Category Archives: economy

Cricket the vampire

Cricket the vampire

Forget about the cricket scam! If the Indian government would legalise betting, not only might it lessen scams, but the state would also reap huge profits. Most of the black money, cheating, smuggling, etc, happening in India is triggered by obsolete laws enacted by Nehru, which were meant to tax the rich to benefit the poor, but which in the end made the rich richer (with black money) and the poor poorer (with white money).

If only this present government would understand that it has huge popular support to make changes — forget what the secular press says — it could take bold decisions in liberalising, privatising and above all trusting the people of India. This would help the country make giant strides forward.

The government should also press forward in cuts of subsidies, also a legacy of Nehru. The present drought, for instance, is partly a result of water mismanagement, such as the farmers pumping for 24 hours without a thought for the water table, because water and electricity are free. Of course, the NDA’s allies will scream, for demagogic purposes, but they should understand that the BJP government will be in power for decades to come — with or without them. It may be because India’s time has come; or it could very well be that India’s time has come because the BJP government is in power.

But to come back to cricket, think of it thus: here is a game which is a colonial legacy of the British. It is meant to be played in cool weather on green meadows with a few spectators who shout “jolly good” from time to time, while sipping lemonade. It is not a game for a tropical country, where you have to stand for hours under a blistering sun in trousers, while frenzied fans scream their approval — or displeasure.

It is true that cricket has its beauty and that it can become engrossing once you have penetrated its subtleties. But it has become an obsession in India and has created a nation of overweight “armchair” sportsmen, who think only about cricket while neglecting their own body. Above all, cricket has totally vampirised all other sports.

There is so much (black) money in cricket that sponsors, TV networks and even the government have concentrated only on that game. The truth is that India is nowhere internationally in sport and its standard is pathetic, if not downright ridiculous, in all games, except for two more British legacies: tennis and hockey.

But look at China which in a span of 30 years has become a sports superpower in all disciplines, including nontraditional ones like swimming. Why can’t India, which gave to the world hata-yoga, which has been copied all over the West, or even pranayama, which is now spreading like wildfire, thanks to the Bangalore-based Art of Living, have a coherent and comprehensive programme which would build world-class athletes in two decades? Because of cricket!

The Indian government should restrict the number of international matches played by its cricketers both within and outside India. This will ensure automatically that cricketers get less sponsorship and have to concentrate on home turf.

The government should also evolve a bold and clear plan for developing all sports, trying as much as possible to bypass bureaucracy who stifle and kill all good plans (it would maybe make sense to privatise some of the areas such as training).

Then only will India become a sports superpower. It has the manpower, it has talent, it has brains; it could even apply its ancient knowledge of hata-yoga and pranayama to training and produce supermen, who would not use anabolics like the Chinese are rumoured to do.

P.S: A reporter from Outlook was asking `apropos’ the controversy of the Indian president’s visit to France: “How is it that the French press behaved in such a disrespectful way during his visit, when there is such a strong tradition of French academic interest in India — people like Christophe Jaffrelot or Sanjay Subrahmanyam, for instance?” The answer is: the French press behaved in the way it did with the president because of people like Jaffrelot and Subrahmanyam.

These “India specialists” in France are continuously highlighting, in the articles they write for respected newspapers such as Le Monde or in history books on the subcontinent, untouchability in India, or how this country is still caste-ridden, or the rise of Hindu fundamentalism, or how the Muslims and Christians are persecuted in India … Very rarely do they bother to mention that this country has an unparalleled history of tolerance, having given — and still giving (to the Tibetans, for instance) — refuge to all persecuted minorities of the world; that it is the Hindus who actually have been at the receiving end of persecution for 10 centuries; or that India is a unique democracy in the world, given its difficult diversity, a rampart of pro-westernism and a bulwark against the Islamisation of Asia. It is thus strange that when Jaffrelot comes to India to release his Hindu Nationalism which has greatly contributed to India’s wrong image in France, he is feted by most of the Indian press.

