Posts Tagged USA
World lost two leaders this month, in world’s two greatest democracies, India and the USA, and were fondly remembered in many tributes. RIP #JohnMcCain & RIP #AtalBihariVajpaiee . Regardless of the party and ideology, these conservative career politicians remind us that democracy rests on the shoulders of men and women who dedicate their lives for making a case for their principles and then accepting the verdict that comes from people and serving with grace, regardless of the outcome. These men sought to unite the people under their leadership, served with integrity, and chose to be guided by their conscience and tried to build bridges, when they could. Some highlights from the lives of these two men – specifically their centrist moves — something that is inevitable in a democracy and something we need an ardent reminder of, in these polarizing times.
Atal Bihari Vajpaiee: Under ABV, BJP moderated its extreme conservative Hindu nationalism. India conducted 5 nuclear tests during his time in office but Vajpaiee simultaneously softened hard stance towards Pakistan, inaugurated Delhi-Lahore bus service and in fact traveled to Lahore by bus and made a push for full scale diplomatic peace process. Unfortunately Pakistan’s incursion into India’s borders, into LOC (line of control), led to bloody Kargil war during his time. Pakistan was forced to withdraw, after suffering heavy losses. ABV took oath for the office of Prime Minister of India 3 times and served thrice in that capacity for varying lengths. Indian airlines flight was hijacked when he was PM. But the biggest political disaster hit his government in 2001 when there was destruction of Babri Mosque & VHP wanted to lay foundation for a temple at the site. Thousands gathered but it ended peacefully. In 2002 however, when Hindu pilgrims were killed in a train returning from protests in Ayodhya, the resulting anti-Muslim sentiments led to intense violence and deaths of thousands of Muslims and destruction of their homes and property, in the state of Gujarat. In his last years in the parliament, ABV made last efforts to achieve peace with Pakistan, he also visited China and China-India relations improved greatly. ABV’s government introduced many domestic and economic and infrastructural reforms to encourage foreign investments, reduce governmental waste and encourage R&D and privatization of government owned corporations and introduced efforts to improve quality of education. ABV was recipient of Bharat Ratna, India’s highest award for exceptional service.
John McCain: Although generally a conservative, McCain disagreed with his party, when guided by his conscience to do so. Most recent example was when he voted against the repeal of #Obamacare. He was a member of bipartisan “Gang of 14”. McCain made campaign finance reform one of his signature concerns that eventually led to passing of the McCain–Feingold Act. McCain also chaired the Senate Commerce Committee and opposed pork barrel spending. McCain lost his party’s nomination for president once to George W. Bush and once he lost his bid for the highest office to Barack Obama. McCain invited both his previous opponents Bush and Obama to give eulogies at his funeral. That is a mark of a man who does not hold grudges and seeks to build bridges. When McCain served in the Vietnam war, he endured fractures and almost drowned and was then captured by the enemy in 1967. He was held by the enemy forces for over 5 years. When his father became commander of US forces, the enemy offered to release him but McCain refused saying “I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy”. As a prisoner, he endured severe solitary confinement, had dysentery, was repeatedly tortured, severely beaten (once on a schedule of every 2 hours), and planned to commit suicide when he reached his breaking point. McCain survived, became a vocal opponent of extreme torture, and later joined politics. McCain married his first wife Carol, adopted her two children and had a daughter. But after his return from Vietnam, both had changed, he had extra marital affairs for which he took full responsibility and later he and his wife amicably divorced and he married his second wife Cindy in 1981. Cindy and John had three children and later adopted a girl from Bangladesh and named her Bridget. McCain was recipient of several awards. McCain’s many contributions and his often choosing to be guided by his conscience rather than by party and politics were mentioned and remembered today by his many friends, as he was laid to rest.
Directed by brilliant filmmaker Mira Nair, this movie is based on a novel by Mohsin Hamid, adapted for screen, by Ami Boghani , with screen play by William Wheeler. Riz Ahmed’s performance is brilliant, in the role of Changez, a Pakistani-born, Wall Street financial analyst, who is living the American dream, before everything changes with the terrorist attacks, on 9/11.
The way in which the word “fundamental” is used in the movie, is as complex as the human saga that unfolds, in the larger context of the events that occur around him. Changez is living an American dream, a rising star in the meritocracy based system at Underwood Sampson firm, which instructs its employees to “focus on the fundamentals”, referring to laser sharp focus on assessing the assets’ value, through clear, data driven financial details. Changez also has an American girl friend, played by Kate Hudson and he is dreaming of becoming a Managing Director, some day.
However, following 9/11, Changez is singled out, arrested, strip searched, and he begins to see holes in his American dream. The very materialism that had enticed and captured his imagination, he finds lacking. While visiting Pakistan, he is frequently at odds with his father (played by Om Puri) but his mother (played by Shabana Azmi) dotes on him, and he loves his sister (played by Meesha Shafi), who has her own American dreams. Changez feels, he can no longer be a part of the “establishment”, and he quits it all, and moves back to Pakistan. Is he becoming a reluctant “fundamentalist”? Changez tells his story to an American, Bobby Lincoln, played by Liev Schreiber, who has gone to Pakistan, in search of his recently kidnapped friend.
Before Changez attempts to help him with crucial information that could lead Bobby to his friend, Changez wants Bobby to hear his whole story. He says, when he watched the events of 9/11, for a split second, a small part of him, felt in awe of the genius with which the events were orchestrated. He adds, after he moved back, he told his students at the university where he teaches, that he just quit his American dream, in favor of Pakistani dream and then asked them, “what is Pakistani dream”? He also says, he had an epiphany, that in life one must adhere to certain “fundamental truths”.
What are those fundamental truths? Are they different for different people, standing on different sides of an issue? In telling his story, Chanez says, he did not even have an opportunity to pick sides, his side was picked for him. Is that possible or do we always have a choice? And what about prematurely exercising the choice, before we learn complete details? Did Bobby listen to the whole story? The story of 9/11 has been told often. But there is little that could change with each account. The events unfolded with precision and majority of the people, on both sides of the ocean, would agree that it was an evil deed. But how do these geo political events impact each individual, at deeply personal, intimate level? There can be as many stories, as people who experienced that time in history. And Mira Nair has done a fabulous job in telling one such deeply personal tale of how the events affected Changez and Bobby, both struggling in their own way, to strive for the greater good. I rate the movie 4.7 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent.