nation state

The Kabali Experience

Kabali had to be watched in the movie hall, I had decided as soon as I saw the first trailer. The hype that followed all but ensured that polarisation would happen, but I honestly didn’t care what the reviews said. Rajini’s “Kabali daa” in the trailer, to me, felt like a guarantee.



It isn’t a typical Rajini film, most people seem to agree on that. For instance, here I was, ready to jump up, whoop in joy, and throw a coin during the entry scene, and in an underwhelming introductory shot, he appears, the embodiment of calm in what’s touted as a gangster movie! And yet, in a few seconds, the movie started delivering on what I’d come for – the spellbinding swag that only Rajinikanth can pull off on screen! (“Koodave poranthathu, ennikkum pogadhu” 😀 #youremember) There are enough of those scenes in the movie to have kept the fan in me very contented. More

A shift in the world order

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It has been a while since I wrote about nation states, or notion states as I call them. Now is not really a good time to bring this up in India, but hey, it’s a free country. Oh, wait! Therefore, let’s talk about Apple vs the FBI on where digital security ends and national security begins. (via The Guardian) Washington-Silicon Valley shadowboxing as the publication puts it, and Apple has the support of Google, Facebook and Twitter. [If this were happening in India, by now Tim Cook would have probably been lynched by a mob, and charged for sedition – now a very loose word that can be applied to even things such as sneezing while watching the Republic Day parade on TV]

This battle is interesting as it is because it will set a precedent for an individual’s privacy rights, and is being fought between the world’s most valuable corporation and the world’s biggest (one might even say only) superpower. On one side, we have and entity whose decisions affect billions of lives around the world, and on the other, a country marked by boundaries but influencing policies that affect an equal number. Phenomenally intriguing and layered as this is, I actually find it riveting because I see a couple of my favourite narratives coming to a boil. More

Notion states

My last post on the subject of home was in the context of the multicultural world we are creating, how in our pursuit of convenience and familiarity we might end up creating a homogeneous world, and whether the idea of home would change with time, as we begin to choose places that connect to our soul over the soil we were born in. (soul vs soil courtesy Pico Iyer)

One of my main punching bags in the institutional realignment line of thinking is the concept of the nation state, more specifically its relevance in a massively connected world. A simplistic view is that economics, trade and many other things might be better off without them, given how much of an enabler technology is turning out to be, and geo politics will anyway be a lesser phenomenon if there aren’t any nation states. Arguable, yes.

However, I had very little idea on the replacement concept. Geography (land) would exist and would have to be organised in some way. What way? In a wonderful display of appropriateness, Wired gave a possible answer – in the form of a post titled “Software Is Reorganizing the World“. I loved the concept of ‘geodesic distance’, and the mapping of not nation states but states of mind. (soul) The idea of (what is now) cloud communities taking physical shape is fantastic! While it might sound far fetched, it really isn’t – the post gives historical precedence and emerging patterns to back up the idea. As does Tony Hsieh’s The Downtown Project in the present day to transform the decaying and blighted part of the old Vegas Strip into the most community-focused large city in the world.

Around the same time, I came across this Facebook (official) note titled “Coordinated Migration“, (thanks MJ) which shows how Facebook is using ‘hometown’ and ‘current city’ descriptions to track migratory patterns across the world. Probably, in a few years, this would be a mapping everyone would take a keen interest in, to find kindred souls, and to be what they are destined to be.



until next time, a state of bliss

Whose line is it anyway?

When I wrote about the ‘notional boundaries’ in the context of the Arundhati Roy speech, I was reluctant to push the issue further. But while reading ‘The Argumentative Indian’, I came across a section called ‘Critique of Patriotism’ under ‘Tagore and his India’, in which the author – Amartya Sen – mentions that Tagore had once written ‘Patriotism cannot be our final spiritual shelter; my refuge is humanity.

Tagore also apparently used characters in his novel Ghare Baire (The Home and the World) to hint at how nationalistic sentiments could easily turn sectarian. Amartya Sen ends the section with the words of Bertolt Brecht “…of the corruptibility of nationalism. Hatred of one group can lead to hatred of others….” you can read the section in entirety here)

And that started a thought on nation states. If we consider attributing more than a functional (say economic, political, administrative etc) importance to it (despite its ‘freedom’ being earned after much effort and sacrifice), how can we logically dispute a demand for separate states intended on the basis of say religion or language, especially since these might be older than the boundaries of the nation state and could prove a better cohesive force than the idea of a country?

This is not to say that I’m in favour of this kind of a line or line of thought, but I would like your help in finding a logical conclusion.

until next time, line of reasoning :)

Speech Disorders

Arundhati Roy’s ‘God of Small Things’ is a book I found underwhelming. It could’ve been my maturity as a reader, or the hype that surrounded the book then, but all said and done, Ms.Roy was not an author who influenced me. Unlike a certain Mr.Tharoor, an author I deeply admire, and whose books (mostly) have given a lot of perspective, even the works of fiction.

But when he had this to say about Roy – commenting that she’d gone too far to the left and her writing about Gandhians with guns, I wasn’t sure whether I could agree, and I asked on Twitter (not to him) whether his stance is necessitated by his political affiliations. A feeling that was mirrored when I read this post by Anil Thakraney. To give you a background on Anil, I think his insightful (inciteful isn’t a word, or it would’ve fitted well too) articles and interviews are amazing, and his posts often find resonance with me, because the issues he talks about and the way he talks about them gives  abundant perspective. I don’t think Anil is compelled by any external force, a possibility that can’t be ruled out in the case of Tharoor. And so I wondered, why I wasn’t in agreement.

Could I’ve been possibly influenced by her articles on tribals that were written a year back – Outlook (which caused the first wave of outrage) and Washington Post (about the outrage) or even this excellent post titled “The Economics, Politics and Ethics of non violence” or just the history. It was human, and I could identify with the view on  the human sacrifices that are made for the sake of progress. A purely bystander perspective.

Or did it only play a marginal role when I considered Roy’s latest remarks on Kashmir? How can you be objective when on one side, she writes a moving article on why young boys are pelting stones and on the other side, you have almost an entire nation outraged? It doesn’t help that its fashionable to hate Roy, and even more fashionable to support her.

So in the end, I’d go beyond the freedom of speech debates and the notional boundaries. I only say notional because, if we look at a larger timeframe, the transience of these boundaries will be more evident. Empires of the past, in their time, would have thought that their boundaries were unassailable, even by time. But they are history. One of the ideas that have remained unchallenged for long is that of the nation state, maybe its time that came up for an overhaul.

A mass of humanity that make up a nation state makes laws that are agreeable to the majority. That’s the way civil societies have been built. The fun part is that, in most cases, the majority are mere bystanders with a notional stake. So at some point, the minority is pushed to such an edge that they’re forced to retaliate. What is only an inconvenience to the majority is a matter of survival and basic rights for the minority.

And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. They may think it’s an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day,I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. And friends they may thinks it’s a movement.

(Alice’s restaurant by Arlo Guthrie)

Meanwhile, for some, these boundaries might be sacrosanct, some might believe that Roy is doing it just for the popularity. But, even from the armchair, the hurt sentiments of the first and the (alleged wrong) intention of the second pale when compared to the human condition.

until next time, longish posts are charged with sedation? 😉

PS: Found later that Shoma Choudhury has articulated this well