Are we cows to be milked?

Are we cows to be milked?

December 01, 2003

Even though statistics show that tourists are coming to India in greater numbers in 2003, smaller countries such as Malaysia get double the amount of tourists, without speaking of China, where everybody is flocking to these days!

As usual, the Indian government is pointing a finger at European countries for putting India on the watch list after the twin blasts in Mumbai, instead of doing some real introspection at what is wrong with its policies and heavily taxing the tourism industry.

I often shuttle between Chennai and Delhi. A return ticket by Indian Airlines or Jet (which is more expensive) between these two cities costs more than Rs 22,000. For that price, I can fly from Paris to New York, which is triple the distance.

And that is economy only: it will cost you a whopping Rs 34,220 return fare for a business class ticket on Jet from Chennai to Delhi. If you have the misfortune to be a foreigner, you will have to pay 30% to 40% extra, depending on the dollar exchange rate, which means you will have to disburse Rs 42,000 for a business class return Chennai-Delhi. For that price you can fly to Europe and back in economy!

This is why, Jet, Indian Airlines, or Sahara, run only two or three flights a day each between New Delhi, the capital of a one billion people nation, and Chennai, a city of five millions souls and the gateway to the South. Even these two flights are not full, in spite of the apex fares.

The French have one flight every 15 minutes between Paris, the capital, and Nice, their gateway to the South. They are always full because all kinds of incentives are offered: return fares, discounts on weekends, off-season fares. You can even fly cheaper on airlines such as Easy Jet: £30 return London-Paris — hardly Rs 2,000!

A one way economy ticket from Chennai to Bangalore will cost you Rs 3,500 on Jet. Of course, Indian Airlines and Jet will tell you it is because they are taxed heavily by the government (fuel, airport charges, etc), but if Deccan Air can take off, it will prove it is the Nehruvian mentality of Indians which makes it difficult to innovate and offer better services to the customers.

The funniest thing is that there is sometimes a 15-day waiting list to travel by train from Chennai to Delhi (or the other way) in second class A/C sleeper, which costs a little over Rs 2,000 and takes 36 hours — that is when the train is not a few hours late or does not have an accident. If Indian Airlines or Jet had the intelligence to offer Chennai-Delhi tickets at Rs 3,000, regardless of the dates, people will gladly shell out another 1,000 bucks, just to avoid the 36-hour trip.

IA could easily fill up six Airbus-320 aircraft a day and make a handsome profit, instead of hiking up its prices four times in the last five years.

The price of a hotel room in a five-star hotel in the four big metropolises is never under $300 for a foreigner, that is nearly Rs 16,000 rupees. I stayed last month in the Warsaw Hyatt, brand new and offering much better amenities than many hotels in India: price $100 net. The Inter Continental in Hamburg, with a superb view on the lake: $200. The 35% so-called luxury taxes levied not only on the rooms, but also on food and drinks, makes for outrageous prices: it’s $300 + 35% taxes, without speaking of Rs 120 for a bottle of pesticide-laden mineral water!

A dinner in a five star hotel is as expensive as in Europe, although, even today, their continental food can’t even compare with a one star restaurant in a minor French town. The 5 star hotels groan and moan that these taxes are levied by the government (supposedly to take from the affluent and give money to the poor, although these levies never reach the needy of India), but why can’t they bear a share of the taxes, instead of slapping it on their hapless customers? After all many of these five star hotels are very old hotels and most of the profits go in their pockets — and not in paying for the loans incurred to buy land and build their hotels.

And what about Indians paying Rs 20 to see the Taj Mahal or at Hampi and foreigners being asked Rs 500? Are we cows to be milked? Does the Indian government think it is going to earn the goodwill of tourists and guarantee their return, when they are discriminated against?

Moreover, the hassles faced by foreigners in India are not only financial. Take visas for instance. In Sri Lanka, all foreigners are automatically handed a one month visa upon their landing at the airport. But not in India. One has to apply to sour faced, underpaid staffers at Indian embassies abroad — and forget about five year visas, even if you have been visiting India for 35 years.

