Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Supreme Court order on national anthem uses patriotism to undermine individual rights // Has the deification of the nation become the nationalisation of God?

"The disinterestedly wise ought to desire the holding together of all being" (Bhagwadgita, III 25)

"...When the national anthem is played it is imperative for everyone to show honour and respect. It would instil a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism…Time has come for people to realise that the national anthem is a symbol of constitutional patriotism… people must feel they live in a nation and this wallowing individually perceived notion of freedom must go…people must feel this is my country, my motherland. [emphasis added] ...

"From the aforesaid, it is clear as crystal that it is the sacred obligation of every citizen to abide by the ideals engrafted in the Constitution. And one such ideal is to show respect for the National Anthem and the National Flag. Be it stated, a time has come, the citizens of the country must realize that they live in a nation and are duty bound to show respect to National Anthem which is the symbol of the Constitutional Patriotism and inherent national quality. It does not allow any different notion or the perception of individual rights, that have individually thought of have no space. The idea is constitutionally impermissible" - From the SC order on the national anthem dated Nov 30, 2016

NB: We Indian citizens are hereby informed that notions of 'individually perceived' rights of the individual have no space and the very idea is tantamount to 'wallowing', and is 'impermissible'. (How else can the rights of an individual be perceived otherwise than by an individual?). Moreover we are told what we must feel; that our obligation to abide by constitutional ideals is 'sacred'. Whatever the expectations the learned Judge who passed this order holds of us, there are also expectations that we citizens hold of our judges. Primary amongst these is that they remain restrained in their speech; and are seen to be aware of the philosophical ramifications of judicial utterances. Many citizens including the highest political leaders may not be so aware and often speak in haste. But when it comes to judges, we expect that they will be cautious and restrained: the exercise of wisdom is the fundamental requirement of judges, even though this is a quality that may only be perceived, not measured. 

'Sacred' is a word that adheres to religion. Are we required by law to a) be religious, and b) shift allegiance from Almighty God to the Nation? Should not the wise amongst us educate citizens as to the complex and indefinable aspect of nationalism, which seems to have emerged as the modern form of prayer? Would the learned judge deem Rabindranath Tagore, the very man who composed the national anthem, to be a nationalist? Here's what Tagore said of nationalism: With the growth of nationalism, man has become the greatest menace to man. Therefore the continual presence of panic goads that very nationalism into ever-increasing menace. Here is Tagore's 4-part essay on Nationalism (1917). Among the many scholarly debates about nationalism, aside from the aforesaid remarks by Tagore, is the one initiated by B R Ambedkar in his Thoughts on Pakistan (1940, 1945. See in particular, Chapter 2). 

Be that as it may, there are some who hold (and I am among them) that the nation-state has become a god-substitute for a godless age. Insofar as the Eternal Creator could scarcely be imagined to seek a dwelling place in a sliver of ground on an insignificant planet, nationalism is a dishonest form of atheism. Religious persons worship God, not nations. The deification of the Nation has turned into the nationalisation of God, and we cannot be forced into a blind acceptance of this substitution. This is not about affinity - love for one's culture or home is natural (although not inevitable). Love for the nation, howsoever defined, ought not to be, and cannot be transformed by diktat into enforced affinity. You cannot dictate my feelings, for the simple reason that love and friendship must be spontaneous to be real. If you order me to feel some emotion under pain of punishment, how can you be sure that my expressions are genuine? As Gandhi said in Hind Swaraj (p 60), 'what is granted under fear can be retained only as long as the fear lasts'

Constitutional patriotism requires the citizen to be law-abiding and faithful to the norms of the constitution. It does not oblige us to accept unjust laws - were this the case, there would have been no national movement in India. The constitution protects religious freedom, but it does not require us to be religious in any way - I am free to be an atheist or agnostic. Nor can it be reduced to such shallow forms of adherence as standing to attention. Sometimes it is not the criticism of specific judgements but the speech of the Bench that undermines the status of the Court. I am sorry to say this judgement is evocative not of wisdom but thoughtlessness. So help me God. DS

The Supreme Court on Wednesday decided to give India a lesson in how exactly it should respect the national anthem. In an order that many experts have deemed a massive gesture of judicial overreach, the court yet again ventured into lawmaking by asking cinema halls to play the national anthem before start of each show along with displaying the national flag on the screen.

This decree to cinema halls was accompanied by other sweeping comments that limit freedom of expression by placing the anthem even beyond artistic interpretation. The Supreme Court, which is supposed to be the ultimate guardian of the fundamental rights of citizens, devalued the notion of individual rights by claiming that it had no place in the context of respecting national symbols.
“Be it stated, a time has come, the citizens of the country must realise that they live in a nation and are duty bound to show respect to National Anthem which is the symbol of the Constitutional patriotism and inherent national quality,” the bench said. “It does not allow any different notion or the perception of individual rights, that have individually thought of have no space. The idea is constitutionally impermissible.”

By laying the rules on how to respect the national symbols, the court has put in place a law that was not envisaged by Parliament. The order has also reversed the cautious, liberal view the Supreme Court has taken in the past when dealing with cases under the Prevention of Insults to the National Honour Act. In 1986, the court took the side of three school children from Kerala who had refused to sing the national anthem during the school assembly every morning. Unlike the current interim order that placed collective responsibility over individual rights, the court decided in 1986 that forcing the children, who were faithful Jehovah’s witnesses, to sing the anthem was an infringement into their freedom of religion.

In developed western democracies, reverence to national symbols is not imposed at the cost of dissent. In 1989, the Supreme Court of the United States went to the extent of allowing the desecration of the national flag, arguing that such an act was very much part of freedom of expression guaranteed under the Constitution. There are also logistical problems that crop up with the order. How will the state implement it? Will policemen stand guard inside cinema halls and book those who do not show respect to the anthem in the manner decreed by the court? In October, the nation witnessed in disgust the assault on a differently-abled man in Goa who was physically incapable of standing up for the anthem. With this order, the Supreme Court may have inadvertently emboldened elements prone to taking the law into their own hands in the name of patriotism.

Suhas Palshikar: Citizens into subjects
SC’s mandating of nationalism and patriotism threatens to turn the wheel of constitutional history backwards. The enterprise of teaching and instilling patriotism is fast picking up. India has fought wars before and both during those wars and in peace time, the citizens of this country have never shown any trace of disloyalty or disaffection toward this country. But suddenly, we seem to be collectively succumbing to this phobia about a shortage of nationalism and patriotism among the public. And so, pills and injections containing vitamins N and P are being forced on to the unsuspecting citizenry...

