Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Did the British Give India Political Unity? (By Shashi Tharoor) - 1

From book "An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India" by Shashi Tharoor

Part one

The British like to point out, in moments of self-justifying exculpation, that they deserve credit for the political unity of India - that very idea of 'India' as one entity (now three, but one during the British Raj) instead of multiple warring principalities and statelets, is the unchallengeable contribution of British imperial rule.

It is difficult to refute that proposition except with a provable hypothesis: that throughout the history of subcontinent, there has existed an impulsion for unity. This was manifest in the several kingdoms throughout India history that sought to extend their reach across all of the subcontinent: the Maurya (322 BCE - 185 BCE), Gupta (at its peak, 320 - 550 CE), and Mughal (1526 - 1827 CE) empires, and to a lesser extent, the Vijayanagara kingdom in the Deccan (at its peak 1136 - 1565 CE) and the Maratha confederacy (1674 - 1818 CE). Every period of disorder throughout Indian history has been followed by a centralizing impulse, and had the British not been the first to take advantage of India's disorder with superior weaponry, it is entirely possible that an Indian ruler would have accomplished what the British did, and consolidated his rule over most of the subcontinent.

The same impulse is also manifest in Indians' vision of their own nation, as in the ancient epics the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, which reflect an 'idea of India' that twentieth century nationalists would have recognized. The epics have acted as strong, yet sophisticated, threads of Indian culture that have woven together tribes, languages, and people across the subcontinent, uniting them in their celebration of the same larger-than-life heroes and heroines, whose stories were told in dozens of translations and variations, but always in the same spirit and meaning. The landscape, for instance, as their travels throughout it demonstrated, and through their tale, Indians speaking hundreds of languages and thousands of dialects in all the places names in the epic, enjoyed a civilizational unity. Lord Rama's journey through India and his epic battle against the demon-king of Lanka reflect the same national idea.

After all, India has enjoyed cultural and geographical unity throughout the ages, going back at least to Emperor Ashoka in the third century BCE. The vision of Indian unity was physically embodies by the Hindu sage Adi Shankara, who travelled from Kerala in the extreme south to Kashmir in the extreme north and from Dwarka in the west to Puri in the east, as far back as the seventh century after Christ, establishing temples in each of these places that endure to this day. Diana Eck's writings on India's 'sacred geography' extensively delineate ancient idea of a political unity mediated through ideas of sacredness. As Eck explains: 'Considering its long history, India has had but a few hours of political and administrative unity. Its unity as a nation, however, has been firmly constituted by the sacred geography it has held in common and revered: its mountains, forests, rivers, hilltop shrines... linked with the tracks of pilgrimage.;

Nor was this oneness a purely 'Hindu' idea. The rest of the world saw India as one: Arabs, for instance, regarded the entire continent as 'al-Hind' and all Indians as 'Hindi', whether they hailed from Punjab, Bengal or Kerala. The great nationalist Maulana Azad once remarked upon how, at the Haj, all Indians were considered to be from one land, and regarded themselves as such. Surely such impulses, fulfilled in those distant times by emperors and sages, would with modern transport, communications and far-sighted leaders, have translated themselves into political unity?

Starting from these incontrovertible facts, it is possible to construct an alternative scenario to British colonialism in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, with the Marathas extending their conquests across the country, while finding it politically convenient to mast their power under a titular Mughal emperor, a process that had already begun. Though the Marathas would have ruled the country under the nominal overlordship of a weak Mughal monarch (as the British themselves were briefly to do), this would have led to an inevitable transition to constitutional rule, just as England transitioned (with the seventeenth -century Glorious Revolution and the subsequent strengthening of the House of Commons) from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. This could have happened in India just as it did in several other countries in the non-colonized world, across Europe and in the handful of Asian countries that were not colonized notably China, Japan and Thailand. The process would not have been painless; there may well have been revolutions and military struggles; there would have been disruption and conflict; but India's resources would have stayed in India and its future would have been resolved by its own people. The onset of British colonialism interrupted this natural evolution and did not allow it to flower. But to suggest that Indian political unity would not have happened without the British is absurd and unsupported by the evidence.