Renewing your tourist visa can also be a nightmare, although one can buy them, I heard, in embassies of neighbouring countries, such as Nepal or Bangladesh.

What about banks? 30 years ago, it took half an hour to change $100 in the State Bank of India, Pondicherry. Today they may have computers, but it still takes half an hour! It is not only government banks, but also private banks. With the prize money of my Natchiketa award for journalism, I started a foundation against terrorism, FACT — Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism.

I was advised to bank with ICICI — and that was a big mistake, although ICICI advertises itself as a friendly customer bank.

It took four months to get a credit card, although there were more than Rs 10 lakhs in the account, I am an accredited journalist with the Government of India, married to an Indian, and a long term resident. Finally, I had to get someone to talk to one of the top directors of ICICI. So much for doing business in India if you are a foreigner. It is still a nightmare: you need an approval for each foreign donation prior to it being put in the bank and it takes one to two months to get it.

You can imagine what it means when many of my donations are of $100, sometimes $50 or $20. Also they turned down cheques made out to FACT, even though it is the name which appears on the letterhead of my Trust. They behaved worse than an Indian government bank.

It is high time the Indian government removes these archaic luxury taxes on hotels, relaxes rules for foreigners and lowers the taxes imposed upon airlines, if India really wants to attract the kind of tourism it deserves. Indian Airlines and Air-India have also to be privatised quickly, otherwise these two heavyweights will never allow fair competition.

For India is a great tourist country which lives for itself. What I mean, is that most other tourist countries put up folkloric and cultural shows, which have long disappeared from their own indigenous way of life, for the purpose of foreigners. In India, Pushkar is a real camel fair, the Meenakshi temple of Madurai is a genuine living temple, garba is still widely danced in Gujarat, Kalaripayat is practiced in Kerala’s villages.

Long live this wonderful, vibrant and unique India.

The author is a French journalist, who has lived for in India 35 years. He is the correspondent in South Asia for Ouest-France, France’s largest circulation newspaper and was awarded the Natchiketa prize of journalism by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Francois Gautier

Is India headed the right way?

February 05, 2007
Today, there is a sense of deep satisfaction, of gloating even, in India.

The economy is booming, there are more and more cars on the roads, shares are soaring, a plane is taking off every six seconds, hotels are full, shops do roaring business.

It looks as if India has moved from tamas to rajas, and has come out of its slough of depression and inertia of the last so many centuries, which was characterised by lack of self-esteem, confidence and dynamism.

Today, we see a much more dynamic and self-confident India, galvanised by the liberalisation taking place at this very moment.

But if one looks closer at what is happening here, one is bound to feel a little unsettled. For what we see today is an India veering blindly, without restraint, towards total globalisation and Westernisation.

Yes, there are great values in the Western world: Freedom, democracy, equality (not always though), respect for the environment, less corruption. And India must, and has already borrowed from these qualities.

But since the last two, three years, it seems the Indian political and intellectual mind is pushing these qualities to an illogical extreme, as if it wants to prove to the West that ‘we are as democratic, as liberal, as free as you are.’

Thus, democracy in India has been hijacked. It takes a fortune to be elected. Politicians, elected by and for the people, once they are locked in the ivory tower that is Delhi, forget all about the people.

Thus we see that freedom is such an obsessive mantra in India that an artist who paints one of the most revered ancient Hindu gods doing unmentionable things to a Hindu goddess is defended by India’s intellectuals.

Thus we see that someone who is part of a diabolical plot to kill Indian leaders and storm Parliament gets the benefit of the doubt from the same intelligentsia in the name of judicial correctness.

This process of copying the West to the point of aping it has, of course, already happened many times in the developing world. And it killed the soul of many countries, making them just another replica of the West — with a youth that wears the latest Calvin Klein jeans, knows the No 1 bestseller on the Time list, can quote a few lines from Dante, reads The Times of India, but knows nothing about pranayama, has never read a verse from Kalidasa and does not know who Sri Aurobindo is.

