Thursday, March 13

Wavell and the Dying Days of the Raj: Britain's Penultimate Viceroy in India


We walked about in sunny old Delhi. The city where one set of imperialists and colonisers, the Mughals, were overthrown by the next lot, The British. 

And after the divide and rule policy, the British desperately tried to keep India together. And then whilst Gandhi spoke for all Indians, Jinnah and Ambedkar, ironically all liberal lawyers blessed with some of the greatest minds known to India in the recent years, along with Nehru, managed to bollox it all up. There's nothing that irritates people who claim to speak for narrow groups than to be faced with people who speak for all. So for example, if somebody bangs on about nationalism, if you wanted to wind them up, speak to them about children's rights. If somebody talks about religion, cut them off by talking women's rights. At end of the day, see the universal declaration of human rights. That's a good one to memorise and use as principles son. 

In the meantime, read about great men with feet of clay who ended up killing hundreds of thousands of people in the partition of India. You walked in those grounds son, yesterday, where millions were uprooted and in many cases killed for being in the wrong religion. Bah. 



H-Net Reviews

Mohammad Iqbal Chawla. Wavell and the Dying Days of the Raj: Britain's Penultimate Viceroy in India. Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2011. xi + 293 pp. $25.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-19-906275-1.

Reviewed by Anirudh Deshpande (Department of History, University of Delhi)
Published on H-Asia (January, 2014)
Commissioned by Sumit Guha

Wavell and the Ironies of India’s Partition in 1947

Lord Wavell was destined to be the second-to-last viceroy of British India. A seasoned British imperialist soldier and an Old India hand, he was appointed to the post in 1943 and remained in office until March 1947 when his flamboyant successor Lord Mountbatten took over. Mountbatten succeeded Wavell in order to supervise the liquidation of the Raj. For various reasons, including his dashing personality and an interesting wife, Mountbatten has managed to attract more than his share of attention from scholars. In contrast, Wavell, who tried in vain to keep India united between 1943 and 1947, is almost a forgotten figure of history.

No doubt, history students know much more about the Mountbatten Plan than the Wavell Plan. The public, in general, has forgotten Wavell and the plans that he devised for India in the twilight of the Raj. In this book, Mohammad Iqbal Chawla highlights Wavell’s plans, which became increasingly impossible to execute in communally charged postwar India. By the time Wavell became the viceroy of Britain’s most important colony, the sun had set on the British Empire. The two world wars exhausted Britain and made it financially and politically subservient to the United States. In 1943, Britain did not have the political, military, and financial means to ensure a smooth and peaceful transfer of power to the Indians in the troubled and anxiety-ridden 1940s. The appointment of a veteran soldier as the viceroy of India, after the Quit India rebellion was quelled by the Raj in 1942, failed to produce a negotiated political settlement between the British and various Indian parties.

Tuesday, March 11

The Incredible Buddha Boy


Here's one of those stories which keep coming up from the exotic orient. Where amazing inexplicable things happen.  When I was your age son, didn't really believe in God. Or that unseen power. Why would I? Brave man. Full of knowledge of the world. Science. Regression statistical analysis. There is no god. There's only nature. 

And then I started to see stuff that didn't make sense. And yes I learnt about fear. Fear for you two kids. Knowing that you are totally dependent upon me to raise you up like a good man, a good citizen and that you will have a good life. Do all I can to help. 

And god appeared. I'm not religious but do believe in God son. I'm not saying you have to do it as well. This is a journey all have to go through themselves. But what that, and meditation, helped me to get along in my life son. 

Another thing in this article, the author doesn't think through his religions in Nepal. It's actually a Hindu Kingdom but the way Hinduism works, it's very difficult to separate out in the layman. Buddha was considered and is still venerated as an incarnation of Vishnu. Go figure. It usually drives the Buddhists completely spare but hey, the Buddha himself never said that he was inventing a new religion or to worship him but that's what his followers did. Just like Christ. He never said that people need to become Christians, he just wanted to refocus people's minds on Judaism. And then people started worshipping him. 