At first glance, Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling making it mandatory for cinema halls across the country to play the national anthem before screening movies, and requiring cinema-goers to stand up while it is being played, can be seen as yet another decision that appears more whimsical than grounded in Constitutional principle. Instead of refusing to waste its precious time hearing unimportant petitions from self-righteous busybodies who seek to impose their norms on the whole country, the Supreme Court has entertained many such, and created incentives for people to waste the court’s time and the citizens’ peace. But a comment made by the bench – perhaps revealing the rationale for the decision – should make us sit up and take notice:

When the national anthem is played it is imperative for everyone to show honour and respect. It would instill a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism…Time has come for people to realise that the national anthem is a symbol of constitutional patriotism…people must feel they live in a nation and this wallowing individually perceived notion of freedom must go…people must feel this is my country, my motherland. [emphasis added]  

The Supreme Court just dissed individual liberty.

The bench sneered at one of the pillars of the Indian Constitution. Troubling as it is, more than the ruling itself we should be concerned that India’s highest judges think this way, and think nothing of expressing it this way. The Supreme Court is, after all, the ultimate guardian of individual liberty. It gets this responsibility from no less an authority than the Constitution of India. Citizens will be justified in wondering if the Supreme Court can discharge this assigned responsibility if it harbours such cynicism or disdain for individual liberty.

Legal scholars will no doubt cite scores of High Court and Supreme Court judgements that are unambiguous on the matter. Except when “individual liberty comes into conflict with an interest of the security of the State or public order”, individual liberty is supreme. It would be stretch to argue that people not standing up for the national anthem presents a scintilla of risk to the national interest. Indeed, India’s security or social order has suffered little damage from people not standing up for the national anthem in cinemas from January 26, 1950, till date. The judge’s words do not have a force of law, but to the extent they reveal thought processes, we have to worry. It is bad enough for the Supreme Court to scorn individual freedom. To do so on an issue as unserious and arbitrary as what should be done at cinema halls is terrible.

Tailpiece: Our emergency at the moment has perhaps led us to forget that if we do not give that scope to individual liberty, and give it the protection of the courts, we will create a tradition which will ultimately destroy even whatever little of personal liberty which exists in this country. 
[K M Munshi, Constituent Assembly, December 6, 1948]  

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Harish Khare - The Cult of the Leader: Demonetisation and Modi Worship // Sarita Rani - Deaf PM, Hapless Parliamentarians Need a Dose of Nation-Wide Protests

Are we heading towards an authoritarian regime that curbs our freedom to spend our own money?
“We do not want another ‘god’ as the political leader of our country… We must not only not have any more gods…we must also ‘devalue’ the exaggerated importance that we have given to the office of Prime Minister.”

The author of this wisdom lies gravely unwell in a nursing home in New Delhi. Much before old age and its attendant infirmities took their toll, this man used to articulate - on behalf of the BJP - wise propositions of good governance and democratic accountability. His name is Jaswant Singh, the most suave, educated and responsible minister from the Vajpayee era. Singh had made this formulation in 1987. That was the age when the prime minister had more than 400 seats in the Lok Sabha; he also had a majority in the Rajya Sabha. He had a shouting brigade who would keep the presiding officers in check; he had an officer in the PMO who would publicly deride opposition leaders as “cretins”. That was the age of prime ministerial supremacy and it produced many unmitigated national disasters.

Let us dig a little deeper in history. The year is 1971. Legend has it that the legendary soldier, Sam Manekshaw, told off an impatient prime minister, Indira Gandhi, that he would not  be prepared for “action” in  East Pakistan till he was satisfied that adequate preparations had been made and logistical wrinkles sorted out. The prime minister had the good sense to heed the sound advice of a sound officer and lived thereafter to see the Indian armed forces settle Pakistan’s hash.

These glimpses from the past are being recalled to reiterate the lessons that recent history has taught us. And, the unambiguous lesson from 1975-77 onward, has been a cultivated distrust in the idea of an omnipotent prime minister and his overweening ambition. Beware of a prime minister too powerful. India is too vast a country to be at the mercy of a prime minister and his wisdom.

The demonetisation mess painfully brings home the correctness of Singh’s caution against elevating a leader as god who must be given unambiguous obedience and obeisance. The utter incompetence in implementing the demonetisation drive merely underlines the Reserve Bank of India’s total abdication of its institutional autonomy and voice. The RBI governor was duty-bound to tell the prime minister to slow down, just as General Sam Manekshaw once told another prime minister. 

The country witnesses everyday how the finance ministry officials are encroaching upon the RBI’s institutional space and making a mess of it. This is incongruent. Here is a regime - whose senior-most impresarios take considerable pride in micro-management and have built up a formidable reputation in Gujarat as control freaks - but they were also callously inattentive to the post-demonetisation dislocations. The very arbitrariness and the resulting chaos are being sought to be palmed off as “worth the pain” because prime minister Modi “means well”.

No one is sure of the extent to which the finance minister – let alone the rest of the cabinet members – was privy to this so-called ‘surgical strike’ on black money. The country remains in the dark about whose counsel the prime minister sought while firmaning this most drastic and draconian change in currency notes. Not since Morarji Desai’s gold control (in the wake of the Chinese aggression ) order, has any other single governmental initiative touched the lives of so many Indians. Collective thinking and collective decision-making appear to have been done away with. This unhealthy concentration of power and authority in one man can only be a recipe for unhappy consequences. Already the blue-book of the personality cult is operational. Ideological, political and moral approval is sought for the prime minister and his “bold” move. Anyone disagreeing with the ‘Leader’ is being called a habitual dissenter, a fake secularist, and a potential “deshdrohi”. Anyone dissenting is dismissed and ridiculed as an accomplice of the corrupt and the terrorist.

The officials down the line have interpreted this kingly intolerance as a simple license to shut people up. For example, in Indore, the local officials have outlawed any criticism on the social media of the demonetisation decision because they think “internet social media wars” could disrupt social peace. The ‘Leader’ can disrupt the daily lives of the millions and millions of citizens but no citizen can have a right to share his/her plight, or vent anger about being denied one’s own money. On the other hand, the PMO uses that very social media to conduct an opinion poll of its own and claims wide public approval for the demonetisation move.

Why was one individual – howsoever popular, wise and honest – allowed to undertake this experiment in monetary Stalinism? Collectivist impulses of the state have been let loose. Millions and millions of households have been forced to surrender their meagre savings to the banks. The mopped-up savings will now be available to the omnipotent sarkar, to be dispersed as per the preference of the ruling clique.

If Stalin could force the Soviet citizens to donate their labour for industrialisation and for the glory of “motherland,” we can also force our people to cough up their hard-earned savings to fight off the evil Pakistan. The minatory penetration of a Leviathan state is complete and total even in the remotest part of the land; each day the state issues firmans on how much and how a citizen can use his own money. All because the ‘Leader’ wanted to be “bold” and to “transform” India, like no other Indian leader had done these last 70 years.

