US Hegemony and its Perils

This was the title of a public document that was put up on the official Chinese foreign affairs website on 23th February, 2023. In the bluntness with which it lays out its case, this document is almost a challenge to the public image of the USA.

The Introduction and the conclusion of the document are quoted fully below to let you see the nature of the document…


Since becoming the world’s most powerful country after the two world wars and the Cold War, the United States has acted more boldly to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, pursue, maintain and abuse hegemony, advance subversion and infiltration, and wilfully wage wars, bringing harm to the international community.

The United States has developed a hegemonic playbook to stage “color revolutions,” instigate regional disputes, and even directly launch wars under the guise of promoting democracy, freedom and human rights. Clinging to the Cold War mentality, the United States has ramped up bloc politics and stoked conflict and confrontation. It has overstretched the concept of national security, abused export controls and forced unilateral sanctions upon others. It has taken a selective approach to international law and rules, utilizing or discarding them as it sees fit, and has sought to impose rules that serve its own interests in the name of upholding a “rules-based international order.”

This report, by presenting the relevant facts, seeks to expose the U.S. abuse of hegemony in the political, military, economic, financial, technological and cultural fields, and to draw greater international attention to the perils of the U.S. practices to world peace and stability and the well-being of all peoples.

(There are five detailed sections following this which are titled:
I. Political Hegemony—Throwing Its Weight Around
II. Military Hegemony—Wanton Use of Force 
III. Economic Hegemony—Looting and Exploitation
IV. Technological Hegemony—Monopoly and Suppression
V. Cultural Hegemony—Spreading False Narratives
The five sections lead to the…)


While a just cause wins its champion wide support, an unjust one condemns its pursuer to be an outcast. The hegemonic, domineering, and bullying practices of using strength to intimidate the weak, taking from others by force and subterfuge, and playing zero-sum games are exerting grave harm. The historical trends of peace, development, cooperation, and mutual benefit are unstoppable. The United States has been overriding truth with its power and trampling justice to serve self-interest. These unilateral, egoistic and regressive hegemonic practices have drawn growing, intense criticism and opposition from the international community.

Countries need to respect each other and treat each other as equals. Big countries should behave in a manner befitting their status and take the lead in pursuing a new model of state-to-state relations featuring dialogue and partnership, not confrontation or alliance. China opposes all forms of hegemonism and power politics, and rejects interference in other countries’ internal affairs. The United States must conduct serious soul-searching. It must critically examine what it has done, let go of its arrogance and prejudice, and quit its hegemonic, domineering and bullying practices.

(The full document is available at:

Child-centred education

You may be surprised that child-centred education is what the national policy documents on education advocate. Take a look at the following inspirational quotes from the National Curricular Framework (NCF), 2005, document. The fact that the government recommendations do not get implemented is probably because of the inertia of the system.

“Education is not a physical thing that can be delivered through the post or through a teacher… There is a mutuality to the genuine construction of knowledge. In this transaction the teacher also learns if the child is not forced to remain passive… From personal experience I can say with assurance that a lot of my limited understanding is due to my interaction with children.”
– From the Preface to the National Curriculum Framework (NCF), 2005

The National Curriculum Framework (NCF) 2005, recommends that children’s life at school must be linked to their life outside school. This principle marks a departure from the legacy of bookish learning which continues to shape our system and causes a gap between the school, home and community. This syllabi and textbooks developed on the basis of NCF signify an attempt to implement this basic idea. They also attempt to discourage rote-learning and the maintenance of sharp boundaries between different subject areas. We hope these measures will take us significantly further in the direction of a child-centred system of education outlined in the National Policy on Education (1986). The success of this effort depends on what steps the school principals and teachers will take to encourage children to reflect on their own learning and to pursue imaginative activities and questions.
– From the Preface to the National Curriculum Framework (NCF), 2005

This document frequently revolves around the question of curriculum load on children. In this regard we seem to have fallen into a pit. We have bartered away understanding for memory based short term information accumulation. This must be reversed particularly now that the mass of what could be memorized has begun to explode. We need to give our children some taste of understanding following which they would be able to learn and create their own versions of knowledge as they go out to meet the world of bits, images and transactions of life. Such a taste would make the present of our children wholesome, creative and enjoyable; they would not be traumatized by the excessive burden of information that is required merely for a short time before the hurdle race we call examination.
– From the Preface to the National Curriculum Framework (NCF), 2005

