Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Padmavati - How ridiculous to ask for proof of her existence

The debate on Padmavati, an icon of  Rajasthan has reached ridiculous levels, merely on two grounds -  freedom of expression and the lack of proof of her existence. One would imagine that the existence of documentary proof has been the norm, not the exception, in the past in India. We all know that it has not, and definitely not when it pertains to Indian women.

I throw open a challenge to all Indians who read this post - what documentary proof can you produce for the name and birth of your mother? And of both your maternal as well as paternal grandmother? And what about a generation before that, two generations back? And three and four and five more generations back? And going back to say 500 - 700 years ago? Stymied I am sure. So did they not exist and are they only a figment of imagination? And what about their marriages? Where did this take place? Or did it even take place? And since documentary proof cannot come by, do all of us have the freedom of expression to say that the marriage(s) did not take place. Who among us -whether movie makers, story writers, intellectual liberals, or even judges, will allow the common man to say that we come from a line of illegitimacy? None I think.

A wonderful article on this has appeared on a blog - here is the link: https://advayah.wordpress.com/2017/11/28/padmavati-or-no-padmavati-at-least-faith-should-be-honoured/

The text of the post is quoted below:

The debate on Rani Padmini (Padmavati) has been skewed beyond proportion by several intellectuals including historians, and by discourses in media with an overemphasis on written record(s) to establish whether such an individual existed or not. Everyone seems to be quoting Malik Mohd. Jayasi, the poet who wrote the famous work Padmavat as if this was the only reliable source to determine the validity of the existence of Rani Padmini. India in the past relied more on oral transmission of knowledge and seldom tried to document what was happening in the society in general. Our historical records are full of male characters, of their achievements, valour etc. but hardly of female characters. Vedic literature also seems to suffer with this drawback.
I would like to argue that Indian society has survived on faith in each other and in the social set up, and as a result has never felt the need for documentation, as was prevalent in the Chinese society. Even records important to one’s life were hardly kept. A Hindu marriage was never recorded in a formal manner; there was never a signing of a document after the marriage. The recording of marriage has been of recent origin although even now most Hindu marriages are not recorded. It is at the same time known that even in absence of any documentation, Hindu marriages are more stable and last longer. The question is – would a marriage of the past be questioned just because there is no document to establish the marriage? To be specific, how many of us can validate the marriage of our great great grand parents, which will take us to the middle of the nineteenth century? If the answer is no, do you declare us illegitimate children? One can challenge several inheritances to property. Would any law in the country dare to declare such marriages invalid? Could the intellectuals and artists of the country afford not to accept the validity of such a marriage? If one were to obtain a post facto marriage certificate from a magistrate, one has to produce just one reliable witness who had attended the marriage. The system has been working and would continue to work in perceivable future.
When the controversy about turmeric (haldi) related patent arose, the US Patent Office asked for documentary evidence to establish that turmeric was used as a wound healing agent for ordinary and surgical wounds. I was deeply involved in the issue and it was surprising to find that no document in Indian languages talked of the wound healing property of turmeric in the manner in which it was described in the said patent. However, we knew that turmeric has been used for years (not recorded) for curing wounds but we needed evidence to protect our traditional knowledge in a foreign land. We could in our perhaps limited search, luckily find a Persian document which had a mention of this property of turmeric based on the uses in India. If the same case was in front of Indian courts, would the courts have asked for documentary evidence? May be in the present legal system, we would need to generate evidence for every action of ours if we need it to be validated. It is going to some time, may be years, before our society is ready for such an overhauling.
Coming back to the Padmavati issue, we should attach a definite value to what the society of that region has grown with, all these years. What is being said by various players in favour of the existence of Padmini needs to be believed and honoured even in absence of any recorded history at that time.  Going only by Jayasi’s work or Khusro’s record will be like relying on translations of Ved, Upnishads and other scriptures by foreign scholars. Jayasi’s work can also be an example artistic flight losing sight of reality existing almost 300 years back. Let us find some time to understand why hundreds or thousands of people continue to swear that Padmini was a real- life character who had tremendous influence on the Rajput society and culture so much so that she is worshiped even today. To argue it differently, does anyone have any proof that she did not exist?  Let us not engage in the realism or non-realism of the past when history and social practices were not recorded; that is a wasteful exercise in the Indian context. Faith and beliefs are not always evidence based; leave them as such if not detrimental to the society.
(R Saha, Former Adviser, Department of Science and Technology, GOI. Presently, Senior Adviser, CII)

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

"Udta Punjab" - is this justice?

I do not understand the priorities of our courts these days. The CJ weeps that he does not have enough people to handle the number of cases. The Mumbai HC took 13 years to decide who was NOT driving a vehicle, and there is still no justice in sight for the poor pavement dwellers who died sleeping. There are thousands, if not lakhs, of undertrials in jail because the judges have no time to hear such cases. Yet both the judges of the the two-member bench apparently had more than enough time to personally watch the movie for three hours, listen to arguments on each of the points raised and decide on its merits within a few days of the matter coming before them. Such was the critical importance they gave to the matter - the release of a movie.

I am not questioning the decision, only the fact that there has been a decision. And that this issue has got so much of media time. Freedom of expression, or rather of artistic expression, these days is more important that freedom of life.

