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Work and Workplace In The Time Of Covid-19.

Work and Workplace In The Time Of Covid-19.


Jitendra Kumar Sharma


Dear Reader,

May I seek your indulgence to read my snippet before you read my blog ‘Work And Workplace In The Time Of COVID-19’. In this ‘pre-blog’, I will share a few Side Effects of COVID-19 on me personally.

As a writer, I have avoided growing a beard, though it saves time. Instead, I prefer going to the Barber’s Shop for a close shave. There I get to glance over old magazines and hear the latest village gossip into the bargain and return home brimming with ideas and a fresh, shining face.

On the first day of COVID-19 Lockdown I was about to dash to the Saloon when the old Idiot Box blared: “Stay At Home, It Is A Total Shutdown”, then panned a few long shots closing up to my Barber’s Shop firmly locked up and a freshly shaven policeman, indifferently gaping into the deserted street.

I was angry. I was desperate. Last time, I was at my barber’s I was going through Charles Lamb’s essay THE SUPERANNUATED MAN in an old magazine when he called me out for my turn. Mr. DeMelo’s booming voice snapped me from the mag abruptly ending my reverie that Lamb’s poignant and dreamy style had induced.

COVID-19 had dashed all my hopes to get back to Charles Lamb in the familiar, cozy, and very privileged setting. I could not go not only to the Barber’s Shop but anywhere else too- libraries, book-shops, friends’ homes, all access and avenues to reach and read Charles Lamb were closed. Desperation assailed me as I refused to compromise with the reality of the universal Lockdown. This absolutely arbitrary denial whetted my desire to own and study Charles Lamb’s complete works.

Forlorn, I turned to Keertiji, that is my Laptop. ‘Welcome’, she chimed and I smiled.

Eureka! My Laptop revealed a truth: I was no longer in the real world. COVID-19 had shoved me into a Virtual World and Charles Lamb’s works were only a click away

Dear reader, have you read Lamb’s ‘THE SUPERANNUATED MAN’? This is also about going to work and staying at home; living for others and living for oneself; work versus leisure and host of questions the Common Man is facing in the time of COVID-19, questions we together shall be debating through my blogs.

But first this important

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links are affiliate links and at no cost to you. I’ll earn a small commission if you click and purchase a product or service using my link. It helps make my blog and all my writings free of cost to you.

Your clicks/purchases help me buy and read study material for writing readable and free blogs for you on my website

I recommend products and services from reputed organizations that I’ve personally known, used, or shall myself buy and are available on

Reader, be of good cheer because COVID-19 has opened up unlimited avenues and vistas for us. It has pushed us into the Automation Age.

In the Automation Age, as my Guru Marshall McLuhan said: “Earning a Living” becomes “Learning a Living”. Jobs disappear, roles emerge; work decreases, leisure increases; drudgery dwindles, creativity quickens; competition is out, sharing is in; governments fail, citizens succeed; working for Others is past,working for One’s Self is future!

Virtual World, in some ways, is like the pristine Vedic World

when Health was Wealth

Culture preceded Civilization

Man respected Nature

Need subjected Greed

Corruption quailed

Pollution puled

Therefore, be brave.

Leave Behind The Old Real World

And, dear reader,

Enter with me

The New Virtual World

In the COVID-19 Times.

Did I forget to tell you that I had a pretty good shave with Gillette Mach3 shaving kit, courtesy


Also got the mandatory


before starting on my Blog

Work and Workplace In The Time Of Covid-19

PS: This blog is inspired by several publications that are currently providing free of cost information and guidance, to mention a few, The Atlantic Monthly, The Atlantic Kindle Edition

The New Yorker Kindle Edition

The Economist – US Edition Kindle Edition

Foreign Affairs Kindle Edition

The Washington Post for Kindle (Ad-Free) Kindle Edition

The New York Times

The New Yorker

The Washington Post

The Wall Street Journal Kindle Edition

Project Syndicate

who are offering to readers free information on COVID-19 pandemic, generating ideas, and inviting response to questions of life and death in these uncertain times. The context of my blogs differs from theirs, so do my readers, I believe.

====The End of Snippet====

Read free of cost author’s opinion pieces, short stories, write-ups, reviews, plays, academic essays, spiritual commentaries on his website:

Finally, here is my blog:

Work and Workplace In The Time Of Covid-19

The coronavirus has been ‘carousing’ through different parts of the world making the prevailing predicament more puzzling. Some aspects of it, however, are clear. The invisible parasite is going on a spree all over the globe. Most governments are relaxing the Lockdown and people are once again moving, meeting, gathering, and the virus is jumping between hosts depending on proximity, density, and mobility. The illusion of normality must force us to think: Shall the world be the same as we knew it before this invisible Thanatos invaded it.