Further, there is a deep disquiet about several aspects of our educational practice: (a) The school system is characterized by an inflexibility that makes it resistant to change; (b) Learning has become an isolated activity, which does not encourage children to link knowledge to their lives in any organic or vital way; (c) Schools promote a regime of thought that discourages creative thinking and insights; (d) What is presented and transmitted in the name of learning in schools bypasses vital dimensions of the human capacity to create new knowledge; (e) The ‘future’ of the child has taken center stage to the near exclusion of the child’s ‘present’.
– From chapter 1 of the National Curriculum Framework (NCF), 2005

Why we homeschooled our children

I was thinking about it recently and jotted down some reasons that may have been at the back of our minds when we decided to homeschool our children.

Reason 1: I learnt a lot of complicated real-life engineering in the first six months of starting my first job as a bridge design engineer. I also became convinced that my engineering professors at IIT were less engineer-like than my office seniors who were busily designing complicated structures (and seemingly enjoying the process). If the objective was to become a good bridge design engineer, it seemed like my IIT experience added zero value in that direction. After I gained some experience designing bridges, I used to tell my non-engineer friends that if they remembered 10th standard mathematics, I could make them structural engineers in half an hour. The point I am making is about the futility of all the complicated subjects that were uselessly forced on me as if to somehow fill four years of classroom time.

Reason 2: School and college education is a great corrupting influence on most people who pass through it. Let me explain. Most people are forced to desperately get marks to meet the expectations of their family and friends. The corruption that ensues is a byproduct of the intense competition that is at the back of the whole rigmarole of marks that we have to display to the world. Some years ago I heard that the cut-off marks to get into Sri Ram College of Commerce in Delhi University was 100%. In this scenario getting higher marks by any means possible becomes very desirable. In IIT we used to get some children who got in because they sat behind or next to and copied the answers from someone who had also gotten through the entrance exam.

Reason 3: Both my wife and I are resistant to being pushed around by authority figures. This manifests as a kind of childish rebellion which is not very endearing and many times irritates people who know us. So, when my boss or my father or the Government says—don’t ask so many questions and just do what I am telling you—my first impulse is to resist and say ‘NO’. I may think about it and later change my mind but I have found from long experience that when someone is pushing something hard it is more for their benefit than mine. This rebelliousness appears like unstable or angry behaviour to people and they tend to think that I specialize in doing the exact opposite of what the whole world says is good. So, when someone says send your children to school otherwise you will ruin their lives, it is expected in my circles that I would question the logic of it.

This is an incomplete list compiled to help you introspect and see whether your experience of school and college was similar…

Covering the earth with leather

“Bodhicharyavatara composed in the 8th century C.E. by Shantideva is one of the most celebrated text of Mahayana Buddhism… In this masterpiece, the author, who belonged to the Madhyamika school of Nagarjuna, describes in detail the conduct of a Bodhisattva.”
– From the foreword by The Dalai Lama to the English translation of Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara by Prof. Parmananda Sharma

In one of our workshops, Samdhong Rinpoche made a reference to a sloka by Shantideva that talked about how anger is always counterproductive. The sloka said something like ‘If there is a solution what is the use of anger and if there is no solution again what is the use of anger.’ I was intrigued! I started looking for the original Sanskrit sloka online and could not find it anywhere. But I tracked down and bought the book with the original Sanskrit and English translation and managed to find the quote. This is what it looks like…

यद्यस्त्येव प्रतीकारो दौर्मनस्येन तत्र किम् ।
अथ नास्ति प्रतीकारो दौर्मनस्येन तत्र किम् ।। १० ।।

  1. If remedy is possible, what use is ill-will there? If no remedy exists, ill-will will be of no avail.

If there is a way to resist or remedy the erosion of ‘ishta’ or to counter the onslaught of ‘anishta’, there is no place for anger or feelings of ill-will in the process. The remedy to forestall the undesirable should be sought by renouncing anger. Contrarily, if a remedial course of action does not exist, anger will be equally futile. Hence the best course under both situations is to overcome ill-feeling and eschew anger. Such an attitude alone will lead to happiness.