In the best of the Stalinist traditions the (virtual) mobs are being encouraged to denounce anyone who dare question the ruling regime’s preferences and priorities. We are manufacturing new orthodoxies: any governmental initiative – good, bad or malevolent – will not be questioned if it is declared to be in aid of fighting “corruption, black money, terrorism and counterfeiting of currency.” It is demanded of the citizens that they put up with the “inconvenience” in “our fight” against these presumed objectives. 

As in Comrade Stalin’s days, endorsements for the regime are expected. Expectedly, the venerable Ratan Tata has led the chorus of approval. Just stand up and applaud. A wise king was always advised to leave his subject unmolested of his two possessions – jameen (land) and jorru (womenfolk).  Rulers, democratic or authoritarian, have faced the most primeval resistance whenever they have sought to take liberties with their citizens’ land or women. Now, we have witnessed a new experiment with a democratically elected king putting his hand in the subject’s jeb (pocket). Consequences will be there. This article was originally published in the Tribune.

Sarita Rani: Deaf PM, Hapless Parliamentarians Need a Dose of Nation-Wide Protests
Prime Minister Narendra Modi faced parliament on Thursday. It’s not so much that he faced it, as he graced it. Like kings and monarchs do. He came, he sat. He listened for exactly an hour and left. He had promised to stay for all the 24 parliamentarians speeches and to respond to their questions. He didn’t. Modi is in the habit of breaking promises. He disdains questions. In fact, he detests people who ask questions. After all, we all saw him walk out of an interview on prime time, live, national television in 2012. 

Aware of Modi’s dislike for interaction with peers of any kind, Indian parliamentarians tried to efface themselves as best they could, while still managing to stand and speak. Former finance minister and prime minister Manmohan Singh called demonetisation: “organised loot and legalised plunder.” Singh is a scholar and a technocrat. He spoke harsh words softly. That’s his style. A style Modi is not bred to recognise.

The Trinamool Congress’s Derek O’Brien brought facts and figures to the table.
  • 1 out of 5000 people has a credit card
  • 5 out of a 1000 people have debit cards
  • 90% of them use it only to withdraw money
  • 4 out of 5 villages don’t have a bank
  • We have a GDP of Rs 45,000 crore a day
  • 59%  of it is (Rs 27,000 crore) is household financial expenditure
  • 87% of that (Rs 24,000 crore) is cash
“So my question is if it’s 24,000 crore cash and it’s been 15 days … we’ve lost Rs 3,75,000 crore – and challenge my figure – of GDP in the last 15 days.” Derek O’Brien said. “This is not about an ATM inconvenience.” Modi was unmoved. Modi is often unmoved when not thinking of himself.
O’Brien offered a specific solution. “Why don’t we allow old and new 500 notes to work in parallel for the time being?” he asked. He pleaded for a solution. Any solution. 

Modi chose not to return to parliament at all, after lunch. 21 parliamentarians left to speak on that day, were left unheard. They represent the people of India. At the very least, they represent Indian voters. They were elected to parliament so their voices could be heard, asserted with pride, not humility. They were meant to make every vote count. Yesterday, 16 united opposition parties were left unheard. At least 70% of Indian voters who did not vote for Modi, were left unheard.

Through the looking glass: Instead, not long after parliament was adjourned abruptly, we heard a series of contrary and conflicting bits of newer measures. On November 9, a cabinet minister had said of the cash crunch, in the style of Marie Antoinette : “Let them use cards.” On November 24: hearing of long queues at banks and people dying of stress, Modi seems to have decided in the style of the Red Queen : “Off with the queues.” This despite promising on November 8 that old currency could be swapped at banks till the end of November.

A couple of hours later, came a minor reprieve. Perhaps a minister begged. Slipped in an order to sign. We will never know. All of these measures end on December 24. None of these neat steps, however, address the simple fact that replacement currency is simply not in place. Simple mathematics and logic, it seems, are of no account here. Both reason and empathy, are officially dead in official India.

And then this morning came yet another announcement. Currency exchanges will happen, but only at (far fewer) RBI counters. If this were merely a farce, one would poke fun at it. But this is fantasy. This is so far down cloud-cuckoo land that it is difficult to describe. To any sane mind, Modi has gone too far down this path himself. And he’s inviting us to follow. In Derek O’Brien’s words, this is “Lulu land.”

Law may be blind, justice is not: To stay on this side of the mirror, one must respond to such a notification. And the simple truth is that there are so few RBI counters that this announcement means less than nothing. Everyone knows it. Modi has to know everyone knows it. Even his supporters by now know everyone knows it. And yet, this is how the world works, when a lawyer handles finance, instead of an economist. Much has been written on the possible illegality of this kind of demonetisation.

It was to get tested today in the Supreme Court, which chose to postpone the hearing till next Friday, December 2. That would be six days after the nation-wide all-opposition call for protest on November 28. Modi could have used the opposition in parliament to extend the date of exchange. Perhaps by a month, or even by two. It would not have solved the problem, but it would have certainly eased things a little. That would have been a face-saving measure. Even a grand gesture in a country that adores grand gestures. His followers would have loved that about him. But he chose not to. Perhaps needed  not to. Instead, he cracked the whip. From the November 8 declaration of allowing the exchange of notes till December 30, he cut it off at midnight.

The authoritarianism of this government is now beyond doubt.

Whatever conflicting ideas of India we may have, we like to believe India is an independent nation. That means we are a free and working democracy. A limping and flawed democracy, yes. But a democracy nevertheless. That means that however flawed our representatives may be, from whichever side of the spectrum they come from, when they stand up in parliament for our sake, they deserve to be heard. They deserve to be listened to. Because Indian voters deserve to be heard.

But when 552 members of parliament cannot get themselves to agree decently, on behalf of 1.25 billion Indians, it is perhaps time to let them go. These 552 parliamentarians may survive on government-given plastic cards. Most Indians can’t. Not now. Perhaps not ever. This Monday the opposition has called for a protest. As a first step, all Indian citizens should join in. Participatory democracy does not end by voting once in five years. Sometimes it needs more. We should join not because we belong to one party or another. But because we belong to a parliamentary democracy. We should give parliamentarians a chance to show that they are capable of working as a worthy opposition.