The West is powerful yet hapless and confused before the insidious and invisible enemy that has knocked out work as the very basis of Modern State and Westernized Modern Societies.

The future is uncertain and the common man is expecting neither a swift return back to the normal nor a unified collective experience. The fear of a second wave vexes the people everywhere.

Uppermost in the people’s minds is the question: Shall we return to work? Will the workplace look the same as we left it? Is working for earning as meaningful as it was? Such questions are important to dwell upon and debate in the time of Corona. They are more important to The West, and hence to the world because The West leads the rest of the world’s politics and economy. This question is important to non-western countries and societies because they imitate and emulate the West.

The future scenario is splintered in larger countries like the USA and India because in both these countries local reality is being ignored by their powerful leaders. President Trump and Prime Minister Modi are claiming victory over COVID-19 while the virus is freely claiming victims and poor people are the worst hit by Corona. Lifting of the Lockdown is, thus, further dividing the already fragmented States of America in the West and the States of the Indian Union in the East.

In the face of uncertainty, people are returning to their polarized groups. The rich and the poor, privileged, and deprived are fleeing to their respective ghettos in both these big democratic countries.

If the Covid-19 or its mutations re-surge forcing governments to shut down again, people shall defy because they’ll be distrustful. Floyd protests in the USA and worker’s long march along the hot, sun-struck highways in India are prognostic portents.

Both these nations face the risk of getting demoralized under bouts of shutdowns and re-openings that are bound to damage the prospect of economic recovery. The consequences of re-opening in May-June will not show up until August-September 2020 at the earliest. The longer the gap between actions and their consequences, the greater the likelihood of authorities making more mistakes.

No behavior pattern has so far emerged and COVID-19 remains as enigmatic as it was in its offing. Most countries that successfully controlled the coronavirus used masks but New Zealand did not use masks. Some had very firm and powerful leaders; Hong Kong did not. Vietnam’s “budget-friendly” fight against the coronavirus has set an example for its neighbor China that let the novel virus lose upon the world.

India’s central government has passed responsibility to the states who are free to lift the Lock-down the way they like. If a state reopens and sees no immediate increase in cases, it slaps its own back and the media amplify the hurrah without waiting for sufficient time. Doctors are getting tired, some dying, and have no time to watch for spreader events. Hurried researchers based on small samples are arriving at big conclusions. And the hapless citizen has to find its own ways and means to fend off the invisible, deadly COVID-19, heightening the social and economic differences as also class, group, and race divisions.

Every country big and small is eager to be the first to formulate a vaccine to prevail over the COVID-19 and the world market further confusing the pandemic scene.

The COVID-19 pandemic is not a cyclone like the recent one that hit Bangladesh and India. It has come but shall it go away like a cyclone? Millions are being bedeviled by this question.

There is no obvious moment when recovery should begin as happened in the case of the plagues of yore. Nor can the novel virus be compared to Albert Camus’ novel The Plague. The post-COVID-19 world shall face much more difficult and serious existentialist questions than Camu’s ‘ the Absurd’ and Sartre’s “The Other”.

For the employer and employee, worker and the workplace helter-skelter reopening is not a philosophical question, nor can philosophy offer much consolation to them. The white-collar and blue-collar workers are sailing in the same boat between the deep sea of economic uncertainty and the devil of a deadly virus.

In a patchwork like this, questions will be asked millions of times over, and many answers will be wrong.

Whether to continue with the Leisure of the home or walk to the dangerous workplace is the Kierkegaardian knot of either/or like it was for Jean-Paul Sartre’s famous Freedom Fighters Pablo who sweats and Tom who pisses in fear of death in the captivity of Spanish dictator Franco.

Employer and Employee, Work and Workplace, and all of us, dear reader, are in the indefinite captivity of COVID-19.

We cannot move yet we can certainly think, read and write like the freedom fighters in so many countries locked up in the dictators’ and imperialists’ jails who still beckon to us from the pages of history.

Read the author’s latest novels The Perfume Girl, The Prime Minister’s Robot Wife


and short story collections

भारतीय राष्ट्रीय महिला सेना और प्रधान मंत्री (Hindi Edition) Kindle Edition

The Panther and The Prince And Other Stories of Another Clime

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“What Does Your Enemy Say?” By Jitendra Kumar Sharma

“What Does Your Enemy Say?”
By Jitendra Kumar Sharma

“What does your enemy say?” Our teacher, Radha Krishnaji at Bhupendra High School, Narnaul, a district town in the erstwhile Patiala State, was a Master of English idioms and made us learn so many of them by rot.
This is idiomatic English; it means, “What is the time by your watch?”
He used to wear a big round watch tied by a slipknot to a noose-like cord suspended from his neck into the front pocket of his shirt. He pulled up the strings and held his pocket watch in his right hand, looked at it cursorily for a moment and repeated: “What does your enemy say?”