Counterfactuals are, of course, impossible to prove. One cannot assert, for instance, with any degree of certitude, events that did not in fact occur, nor name that centralizing figure who might have been India's Bismarck, Mazzini, Ataturk or Garibaldi in the absence of the British. But historical events find their own dramatics personae, and it is unreasonable to suggest that what happened everywhere else would not have happened in India. From such an initially hybrid system could have emerged a modern constitutional monarchy and political institutions built upon the Mughal administrative system, as modified by the Marathas. But these are hypotheticals. The British came, and no such non-colonial India emerged.

Counterfactuals are theoretical but facts are what they are, The facts point clearly to the dismantling of existing political institutions in India by the British, the fomenting of communal division and systematic political discrimination with a view to maintaining and extending British domination.

When the British eventually left in 1947, they left India as a functioning democracy, and many Britons would take credit for having instilled in their Indian subjects the spirit of democracy and the rule of law, even if Indians were denied its substance by the British. This claim is worth examining closely.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Be aware of Indian e-tourist visa online application fraud

The wedding season in India (Nov and Dec 2017) and lunar new year in China (Feb 2018) is approaching, therefore we started planning the massive yearly travel out of California to India and China.

As an international family that father holds Indian passport, mother holds Chinese passport, two kids hold American passport, we have 8, 9 visas and travel documents to apply, so all four of us can enter each other's home country together. You do the maths! 

India has launched e-tourist visa on arrival 3 years back. You can fill out the forms online, pay online, after 3 days the visa will be sent out to your email. It's been a big convenience so far. But this time when I was applying for the e-visa, I fell in the trap of online fraud, let out all of the valuable identity information to fraud companies and almost lost hundreds of dollars.

Through the fake sites, I filled out all the information and paid 140 dollars as American applicant and 130 dollars as Chinese applicant. Luckily our credit card has fraud insurance, they refunded me for the lost and issued new card. As far as I know, if it was a Chinese credit card, the money will be gone forever.

Hours after I posted my story, dozen of my Chinese readers replied that they also almost fell into the trap, until they saw it charges 130 dollars (for Chinese citizen it's usually around 40 dollars), they dropped the application. But for American citizens, it does cost around 120 dollars for Indian e-tourist visa, that's why when I was paying to the fake site for 140 dollars, it didn't ring a bell.

I am using screenshot to show you how it happened, and please be aware when you are applying.

When searching "Indian visa online application", Google showed me four "ad" websites as the top result, all four of them are fake and frauds. 
Here is what they look like, all of them look official, and most of them also write "official" in preview. If people are not familiar with the trick of Google Adwords, if people can't recite the exact address of authentic site, how would they be able to identify the dozens of fake ones from the only and one authentic one? 

This is what the real official site looks like

As I was sending emails for enquiry, (I searched within my own email account because I applied before, so the enquiry email address is authentic), the Indian embassy personal replied:"All other website for the e-visa is fake." I am just wondering if they all know the truth, why there was no action against such obvious scandal? 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Ten Years

I still remember 14 years ago when we first came to the marvelous campus of Xiamen University, everybody was the top of the top from their high school/city, but as humble and adorable as an innocent teenager could be.

We share, we love, we light up the sky with our youth. We respect each other, learn from one another.

There were so many nights we played guitar and counted the stars on the blissful Amoy beach. So many times we cried over other shoulders.

Together, we grew up and grew strong.

I flew away from China that August after graduation and never went back. It looked like all these years I have walked my own path.

But deep down, I carried them with me, wherever I went.

They were me. I am them.

Thanks to them, I have not yet given up my dreams. Thanks to them, I have learned the most important thing in life: accept yourself and be happy.

It's unfortunate that I have to miss the tenth-year reunion. And I am already looking forward to meeting them, meeting my youth again at the next reunion.

See you all in ten more years.

June 2007, I was graduating from XMU Finance

June 2017, ten years reunion after graduation
But I had to miss it because my babies are too young and we live too far

Tuesday, February 21, 2017















Thursday, February 9, 2017

To Shiva and Aditi - Letter From Mommy3

My beautiful children Shiva and Aditi,

Mama wants to keep a tradition of writing a letter to you every year on your birthdays, September of 2016 has long passed but I had never really got time to settle down to write. Now Gong-gong and Popo are here to help Mama, I am starting to have some time to myself.