It is not enough that we share, argue, debate and pass snarky comments on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. It’s great. But not enough. Because the thing is, if we can afford to be on social media – chances are we will survive the next year. What we may not truly survive, is the part we did or did not play at this time. Ultimately, democracy is about standing up to be counted. Not sitting down to be liked.

see also
Harish Damodaran - In fact: When the money stops

Cubans pay last respects to Castro

Elderly revolutionaries joined young doctors, famous musicians, government workers and former guerrilla fighters in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución as thousands lined up to pay their last respects to Fidel Castro. Some carried flags. A few had flowers. All came with memories of the guerrilla leader who overthrew a dictatorship, resisted a US-led invasion, faced down a nuclear superpower and dominated the island’s political life for half a century.
Image may contain: 1 person
Cartoon for @chronicleherald for Monday

At the start of the official commemorations, Orlando Gómez had come with his wife to bid farewell to his old comrade in arms. Waiting in the hot sun to sign the condolence book, he recalled the first time he had gone into combat with Castro in March 1958. A few weeks earlier, Gómez – then an idealistic 18-year-old – had left his home in Havana to join the small rebel army in the Sierra Maestra mountains. He had been put in charge of a mortar unit for the attack on an army garrison at the San Ramón sugar mill. The battle lasted from midnight to 4am. Four guerrillas were killed, but they destroyed the mill and the barracks before returning to their base in the mountains.

“Fidel led by example. He was always in the frontline. He walked faster than everyone. He never stopped moving, but he was very approachable. You could always talk to him,” he recalled. “I want to say goodbye to this extraordinary man. He was a great guerrilla leader and tactician.” Others remember Castro as a leader who stood firm during the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961 and the Cuban missile crisis, when the world was taken to the brink of nuclear war over the Soviet Union’s efforts to build a missile base on the island.

“He was very open with the people about the threat we faced and how we must pull together to protect our liberty,” said Jorge Jorge, a university teacher who had arrived two hours earlier with a group of friends. “We have come here to share our grief and to show our determination to hold on to Fidel’s ideals. He taught us how to share.”

Like many in the crowd, he had often come to the square to hear Castro deliver his marathon orations, some of which lasted more than six hours. They were often at times of hardship – of which there were many: the death of Che Guevara, the fall of the Soviet Union, and the exodus of migrants escaping economic crisis or political crackdowns.

There is widespread recognition of Castro’s failures, and many – particularly among the young – balk at his dictatorial rule. But this was not the time or the place or the crowd to dwell on the negatives.
“I was born in a poor black family. Thanks to the revolution, I had opportunities that did not exist before,” said Tony Ávila, one of the island’s most famous musicians, who said he had been called up the previous night by the culture ministry and told to attend. He appeared more than happy to do so. “I’m here because of Fidel. He was everything to me.”

It was not just Cubans paying homage. Many foreigners were present – out of curiosity or shared political beliefs. Chilean Alberto Reyes arrived with a handmade flag and a photograph of the dead revolutionary who had inspired him as a youth to join the Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front – one of several dozen groups across Latin America that were committed to armed struggle against the rightwing dictatorships that held power across most of the region in the 1970s and 1980s. “He was the light in the lighthouse. More than any other leader, he unified Latin America,” said Reyes, who has lived in Havana since the 1990s.

Many turned up in groups, bearing flags or wearing the uniforms of customs officers or doctors. “I’m here because he gave me the chance to enter medicine,” said Beatriz de la Cruz Quila, a 21-year-old medical student at the Institute of Gastrointestinal Medicine – one of several dozen institutions created after Castro took power in 1959.  The commemoration will continue in Havana until a ceremony on Tuesday night. Then on Wednesday, Castro’s ashes will begin a three-day procession east across the island, going back along the route the victorious rebel army took from the Sierra Maestra to the capital to topple Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

Castro’s remains will be interred on Sunday morning in Santa Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago, which is also the resting place of José Martí, the hero of the 19th-century war of independence against Spain.
That will mark the end of nine days of mourning. Since Fidel’s death on Friday night, the media have run blanket coverage of tributes, interviews, historical documentaries and footage of diplomatic trips and speeches by Castro. Musical performances have been cancelled and bars have been prohibited from selling alcohol.

“There’s a genuine feeling of mourning, that’s not a formality, that’s not showy, that’s not outward-focused, but rather completely intimate,” the former national assembly president Ricardo Alarcón said on state television on Sunday. Not everyone is grief-stricken. Democracy activists have cheered the demise of a leader who repressed political opponents, denied freedom of speech and restricted travel and religious worship. One woman at the Plaza de la Revolución, who only gave her first name Milena, said she was sad but determined to take something positive from the moment. “He should be remembered as a revolutionary who believed in social justice and fought for free public health and education. We need to maintain this. His ideas should live forever”

'Park benches are empty, coffee mugs, morose': Ravish Kumar on 'Love in the time of Notebandi'

Modi tu PM nahin Paytm hai !
Tere seene mein dil nahin, ATM hai !

(NB - these lines were composed by a friend who had better remain un-named - DS)

What happens to matters of the heart when you don't have any hard currency?' After taking on the Government for clamping down on freedom of expression, TV journalist Ravish Kumar chose a different medium for his observations on demonetisation. Namely, fiction. Featuring “Love in the time of Notebandi”. “Park benches are empty, coffee mugs, morose, and I cannot see any more tears in the eyes of teddy bears. Lovers are not emanating the smell of perfume but the stink of old notes.”

This was how Kumar began at the Times Lit Fest in New Delhi, where he was talking about his latest book, Laprek: Laghu Prem Katha, a compilation of short love stories that he first wrote as Facebook posts. “I promise to tell the shrota a love story for the next one hour.” That is the lover’s version of prominently displayed message from the Reserve Bank of India on every currency note.

In the new cash-less future, lovers will not promise each others the moon and stars in the sky. Instead, saving a space in the ATM queue might be proof enough. “So what if the Rs 500 note is of no use? Use notes of Rs 5, Rs 10 and Rs 50 for your affairs, if not coffee then you can at least enjoy a cup of tea, if not a Bloody Mary, then some coconut water, and if not a pastry, then some golgappe.”

Here’s the full talk:

see also
Harish Damodaran - In fact: When the money stops
Alexandre Koyré The Political Function of the Modern Lie
Marx's economic categories

Andrew Pulver - Russian war film set to open amid controversy over accuracy of events

Every Soviet schoolchild was taught about the heroic feats of the last 28 members of Ivan Panfilov’s division, which in late 1941 fought to the death to stop a Nazi tank assault on Moscow in one of the best known episodes of the Soviet war effort. “Russia is vast, but there is nowhere to retreat – Moscow is behind us,” one of the Red Army soldiers, armed at the end with just Molotov cocktails and grenades, said as the attack was halted.

But as a film about the events, Panfilov’s 28, opens in Russia this week, controversy rumbles on over the fact that many of the details of that last stand – both in the film and versions pre-dating it – appear to have been invented. Arguments over the upcoming film and the mythology around the episode in general began last spring, when Sergei Mironenko, the director of Russia’s state archive, gave an interview stating that while there had indeed been a bloody battle outside Moscow, it was not as many had understood it.

