Tuesday, May 16, 2006 

Hitler and reservations

Free speech and democracy are two things that are very close to my heart. I know that sounds very cliched, but that's the way it is. I cherish free speech. What I mean by free speech is the right to voice your opinions in a public forum without having to fear for your safety. I don't confuse free speech with the right to blabber whatever nonsense you like and the right to offend people left and right with what you say. Free speech and respect must go together. The whole with every right comes a responsibility thing.

I've been thinking about free speech and responsible democracy because of two reasons. We were discussing controversies, delicate issues and books in a forum I frequent. The other reason is that a classmate sent me an invite to an "Adore Hitler" forum. The invite was like a slap in the face. I'm all for free speech- but Hitler!!! I know that there are Nazi punks in Europe. I know that Prince Harry dressed up as a Nazi for a costume party. But I did not think that any of my classmates loved Hitler. I searched the Orkut communities and I was surprised to find the number of forums dedicated to him. I found out that Hitler seems to be popular amongst today's youth because he was a disciplined and inspiring politician- the very antithesis of our politicians today. My friend is extremely angry with the whole troop of pro-reservation politicians and thinks that someone like Hitler is what we need to stand up for the upper castes. "Sheer grit" is why he admires Hitler. I wonder if I should've sent this guy a few pictures of concentration camps, work camps and labour camps. Maybe it would've opened his eyes a little.

I find Hitler worship disturbing for two reasons.
  1. It shows a lack of respect for human life. In my book the holocaust cannot be dismissed as just a "horrible thing" that Hitler did. It was atrocity unlike any ever seen before.

  2. It means that history is being forgotten. As we forget history, we forget lessons that we learnt from it. Already we're seeing consequences of that today.

Most disturbing of all was this statement:
he [Hitler]will support the uppercast ppl tho ::D)

Hitler, the Aryan purist. I wonder what he'd have to done to the 1 billion strong Indian population. I doubt if anyone would've survived, even the upper castes. The reservation issue has brought strong sentiments to the front- wishing that we had Hitler is a rather extreme sentiment. However, everyone wishes that we had politicians with some "gumption". I view reservation as a neccessary evil. Like all good things it must be taken in moderation- about 10-20% reservation would be fine. 45-50% is going overboard. Something I've heard on TV quite often is that the percentage of students from scheduled caste/ scheduled tribes (SC/ST) is disproportionately small when you consider the SC/ST population. As per the 2001 census Scheduled Castes form16.2% and Scheduled Tribes form 8.2% of the population. So they form about 24.4% of the Indian population. In which case why do we need reservation of over 24.4%?
Another question asked is -why reservation? Why not reservation based on income? What about the poor of the upper classes? Should they not have reservation too? I think we need to look back at why we have reservations in the first place.
The caste system has been a part of India for millenia now. The lower classes were highly suppressed. They had no voice- they were not seen, they were not heard. Generations of this resulted in a subdued, voiceless people who did not even see that they should be looking for a way to break the bond. Reservations were put in place to educate these masses and through education enlighten and empower them. Because these masses were impoverished, the cost of their education was borne by the government. However, this does not mean that reservations were put in place to provide subsidised education for the poor. They were there to break a mindset and to free a people. This was not an indefinite thing- it was for until the people were able to see what they could be. It was for until there was no opposition to the idea of education.

Reservation is not for creating a level playing ground between the rich and the poor. We've all heard this at one time or the other- " The poor SC/ST students have no access to expensive coaching centres for enterance exams. So they are less equipped than other students. The playing field must be levelled by reservation". And they're told in return that there's a large number of higher caste, poor students too and they don't get any reservation. For those who cannot afford higher education, reservation is not the answer. What we need for them is more scholarships and education loans. Just because a family is poor does not mean that education is not valued there.

Now, how do we know when the old mindset has been broken? One way to look at it, and possibly the only practical way, is the economic condition of the person. Take this into account and the same questions start being asked. Reservation with a creamy layer seems to be the answer to me. Reservations are necessary, but they should reach the target population. This is often not happening today.

Monday, May 08, 2006 

What I feel right now...

I'm going leave undergrad life behind forever and begin a brand new life at IIM-Lucknow. It's a transition- leaving behind everything I know, stepping into a brave, new world. It'll be the first time I'm doing a lot of things - leaving home, experiencing hostel life , studying in a high power school, feeling real summer heat- well I know that from Abu Dhabi, but then I was always in an AC. Anyhow in more ways than one it's a new beginning. The lyrics of Abba's I wonder reflect what I feel beautifully

This park and these houses, old streets I have walked
Everything dear, will it be here
One day when I am returning?
My friends will get married, have children and homes
It sounds so nice, well-planned and wise
Never expecting surprises

I wonder, it's frightening
Leaving now, is that the right thing?
I wonder, it scares me
But who the the hell am I if I don't even try
I'm not a coward
Oh no, I'll be strong
One chance in a lifetime
Yes I will take it, it can't go wrong

I know that two years at an IIM can only lead to better things- but I'm beset by so many doubts. It's not that I don't feel different since I got through. I feel more confident, I've stopped licking my wounds and my dreams are now rooted in reality. I no longer think of what could have been, but what will be. At the same time doubts plague my mind about how I'll fare, whether I'll make it through the next two years, who my friends will be?

I'll miss the friends that I've made here, I'll miss my sister, my family, I'll miss my room, I'll miss my AC, I'll miss my books, I'll miss almost everything that I know. Well, I won't miss classes at SCT for sure. But classes at IIM-L are not going to be like classes at SCT. People will be working night and day, at each other's throats. The girls with me all seem to be from the IITs. One girl's from BITS, Pilani. And right in the middle of all this will be me from SCT. I try to tell myself that everyone has been through the same selection process. I was selected because I was deemed worthy. But I find it hard to listen to myself.

I guess it's time for me to stop ranting now. So I'll be off till later.