8]

In India, however, the government's efforts to court businessmen are provoking a highly visible backlash from poorer Indians who feel themselves excluded from the benefits of globalization. Plans to relax India's labor laws —in other words, to import the hire-and-fire practices of American companies—have provoked strong protests from trade unions. In recent weeks, the government has been forced to reconsider its plan to set up Chinese-style Special Economic Zones for foreign companies after the project ran into violent opposition from farmers facing eviction from their lands.[9]

Such intense mass agitations in India have helped magnify the growing contradictions of economic globalization: how by fostering rapid growth in some sectors of the economy it raises expectations everywhere, but by distributing its benefits narrowly, it expands the population of the disenchanted and the frustrated, often making them vulnerable to populist politicians. At the same time the biggest beneficiaries of globalization find shelter in such aggressive ideologies as Hindu nationalism.

The feeling of hopelessness and despair, especially among landless peasants, is what has led to militant Communist movements of unprecedented vigor and scale—Prime Minister Singh recently described them as the greatest internal security threat faced by India since independence in 1947.[10] These Mao-inspired Communists, who have their own systems of tax collection and justice, now dominate large parts of central and northern India, particularly in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, and Orissa.

Their informal secessionism has its counterpart among the Indian rich. Gated communities grow in Indian cities and suburbs. The elite itself seems to have mutinied, its members retreating into exclusive enclaves where they can withdraw from the social and political complications of the country they live in. Affluent Indians are helped in this relocation—as much psychological as geographical—by the English-language press and television, which, as a report in the International Herald Tribune put it, "has concocted a world —all statistical evidence to the contrary—in which you are a minority if not fabulously rich."[11]

Nussbaum is right to say that the "level of debate and reporting in the major newspapers and at least some of the television networks is impressively high." In fact, India is one of the few countries where print newspapers and magazines, especially in regional languages, continue to flourish. But the most influential part of the Indian press not only makes little use of its freedom; it helps diminish the space for public discussion, which partly accounts for what the philosopher Pratap Mehta calls the "extraordinary non-deliberative nature of Indian politics."

On any given day, the front pages of such mainstream Indian newspapers as The Hindustan Times and the Times of India veer between celebrity-mongering—Britney Spears's new hair-style—and what appears to be "consumer nationalism"—reports on Indian tycoons, beauty queens, fashion designers, filmmakers, and other achievers in the West. Excited accounts of Tata, India's biggest private-sector company, buying the Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus make it seem that something like what The Economic Times, India's leading business paper, calls "The Global Indian Take-over" is underway. Largely reduced to an echo chamber, where an elite minority seems increasingly to hear mainly its own voice, the urban press is partly responsible for a new privileged generation of Indians lacking, as Nussbaum points out, any "identification with the poor."

The stultification of large parts of the Indian mass media is accompanied by the growing presence of a new kind of special interest in Indian politics: that of large corporations. Close links between businessmen and politicians have existed for a long time. But unlike in the United States, the electoral process in India was not primarily shaped by the candidates' ability to raise corporate money. Compared to the US Congress, the Indian parliament was relatively free of lobbyists for large companies. This began to change during the rule of the Hindu nationalists, who proved themselves as adept in working with big businessmen as in holding on to its older constituency of small merchants and traders. A recent opinion poll in the newsmagazine Outlook reveals that growing public distaste for politics feeds on the intimacy between politicians and businessmen.

Nussbaum terms "surreal" the "mixture of probusiness politics and violence that characterizes the BJP." But this doesn't seem so surreal if, briefly reversing Nussbaum's gaze, we look at "democracy and its future" in the United States. Many of Nussbaum's American readers would be familiar with the alliance between right-wing politics and religion, or with how powerful business elites advance their interests under the cover of ultranationalism and religious faith.

Unlike the situation in India, democracy in America has not been largely perceived as a means to social and economic egalitarianism. Nevertheless, the Democratic Party's victory in midterm elections in November 2006 suggests widespread disquiet over inequality in America, which has grown rapidly against a backdrop of corporate scandals, such as Enron and WorldCom, extravagant executive pay, dwindling pensions and health insurance, and increased outsourcing of jobs—including to India—by American companies looking for cheap labor and high profits.[12]

Examining the state of American democracy in his new book, Is Democracy Possible Here?, Ronald Dworkin asserts that "the level of indifference the nation now shows to the fate of its poor calls into question not only the justice of its fiscal policies but also their legitimacy."[13] The challenge before India's political system is not much different: how to ensure a minimum of equality in an age of globalization as international business and financial institutions deprive governments of some of their old sovereignty, empower elites with transnational loyalties, and cause ordinary citizens to grow indifferent to politics.