The Westernisation of India must not be at the cost of her culture and spirituality. Yet, there are signs that it is already happening here.

You may notice in the Indian media, that there is a witch hunt against gurus, a deriding and mocking of Indian spirituality, a marginalising of Hinduism and Hindus, who constitute the immense majority in India and are a billion worldwide, one of the most law-abiding, religious, educated, affluent communities in the world.

More and more, Indian television particularly, but also newspapers and magazines, are casting a look on India that is not only very critical (if you open any newspaper nowadays, you can only end up depressed), but which in its very nature is a Western look — which judges India according to Western standards.

But these Western standards do not necessarily apply to this country, which has a different psyche, different culture and different standards.

Why not judge India according to Indian wisdom, which is much more ancient than Western democracy and philosophy?

More importantly, some Indians are more and more divided. Instead of feeling first Indians, they feel they are first Muslims and then Indians, first Dalits and then Indians, first Christian and then Indians. This is a dangerous trend and it spells the death of the minimum unified nationalistic pride that can take a country forward.

Instead, Indians today take pride in melting abroad, or adopting a ‘secular’ creed, which basically makes them soul-less and identity-less, however brilliantly they ape the West.

What is it that which India is fast losing as you read this article?

Its culture, firstly.

Entire patches in the northeast are being converted to Christianity. Tribals are told by missionaries that it is sinful to enter a temple, women are asked not to wear bindis, children are taught to look down on their culture as animist or heathen.

Its communal harmony, secondly.

Whatever the shocks of invasions, there was always a certain syncretism in Jain, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian and Muslim communities. The ordinary Muslim in Kashmir or the Christian in Kerala, even if he thought that his or her god was the only true one, had a certain understanding and acceptance of the age-old Indian culture. Reverence for women, respecting others’ festivals and customs, harmony with one’s neighbours were hallmark traits.

Today, even the Sikh community feels it wants to separate from its Hindu brothers and Christian and Muslims are encouraged to look down upon Hindus.

As a foreigner who loves India, I feel that this blind copying of the West’s ignorant and doubting mind, the aping of whatever is has proved wrong in the West — wild consumerism, or savage capitalism — will be a tragedy for India.

And what is India’s soul? The knowledge that there is life beyond life, the understanding of the different planes above the mind, the ancient wisdom on reincarnation, karma, maya.

And above all, the acceptance that god manifests himself at different times under different names and that god is one in his infinite diversity.

This knowledge, which once roamed the shores of the world from Egypt to China, is today lost everywhere. Yet it is the knowledge that humanity needs for the 21st century if it does not want to go towards catastrophe as it is now, with the world’s two major so-called monotheistic religions still believing that only their god is the true one and that it is their duty to convert ‘pagans.’

India must thus achieve its liberalisation and industrialisation, by taking the best of the West, but preserving what is good, pure, wise in her own culture.

On a material level, for instance, there should be a revival of authentic Indian traditional forms, such as ancient medical systems like Ayurveda, or Siddha, instead of the total dependence on Western antibiotics.

And what about Indian yogic sciences? Pranayama, for instance, is the most exacting, precise, mathematical, powerful breathing discipline one can dream of. It is also true of hatha yoga, a 3,500-year-old technique, which has inspired all kind of aerobic, so-called yoga techniques and gymnastic drills around the world.

Meditation is also India’s gift to the world. The art of relaxing the mind and cooling the nervous system, using simple methods such as observing the breath, or repeating one’s god’s name.

If these three disciplines were taught in a secular, scientific manner to all Indian children in school, not only it would unify them in the same knowledge, but it would provide them wonderful tools of intuition, endurance and peace of mind, which they could use all throughout their life.

But what we see today instead in India are IIMs or IITs churning out scores of Western clones good for export — the greatest cause of the intellectual brain drain of India.