To me, the justice is skewed. I wish the common man could hope for similar speedy judgements.

Friday, 10 July 2015

My self-published book : Using Createspace for print-on-Demand in several countries

After I made my self-published book available for reading on Kindle through Amazon, I wondered how I could make print copies available across various countries. Not really knowing how many sales would take place, I definitely did not want to spend any money which I would have had to do if I used say, Ingram. I decided on CreateSpace since it is free. Also it is a subsidiary of Amazon, so linkages are easier.

I found that the site tends to be slow but uploading the interior was easy. I had already obtained my own ISBNs ( see my earlier post How I obtained ISBNs as a self-publisher in India.). This ensured that I could always add or move to other companies for my Print-on-Demand requirements.

Since I had already self published my book, the cover was an issue. I definitely did not want to change the cover which I really liked.

Our Heritage Revisited

I did try to upload my own cover directly but found it not worth the effort of calculations of margin, spine thickness etc. I therefore selected their cover designer option which allowed me to upload my own front and back cover images without having to bother about the designing aspects. I did however get stuck on the colour of spine since CreateSpace only give a limited choice. I had to make do with the best match I could find - I was not too happy about that, but all said, I found the experience quite satisfying.

The impossible aspect, for persons like me based in India, is that I do not expect to ever receive any royalty from them  - ever. They ask for me to have a bank account in the US, UK or a few other countries. Else they will pay when, and only when, the earnings cross 100 units in the concerned currency. So my accrued royalty may be Dollars 99 and Pounds 99 and Euros 99, but the amount they will pay me is zilch, zero, That is how the cookie crumbles with them. Incidentally Amazon has a similar process but the saving grace is that there is no threshold requirement for dollars or rupees.

Anyway my book was uploaded, became available at Amazon really quickly and so sales in America started. Here is the link Our Heritage Revisited : A glimpse into ancient Indian texts.

Do let me know about your experiences.

Monday, 29 June 2015

DIY - How I self-published my book on Amazon for Kindle

Having written my book and got it printed, the next step was to make it available on the Net. After exploring various options and I decided on the kindle version as kindle is now a free software on all PCs and mobiles. I am already a member of Amazon and I logged onto Kindle Direct Publishing with the same id. After completing requirements for tax purposes, I went to my bookshelf and added my title. All details were simple and took no time at all.

Since I had already obtained an ISBN for an e-book I entered these details. (Amazon however have still given their own ASIN number). The issues were on uploading the book and deciding on pricing and royalty.

The book cover was already designed, the uploading took a bit of fixing because of the pixel requirements. I converted the .docx file into a pdf file which I then saved as a JPEG file selecting the best quality and the highest pixel count available. The cover was uploaded and accepted.
For the book content, I again saved my .docx file as a pdf file since I wanted to keep my fonts intact - an upload of the docx file changes several English fonts. And I also had several hindi words interspersed throughout the book, which became garbage when uploaded as a .docx file.
As far as royalty was concerned, I did have the option of Amazon's Select offer where they give upto 70% royalty in several countries, including India, which is where I come from. This has the added benefit of giving you payments if your book is borrowed, with some free days too. However this gives Amazon the freedom to decide on pricing / reduce the price. So the decision was - do not opt for select.

A major difficulty as far as Amazon is concerned if that royalty payments (except for purchases in America and India) is through cheques sent by post after the threshold is achieved in each individual currency.  I am therefore reconciled to not receiving even a single rupee for sales in any country other that US and India.

Anyway, my book "Our Heritage Revisited : A glimpse into ancient Indian texts" is now available at  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00YF1DOGM . The sample pages  are free to download and will show you what I have done. The book, in a mere 66 pages will give you a quick overview of all our Shruti and Smriti texts - the topic is sure to interest all persons having linkages with India. The second half of the book gives the gist of the concepts of the Upanishads and covers ten of the major Upanishads.

Do read it - you will be able to sound quite knowledgeable in your circle of relatives and friends and colleagues!!!!

Saturday, 13 June 2015

How I obtained ISBNs as a self-publisher in India.

Unlike several other countries, India issues ISBN numbers free, both to the publishing companies and to self publishers. The Raja Rammohun Roy National Agency for ISBN, under the Ministry of Human Resource Development is the concerned agency and is situated in New Delhi. The Ministry has explained the whole concept of ISBNs here and a quick read gives great understanding. 
The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) uniquely identifies the book across the globe and is issued publisher-wise, NOT author wise. While sites such as createspace do give you ISBNs for your book, if you use theirs, effectively you restrict usage of this ISBN of your book to this publisher only. I preferred keeping all rights with myself and so got my own ISBNs.
The various proforma are also available on MHRD's site. For individuals who are self publishers of books, there is a really simple form - I doubt it could be simpler - here is the link to the form  
What I did was downloaded the form and entered the required details. I then needed to attach only three items, the cover page of the book, valid ID proof and a stamped self addressed envelop - to enable them to send the allotment letter back. I then submitted the form.
Unlike several developed countries, India has made the process free and simple, thereby encouraging self-publishers. I could very easily obtain two ISBNs (for the ebook and the paper back versions) for my book  "Our Heritage Revisited : A glimpse into ancient Indian texts"  which today is available across various Amazon online stores.  So, if you are a self-publisher, go right ahead, the process could not be easier.