A Tale of Two Nations - Norway and India

Wednesday, 01 January 2014 00:00 GFP Columnist - Rattan Mann
Noble Cyber-friends, my "Alternative Norwegian King's New Year's Message 2014" is about a Dickensian tale of two nations, Norway and India, the former still mired in a cultural and intellectual Dark Age, while the latter marching towards a new Renaissance.
People like to hear the bad news first, but I, neurotically obsessed with an anti-establishment mentality, begin with the good news.
Since its independence from the British in 1947, India has been making steady progress, no thanks to any government, or politicians or leaders.  The only thing politicians have been busy till today is filling their own coffers and making sure that only their children and grand children can succeed them.
The credit for the progress of India goes to the common man (Aam Admi) and only the common man.  BBC has called Indians "punishingly hard working", and the Hindi word for their rustic innovative spirit has entered the vocabulary of the west.  The word is "jugad" and it symbolises the innovative spirit of the common man who creates new ideas according to his needs without any access to the advice or help of experts.

Now this is about to change and change very fast.  A one year old "baby" political party, rightly calling itself Common Man Party (Aam Admi Party AAP) is coming to the rescue of the common man.  AAP is not about grabbing power, filling coffers with black money, or promoting their children, but about seeing that the common man finally begins to realise his true potential.  It is all about bringing a new Renaissance in the country.
What is happening in India today is the stuff of which ballads and legends are made.
Once upon a time there was a saintly social activist called Anna Hazare who wanted to root out corruption from his land.  But he wasn't succeeding very much in making his dream a reality.  Corrupt and evil politicians paid lip-service to his cause, and touched his feet, but in practice never did what he wanted - pass the anti-corruption Ombudsman Bill because it went against their interests.
The saint had a very intelligent and honest disciple, called Arvind Kejriwal, who loved and respected his guru very much.  But one day he couldn't take it anymore that his simple and honest guru was always taken for a ride.  He started his own Crusade against corruption even if it meant inviting the wrath of his beloved guru.  He followed his inner voice even if it meant parting ways with his master.  And within a year his Army of Crusaders, called the Common Man Party (AAP), occupied the citadels of power in New Delhi and brought the evil politicians to their knees.  Within a week of his occupying their citadel, they hurriedly, and in panic, passed the Ombudsman Bill.
This story is still unfolding in infinite future directions.  So, for the time being not much more can be said about it, dear readers.  But it has already created enough history that I can put it in a historical context.
At the beginning of the 20th century, say 1900, the English felt so secure in India, and regarded their rule as so permanent and timeless that if somebody had told them that by 1947 they will be out nobody would have believed that.
Similarly, at the beginning of 21st century, say 2000, the corrupt and evil politicians of India - called Black Englishmen by the common man - felt so secure in their power that they had only one wish left - that their progenies keep on succeeding them for ever and ever.