I learned the idiom and it got stuck to my memory. Whenever I met my classmates, we turned back in time, recalled our Master Ji and asked: “Who is our enemy? Is it Time? Or is it our watch?

Our confabulation always ended inconclusively, leaving us in a greater state of confusion and excitement about “What does your enemy say?”

We never dared ask questions in the class, nor were we allowed to make suggestions nor lead a discussion. That this idiom would keep nagging me all my life, and lead me to strange actions and experiences, I had little idea then! It has triggered me to act in foolhardy ways to seek practical and experiential answers to the question: “What does your enemy say?”

“I wish I could turn back the clock and bring the wheels of time to a stop”, bring Master Radha Krishna ji back and tell him, “No one in England I have heard use this expression nor in Canada, nor in other English speaking countries”. None of my Professors at the University of Toronto where I wrote my thesis, “Achilles’ Spear: Problem of Time and Consciousness” was familiar with this expression.

What does your enemy say? I was impelled to answer this question many a time in thought and action and felt even more unsatisfied like cigarette smokers craving for one puff more!

I had not yet fulfilled all the requirements for my doctorate that I got a job offer from the University of Guelph. My main reason to prefer Guelph U was that it had the so-called Trimester system. That is, if I taught three semesters in a row, I could avail of the next two semesters as paid vacation, traveling anywhere I liked. In Two-semester universities, every seventh year was the Sabbatical Year.

A couple of days after joining my academic duties, I joined the Guelph Flying Club. Each time, I went up in the sky with Mike Taylor, our Flying Instructor, I felt like I was soaring into a ‘No-time Zone’-Canada has six of them! Each time, Mike turned off the throttle perfect calm settled around us and I would close my eyes. Mike had to shove me to resume flying.

One morning, I went to the Flying Club and found a Cessna 180 whirring on the runway.

I could not resist the mechanical bird. I did not care to sign the log book. Just jumped into the cockpit and surged into the sky. On reaching the serene heights, I silenced the engine. The little Cessna stalled and hung in the air. I closed my eyes and silently uttered: “What does your enemy say?”

No time here. No watch on my wrist. No answer to the question either. Only deep, dreamless sleep. I do not remember how long but it lasted till I felt a sensation of a steep descent. It roused me from my meditation. Cessna was plummeting into, what later I was told, Guelph Lake.

I was disqualified from the Flying Club membership and earned a good deal of free publicity. This did not please Dean H.M.H. Mackinnon who summoned me to his office. Heavy classical scholarship permanently enthroned in his thick glasses, his unsmiling face looked unusually scary.

“What are your plans for next year?”

I dared not say, “I have no plans”. He was a pucca North American WASP [White Anglo-Saxon Protestant] and had little affection for those who do not plan their time.

I simply uttered, “I intend to go to India at the end of the third semester”

“You are not going anywhere, Jitendra. You will write your General Examination and fulfill other Ph.D. requirements– if you wish your contract to be renewed.”

I did not take the threat seriously and came out of the Dean’s office determined to go to India. My Guru, Marshall McLuhan had already published a few articles by me in his “Explorations”, a highly respected Quarterly.

My dissertation too was with a publisher. I had also read a long paper at The Learned Societies of Canada which was accepted by “The Journal of Philosophy and Phenomenological Research”.

“Publish or perish” was the rule for academic survival and I was confident of getting an academic post. Several new universities were also coming up in Canada then.

“Plan your work and work your plan, Jitendra”, was Dean Mackinnon’s parting advice.

“What about spontaneity?” I shouted to myself most inaudibly and exited.

I had never fancied myself to be an academic. I wanted to be a wanderer if I could afford to be one.

I returned to my office, called my friendly Bank Manager Mutrie who, as ever was ready to finance my trip to India, which included the purchase of a factory-fresh Diesel Mercedes at their Stuttgart Manufacturing plant in Germany under a ’Travel Now, Pay Later’ plan.

At the end of the third semester, I flew to England and after a few days at Cambridge where I met E.M. Forster I flew to Stuttgart to pick up my Mercedes. I had to wait in their Canteen as it was being given the final touches and a Carnet du Passage was being prepared for me to drive it away from Germany.