– From Page 186, chapter 6, of Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara translated by Prof. Parmananda Sharma

I am still going through it but let me share another short sample that shows the power of this text…

कियतो मारयिष्यामि दुर्जनान् गगनोपमान् ।
मारिते क्रोधचित्ते तु मारिताः सर्वशत्रवः । । १२ ।।

  1. How many enemies, limitless as the sky, shall I kill? With the killing of the angry mind, all enemies are killed.

भूमिं छादयितुं सर्वं कुतश्चर्म भविष्यति ।
उपानच्चर्ममात्रेण छन्ना भवति मेदिनी ।। १३ ।।

  1. Where shall be available so much of leather as to cover up the whole earth? But, just with the leather of the shoes, the whole earth is covered.

बाह्यभावा मया तद्वच्छक्या वारयितुं न हि ।
स्वचित्तं वारयिष्यामि किं ममान्यैर्निवारितैः ।।१४।।

  1. Similarly, it is not possible for me to restrain external thoughts. So I shall restrain this mind of mine. What need for me, then, to restrain other things?

– From page 119 and 120, chapter 5, of Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara translated by Prof. Parmananda Sharma

Joyless education

“I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me… I am verily persuaded that I should have made a quite different figure in the world, from that, in which the reader is likely to see me.”

– From ‘The life and opinions of Tristram Shandy’ by Laurence Sterne

Tristram shandy was published in 1759 and the quote above is from the beginning of the book. Somewhere in the initial chapters, Tristram Shandy speaking as the narrator talks about the rules of writing set by a famous Roman poet and makes it clear that this book is not going to follow any rules. He makes good on his promise and the book has:
– Chapters that go missing and reappear somewhere later
– A blank page where the narrator asks us the readers to draw the woman of our dreams
– A black page to mourn the passing of a friend
– A marbled page from which the readers are supposed to derive some complicated meaning
– Many squiggles and ‘*’ that represent parts of the story
– Fake and real Latin pages and their fake and real translations

The blurb on the back cover says:
“No one description will fit this strange, eccentric, endlessly complex masterpiece. It is a novel about writing a novel in which the invented world is as much infused with wit and genius as the theme of inventing it. It is a joyful celebration of the infinite possibilities of the art of fiction, and a wry demonstration of its limitations.”

It is the funniest book that I have ever read!

I wanted to talk about this book on the blog to make a point about our education system. Many years ago I was talking about ‘Tristram Shandy’ among a group of friends and acquaintances and a girl who had a masters degree in English said that the book seemed familiar. We talked some more about it and it turned out that she had studied the book and passed an exam on it during her BA or MA. She did not remember any of the details and till she heard me talking about it she had not realized, and nobody had told her, that it was a funny book.

I am just wondering how many other joyous and fun things we make drab and lifeless as we go through the grind of school and college education…

Taking the red pill

The red pill and blue pill represent a choice between the willingness to learn a potentially unsettling or life-changing truth by taking the red pill or remaining in the contented experience of ordinary reality with the blue pill. The terms originate from the 1999 film The Matrix.
– From the Wikipedia article on ‘Red pill and blue pill’

Modern education, technology and media build very powerful narratives. Narratives like:
– Education makes us rational, thinking human beings.
– The uneducated are primitive, confused and miserable.
– India is a superstitious, dirty, over-populated hell-hole.
– We have no choice but to go for ‘development’.
– The economy can keep growing forever.
– Science and technology can solve all human problems.

As the news coming out now shows, the hysteria that was whipped up to sell questionable pharmaceutical products to the entire world, was seriously misguided. Just today, I heard Scott Adams, the inventor of the Dilbert cartoon, say something like – the people who chose to remain unvaccinated took the right decision, my analysis was wrong and their distrust of the pushed narrative was right.