My dear son, Mama sees that a fabulous human being is emerging from you. You have a really kind heart with a tender nature. There is so much peace in you (yes, you are a peaceful boy, even though you are like a tornado, jumping and running nonstop, leaving chaos behind you wherever you go). I have never seen you pushing anybody or taking toys away from other kids. I have never seen you being mean to anyone. If you are pushed or toys in your hand taken away, rarely you would react to it. You keep calm and move on to other available fun things to do, no fuss no mourning. However the mommies here are very nice and they protect you from their own naughty kids.

You are very conscious about sharing. Most of the time even when you are fascinated with what you are playing with, if I ask you to share, you don't mind at all. It feels like sharing indeed gives you pleasure, if not more, at least equal to the excitement toys give you. Mama is feeling very blessed, because you will understand one day, sharing and caring with an open heart brings only happiness.

It took you a few days to adjust to the arrival of your little sister. At first you were a little shocked and sad that Mama was fully occupied by this tiny crying alien. Luckily Papa, Gong-gong and Popo were on the mission to give you all the love and attention Mama couldn't give at that moment. You transitioned very well. In a really short period of time, you fell in love with your little sister like all of us, don't mind that you have to share Mama and Papa with her.

Now every morning when you wake up, you quietly come to Mama's bedroom, climb onto my bed, find your sister there, kiss her forehead and loudly chant "Bonjour" and "Hola" to her. And she laughs so hard as if she has been waiting for this moment all night long. The favorite thing for your sister to do is to watch you do silly things and laugh. Like when you are performing break dance, singing Chinese songs, patting balloons, jumping around or simply eating your dinner. She enjoys the most and laughs the hardest with you. You are also Mama's great help, you help bathe your sister, place blanket on her, rock her chair, put toys in her hands and you never mind sharing your toys with her.

Before the birth of your sister Mama thought that your coming back to this circle of life might be because of Mama or Papa. Now I am very certain that you and your sister were seeking each other. The connections you two had in your previous lives was unbreakable. Mama is feeling very lucky that I am your rendezvous.

I want you to respect each other. Respect and cherish the similarities, more importantly, the differences. You two are very lucky to share a space formed with both Ying and Yang. And from an early age to understand that all things exist as inseparable and contradictory opposites. This way of living would be very beneficial to you, because you would have a better understanding of the other half of the human population.

I want you two to always love and support each other, take care of each other throughout your life time. The reason that Mama and Papa want to have two kids is because single child could face loneliness. While the most common age differences among siblings are three years and up, we decided to have a two-year gap because we want you two to be in the same age group and develop intimate relationship. You and your sister will surely learn together, grow together, and enjoy the adventurous life journey together. Cherish this siblinghood.

My dear daughter, welcome to this wonderful world! Thank you for choosing me to be your mother, trusting me to nurture you, protect you and bring you up. I am feeling truly blessed. You are such a sweet and tender little human being. Every morning you wake up having a big smile on your face and make happy cooings. Whenever I smile at you, you smile back. You are always ready to give a good laugh to Mama's amusing facial expressions, Papa's comic sounds and brother's funny movements.

Actually when Mama was pregnant with you, I was overjoyed that you were going to be a girl, however I had no idea how it felt like to have a daughter. I have never heard about sayings such as "daughter brings mother glory", "your daughter will grow up to protect you", they are only associated with sons. While I was growing up, in the neighborhood I only witnessed baby girls being aborted or abandoned, or discussions about the abortion or abandoning of baby girls. I only heard about the sex techniques, the food to avert or to consume a ton if you want to conceive boys. I only knew families that kept having four, five daughters until they met a son, no other way round. Expressions like "girls are stupid", "women are useless" are commonly used. "Is it such an inglorious thing, having daughters?" Imagine that this was an actual question circling in my head sometimes, before I had you.

On the day when I was holding you in my arms for the first time, in the morning ray of a California sunny day, my beautiful princess, I finally saw you. You have practiced Kung-fu inside my belly for 40 weeks, my little Kung-fu Master. You are as precious as any baby to their mother. I saw your rosy cheeks and tiny nose, your frowning eyebrows and alert eyes. My thumb felt the strong grip from your fingers. Your hungry lips were searching everywhere to find Mama's nipples to latch on. I just knew that you were my baby who I would kiss a zillion times, tickle a billion times, who I would die a million times for, who I would love to the moon and back. I didn't need to turn you upside down and check if you had a penis, so to determine the way to treat you. And I feel deeply disturbed by the society that shames the mother so much so to cause her to lose the motherly nature of loving her own child.

