Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Huh? Hindus are Vegetarian: NYT

Here's a "Huh?" quote from this interesting article in the New York Times:
It was a Muslim establishment, serving carnivorous fare. But in deference to its many Hindu patrons, the gruel came in a vegetarian version, too.
The stereotype of the vegetarian Hindu is surprising, considering that it is well-known to be false: most Hindus are not vegetarian. I read on a blog that NRIs encourage this stereotype: if that's true, is it because most Indian emigrants are vegetarian? It is a stereotype that many Indians believe: a non-vegetarian Hindu NRI once insisted that an overwhelming majority of Hindus are vegetarian.

The suprising thing is that, unlike most stereotypes, this stereotype is well-known to be false.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Stereotypes about Caste

I read an article titled "Schedule Conflict: the persistence of caste in India" by a Harvard student recently. It brought home to me how stereotypes that are propagated and reinforced in Western schooling don't go away after a student grows up and begins thinking for himself. Here are some peculiarities:
  1. the perennially disappointing “Hindu rate of growth.” -- Does anybody still use this offensive phrase, even flippantly or in quotes? The author probably picked it out of some newspaper or the other. It's used in the Indian media sometimes, but only to sarcastically point out the way the West perceived India's religion. I'd like to provide an analogy using America's race conflicts, but it would be too crass.
  2. Traditional hierarchies—like caste—are supposed to be getting weaker. Why then was the nation’s capital suddenly in the grip of caste-based protests once again last week? -- This seems vaguely inaccurate. When you say "caste-based protests", one gets the sense that it has something to do with the way society treated them (recently), anger with their place in a hierarchy. These protests had nothing to do with this. It was simply a group with a sense of common identity demanding something. The Gujjars were a caste, but they were acting as any other group with a common interest would. This was not a caste conflict.
  3. This is closely related to what I feel is a difference in perception of caste between Indians and the West. The West tends to think of caste as a "system", a social arrangement created with a particular purpose. If you're a particular caste, other castes must have treated you this way, you're above these castes, below those. Indians tend to view caste as a means of explaining identity, a label that identifies history. If you're a particular caste, you might have been born in this area, your ancestors must have done this kind of work, these are your customs.
  4. what an Indian gets is still as much about who they are as what they have done. Caste members are eligible for certain government programs and jobs, as well as educational opportunities, based almost exclusively on their caste identity. -- This seems to be contrasting the Western work-reward notion (what you get depends on what you do, not who you are) with a hereditary reward notion. But that's not what's going on. The Gujjars are demanding affirmative action based on historical disadvantage. If a Gujjar shows acumen, he can still become a doctor or a businessman or a scientist.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Hindutva is no longer a Category

Recent developments show that Hindutva is no longer a uniform ideology. Like in any other large group, there have always been differences in the Hindutva camp. But the Shiv Sena's recent call for Hindu terrorist cells is so far away from most Hindutva ideology that it doesn't deserved to be identified as such. It appears that there are many Hindutva parties that would not even imagine such nonsense. Perhaps this is no more than the rantings of an old man.

But there is no doubt that this will affect the reputation of all Hindutva parties, as well as provide cannon fodder against Hinduism and India.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Twenty20 and ODIs

There has been a lot of apprehension about the Twenty20 format. It is such a short version of the game that people are worried it will result in a sort of hack-and-slash cricket. It is so attractive and popular that there are worries the beauty and the fine technique of longer versions will become obsolete.

But maybe not. The Kitply cup ODI victory may be an indication of how the Twenty20 format can actually help players prepare for ODI matches. The Indian team in the first match between India and Pakistan was fresh from the first IPL Twenty20 tournament, and not only ended the 12-ODI winning streak of the ODI-trained Pakistan squad, but routed them by 141 runs. India gave away 3 extras; Pakistan gave away 38. Pakistan fielded miserably, dropping crucial catches which allowed the Indian top-order batsmen to raise the Indian total to 330. Of course one match is not enough evidence, but maybe the Twenty20 format forces players to play a tighter, more focused game, something that the ODI-trained Pakistan squad simply had no answer to. It's a different, more nimble kind of warfare.

One of the biggest complaints about the Twenty20 format is that it is designed so that batsmen can go after bowlers. 20-run overs are not uncommon, and some think this will discourage bowlers. This is a misconception based on an inability to adjust your measures to a different situation. It needs to be understood that in Twenty20 a 10-run over is not so bad. A 5-run ODI over is the same quality as an 8 to 10-run Twenty20 over; that's all.

If anything, the bowlers' performance becomes even more crucial in Twenty20. The value of a bowler who can pull off some tight overs is very high in the 3-hour format, and the bowlers end up bowling more accurately under more pressure. This hones their skills.

The overall effect of Twenty20 remains to be seen. But initial indications are that it looks like a great thing for Indian cricket.