It is difficult to ignore or not be swayed by the narratives. They are pushed very hard and the voices that are speaking against them are ridiculed and silenced. In this scenario it is good to have some go-to resources that can help give us some new perspectives, correct the balance. Here is a random collection that you may find useful…

A Vision for the Future Of Bharat

“I think the period from 1750-1947 is largely a dead period in Indian history. This may be an extreme statement. But I think it is true. Ultimately this period should be written off. Nothing was achieved in this period in terms of creativity or originality. On the contrary people have suffered in every respect and become lesser human beings.”
From Dharampal’s ‘Rediscovering India’

As a nation we appear to be deeply lost. The Western philosophies and way of life that were thrust upon us by the British don’t seem to have taken root in our soil. However, all our efforts seem to be focussed on making this wilted foreign seedling grow into a mighty tree. We want world-class ‘development’, ‘hospital-based-health’, ‘school-based-education’—we want to compete with the West, play their game, and win at it. This is probably not possible and playing someone else’s game, the rules of which are incomprehensibly alien to us, is not a very useful way forward for a nation.

Yet, the sparks of our civilization burn bright in the middle of the spiritual and material darkness we find ourselves in. We continue to speak our numerous languages, we still celebrate our beautiful festivals, we continue to cook our elaborate ancient cuisines, our women continue to wear their traditional dresses and a large percentage of our population—of all denominations—continues to be very religious.

The wise, confident, infinitely creative civilization that was birthed in this soil, which gave us the Vedas, our self-sufficient villages and our magnificent art and architecture, must have grown from native seeds. It is only from such seeds that vibrant civilizations arise, civilizations that sing the song of the soil and have the potential to touch the hearts of sensitive, considerate and courageous people from every part of the world.

There is no going back! And going forward in the direction we have been currently herded into is suicide! So, what do we do? Maybe we need to do nothing because the game of Kaala is on, wholly inscrutable to us, and things will go where they will, perfect as ever.

Meanwhile, here is a proposal…

With all of the above as background, it would be good if we vision a future for Bharat, vision it with the blessings of our sacred soil, vision it in silent communion with our ancestors and our Gods, vision it with the collective wisdom of our purvajanmas accessed in silent meditative contemplation. Because a vision has great power and it is time that we sit down, look past the toxic fog that surrounds us and think about the future that can be ours.

The Development Addiction

My cousin has stayed all his life in Kerala and is a long-term communist sympathiser. The national highway that passes near his house is only two lanes wide. Unfortunately this highway is now part of some larger national scheme and is currently being six-laned. In the hilly parts where my cousin lives, this means very long bridges and large scale destruction of hill-sides and the houses and shops that crowd on both sides of the highway. Talking to him I was surprised that he is happy about this highway work. He said this is real development that will help Kerala become economically stable. I pointed out to him that:

– The people uprooted and resettled in the road construction are the working class people who his party was supposed to be looking out for.
– The highway and bridge construction and the sand that it will require will cause more destruction to the river near his home.
– The increased traffic will cause more accidents that will probably involve the youth of his neighbourhood.
– Crossing the road safely will need to be done in a vehicle because you may have to go a long distance to get to an underpass or pedestrian over-bridge.

He agreed to all this but he said that these are the sacrifices we have to make for development. As the argument got heated he told me that it was people like me who have kept India in the dark ages and that I was a danger to the nation.

In all the big cities of India the traffic increases faster than the incessant road construction work. We don’t need a war with a foreign power to make us feel that we are living in a war-zone. We are managing to do that fine with the smoke and noise and maddening chaos of our city traffic. On a particularly bad day in Bangalore, probably when rain had clogged some of the roads, Google maps was showing 4 hours to go 20 kilometres in a car and was showing around the same travel time if we went walking. And yet none of us are willing to give up our personal transport vehicles, the companies bring out strange-named (why Brezza or Creta?) car variants all the time and hundreds of people die on the roads of India everyday.

Recently the people I was staying with warned me against walking on the roads in Hyderabad. When I told them that I am always careful they told me of a car that fell off from a bridge and killed a pedestrian. I told them that I will be extra careful and along with right and left and front and back that I am used to checking I will also check ‘up’ in their city.

We can extend the above argument to include other ‘development’ markers like consumer goods and multi-storey buildings and malls but I have reached my 500 word limit and will let you do the extrapolation on your own. What kind of madness have we normalised in the name of development? Where is it all going?