Your eyes are big and shiny, every time I see your face, they remind me of the beautiful snake I saw in my dream. It was May 20th 2016, Mama was exactly 24 weeks pregnant with you. I had this magnificent and vivid dream that I think was about you. Something terrible had been happening in the forest, there was a snake gang made of ruthless and gigantic snakes, they killed each every innocent living. There was screaming and fear everywhere in the forest. In the dream Mama was a human being, hiding here and there in the forest. Although I was shocked and scared, I was brave enough to keep moving. Because I was carrying a mission. There was a suitcase I was protecting. Eventually I found an empty house in a safe place, stayed in there for weeks, with windows and lights shut in the night.

Weeks maybe months later, the owners of the house returned. They were two men with European accent. At the moment they found about me, I asked them not to be angry but quietly follow me to the room I had been staying. I had something to show them. They entered the room with me. I took out a box, opened it deliberately. A little snake was lying in there, slim and vigorous, red flowery patterns on dark shinning skin. Her eyes were big and shiny. Her face expression was soft and benevolent. She was a little female snake. At the sight of the snake, both of the men were frozen, as if they were struck by lightning. "She is THE one." "Yes, she is the one... wow, she is so beautiful..." They murmured in ecstasy. Yes, this girl snake was my mission, more valuable than my own life. I didn't remember where I got the suitcase that held the egg. I just knew I had to find a place to hatch the egg, protect the baby snake and bring it up. Because this baby girl snake was the one who was going to change everything, who would defeat the snake gang and bring peace and prosperity back to the forest. And everybody recognized this fact at the sight of her, even when she was just a few days old.

In the East, deciphering dreams during pregnancy is a very important part of the culture. Only two or three days after the possible conception date of your brother Shiva, I had a significant dream. It told me I was pregnant with a boy, he was Shiva. Two weeks later, pregnancy test showed me I was pregnant. Five months later, ultrasound result confirmed it was indeed a boy. While I was pregnant with you, Mama had waited patiently for the dream in which I get to see you.

My beautiful daughter, I have no doubt that that little powerful dark snake was you. The forest could be a nation, so you are its president. The forest could be a movement, so you are the leader. The forest could be a company, so you are the one to save it. The forest maybe just represent the hardship of life, so you stay strong and rescue yourself. That little snake was your inner strength. All you need is the freedom to dream. You need the freedom to consider different possibilities and the freedom to follow your heart. Mama will always tell you "Yes, you will be the first/second female president of our country if you want to." "Yes, you will be a respectful supreme court judge if you work hard." "Yes, you will win the world championship if you never give up." Maybe you are the Murphy Cooper in movie "Interstellar", who knows!

At times there might be people implying "Girls shouldn't be so naughty." They might ask "Why she keeps playing with those test tubes like a boy?" They might suggest "Your daughter should focus on something more girly." But how can they know you better than Mama? I am going to quietly turn away and keep granting you the freedom to believe in yourself. I think this is what every mother should do to their daughters.

My sweet son and daughter, your skin complexion is so perfectly brown, I am truly proud of it. It tells the story of Mama and Papa, the story of your origin, your identity. You should be proud of it too. However recently some voices emerged, telling you to be ashamed, telling you that you are not welcomed. In the year of 2008, Mama and Papa first came to this land, it accepted us as one of its own. It showed us the true meaning of diversity, freedom and equality. We fell in love with it. Soon enough we started to consider this land as our own and we fight to keep the values it holds. The unkind voices are a threat to these values.

Yes sometimes the world seems like it's getting darker. But we are at the most peaceful time of the history, at the most diverse and inclusive place one could imagine. Embrace this fact and be grateful. In human history, two steps forward usually followed by one step backward. The most important thing is we should believe in our ability to push it forward, to clench our fists and give a good fight. Nothing worthy comes without a fight. To prepare for it, be tolerant, be kind. More importantly, be positive and optimistic. When they go low, you hold up high. When the darkness is crawling in, you be the light and lighten up the way.

I love you for always
Feb 9th 2017