His words provoked such outrage that over the summer the archive posted online a 1948 internal Soviet military report into the events, which came to the conclusion that a journalist from the Red Army’s newspaper had made up the particulars of the story, inventing quotes and ignoring the fact that some of the soldiers had survived and one was believed to have surrendered to the Germans.

The legend was cooked up to fit in with the Soviet demand that soldiers should fight to the death rather than surrender. Vladimir Medinsky, the culture minister, reacted furiously to the intervention, saying it was not the job of archivists to make historical evaluations, and if Mironenko wanted to change professions, he should do so. Shortly after, Mironenko was fired.

The nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky said in recent weeks that he had called at a government meeting for Mironenko to be fired. He claimed his uncle had fought in Panfilov’s division and said those griping about the exact numbers were missing the point. “It’s unacceptable for someone from the archives to start telling the whole country that there were no Panfilov heroes,” he said. Medinsky later went further in his defence of the film and his disgust for those who questioned the story.

“It’s my deep conviction that even if this story was invented from the start to the finish, even if Panfilov never existed, even if there was nothing at all, it’s a sacred legend which it’s simply impossible to besmirch. And people who try to do that are total scumbags.” Medinsky said he would like to send such people, who “poked their dirty, greasy fingers into the history of 1941” back to the war period in a time machine and leave them in a trench to face Nazi tanks armed with just a hand grenade.

Panfilov’s division included many central Asians, and last month Putin and Kazakhstan’s president Nursultan Nazarbayev watched the film together. Under Putin, victory in the second world war has become the main building block of modern Russian identity, and criticism of the Red Army or mentions of the darker sides of the war effort are unwelcome.

The war’s huge place in the national psyche is understandable, given the Soviet Union lost more than 20 million citizens during the war years. But some are uncomfortable that the mythology has overtaken the facts. Alexander Morozov, a history teacher and the chair of the editorial board of a magazine on the teaching of history in schools, called the film a “big mistake”, and said mythologising the war would only confuse children.

He told Ekho Moskvy radio: “We should try to tell the truth, of course. Yes, there was a battle, yes there was heroism. This is what they should have made a film about... But as it is, they’ll watch this film, go online and find a whole load of different information about this battle, and it will undermine their trust in these kind of things.”

see also

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

3,800-Year-Old Ancient ‘Thinking Person’ Statuette Unearthed

JERUSALEM, Nov 23 (Reuters) - A team of Israeli archaeologists and high school students have unearthed a 3,800-year-old pottery jug bearing a statuette of a person who appears deep in thought, sitting with knees bent and head rested on hand.
The 3,800 year-old pottery jug with a rare statuette, discovered during 
excavation in central Israel, at the Israel Antiquities Authority offices.

The Israel Antiquities Authority said on Wednesday the jug, dating back to what archaeologists refer to as the Middle Bronze Age, had been found during an excavation in Yehud, a Tel Aviv suburb. “It seems that at first the jug, which is typical of the period, was prepared and afterwards the unique sculpture was added, the likes of which have never before been discovered in previous research,” said Gilad Itach, who directed the excavation, which included teenage diggers. The statuette is about 18 cm (7 inches) tall.

“One can see that the face of the figure seems to be resting on its hand as if in a state of reflection,” he said. Other vessels and metal items were found such as daggers, arrowheads, an axe head, sheep bones and what are believed to be the bones of a donkey. Itach said the collection seemed to be funeral offerings, likely of an important member of anancient community.

“To the best of my knowledge such a rich funerary assemblage that also includes such a unique pottery vessel has never before been discovered in the country,” he said. The statuette was the latest discovery by the Israel Antiquities Authority, which is charged with carrying out excavations at all major building sites across the country to make sure no relics are destroyed. In recent months its teams have found treasures from gold coins to an ancient mosaic.

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Beautiful avian ballet: Starlings on Otmoor

The starlings are an astonishing thing to see - Near Oxford - England. 

This was filmed at an RSPB reserve called Otmoor. The music is from CSS Music. The track is "soaring with the sun". Like drivers on a freeway, starlings dont appear to mind having neighbors nearby on their sides—or above and below, for that matter—as long as they have open space ahead. That makes sense, since the presence of a clear path in the direction of travel minimizes the likelihood of collisions should the birds need to shift their course abruptly, as is likely when a falcon attacks. 

... the researchers have been able to use it to calculate the number of neighbors to which each starling pays close attention—a quantified elaboration of Pottss chorus line idea. By looking at correlations between the movements of neighboring starlings, they can show that each bird always pays attention to the same number of neighbors, whether theyre closer or farther away. How many neighbors is that? Six or seven, says Cavagna, who points out that starlings in flocks can almost always see many more nearby birds— but the number may be closely tied to birds cognitive ability. The direction of the flock can be coordinated by each birds tracking six or seven other birds. ..

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Press statement by Free Software Movement of India - District Magistrate of Indore bans criticism of de-monetisation on social media // Dhirendra Jha: Rattled by cash crisis, BJP calls off Modi's December 24 rally in Lucknow

Dangerous order by district magistrate of Indore banning any criticism on social media of de-monetisation by Govt. of India - Press statement by Free Software Movement of India

Free Software Movement of India ( - Press release
22 November 2016

The District Magistrate of Indore has issued an order – Order/2956/RADM/2016, Indore/Date 14/11/2016 under Section 144 – banning any criticism on social media such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, etc., on exchange of old currency that is “objectionable” or can “cause incitement”. The order is attached here. This, in effect, is a blanket ban on any criticism of the Government on its failure to provide sufficient new notes for the old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes that it has demonetised. 

Clearly, having failed to remonetise the economy and putting the common man to immense hardship, the government now wants to clamp down on all criticism on its failures.

The use of Section 144 for censorship of social media also goes far beyond what the Supreme Court has held in its various judgements. The Supreme Court, in Madhu Limaye and Anr v. Ved Murti and Ors. ((1970) 3 SCC 746), held that the use of Section 144 is justified only for prevention of public disturbance or violence, and urgency as the only ground for using this section. 

The state and central governments have been using Section 144 arbitrarily in shutting down the internet and going far beyond what its powers are under Section 144. It has now extended such powers, earlier used only for banning public assembly, to now attacking peoples rights of Freedom of Speech, guaranteed under the Section 19. 

It shows the desperation of the Central and the Madhya Pradesh governments that having failed in the elementary task of providing money to the people for conducting their day to day lives, they are resorting to such draconian measures to stifle all legitimate criticism.

The Free Software Movement of India demands that this Order of the District Magistrate be immediately withdrawn and the Madhya Pradesh government issue an apology to the people for this action.

