The Moral Brigade - The Honest Truth By Ajit Dayal
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Investing in India - Honest Truth by Ajit Dayal
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2 FEBRUARY 2009

A few clarifications and disclaimers.
I don’t smoke tobacco or non-tobacco items.
I don’t drink alcohol. And I wish others would drink less alcohol.
I drink water with no ice and sometimes a cup of tea with no milk.
I enjoy listening to music: western or eastern. But I avoid punk, rap, and techno.
I visit pubs and bars - once in a month. But I wish I could go more often with my wife and friends. Not to drink, smoke, or dance but - just.

Because I happen to be male, the Indian moral police have approved my freedom to visit a pub.
Women, as we have seen, have a problem. They may be Indian citizens. They may have a similar profile as I do. But, Indian culture does not support women being seen in pubs in compromising positions.
They should not be sitting fully clothed drinking a juice, a beer, or any other kind of alcoholic drink. And they should not be dressed in any suggestive way.

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Men, of course, have the upper hand on this. They can be fully clothed and reveal their naked ambitions. And be in a compromising position. Particularly if they are politicians clad in khadi and cotton clothes - ranging from white to saffron. Their hands can reach out and - with these extended hands - they can collect as many soiled notes in sacks.

Greasing palms to the detriment of society is not a crime and is probably supportive of some version of Indian moral culture. Lacing a woman’s internal organs with liquids in a pub is a shame on the Indian moral fabric.

Not that men enjoy a monopoly in this greasing and liquidity business. Sometimes women celebrate birthday parties and need money. Sometimes men are slapped by women. Sometimes men are beaten up by goons if these men refuse to donate for the cause of some powerful women.

Building a fort
Everyone is busy protecting Indian culture.
Or their personal definition of Indian culture.

The in-laws who beat up the wife because she brought a meagre dowry justify burning her alive and protecting Indian culture. Since the price of kerosene and petrol has been reduced recently, and salaries are not as solid as they were in the past, bride burning may face a revival.

Not that the cost of raw material matters when you are protecting Indian culture. You can break offices in university buildings; burn buses; or damage private property such as pubs. Thankfully, the courts are stepping in and sending a bill for the damages to the moral police.

The local politicians protect their residents when they shut down municipality schools that teach the English language. They wish to protect Indian culture. But the local residents, trying to make an honest living, have a different opinion. Tired of waiting for the 62 years since Independence to get a fair deal, the local residents promptly start paying money to private tutors to teach their children English. For these flag-holders of Indian morality know that, while they love the Indian culture and their motherland, they don’t want their kids to jump into a pile of shit to get a photograph of Amitabh Bacchan. They are happy to leave that visual on a movie screen - or on the conscience of a political class that rarely seems to have one.

Opening the doors
But not everyone has an iron-clad view of Indian culture. Take the case of the Indian musicians.

Ravi Shankar performed with the drug-taking Beatles 40 years ago. This interaction between the East and the West did not dilute Indian culture. Arguably, Indian classical - and pop - music is more appreciated and richer today than it ever was. Anoushka Shankar, his daughter, recently performed with Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull. One of their performances was for a charity for the victims of the terrorist attacks in Bombay. Rahman is nominated up an Oscar.

Not being a historian of Indian classical music and neither a learned scholar, I speak as a listener. And I am glad that Ravi Shankar played at Woodstock in front of dancing, naked people and the Maharishi waved at drugged-out crowds. I don’t condone drugs and I don’t condone flaunting of private parts in public spaces. But the acts of some members of the audience did not dilute the ragas nor did it reduce the appeal of yoga and Hinduism.

The musicians have their rules - their beats. They have not become slaves to western music. Yoga has been packaged and sold to a wider audience. It has become the largest export - but we failed to build a patent around it, so no benefit to the Indian exchequer!

Mahatma Gandhi wanted the winds of all religions to blow across India. Tolerance of individual views was his message. But who needs to listen to the Mahatma these days. He was killed on January 30, 1948. His memory fades.

Set the rules
I am not proposing that we need to convert India into a flesh country to rival the tourist attractions of some of the more "modern" city states or countries.

We have rules - make sure people of all sexes follow them. Liquor cannot be served to those under the age of 21. Tax the consumption of liquor so people drink a lot less. Address the issue of serving alcohol to those drunken men in villages, towns, and cities who then go on to abuse their wives and children. Set the rules. And apply them equally to all.

And if someone breaks the rule, make sure they get punished. Nab the pub owner who pays the cops to keep his pub open beyond the allowed time limit. Nab the man who leans forward with his greasy hands and is willing to compromise his position with a sackful of soiled notes.

How many believe that the Rajus of India have political connections? How many companies in the BSE-30 Index run their businesses without political connections and favours? SEBI had suggested that they would examine the accounts of the larger companies more closely. They should - and also how many of these companies support their businesses with political favours. But are we silent because the soiled moral fabric of India is dug so deep into our monetary and political system that we are scared to start the cleaning?

If the energetic young youth working in our moral police forces targeted the business people and politicians who have made much of India immoral, the sacks of soiled notes may be found under many closets. The election season is soon upon us. There will be many people practicing their compromising positions.

So we pick the easy targets. The young girls in pubs or the mothers who bring up children away from the breath of drunken husbands. They are given equal rights by the Indian Constitution, and yet they have no moral right to exercise it.

The pubs that these immoral girls visit - and which the moral boys are allowed to be in - are not a symbol of threat to Indian culture. The way we encourage our children to bribe; the way most of us bribe; the way we litter on our streets; the acceptance of the crude and blatant connection between businesses and politicians; the greed that drives us to buy shares of companies that we all know are fraudulent businesses built on a manipulation of the system; the disrespect for the other point of view; the desire to shut our doors and challenge the wishes of the Mahatma - these are threats to Indian culture. Or---wait a minute---maybe all this is our new-found Indian culture: where muscle rules and money is power?

The Taliban throw acid on the faces of young women wishing to broaden their minds. Those brave girls still wish to go to school. I hope our brave girls will still go out. And the men around will protect them - and protect the true Indian culture.

Note: The Honest Truth is authored by Ajit Dayal. Ajit is a Director at Quantum Advisors Pvt Ltd and Quantum Asset Management Company Pvt Ltd.. Views expressed in this article are entirely those of the author and may not be regarded as views of the Quantum Mutual Fund or Quantum Asset Management Company Private Limited.


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