Aakar Patel (for Info only, not official)

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Aakar Patel

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    ...It had effortlessly produced national leaders of the quality of Gandhi, Jinnah and Patel not by accident. Gujaratis had the ability to set aside emotion and reach for benefit. This was an unusual talent and not available to all Indians. Of course, ‘Gujarati’ is a catch-all term. It includes the trading baniya, who lives by compromise, the Patidar who has zero ability to contain his emotion, and also the shopkeeping Modi, who has no need for compromise because shopkeepers operate on fixed rates. But generally speaking, it is easy to see what Ahmed is talking about. Now that we have a Gujarati running the subcontinent’s largest nation, has our experience in India been one of pragmatism and compromise that have produced benefit? Let us leave it for the historians to decide, but this first draft must record that compromise was not among the terms used to describe the leadership of these present times. ...

    TOI on Nov. 26, 2017, 1 a.m.

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    ...First, we must look at what the term means. What is anti-national? It is not a crime defined in our penal code. It is an Indian construct (like the word ‘non-veg’) that the rest of the world doesn’t use or recognise. The world is familiar with the sentiment of individuals aspiring to being above their nation, in the positive sense, as Tagore was, without any malice or hate. The internet tells us that “anti-nationalism denotes the sentiments associated with an opposition to nationalism. Some anti-nationalists are humanitarians or humanists who pursue an idealist view of world community, and self-identify as world citizens. They often oppose chauvinism, jingoism and militarism, and desire peace rather than perpetual conflict, which they claim can be rooted in nationalism”. Europe had an awful experience with nationalism in the 20th century and began to demilitarise and pull down borders to form their economic and political Union. ...

    TOI on Nov. 5, 2017, 1:05 a.m.

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    ...The family name is Gujarati, coming from the Parsi Feroze Gandhi, and meaning grocer (fun fact: ‘Gandhi’ and ‘Modi’ mean essentially the same thing). When Indira died, my school in Surat, run by the Sir JJ Orphanage, immediately claimed her as one of the community. Summoning an assembly to mark the tragedy, our deputy headmaster Major (Retd) Bamji, somewhat puzzlingly, informed the school that Indira “lived like and was cremated as a Parsi”. Of this fact, he said, he was very proud. The prime minister is coming at it from the other end. In a speech this week he said: “The Gandhis do not like Gujarat or Gujaratis.” As proof, he claimed: “Congress governments in the past did not allow completion of the Narmada project, which was originally conceived by Sardar Patel. The family did not like Sardar Patel or Morarji Desai. When Morarji Desai became Prime Minister, the family spread rumours.” Could he be referring to the same family that called dams India’s modern temples and imposed top-down industrialisation on us? Apparently. ...

    TOI on Oct. 22, 2017, 2:30 a.m.

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    ...They stay on script, and insist, or at least try to insist, that the passengers fully understand the sequence to be followed. Unfortunately, their task is like that of teachers in an indisciplined classroom. Like schoolchildren in a boring lesson, Indian passengers usually have zero interest in the evacuation demonstration. Some are playing with their phone, others have their headphones on. I have observed this over hundreds of flights and it is embarrassing how casually this safety ritual is taken. When the flight is about to end, this cavalier attitude to safety is extended as desis make a grab for the overhead bins despite being told expressly to wait for the seat-belt sign to go off. The idea that the moving plane is unstable and it is for our safety and for that of other passengers that these instructions are given doesn’t really register. A laptop bag once crashed down on my seated wife’s skull, as some stuff from the overhead bin was being casually yanked by a gentleman. ...

    TOI on Oct. 1, 2017, 1 a.m.

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    ...Nobody can stop him. Virat Modi has brought the rate down from 8 to 5.7 in six straight quarters of decline and nobody can stop him either. Indeed this stellar economic performance has secured him more endorsements than even Kohli has. The latest coming from the new head of the National Institution for Transforming India (transforming India into what exactly, has someone asked?) Aayog, who is predicting world-beating growth in the current quarter. We shall see, though reports of the GST execution being a total shambles — ‘good governance’ at work, no doubt — does not inspire similar confidence. But who needs performance when one has genius? One imagines that at his meetings, the table-thumpers begin screaming ‘wah-wah Modi saheb!’ before the next transformational idea is even fully pronounced. Now as a Gujarati I always knew the promise of sabka saath came with terms and conditions. Few Indians are innocent enough to believe that something calling itself Hindutva will be suitable for consumption by all Indians. ...

    TOI on Sept. 24, 2017, 2:16 a.m.

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    ...Don’t tell me. I’ll guess. First, I’m sure you’re surprised at the use of just the word Muslim. More specifically at the absence of the word ‘Indian’ before it. I know. We reserve that only for you: ‘Indian Muslim’. We don’t say ‘Indian Gujarati’ or ‘Indian Christian’ or ‘Indian Parsi’. We have absolutely no need of saying ‘Indian Patel’, for what else can they be — even if they be actually from New Jersey — but Indian? Some, actually many, will say: “Well, we say it because it’s how THEY describe themselves”. No, they don’t. I never heard anyone introduce themselves as “Indian Muslim”. They might say “Muslim” or “Memon” or something like that. But when was the last time any of you (i.e., other readers) came across someone at a party who said: “Hello there! I’m Indian Muslim”? You never have. So let’s accept that it is the rest of us forcing this on them. And let’s cut it out. If the rest of us are Indian by default, so are they. Anyway, so, Muslim: how ARE you doing? It is a rhetorical question. ...

    TOI on Sept. 3, 2017, 2:09 a.m.

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    ...Who can forget all of their people who went willingly to jail and spent years there? Long years in isolation, while they wrote terrific texts, like the Discovery of Hindu India. And what sacrifices they made. For example there was that RSS man… actually, he apologised to the Brits and got out of jail. Then there was that other BJP man… wait, he apologised too. Anyway, I am sure a name will come to me soon. There were so many of them who resisted the foreigner while proudly waving the mono-colour. And of course their contributions continued after Independence. The building of institutions, which we can see all around us and which have benefited Indians for decades. Like the Indian Institutes of Technology, modelled on MIT and founded in 1951 (I believe by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad). And the Indian Institutes of Management, set up in 1961 by the Bajrang Dal. The IIM is the pride of the middle class that today for some reason spits on its founder. ...

    TOI on Aug. 13, 2017, 3:33 a.m.

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    ...There is a larger point to be made and I’ll come to that in a bit. Vaghela was a dedicated Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh man who should never have been made head of the Gujarat Congress in the first instance. Hindutva has brutalised the state and permanently divided its people and ghettoised its minorities (an act of extreme anti-nationalism). Congress should have stepped in to recover the truth in Gujarat’s culture of pacifism and mercantilism and pragmatism and progress. Instead, in appointing the Hindutvawadi Vaghela, the party continued the political lie that Hindus and Muslims are permanently at war and communal politics is inevitable. Rubbish. There are those who say that with Vaghela’s exit the Congress will lose the assembly elections coming in that state in the next six months. However, it should be pointed out to such geniuses that in his 20 years (he joined hands with the Congress in 1997) the party anyway saw defeat in every single assembly and Lok Sabha election. What great victories was this compromise with first principles bringing the Congress? Not one. ...

    TOI on July 23, 2017, 12:15 a.m.