Friday, May 25, 2012

Priye Paha.......

It is hard not to get swayed by the temptation of Natya Sangeet. This has been true not only for the music aficionados but also for seasoned legendary musicians such as Pt. Bhimsen Joshi. 

I owe much of my interest in Natya Sangeet to my Maternal Grandfather who being an accomplished musician and a performer in many musical street-plays himself, used to sing and listen to these songs from many well-known Marathi musical plays in his times. I slowly developed a taste for Natya Sangeet and started liking that kind of music. It’s around the same time that I had a chance to listen to the records of Pt. Prabhakar Karekar, veteran classical vocalist, Natya Sangeet performances and I instantly liked his deep baritone voice.

If you are a connoisseur of Marathi Natya Sangeet and its tradition, it’s hard for you to have missed the sonorous rendition of “Priye Paha”, well-known Natyageet from the play ‘Sangeet Saubhadra’, sung by Panditji. In his resonant baritone with a slight hint of nasality, he enthralls his audience with his beautiful rendition of ragas and Natya sangeet.

I was not able to find much information on panditji’s life and work on internet. Then I chanced upon two fine articles(here and here) published in The Hindu at times when he was on a tour to Bangalore for his concerts in 2004 and 2009. In these articles, we get to know about his musical journey. Very inspirational read…..

Listen to this beautiful rendition...
Marathi Natya Sangeet - Priye Paha

Monday, May 14, 2012

Civic Sense or the lack of it..

In the midst of big hue and cry following the CWG scam, there was another issue that went all over in the media: Paan (chewed betel nut) stains in the bathrooms and filthy toilets in games village. One of the enlightened souls in the organizing officials even attributed this to cultural differences in perception. He also needed to remind that an Indian traveling abroad easily assimilates this difference in perception into his civic sense and quickly gets adjusted. But when he’s at his home country he finds it irresistible to spit on the walls, trash the garbage on the road. As much as these events try to jolt us to the reality around us, they still remain a passing affair. 

A common sight in my locality every day - I commute to office by bus and wait at the bus stop that is in the market area adjacent to my house. Throughout the day the market place bustles with commercial activity - swarm of people, shoppers, vendors, snarling traffic, honking cars and buses etc., all pass through a narrow one-way road. End of the day the road is littered with trash dumped out of shops, disposed bottles, half-eaten food, broken bags and plastic cups and bunch of other random garbage. The garbage keeps laying around on the road helpless, rotting until morning when the sweeper comes to clean. The garbage lays right there, off the sidewalk, where I and my fellow commuters wait for the bus. There is no dumpster around (at least I haven’t seen any). This garbage creates considerable nuisance with its stink and gives an unpleasant sight. 

The commuters are visibly ill at ease with this “Sight & Smell” spectacle. Occasionally, cows or stray dogs wandering aimlessly, on catching glimpse of it, seize the opportunity to rummage through the garbage for feast. Fully enjoying this activity, they further scatter the garbage pieces. One could often catch a glimpse of the underpinning of men clothing laying in tattered conditions. At this point, while I stand there, my senses overwhelmed still recovering from this sight, I spot two women pass by me hurriedly, carrying a container full of stinking trash. They empty the container, in full view, onto already reeking garbage, and in the process disturb a huge colony of cockroaches, so far living peacefully but now scurrying for cover. Sometimes passers-by also consider it their civic responsibility to give something back to society by contributing to this mess, so they spit into it.

This illustration is not from any small town in India but from IT hub Bangalore that is proud of itself for being called as Silicon Valley of India. 

The barrage of reportage and accounts presenting a consistent image about India, that of a dichotomy of a rising democratic superpower fueled by growth of information technology, yet mired in poverty and hunger, have blunted our senses to the point that we no longer get troubled by this civic mess around us. Instead we have learnt to live with it and accepted it, the vary same way we have accepted and internalized corruption as usual mode of Indian civic life. The Condition of our cities and utter apathy of its residents is a living testimony of this fact.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Nazi Military-Industrial Complex (Global corporations and their Nazi connections)

Last century saw the rise and clash of three dominant political ideologies capitalism, Marxism and fascism. The inherent conflicts between these ideologies created a deep and sinister impact on the world politics and humanity at large. Towards the end of 1920, the meteoric rise of National Socialism in Germany, and with it of Nazi dictatorship, emerged as a major threat to communist Russia and Capitalist United states. 

In those eventful 12 years of Nazi rule (1933-1945) that culminated into WWII, Germany created a powerful industrial -military complex which was far more potent and interconnected than anyone had ever seen. As a result of this alliance between Nazi leadership and industrial-military complex, many big corporations in those times witnessed a sudden upsurge in their profits. Industries big and small all over Germany became part of Hitler's massive war machine. In fact, many of the most dominant corporations of our time made fortunes funding both sides of the war and this not only had German firms but also some of the major US and European companies and banking giants. This blogpost is an attempt to explore such mutualistic relationships between some of these big corporations and the Nazi leadership.

I.G. Farben
The foremost name in this list is that of I.G. Farben, the colossus nazi industrial trust that created the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp. I.G. farben was a chemical conglomerate formed in 1925 bymajor companies such as BSAF, Bayer, and Hoechst among others. I.G. Farben’s top officials were staunch Nazi followers and some of them were SA officers who personally knew both Rudolf Hess and Ernst Roehm. I.G farben had a very pivotal role in the creation of Nazi war machine. As post-war investigation by US war department revealed – 

Without I. G.'s immense productive facilities ,its intense research, and vast international affiliations, Germany's prosecution of the war would have been unthinkable and impossible; Farben not only directed its energies toward arming Germany, but concentrated on weakening her intended victims, and this double-barreled attempt to expand the German industrial potential for war and to restrict that of the rest of the world was not conceived and executed "in the normal course of business." The proof is overwhelming that I. G. Farben officials had full prior knowledge of Germany's plan for world conquest and of each specific aggressive act later undertaken ....