If somebody had told them in 2000 that the rules of the game will change by 2015 nobody (not even me) would have believed that.  But this is exactly what the AAP Crusaders are doing - rewriting the rules for the Black Englishmen just as Gandhi rewrote the rules for the White Englishmen.
And remember, behind every successful Crusade lurks a Renaissance.  And that is where India is heading.
Another consequence of this sudden non-violent revolution out of the blue is not hard to see.
If an honest party like the AAP comes to power after the general elections of 2014, then within a few years India will start breathing down the neck of China.
The reasons of this are not hard to see either.
India is about a trillion dollar economy, which is about the same size as the economy of tiny Mexico.  But there is another trillion dollars in black economy, mostly in property.  Moreover, there is a third trillion dollars stashed illegally in foreign banks.  If these are combined together for national development, India will become a three trillion dollar economy "overnight" - half way to Chinas 6 trillion dollars.  This I call breathing down China's neck.
Noble Cybercitizens, before I retrograde from the Renaissance to the Dark Ages, I make my first Christmas and New Year's wish:
Dynasty rule should finally end in India, not only in politics but also other places like Bollywood, because many superbly talented people are suffering just because they are not born in the families of modern Maharajas.
With great sadness, enlightened cybercitizens I now enter the Dark Ages to examine the sorry plight of the "best country on earth" called Norway.
Everybody on earth has heard ad nauseam that Norway is the best, most perfect and advanced country on earth.
This is a blatant lie to which many world leaders and celebrities are also a party through their highly paid appearances to force this lie down every unsuspecting throat.
Every report commissioned by the European Union (EU) and OECD puts Norway almost last among EU countries in education, innovation, research, and development.  No such thing as "jugad" in Norway!
For one day, the timid Norwegian media mentions this in the press so that they are not accused of suppressing the truth, but then the truth is indeed quietly suppressed and next day Norway again becomes the "most technologically advanced nation on earth" - the darling of a cowardly, self-back-patting and uncritical Norwegian media.
The latest example of this was the OECD's PISA report about the educational standards of school kids.  As usual Norway was far below the average.  This time the newly elected conservative government pressed the panic button, because they saw it as a golden opportunity to bash the previous government of Jens Stoltenberg, and paint him as a monster and a cannibal who had devoured the future potential and the "jugad-spirit" of innocent Norwegian kids. Promises of pumping a huge amount of money into education and research were made.
Actually this sorry plight of Norway, which the establishment is criminally trying to hide, has nothing to do with any government, and will not go away by pumping even an infinite amount of petrodollars into the system.
The problem is rather subtle, because it is psychological and cultural rather than financial or technical.  Whenever I try to make this point, I am told to shut up and go home because I have nothing worth telling Norwegians.  But thanks to the web and the great Global Free Press, I want to give a piece of my mind in this Alternative New Year's Message 2014.
The best way to hit the nail on the head is as follows.
In India (and many other undeveloped and backward countries), when kids come to the 10th and 12th class and have their board exams, they forget everything for one year and focus on their studies.  It is not unusual to study up to ten hours everyday.
Now let us compare this attitude of "undeveloped and backward people" with the attitude of the "most advanced people" on earth - the Norwegians.
When Norwegian kids come to the 12th class, instead of thinking of their board exams, they start a festival in January which lasts for six months till June, the usual time for the board exams.  This festival is called Russ.  Every kid in class 12 prints a "visiting card" with his name and some quotations, attires in a red dangri and cap with funny drawings on them, and every 12th class collectively buys an old bus which is then painted red and covered with graffiti.  This sets a festive mood for the coming six months, and on week-ends , instead of thinking of their studies, the students go on long tours in their old, red buses, drink heavily, and make merry.  Many times there are drunken brawls, and even rapes of fellow students.  And mind you, this goes on, not for a day or a week, but for six months till their board exams are over in June.
Anybody who see this will have no trouble in predicting that with this attitude to their studies, these guys will never be able to compete with Indians, Chinese, Koreans, and others.  No amount of money would help.  If Norway wants to progress in the matters of the mind, this Russ festival must be forbidden.  This will have very subtle, serious, and long-term implications because it will change the mind-set of kids.  They will begin to have a different attitude to studies and work which will put them in a better position to compete with "lice-infected Asians".
As I said above, whenever I say this to Norwegians, I am told to shut up and go home.  This reminds me of a 5000 years old Sanskrit story which my mother Shanti told me more than 60 years ago when I was about seven:
A monkey was sitting on a tree, wet and miserable in rain.  A bird on the next tree, sitting comfortably in her well-built nest, felt sorry for the monkey.  So she said very compassionately, "Dear monkey, why don't you build a nest like me?  Then you won't be wet and miserable".  Instead of listening to her well-meant advice, the monkey got up and destroyed the nest of the bird.
Lo!  Behold the power of great stories.  They remain relevant for all times, places, and occasions.  Modern writers have lost the imagination to say such things.  They are nothing more than reporters who can only describe what is beneath their noses.  This lack of imagination is also covered by a beautiful saying:  Monkey sees, monkey does.  Or better in our case, monkey sees, monkey writes.
Farsighted Cybercitizens, now I come to my main "prediction" of 2014:
If Norway takes the simple step of removing the Russ festival from their school curriculum, the country would undergo a Cultural Revolution on par with the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the 1960s.
I end with two more Christmas and New Year's wishes:
1)  A honest government like AAP comes in India after 2014 elections so that finally India starts breathing down the neck of China.
2) The Norwegians erase the Russ festival from their psychic so that that they too can join the Indian and Chinese Renaissance.
Have a Happy Christmas and Happy New Year 2014 Bravehearts of the Web!
In December 2013, CNN carried a report on Shanghai schools that topped the PISA list.

Image: Russ Festival participants passing by the Royal Palace in Oslo, May 17th 2002. 

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