In a recent book, the distinguished American political scientist Robert A. Dahl offers an optimistic vision in which "an increasing awareness that the dominant culture of competitive consumerism does not lead to greater happiness gives way to a culture of citizenship that strongly encourages movement toward greater political equality among American citizens." Dahl points out that "once people have achieved a rather modest level of consumption, further increases in income and consumption no longer produce an increase in their sense of well-being or happiness."[14]

This awareness is not easily achieved in a culture of capitalism that thrives on ceaselessly promoting and multiplying desire. But it may be imperative for Indians, who, arriving late in the modern world, are confronted with the possibility that economic growth on the model of Western consumer capitalism is no longer environmentally sustainable. One billion Indians, not to mention another billion Chinese, embracing Western modes of work and consumption will cause irrevocable damage to the global environment, which is strained enough at having to provide resources for the lifestyles of a few hundred million Americans and Europeans.

Fortunately, a large majority of poor and religious Indians do not live within the modern culture of materialism; they are invulnerable to the glamour of the CEO, the investment banker, the PR executive, the copywriter, and other gurus of the West's fully organized consumer societies. Traditional attitudes toward the natural environment make Indians, like the Japanese, more disposed than Americans to pursue happiness modestly.[15] And almost six decades after his assassination, Gandhi's traditionalist emphasis on austerity and self-abnegation remains a powerful part of Indian identity.

Gandhi saw clearly how organizing human societies around endless economic growth would promote inequality and conflict within as well as between nations. He knew that for democracy to flourish, it "must learn," as Martha Nussbaum puts it, "to cultivate the inner world of human beings, equipping each citizen to contend against the passion for domination and to accept the reality, and the equality, of others."

Gandhi's ethical vision of democracy seems more persuasive as the social costs of the obsession with economic growth become intolerable. Responding to another wave of mass suicides of farmers in July 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made it clear that only a small minority in India can and will enjoy "Western standards of living and high consumption." Singh exhorted his countrymen to abandon the "wasteful" Western model of consumerism and learn from the frugal ways of Gandhi, which he claimed were a "necessity" in India.[16] The invocation of Gandhi by a Western-style technocrat sounds rhetorical. But it may also be an acknowledgment that there are no easy ways out of the impasse—the danger of intensified violence and environmental destruction —to which globalization has brought the biggest democracy in the world.

[1] Though the service sector employs only 23 percent of the population, it accounts for 54 percent of India's GDP.

[2] Somini Sengupta, "On India's Despairing Farms, a Plague of Suicide," The New York Times, September 19, 2006.

[3] Anand Giridharadas, "Rising Prosperity Brings New Fears to India," International Herald Tribune, January 26, 2007.

[4] See Saba Naqvi Bhaumik, "Gujarat's Guru," Outlook, January 29, 2007.

[5] Ramachandra Guha, India After Gan-dhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy (to be published by Ecco in August 2007), p. 15.

[6] Pratap Bhanu Mehta, The Burden of Democracy (Delhi: Penguin, 2003), p. 5.

[7] Jo Johnson, "Poor Turn to Private Schools," Financial Times, January 13, 2007.

[8] Dramatically increasing investment in education and health care and withdrawing tax breaks to foreign businessmen in their latest budget proposals, China's new leaders seem to be trying to check growing inequalities and social unrest in their country. See "Getting Rich," London Review of Books, November 30, 2006.

[9] Somini Sengupta, "Indian Police Kill 11 at Protest Over Economic Zone" The New York Times, March 15, 2007.

[10] Jo Johnson, "Leftist Insurgents Kill 50 Indian Policemen," Financial Times, March 15, 2007.

[11] See also Siddhartha Deb, "The 'Feel-Good': Letter from Delhi," Columbia Journalism Review, March/April 2005.

[12] For a vigorous assertion of growing economic populism in America, see James Webb, "Class Struggle: American Workers Have a Chance to Be Heard," The Wall Street Journal, November 15, 2006.

[13] Ronald Dworkin, Is Democracy Possible Here? (Princeton University Press, 2006), p. 118.

[14] Robert A. Dahl, On Political Equality (Yale University Press, 2006), pp. x, 106.

[15] Renée Loth, "Japan's Energy Wisdom," International Herald Tribune, March 26, 2007.

[16] "Refarmer Manmohan," The Economic Times, July 3, 2006.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Justice for Subhas Chandra Bose

Justice for Subhas Chandra Bose

Text of Steve Jobs' Commencement address (2005)

Text of Steve Jobs' Commencement address (2005)

Stanford Report, June 14, 2005
'You've got to find what you love,' Jobs says

* Printable Version

This is the text of the Commencement address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005.

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.

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Arise Awake Stop not till the goal is reached. - Swami Vivekananda Swami ji is my inspiration, not as a monk but as a social reformer and for his universal-ism.