And this will be India’s gift to this planet during this century: to restore to the world its true sense, to recharge humanity with the real meaning and spirit of life.

India should become the spiritual leader of the world.

Francois Gautier is the editor-in-chief of La Revue de l’Inde (lesbelleslettres.com) and the author of the Guru of Joy (India Today book Club).

Francois Gautier

“Need of the Hour for the Indians in the U.S. is to Unite:”

Author: Francois Gautier

Publication: Pioneer
Date: July 24, 2002

Travelling by air in the United States has become a major headache: You are frisked at least three times, made to remove your shoes and sometimes even to show your calves! Beware if you are an Indian: The manual search of your checked-in luggage is supposed to be decided “at random” by the computer; but ours has been explored at every leg of our US trip, probably because my wife has an Indian passport. In fact, being Indian today in the US can be a hazard: “People come to me and say – go back to Saudi Arabia,” says a New York taxi driver, who is from Punjab. Indeed, the average American cannot make the difference between an Indian and an Afghani, and this is creating a problem for the expatriate Indian community in the US, which prides itself in having fully integrated into the American way of life.

If only American correspondents sitting in Delhi would enlighten their readers in the US, as it is their duty to do; but most of the articles you read about India in America – when there are any, because they are very rare – are derogatory and biased. Two weeks ago, the Boston Globe, one of the most venerable US papers, published a piece by M Greenway, an ex-foreign editor and a regular columnist, which basically said that the US should be more wary of Hindu fundamentalism than Islamic militancy! You cannot write something more fallacious than this, but it was probably based on the input that Greenway gets from the New York Times correspondent (the Globe belongs to the NYT Group). Being in Boston and having met the previous day the Globe’s foreign editor, James Smith, I immediately called him and said that as a French journalist having covered India and South Asia during 20 years for prestigious European newspapers, I would write a rejoinder. Will he please forward it the Oped page editor? He did, but the rejoinder was never published.

A few days later the Houston Chronicle (readership 400,000) published an article ‘Living together’, which told the story of a Muslim man in Gujarat, who was “betrayed” by his Hindu friend and went on to speak about the “pogrom” of Muslims during the Gujarat riots at the hand of Hindu fundamentalists. Right at the end of the piece, the writer mentioned, in passing, that “a little before the riots 58 Hindu militants coming from Ayodhya – where a mosque was razed earlier by Hindu fanatics – were killed by a Muslim mob”. The blame was put on their being “aggressive” and there was not a single mention of the 34 innocent women and children who were burnt. Now, contrary to the Boston Globe story, the lady who did this piece for the Houston Chronicle was in India, in Gujarat even, and she had ample time to get her facts straight. But probably, she intentionally decided to omit the fact that cold blooded Godhra massacre triggered the riots against Muslims in Gujarat.

Do American correspondents and journalists tend to toe the US Government’s point of view? I would tend to think so. I was the other day at a White House press briefing, where a lady, who is the South Asia director of the National Security Council, gave us the usual double talk about India and Pakistan: “Yes, yes, India is doing a good job by being ‘restrained’ (pat on the back for New Delhi); but we must continue to support Musharraf, as he is our safeguard against a fundamentalist/nuclearised Pakistan (pat on the back for Islamabad).”

The US does seem to still have a policy of equating India and Pakistan, a policy which was initiated by the British to divide India and make sure it would never be strong. How else can you explain that Time magazine does a cover story on yoga and the word India is not mentioned even once? Even more baffling is the fact that the Indian diaspora in the US does not protest when Time pens a highly derogatory portrait of Prime Minister Vajpayee and gets away with it without having to apologise. Would they speak this way of Jiang Zemin?