The only other buyer was a Malagasy diplomat, linah Luciano, a very articulate, middle-aged, most appropriate person to speak to about Time.

“We Malagasy experience time as flowing behind us, literally behind our head and the past keeps spanning before us”.

“How?”, I said, feeling as if I was doing Shirs Aasan like Nehru trying to see the world upside down.

“It’s simple; the past we can see and know, it always interplays with our actions”.

Feeling even more ignorant, I again said, “How?”

“Actually, we go on consulting our ancestors, we even dig out their bones, if required for seeking their advice”, explained Monsieur Luciano.

“Like Mackenzie King of Canada who used to consult his dead mother”, I rejoined.

“Who, Mackenzie King?”

“He was a former Prime Minister of Canada”, I informed.

“And how do you perceive the future?” I asked.

“Actually, we do not. Anyway, it is behind our heads, so we cannot see it”.

“It is not time but people’s volition that decides things in Madagascar”.

“I don’t understand”, I confessed.

“In Germany and Switzerland, have you noticed how obsessed they are with punctuality? Trains departing 7-03 Yverdon, arriving 7-49 Lucerne”.

“Is it not good?”

“We are not talking about good or bad. In Madagascar, a train shall leave only when it is full”

I relished what diplomat Luciano was telling me.

“Is the train meant for people, or is it being run for Time?” Luciano had a mischievous smile for the topsy-turvy world of western civilization.

“In my country, a train will not leave until it is full” and “No company is ready to run a passenger train there. We have only freight trains.”

My Mercedes had arrived. I took leave of the learned diplomat and started driving. Pride and patriotism intensified by an excruciating twisted ankle held me up for three weeks at Charlottenburg, West Berlin where Netaji Subhash Bose had stayed as Hitler’s guest.

Crossing the Berlin Wall, a most friendly Russian Immigration Officer issued me a Visa in a matter of minutes. We together drove in my Mercedes to the nearby Ratskeller in the basement of the Rathaus.

Over lunch, I said, “Time runs faster in West Berlin”. Vladislav, my Russian friend of the moment, promptly retorted, “They are all crazy on the other side of the Wall”, then apprehensively tipped, “I must tell you there is no Mercedes Service in Russia. Change your route”.

Thence, my Mercedes and I crossed from Europe to Asia at Uskudr on a ferry. The blue waters reminded me of many other places, of Port Said and Capri where the sea and sky had appeared literally to mate merging the Here into Eternity. Time and Endlessness of Time!

“What does your enemy say?” was on my mind and I had my heart’s fill asking and getting answers of all kinds of people I met during my long journey.

At Trabzon, a mountain resort on the Black Sea, a young Turk, Abuzer Abidin took me to a Hamam, a Turkish Bath, where we were bathed, wrapped in white chaddars and served Kahava. We came out and walked up to a cliff overlooking the Black Sea. I asked Abuzer, “Is there any phrase like ‘What does your enemy say’ in Turkish?”

“Let us not talk of enemies. We are friends”. He planted two kisses, one each on my two cheeks, took away a little black comb peeping out from the front pocket of my jacket and put a green one from his pocket into mine and parted.

At Salonica, capital of Greek Macedonia, I stopped several academics at Aristotle University to enquire, “How would Aristotle respond to ‘What Does Your Enemy Say?’ Their answers setoff a splitting ache and serious doubts in my head about Aristotle’s Greek origin, even his existence.

Did I fulfill my wish to stop Time or did Time stop for me? How and where I met my Masterji? How old was he and how old was I when we met? Did I ask, “Time or Watch, who is our enemy, Sir?” Or, I simply forgot about it.

On reaching India, I did drive to Narnaul. Met my old schoolmates. They said, “Master Radha Krishnaji retired at 55, not seen since”.

I was slothful in my search for Masterji because my cousin, Sudhir, Deputy Manager with Indian Oil Corporation at Varanasi was abducted by oil mafia during an Inquiry he was conducting in a case of diesel pilferage from the Company’s containers at Mughal Sarai.

Instead of Varanasi, I drove to 1, Rajpur Road, Dehradun where my stepmother Shanta Sharma lived [now, Mridula Sharma, my step-sister; the reader may please check]. Finding me despondent, she straightway took me to Swami Satyanand’s Rishikesh Ashram.

Most of the way we were silent but as we reached, she said, ”Swamiji is eighty-two years but he appears 52 or less”.

“How do you know him?”