The World’s Best Cuisine

A friend who lives in the US and grew up in Andhra is a great food-lover. His mother was a very good cook and he grew up eating the large variety of food that makes up coastal Andhra cuisine. As he started travelling the world for work, he explored the local cuisines of all the places he visited. He says that it took him a long time to come to his great realisation about world food but he thinks that, at age 50+, he is on the right track now. He tells the story about travelling to a town in Italy and searching and reaching the restaurant claiming to serve the best pizza in the world. He sat on the table on the street outside the restaurant and had a truly memorable meal. When he asked to compliment the chef, out walked the smiling Oriya chef. 🙂

My friend says that the shock set him thinking about the food that he had tried over the years and he felt that the scales had fallen from his eyes. For example, he realized that the French do not make the best food in the world, they are just very good at loudly marketing whatever unappetizing, bland food they eat (My friend’s opinion not mine). He says that, for the first time in his life, he was able to dispassionately evaluate the Andhra cuisine he grew up with. With its vast storehouse of curries, podis, chutneys, pickles, sweets etc. he is now convinced that it is the BEST cuisine in the world. 🙂

I will add a personal story here before I lay out the point I want to make with this post. When the Covid lock-downs started, I was caught alone at home in Bangalore for five months. My wife had gone to visit some relatives and was unable to get back home till the lock-downs lifted. Now, my job in the kitchen till then had been mostly limited to cutting vegetables and I had to quickly learn to extrapolate that to cooked food. The photos of the alu paratha, poori, masala dosa etc. I made look good and I was accused by many friends of making the photos in Photoshop and not the food on the gas stove. When the five months were up and I again started eating good food made by my wife, I realised something. There are what appears to be hundreds of tiny bottles in our kitchen and most of them have contents that I cannot identify. When I was taking the nice-looking photos of the food I was cooking, I was using the contents of only four or five of the tiny bottles. The realisation I had was about the vast storehouse of knowledge hidden inside the heads of people who make Indian food.

The process of education and socialization we go through draws our attention away from the richness of life that we become part of just by being born in this country. I talked about food above. How many other vast and valuable storehouses of knowledge we still have access to have we learned to under-evaluate? I can think of our languages, our literature, our worldviews, our sciences, our customs, our handloom and other arts and crafts, our festivals, our calendars…

I think it is time to evaluate our rich heritage and stand tall again. What do you think?

Shiksha and Education

Today morning a friend read out some poems of Bahinabai Chaudhuri. Bahinabai was a Marathi poet who wrote about the life she experienced in rural Maharashtra. One of her popular poems titled ‘sansaar’ starts with the lines:

अरे संसार संसार
जसा तवा चुल्ह्यावर
आधी हाताले चटके
तव्हा मिळते भाकर!

(O, life, life, like a tava on the flame, first you burn your hand and then you get the bhaakar/roti)

All the poems my friend read out used very simple imagery to show life from new perspectives. I was deeply moved!

Now, here is what Wikipedia says about Bahinabai:

“Bahinabai Chaudhari (24 August 1880 – 3 December 1951) was a Marathi language poet from Jalgaon district of Maharashtra, India. She became a noted poet posthumously. Bahinabai was born in a Mahajan family at Asode in Khandesh region of the present-day Jalgaon district on the 24th of August 1880. . . . she was married to Nathuji Khanderao Chaudhari of Jalgaon. Following her husband’s death in 1910, she led a very difficult life . . . . She had a daughter named Kashi and two sons, Madhusudan and Sopandev (1907-1982). Bahinabai composed her songs verbally in ovi (ओवी) metre in a mixture of two dialects: Khandeshi and Levaganboli. Her son Sopandev, who became a well-known poet, transcribed them. According to one account, Sopandev read the story of Savitri and Satyavan to his mother from his textbook, and by the next morning, she had composed a song of the tale. Impressed by her talent, he began writing down her songs in a notebook. Her poetry is characterized as reflective and abstract with iconic and realist imagery. It captures the essence of her life, reflects the culture of village and farming life, and presents her wisdom. After his mother’s death on 3 December 1951, Sopandev found the notebook and shared one of her poems with Prahlād Keshav (Acharya) Atre. Atre recounts calling the first of Bahinabai’s poems he heard “pure gold” in his introduction to the collection published under the title Bahinabainchi gani (Bahinabai’s Songs) in 1952.”

In the customary box giving the personal details, Wikipedia, under ‘Education’ says – None. In our current way of looking at things we would have called her ‘illiterate’.

I thought this was a good topic for some deep reflection on the difference between Shiksha and Education. What do you think?