And this raises an important question. How is it that except a few individuals and groups like the VHP, Indian expatriates in the US let articles such as the one in the Boston Globe or the Houston Chronicle pass without reacting to them? Whether they have an American passport, a green card, or an extended visa, Indians are doing extremely well in the US, where they are the most successful and visible community, being engineers, doctors, IT people, and even CEOs. They pay their taxes, send their children to the best universities, where they usually perform extremely well, are lawful, pay their taxes and honour America. Alas, individually they might go to temples, do their prayers and long for India, but there is very little unity amongst Hindus in America – Hindu groups keep fighting or ignoring each other. What is happening in India is thus replicated in the US.

Yet, if Hindus in the US would care to unite, call themselves “Hindu Americans”, which would give them an identity, they would form a formidable lobby, because they have the money, skill and influential positions. Not only would they be able to prop-up India’s image in the US at a time when the average American thinks that India is only poverty and Hindu fundamentalism, but they could influence US decision-makers and persuade American businessmen to invest more in India. They could also pressure the US Government to side more with India in its war against terrorism, as India has been suffering from Islamic fundamentalism for decades.

The need of the hour for the Indians in the US is to unite like the Jews. But is it happening? Last week there was this gala Indo-US friendship dinner in Washington. The cream of Indian expatriates was there, as well as more than 40 US congressman and senators. Most of the Indians there, though, instead of canvassing the senators and putting across India’s point of view, seemed more interested in giving boring self-congratulatory speeches and have their photos taken with US VIPs.

INDIA: ALL THAT IS GLITTERING IS NOT GOLD

Indians are raving at the moment on how India is shining, glittering, sparkling : flights and hotels are full, the economy is booming, the Congress is gloating, , Indian firms are buying abroad, Sonia Gandhi goes to Tirupati, a car is sold in Delhi every six minutes, the Indo-US nuclear deal is on, Pakistan is talking to India, reality shows are on many TV’s, Rahul Gandhi is finally entering politics…

Yet, nobody seems to notice that today in India, we live in the world of the politically correct, where truth is often vilified, ranted against, and untruth takes the form of the scintillating, the successful, the winning. Because if you look a little more closely at what’s happening today in this country, India has never been so much in danger of losing her identity, of forfeiting what makes her special, unique amongst all the nations of the world.

Yes planes are full, but there are no runaways, no parking slots, no aerobridges in Delhi’s domestic airport and airlines are losing huge amounts of money circling Indian airports waiting for their turn to land. Yes, the economy appears to be booming, as in India the offer can never meet the growing demand, with the huge surplus of people. But Indians have never been so taxed: nearly 100% on petrol, 40% in luxury hotels, which make them amongst the most expensive in the world (450$ + 35% taxes in the Taj Mahal Mumbai), but not necessarily the best. The Government of India has even introduced an extra luxury tax on Business Class tickets, which render them out of reach except for a golden few and the Corporate. Yes, the growth statistics look good, but the Communists, on whose support the present Government’s survival depends, are applying brakes on liberalisation, blocking privatization of airports, and generally reviving the old Nehruvian model of taxing the rich for giving to the poor. But we know that the money mostly lands in the pockets of the politicians, the corrupt and the privileged. Finally, even Indian scientists have said that the so-called golden Indo-US nuclear deal, will tie India in so many knots that she will be for ever submissive to America.

More importantly even, on a more subtle plane, India is in great danger. Indians are more and more divided: instead of feeling first Indians, they feel they are first Muslims and then Indians, first Dalits and then Indians, first Christian and then Indians. This is a very dangerous trend and it spells the death of the minimum unified nationalistic pride which can take a country forward. Instead, Indians today take pride in melting abroad, or adopting a ‘secular’ creed, which basically makes them soul-less and identity-less, however brilliantly they ape the Wesr. There is also an increasing Christianization of India, which nobody gives a damn about – half of the Tamil Nadu coastal villages have been converted to Christianity after the Tsunami, for instance. Islamization is also going on at an alarming speed: mosques and madrasas, which teach innocent children that there is only one God but Allah, are sprouting all over, from Kerala to Uttar Pradesh; Marxisation is another danger India is facing: the Congress Government has put Marxists in position in all important academic posts, universities, curriculum committees. It will take twenty years to dislodge them and undo the untruths they have introduced in textbooks and manuals. Lastly, globalization and the Americanization of India are going on full swing. More than anything else it can stifle the soul of a country with the inside connivance of advertisers, Indian Corporates, the Government and greedy entrepreneurs.