Yours Sincerely
Kiran Chandra Yarlagadda
General Secretary
Free Software Movement of India
Sy. No. 91, Beside AALIM,
Greenlands colony, Gachibowli ’X’Roads,
Sherilingampally, Rangareddy Dt.,
Pin: 500032
Ph: +919490098011

Larsen & Toubro engineering lay off 14,000 workers

Rattled by cash crisis, BJP calls off Modi's December 24 rally in Lucknow 
Panicked by widespread financial stress caused by the withdrawal of high-value currency notes and unsure about attracting an adequate crowd for a rally Prime Minister Narendra Modi was to address Lucknow on December 24, the Bharatiya Janata Party has cancelled the much-publicised event.
The rally aimed to mark the culmination of the BJP’s four Parivartan Yatras in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, which were flagged off early this month.

The decision to cancel the rally was taken on Monday, the day before a rattled prime minister defended the demonetisation decision at the BJP’s parliamentary party meeting on Tuesday.
On Monday, BJP President Amit Shah held a meeting with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Finance Secretary Shaktikant Das to assess the impact of the financial stress caused by the withdrawal of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 banknotes.

The decision to cancel the Lucknow event was also prompted by the relatively small crowd at the prime minister’s rally in Agra on November 20. “The turnout at Modi’s rally in Agra was not up to the mark,” said a BJP leader who did not want to be identified. “The party fears that the financial stress would accentuate in the course of the next one month, and holding a rally in the capital of UP on December 24 may, therefore, be counterproductive.”

Leadership unnerved: The BJP launched its Parivartan Yatras to swing the electoral mood in Uttar Pradesh in its favour. Modi was to address public meetings almost every week in the state – which goes to polls early next year – to enhance the impact of the yatras, finishing up with a grand rally in Lucknow on December 24, the eve of the birth anniversary of BJP veteran Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

However, last week, the party decided to reschedule Modi’s rally in Kushinagar, scheduled for November 25, to allow its leaders and cadre in eastern Uttar Pradesh more time to mobilise crowds. The rally is now scheduled for November 27.

“Since the anger is more apparent in urban pockets than in villages, the party may still go ahead with Modi’s rallies scheduled to be held in rural settings of the state,” said a BJP leader. The BJP brass appeared to be struggling with the repercussions of demonetisation within days of the government’s having taken the step. Some of the party’s own parliamentarians were reportedly outraged by the move, leading the BJP leadership to cancel two consecutive meetings of its MPs last week.

Many party MPs saw Modi’s emotional speech at the BJP parliamentary party meeting on Tuesday as a means of preventing dissident voices from coming out in the open. “The prime minister, who seemed rattled, broke down during his speech,” said one BJP MP who was present at the meeting. “It was after this that the parliamentary party passed a unanimous resolution endorsing his great crusade.” The resolution commended Modi for his “historic, revolutionary, daring and pro-poor” decision in national interest.

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This video is the nearest you will come to floating through the International Space Station

It’s like a scene from a science fiction film – think Stanley Kubrick’s 1969 classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, or more recent films like The Martian and Gravity – but it’s real.  A point of view shot set to ambient music leisurely takes viewers through the architecture of the International Space Station surrounded by glorious vistas of space and planet Earth (visible from 400 kilometres above). It’s as close to flying as human beings can get. but astronauts at the International Space Station get to experience it on a day-to-day basis.  NASA recently released the footage, which was shot using a 4K High Definition fisheye lens. With this kind of camera technology, the video provides an incredibly detailed view of the Space Station, while at the same time maintaining a documentary reality.

A Hunger Artist - by Franz Kafka (1922)

NB: Franz Kafka's A Hunger Artist was first written in 1922 and published in a collection also entitled A Hunger Artist. Here is the story, a parable for our times - DS

During these last decades the interest in professional fasting has markedly diminished. It used to pay very well to stage such great performances under one's own management, but today that is quite impossible. We live in a different world now. At one time the whole town took a lively interest in the hunger artist; from day to day of his fast the excitement mounted; everybody wanted to see him at least once a day; there were people who bought season tickets for the last few days and sat from morning till night in front of his small barred cage; even in the nighttime there were visiting hours, when the whole effect was heightened by torch flares; on fine days the cage was set out in the open air, and then it was the children's special treat to see the hunger artist; for their elders he was often just a joke that happened to be in fashion, but the children stood open-mouthed, holding each other's hands for greater security, marvelling at him as he sat there pallid in black tights, with his ribs sticking out so prominently, not even on a seat but down among straw on the ground, sometimes giving a courteous nod, answering questions with a constrained smile, or perhaps stretching an arm through the bars so that one might feel how thin it was, and then again withdrawing deep into himself, paying no attention to anyone or anything, not even to the all-important striking of the clock that was the only piece of furniture in his cage, but merely staring into vacancy with half-shut eyes, now and then taking a sip from a tiny glass of water to moisten his lips.

Besides casual onlookers there were also relays of permanent watchers selected by the public, ususally butchers, strangely enough, and it was their task to watch the hunger artist day and night, three of them at a time, in case he should have some secret recourse to nourishment. This was nothing but a formality, instituted to reassure the masses, for the initiates knew well enough that during his fast the artist would never in any circumstances, not even under forcible compulsion, swallow the smallest morsel of food; the honor of his profession forbade it. Not every watcher, of course, was capable of understanding this, there were often groups of night watchers who were very lax in carrying out their duties and deliberately huddled together in a retired corner to play cards with great absorption, obviously intending to give the hunger artist the chance of a little refreshment, which they supposed he could draw from some private hoard. Nothing annoyed the artist more than such watchers; they made him miserable; they made his fast seem unendurable; sometimes he mastered his feebleness sufficiently to sing during their watch for as long as he could keep going, to show them how unjust their suspicions were. 

But that was of little use; they only wondered at his cleverness in being able to fill his mouth even while singing. Much more to his taste were the watchers who sat up close to the bars, who were not content with the dim night lighting of the hall but focused him in the full glare of the electric pocket torch given them by the impresario. The harsh light did not trouble him at all, in any case he could never sleep properly,and he could always drowse a little, even when the hall was thronged with noisy onlookers. He was quite happy at the prospect of spending a sleepless night with such watchers; he was ready to exchange jokes with them, to tell them stories out of his nomadic life, anything at all to keep them awake and demonstrate to them that he had no eatables in his cage and that he was fasting as not one of them could fast. But his happiest moment was when the morning came and an enormous breakfast was brought them, at his expense, on which they flung themselves wit hthe keen appetite of healthy men after a weary night of wakefulness. Of course there were people who argued that this breakfast was an unfair attempt to bribe the watchers, but that was going rather too far, and when they were invited to take on a night's vigil without a breakfast, merely for the sake of the cause, they made themselves scarce, although they stuck stubbornly to their suspicions.