I.G. Farben obtained all major government and military contracts, thanks to its nazi connections, to build factories and provide rubber, gasoline, lubricating oils, magnesium, fibres, explosives and other chemicals. In its most infamous plant at Auschwitz, it even installed its own patented pesticide Zyklon B in the gas chambers. It didn’t stop there. Farben used unwilling inmates in these camps as guinea pigs to test their chemicals, pharmaceuticals and vaccines resulting in disturbing consequences.

In this due course I.G Farben immensely grew in size and power and acquired controlling interests in numerous German and foreign firms.  Its reach was not restricted to Europe alone. It formed complex cartels with US firms such as Standard Oil of New Jersey (Rockefeller owned), DuPont, Alcoa, Dow Chemical, and others to acquire the raw materials from abroad. It also received heavy financing from Wall Street bankers such as National city bank, Federal Reserve Bank of NY. In the Nuremberg trials, all directors of Farben were charged guilty of war crimes.  

Thyssen and Krupp
Thyssen, a major German steel manufacturer set by by influential German industrialist August thyssen, merged with another German firm Friedrich Krupp AG Hoesch-Krupp in 1999 to form ThyssenKrupp, a large conglomerate world famous for its elevators. Krupps were a very prominent 400 year old German dynasty and famous steel manufacturers. After Nazi seizing power in 1933, Hitler appointed Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, then controller of Krupp industry, as chairman of the Reich Federation of German Industry who eventually succeeded by his son Alfried Krupp. During Nazi rearmament program, Krupp was the principal German maker of large caliber artillery, armor plate, and other high quality armament, the largest private builder of U-boats and warships, the infamous German Panzer tanks, and the second largest producer of iron and coal in Germany. On the other hand Fritz Thyssen, son of August thyssen, was influenced by Nazi ideology of supression of communist and social democrats but could not swallow the idea of anti-Semitism. While trying to emigrate to France but was captured by Nazi army. He was sent to Dachau camp and remained there till he was liberated by axis forces.

Volkswagen and Porsche
German Volkswagen group and world famous expensive car manufacturer Porsche was founded by Ferdinand Porsche, who threw himself in the services of German war machine and eventually benefitted by it. Ferdinand Porsche enjoyed a strong reputation with both Hitler and Josef Stalin. Designed under the Nazi regime, VW beetle became the famous “people’s car”. Hitler helped Porsche with land, fund and other means to set up his plants close to autobahn and canals. Being obsessed with the productivity concerns, Porsche turned to his SS friend, Fritz Sauckel, responsible for the mass deportation of workers. With his help, Porsche employed forced laborers sourced directly from death camps at VW factories at minimum or no cost which allowed for pocketing huge profits.  Ferdinand Porsche himself served Hitler during the war as the head of his tank commission.

Likewise, The Quandt family empire, which became a major shareholder in BMW after the Second World War building it up to become one of the most desirable car brands were linked inseparably with Nazis. Family patriarch, G√ľnther Quandt and his son Herbert collaborated with Nazis and used estimated 50,000 slave laborers from concentration camps in their factories to supply arms contracts to the regime.

Similarly, another giant in the German automobile industry, Mercedes Benz accepted that its  armament production accounted for an ever-growing proportion of the company’s revenues up to the start of the war. The company focused on the manufacture and assembly of military components for the army, navy and air force. Daimler-Benz also used forced laborers. These prisoners of war, abducted civilians and detainees from concentration camps were housed close to the plants. Forced laborers from Western Europe lived in guest houses, private accommodation or schools.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond

In this daringly innovative book, author Jared diamond posits a thesis that in the last 13000 years of evolutionary history of the continents, environmental and geographical factors effected a far greater influence in deciding the course of events that finally led to the world of today than a set of biological,moral or inherent genetic factors. He beautifully draws together diverse fields of knowledge such as bio-geography, history, archeology, evolutionary biology and presents a very cogent argument.

Jared contends that owing to the then prevailing environmental factors such as continental areas and axes, isolation and internal geographic barriers, Eurasian continent got a head start; especially in the area of plant and animal species suitable for domestication and an early development of farming which subsequently led to societal transformation unlike that seen by continents such as Australia, south America and Africa due to unavailability of similar conducive factors in favor of such developments. Moreover, these early farm based societies instinctively progressed into large complex societies of industrial and military dominance and began conquering those socially and economically disadvantaged societies that were either left behind in this transformation or did not get across the minimum threshold to trigger it.

In essence, Author talks about three crucial factors that were largely responsible for this eventual pre-potency of Eurasia over North America, Australia and Africa. These were the Guns (Military technology), the Steel (Industrial technology) and germs (immunity to diseases).

His arguments seem plausible, convincing and radical to a large extent in the light of various examples sited in the book...However, a weakness in the approach is that the whole argument seemed to be Euro-centric and no consideration has been given to important cultural or political .dimensions.........but then that's where i feel the book is worthy of being given a sincere consideration...I enjoyed it to the hilt!!

P.S. while i understand that the author has chosen a very wide canvas to cover as much possible as part of this monumental effort ...however i feel that it does not answer all fact some of them as intellectually overwhelming as the the central subject of the book such as how the climate variation across Indian continent may explain the degree of difference between the mannerisms, the food habits and the enterprenuriaship across the wide expanse of India.....the Indian continent, where i feel, has not been a serious or detail treatment in the book and thats where lies another weakness of the book...