What most people miss, is that all this happening at an unprecedented speed because of one person at the top : the Eminence Grise of India, the Iron Lady who oversees everything, decides everything. I have named of course Sonia Gandhi. Surely, she might be sincere in her desire to cleanse Indian politics and introduce rationality in the Congress. Certainly, she is probably a good mother, as she was a good wife to Rajiv and maybe a good friend too. But she is the most dangerous thing that has happened to India in 150 years after the British colonization and Muslim invasions. For all the dangers that are now threatening India are secretly or maybe even overtly wished by her. Islamization ? She is pushing for quotas for Muslims. The Congress leaders were more cynical, they catered to the Muslims so that they got their votes, without caring to educate them, but Sonia does it out of conviction, and that makes it much more dangerous. Christianization ? Sonia is a Christian, she married her daughter to a Christian, her son will probably marry a Christian. She may go to Titupati because she lives in a country of 850 million Hindus, but she probably won’t mind too much if the whole of India becomes Christian. Sonia was a student in Cambridge at a time where everybody loved Marx, Lenin, Mao and Che Guevara and she may not have changed that much. So the Marxisation of India and South Asia (Indian Communists are plotting with Nepalese Maoists so that they get rid of the king and establish a communist rule in Nepal, which will be a catastrophe for India) which she allows her communist allies to do, is ok for her. Finally, like me (but the comparison stops here) Sonia is a Westerner and as she has no idea about the spirituality which is behind Hinduism, she won’t mind the westernization of India which anyway people see as the ultimate sign of civilization.

What is it that India is fast losing during the reign of Sonia Gandhi ? Its culture firstly. Entire patches in the North-East are being converted to Christianity: tribals are told by missionaries that it is sinful to enter a temple, women are asked not to wear bindis, children are taught to look down on their culture as animist or heathen. Its communal harmony, secondly. Whatever the shocks of invasions,, there was always a certain syncretism in Jain, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian and Muslim communities. The ordinary Muslim in Kashmir or the Christian in Kerala, even if he thought that his or her God was the only true one, had a certain understanding and acceptance of the age-old Indian culture. Reverence for women, respecting others’s festivals and customs, harmony with one’s neighbours were hallmark traits. Today, even the Sikh community feels it wants to separate from its Hindu brothers and Christian and Muslims are encouraged to look down upon Hindus. Finally what makes India really special is it spirituality. The knowledge that there is life beyond life, the understanding of the different plans above the mind, the ancient wisdom on reincarnation, karma, maya and above all the acceptance that God manifests Himself at different times under different names and that God is One in His infinite diversity. This is the Knowledge that humanity needs for the 21st century if it does not want to go towards catastrophe as it is now, with the world’s two major so-called monotheistic religions still believing that only their God is the true one and that it is their duty to convert ‘pagans’, either by guile and financial baits, as the Christian do, or even by force, as the Muslims think . And India possesses this Knowledge, last amongst all nations.

The ultimate irony is that Indians are happy about Sonia Gandhi. People like Shashi Tharoor or Pankaj Mishra gloat all over the pages of the New York Times or the Washington Post that she is the best thing that happened to India in a long time. The same is true in India where the Times of India and many of India’s Newspapers and TV’s keep eulogizing Sonia Gandhi, choosing to close their eyes to the shameful things happening under her reign. Someone said that India a nation of slaves. I would not go that far, as I love this country too much. Still, the question must be asked: how is it possible that a nation of a billion people, with some of the best minds of this planet, allows itself to be governed by a western , non Hindu lady, who however sincere she is, is actively overseeing the dismantling of whatever is good and true in India.

All that is glittering is not gold.

François Gautier