Anyway I digress. Indian mythology is full of examples of our Rishi and munis going for long periods of time without eating or drinking while meditating. Me? I cannot do that. It takes too long. 

Oh another thing, beware of people who tell you that you have to show off your meditation. It's inward looking son. Just you and your mind and god. People go about doing huge productions out of meditation. Well that's fine but at end of the day, it's just you your mind and God. Or the universe. 



Longform Reprints: The Incredible Buddha Boy by George Saunders

All photos by Jeff Riedel


Last December, I got an e-mail from my editor at GQ. A 15-year-old boy in Nepal had supposedly been meditating for the past seven months without any food or water. Would I like to look into this?

I went online. The boy’s name was Ram Bahadur Bomjon. He was sitting in the roots of a pipal tree near the Indian border. The site was being overrun by pilgrims, thousands a week, who were calling this boy “the new Buddha.” He’d twice been bitten by poisonous snakes; both times he’d refused medicine and cured himself via meditation. Skeptics said he was being fed at night behind a curtain, that his guru was building himself a temple, that his parents were building themselves a mansion, that the Maoist rebels, in on the hoax, were raking in tens of thousands of dollars in donations.

I e-mailed my editor back: I was pretty busy, what with the teaching and all, besides which Christmas break was coming up and I hadn’t been to the gym once the preceding semester, plus it would be great to, uh, get an early start on my taxes.

Then we embarked on the usual Christmas frenzy, but I couldn’t get this boy off my mind. At parties, I noted two general reactions to the statement Hey, I heard this kid in Nepal has been meditating uninterruptedly in the jungle for the past seven months without any food or water.

One type of American—let’s call them Realists—will react by making a snack-related joke (“So he finally gets up, and turns out he’s sitting on a big pile of Butterfinger wrappers!”) and will then explain that it’s physically impossible to survive even one week without food or water, much less seven months.

A second type—let’s call them Believers—will say, “Wow, that’s amazing,” they wish they could go to Nepal tomorrow, and will then segue into a story about a transparent spiritual being who once appeared on a friend’s pool deck with a message about world peace.

Try it: Go up to the next person you see, and say, Hey, I heard this kid in Nepal has been meditating uninterruptedly in the jungle for the past seven months without any food or water.

See what they say.

Or say it to yourself, and see what you say.

What I said, finally, was: This I have to see.

Monday, March 10

History of Singapore


Here's a short history of Singapore. I will be going there again this year and may well have you join me when I'm there. 

It's a lovely place. Bit humid and far too planned but nice place. Very good food. Very good indeed. Lovely place to walk around and see people, the zoo and the architecture. 

But to know a people you need to know the country's history kids. Singapore is one of the places where a strongly technocratic meritocratic government and society had taken root with a dose of authoritarism. And in return for giving up some of their freedoms, the Singaporeans have managed to have a very good economy. But societal divisions still happen. Recently there were riots in little India. The Malays don't speak to the ruling Chinese. Not that much anyway. Not that there's much to talk about eh? :) 

Interesting times. And good places. 



History of Singapore - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article's introduction section may not adequatelysummarize its contents. To comply with Wikipedia's lead section guidelines, please consider modifying the lead to provide an accessible overview of the article's key points in such a way that it can stand on its own as a concise version of the article. (discuss).(December 2013)

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Early history of Singapore (pre-1819)

Founding of modern Singapore (1819–26)

Straits Settlements (1826–67)

Crown colony (1867–1942)

Battle of Singapore (1942)

Japanese Occupation (1942–45)

Post-war period (1945–55)

Internal self-government (1955–62)

Merger with Malaysia (1962–65)

Republic of Singapore (1965–present)


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The history of Singapore dates to the 11th century. The island rose in importance during the 14th century under the rule of Srivijayan prince Parameswaraand became a port until it was destroyed by Acehnese raiders in 1613