Such suspicions, anyhow, were a necessary accompaniment to the profession of fasting. No one could possibly watch the hunger artist continuously, day and night, and so no one could produce first-hand evidence that the fast had really been rigorous and continuous; only the artist himself could know that, he was therefore bound to be the sole completely satisfied spectator of his own fast. Yet for other reasons he was never satisfied; it was not perhaps mere fasting that had brought him to such skeleton thinness that many people had regretfully to keep away from his exhibitions, because the sight of him was too much for them, perhaps it was dissatisfaction with himself that had worn him down. For he alone knew, what no other initiate knew, how easy it was to fast. It was the easiest thing in the world. He made no secret of this, yet people did not believe him. At the best they set him down as modest, most of them, however, thought he was out for publicity or else he was some kind of cheat who found it easy to fast because he had discovered a way of making it easy, and then had the impudence to admit the fact, more or less. 

He had to put up with all that, and in the course of time had got used to it, but his inner dissatisfaction always rankled, and never yet, after any term of fasting--this must be granted to his credit--had he left the cage of his own free will. The longest period of fasting was fixed by his impresario at forty days, beyond that term he was not allowed to go, not even in great cities, and there was good reason for it, too. Experience had proved that for about forty days the interest of the public could be stimulated by a steadily increasing pressure of advertisment, but after that the town began to lose interest, sympathetic support began notably to fall off, there were of course local variations as between one town and another, but as a general rule forty days marked the limit. 

So on the fortieth day the flower-bedecked cage was opened, enthusiastic spectators filled the hall, a military band played, two doctors entered the cage to measure the results of the fast, which were announced through a megaphone, and finally two young ladies appeared, blissful at having been selected for the honor, to help the hunger artist down the few steps leading to a small table on which was spread a carefully chosen invalid repast. And at this very moment the artist always turned stubborn. True, he would entrust his bony arms to the outstretched helping hands of the ladies bending over him, but stand up he would not. Why stop fasting at this particular moment, after forty days of it? He had held out for a long time, an illimitably long time; why stop now, when he was in his best fasting form, or rather, not yet quite in his best fasting form? Why should he be cheated of the fame he would get for fasting longer, for being not only the record hunger artist of all time, which presumably he was already, but for beating his own record by a performance beyond human imagination, since he felt that there were no limits to his capacity for fasting? His public pretended to admire him so much, why should it have so little patience with him; if he could endure fasting longer, why shouldn't the public endure it? 

Besides, he was tired, and now he was supposed to lift himself to his full height and go down to a meal the very thought of which gave him a nausea that only the presence of the ladies kept him from betraying, and even that with an effort. And he looked up into the eyes of the ladies who were apparently so friendly and in reality so cruel, and shook his head, which felt too heavy on its strengthless neck. But then there happened yet again what always happened. The impresario came forward, without a word--for the band made speech impossible--lifted his arms in the air above the artist, as if inviting Heaven to look down upon its creature here in the straw, this suffering martyr, which indeed he was, although in quite another sense; grasped him around the emaciated waist, with exaggerated caution, so that the frail condition he was in might be appreciated; and committed him to the care of the blenching ladies, not without secretly giving him a shaking so that his legs and body tottered and swayed. 

The artist now submitted completely; his head lolled on his breast as if it had landed there by chance; his body was hollowed out; his legs in a spasm of self-preservation clung to each other at the knees, yet scraped on the ground as if it were not really solid ground, as if they were only trying to find solid ground; and the whole weight of his body, a featherweight after all, relapsed onto one of the ladies, who looking round for help and panting a little--this post of honor was not at all what she expected it to be--first stretched her neck as far as she could to keep her face at least free from contact with the artist, then finding this impossible, and her more fortunate companion not coming to her aid, but merely holding extended on her own trembling hand the little bunch of knucklebones that was the artist's, to the great delight of the spectators burst into tears and had to be replaced by an attendant who had long been stationed in readiness. Then came the food, a little of which the impresario managed to get between the artist's lips, while he sat in a kind of half-fainting trance, to the accompaniment of cheerful patter designed to distract the public's attention from the artist's condition; after that, a toast was drunk to the public, supposedly prompted by a whisper from the artist in the impresario's ear; the band confirmed it with a mighty flourish, the spectators melted away, and no one had any cause to be dissatisfied with the proceedings, no one except the hunger artist himself, he only, as always.

So he lived for many years, with small regular intervals of recuperation, in visible glory, honored by all the world, yet in spite of that troubled in spirit, and all the more troubled because no one would take his trouble seriously. What comfort could he possibly need? What more could he possibly wish for? And if some good-natured person, feeling sorry for him, tried to console him by pointing out that his melancholy was probably caused by fasting, it could happen, especially when he had been fasting for some time, that he reacted with an outburst of fury and to the general alarm began to shake the bars of the cage like a wild animal. Yet the impresario had a way of punishing these outbreaks which he rather enjoyed putting into operation. He would apologize publicly for the artist's behavior, which was only to be excused, he admitted, because of the irritability caused by fasting; a condition hardly to be understood by well-fed people; then by natural transition he went on to mention the artist's equally incomprehensible boast that he could fast for much longer than he was doing; he praised the high ambition, the good will, the great self-denial undoubtedly implicit in such a statement; and then quite simply countered it by bringing out photographs, which were also on sale to the public, showing the artist on the fortieth day of a fast lying in bed almost dead from exhaustion. 

This perversion of the truth, familiar to the artist though it was, always unnerved him afresh and proved too much for him. What was a consequence of the premature ending of his fast was here presented as the cause of it! To fight against this lack of understanding, against a whole world of non-understanding, was impossible. Time and time again in good faith he stood by the bars listening to the impresario, but as soon as the photographs appeared he always let go and sank with a groan back on to his straw, and the reassured public could once more come close and gaze at him.

A few years later when the witnesses of such scenes called them to mind, they often failed to understand themselves at all. For meanwhile the aforementioned chance in public interest had set in; it seemed to happen almost overnight; there may have been profound causes for it, but who was going to bother about that; at any rate the pampered hunger artist suddenly found himself deserted one fine day by the amusement seekers, who went streaming past him to other more favored attractions. For the last time the impresario hurried him over half Europe to discover whether the old interest might still survive here and there; all in vain; everywhere, as if by secret agreement, a positive revulsion from professional fasting was in evidence. Of course it could not really have sprung up so suddenly as all that, and many premonitory symptoms which had not been sufficiently remarked or suppressed during the rush and glitter of success now came retrospectively to mind, but it was now too late to take any countermeasures. Fasting would surely come into fashion again at some future date, yet that was no comfort for those living in the present. What, then, was the hunger artist to do? He had been applauded by thousands in his time and could hardly come down to showing himself in a street booth at village fairs, and as for adopting another profession, he was not only too old for that but too fanatically devoted to fasting. So he took leave of the impresario, his partner in an unparalleled career, and hired himself to a large circus; in order to spare his own feelings he avoided reading the conditions of his contract.

A large circus with its enormous traffic in replacing and recruiting men, animals and apparatus can always find a use for people at any time, even for a hunger artist, provided of course that he does not ask too much., and in this particular case anyhow it was not only the artist who was taken on but his famous and long-known name as well, indeed considering the peculiar nature of his performance, which was not impaired by advancing age, it could not be objected that here was an artist past his prime, no longer at the height of his professional skill, seeking a refuge in some quiet corner of a circus, on the contrary, the hunger artist averred that he could fast as well as ever, which was entirely credible, he even alleged that if he were allowed to fast as he liked, and this was at once promised him without more ado, he could astound the world by establishing a record never yet achieved, a statement which certainly provoked a smile among the other professionals, since it was left out of account the change in public opinion, which the hunger artist in his zeal conveniently forgot.

He had not, however, actually lost his sense of the real situation and took it as a matter of course that he and his cage should be stationed, not in the middle of the ring as a main attraction, but outside, near the animal cages, on a site that was after all easily accessible. Large and gaily painted placards made a frame for the cage and announced what was to be seen inside it. When the public came thronging out in the intervals to see the animals, they could hardly avoid passing the hunger artist's cage and stopping there a moment, perhaps they might even have stayed longer had not those pressing behind them in the narrow gangway, who did not understand why they should be held up on their way towards the excitements of the menagerie, made it impossible for anyone to stand gazing quietly for any length of time. 

And that was the reason why the hunger artist, who had of course been looking forward to these visiting hours as the main achievement of his life, began instead to shrink from them. At first he could hardly wait for the intervals; it was exhilarating to watch the crowds come streaming his way, until only too soon--not even the most obstinate self-deception, clung to almost consciously, could hold out against the fact--the conviction was borne in upon him that these people, most of them, to judge from their actions, again and again, without exception, were all on their way to the menagerie. And the first sight of them from the distance remained the best. For when they reached his cage he was at once deafened by the storm of shouting and abuse that arose from the two contending factions, which renewed themselves continuously, of those who wanted to stop and stare at him - he soon began to dislike them more than the others--not out of real interest but only out of obstinate self-assertiveness, and those who wanted to go straight on to the animals. When the first great rush was past, the stragglers came along, and these, whom nothing could have prevented from stopping to look at him as long as they had breath, raced past with long strides, hardly even glancing at him, in their haste to get to the menagerie in time. 

And all too rarely did it happen that he had a stroke of luck, when some father of a family fetched up before him with his children, pointed a finger at the hunger artist and explained at length what the phenomenon meant, telling storied of earlier years when he himself had watched similar but much more thrilling performances, and the children, still rather uncomprehending, since neither inside nor outside school had they been sufficiently prepared for this lesson--what did they care about fasting?--yet showed by the brightness of their intent eyes that new and better times might be coming. Perhaps, said the hunger artist to himself many a time, things could be a little better if his cage were set not quite so near the menagerie. That made it too easy for people to make their choice, to say nothing of what he suffered from the stench of the menagerie, the animals' restlessness by night, the carrying past of raw lumps of flesh for the beasts of prey, the roaring at feeding times, which depressed him continuously. But he did not dare to lodge a complaint with the management; after all, he had the animals to thank for the troops of people who passed his cage, among whom there might always be one here and there to take an interest in him, and who could tell where they might seclude him if he called attention to his existence and thereby to the fact that, strictly speaking, he was only an impediment on the wat to the menagerie.

A small impediment, to be sure, one that grew steadily less. People grew familiar with the strange idea that they could be expected, in times like these, to take an interest in a hunger artist, and with this familiarity the verdict went out against him. He might fast as much as he could, and he did so; but nothing could save him now, people passed him by. Just try to explain to anyone the art of fasting! Anyone who has no feeling for it cannot be made to understand it. The fine placards grew dirty and illegible, they were torn down; the little notice board telling the number of fast days achieved, which at first was changed carefully every day, had long stayed at the same figure, for after the first few weeks even this small task seemed pointless to the staff; and so the artist simply fasted on and on, as he had once dreamed of doing, and it was no trouble to him, just as he had always foretold, but no one counted the days, not one, not even the artist himself, knew what records he was already breaking, and his heart grew heavy. 

And when once in a time some leisurely passer-by stopped, made merry over the old figure on the board and spoke of swindling, that was in its way the stupidest lie ever invented by indifference and inborn malice, since it was not the hunger artist who was cheating, he was working honestly, but the world who was cheating him of his reward.

Many more days went by, however, and that too came to an end. An overseer's eye fell on the cage one day and he asked the attendants why this perfectly good cage should be left standing there unused with dirty straw inside it; nobody knew, until one man, helped out by the notice board, remembered about the hunger artist. They poked into the straw with sticks and found him in it. "Are you still fasting?" asked the overseer, "when on earth do you mean to stop?" "Forgive me, everybody," whispered the hunger artist, only the overseer, who had his ear to the bars, understood him. "Of course," said the overseer, and tapped his forehead with a finger to let the attendants know what state the man was in, "we forgive you." "I always wanted you to admire my fasting," said the hunger artist. "We do admire it," said the overseer, affably. "But you shouldn't admire it," said the hunger artist. "Well then we don't admire it," said the overseer, "but why shouldn't we admire it?" "Because I have to fast, I can't help it," said the hunger artist. "What a fellow you are," said the overseer, "and why can't you help it?" "Because," said the hunger artist, lifting his head a little and speaking, with his lips pursed, as if for a kiss, right into the overseer's ear, so that no syllable might be lost, "because I couldn't find the food I liked. If I had found it, believe me, I should have made no fuss and stuffed myself like you or anyone else." These were his last words, but in his dimming eyes remained the firm though no longer proud persuasion that he was continuing to fast.

"Well, clear this out now!" said the overseer, and they buried the hunger artist, straw and all. Into the cage they put a young panther. Even the most insensitive felt it refreshing to see this wild creature leaping around the cage that had so long been dreary. The panther was all right. The food he liked was brought him without hesitation by the attendants; he seemed not even to miss his freedom; his noble body, furnished almost to the bursting point with all that it needed, seemed to carry freedom around with it too; somewhere in his jaws it seemed to lurk; and the joy of life streamed with such ardent passion from his throat that for the onlookers it was not easy to stand the shock of it. But they braced themselves, crowded round the cage, and did not want ever to move away.

Also read A Report to an Academy by Franz Kafka
Esteemed Gentlemen of the Academy!  I feel honored by your invitation to present the academy with a report on my former life as an ape...