“I know him from my Gurukul days. After your father’s death in Nasik, I and Mridula returned to our Khukhri Market Flat, Dehradun and renewed my contact with Swamiji’s Ashram. Seth Ram Prasadji also used to come to the Ashram. This is where Mridula started babbling about her previous birth and recognized Sethji as her father in the previous birth. Sethji soon adopted her under Swamiji’s guidance and gifted Mridula 1, Rajpur Road where now we live.”

I had read the story in papers.

We are born again and again in Time. Which Time? Time of the clocks and calendars or there is some other Time!

We sat in front of Swamiji, he on his raised Aasan. He surely looked less than fifty. Should one believe one’s eyes or the municipal or school records or calendars? That is why the Hindus care little for history, rulers, rajas, maharajas, things temporal and much more for Sanyasis!

Many devotees sought Swamiji’s advice and he was generous with his time and wisdom. My stepmother nudged me to ask something.

“Why do we take the Sea and Sky as symbols of Eternity?”

I thought it was a profound question but Swamiji debunked the whole idea of Eternity and deflated my academic ego.

“This is your westernized tutored sensibility; there is no such thing as Here or Eternity. There is Time or the Timeless”.

I gaped at him.

“Can one live timelessly?” I timidly asked.

“Yes, in time and timelessly. Not so mysterious either. Live desirelessly and you are living timelessly”.

Finding me nonplussed, Swami Satyanandji turned his gaze to Mridula and said to me,
“Look at Mridula! No death or birth for her, only exchange of atoms. Changing places. She got what was hers in her last birth. 1, Rajpur Road”.

More than his discourse on Time, death, birth, timeless, I was lured by his looks. “Is he 82 or 48, 47?”

While driving back, I said to my step-mother, “I wish I could live with Swamiji rest of my life”.

She sighed sadly, “Your father was in the habit of leaving things half-done or undone”.

I returned to Canada. Dean MacKinnon did not renew my contract at Guelph U but Donald Theall invited me to join McGill. I completed my doctorate and am still teaching at McGill. There is no retirement age in Canada.

That night, I had returned from my seventh sabbatical leave from Birds of Paradise, Papua; was still unpacking when John Harney called:
“I am at the Bistro. Come”.

We had several beers and then drove around aimlessly.

“Have you regretted giving up academic life?”

“No, I have tons of money. I joined my Dad’s business”

“What do you do with tons of money? Nothing much. Make more of it”.

“Do you also have tons of Time?”

“I have no time for anyone, not even for myself at times. But ‘Time is Money’ makes time pass quickly for me”.

I don’t know when we reached the Laurentian Mountains.

“This is Vajrayāna Vihar”, said John Harney.
“James George, our first High Commissioner to India brought lots of Tibetan Buddhists; a mad man in brown Lama habit is seen lurking about this lodge. I knew you will love it here”

“Yes, John leave me here”

In that uncertain morning hour, crowding, whirling fall leaves made rapid short loud sounds at times imitating several asthma patients rasping, wheezing, chasing one another as black-white spruce, balsam fir, larch, poplar, white birch swung and danced on the shoulders of tall mountains feeling taller and seeing farther than they.

Suddenly, I was blown toward and caught the sight of my Masterji.



Were we ghosts? Or like ones we see in dreams.

As I moved forward, I saw Masterji did not have his specs, he appeared less than forty and I was more than eighty.

Reading worldly curiosity on my face, he said: “Yes, I no longer wear glasses; I was fifty years when I taught you “What does your enemy say?” I had myself learned it from my teacher”.

He tweaked his ears as he recalled his teacher.


“Now I am forty, my son”

My son! Someone my son’s age, calling me ‘my son’!

Anyway, I touched his feet. “Time means less to you than it does to me and much, much less than it does to John Harney”.

“We at Vajrayāna Vihar do not live in the past, present, future.”

“Don’t you live in Time?”

“We do, all things and beings do”

“Then, how is it, you and I have different vestiges of time?” said I.

“Your world is too conscious of time; increasingly, it wants everything instantly. Soon children will have no time to grow, have no memories. No childhood either. They will be eighty, ninety, one-fifty, even before they are ten. You are lucky to live on memories at eighty-two.”

“Come with me Masterji, and teach these things to others”, I implored.

“As soon as I step out, your world will treat me as a mad and old man of one-twenty. I might die of old age”.

“In fact, I had gone mad after my retirement but Lama James is always in need of madmen. They perceive right, he says.”

“How do you stop time, Masterji?”

“We don’t”


“We live internally”


“Yes, Man began to know death from life when he started measuring time.”

“You mean, he began to live externally”, I said.

“Yes, Time appears but is not. Your age and know the time when you live externally”

Before I could speak further, my Masterji said,
“Are you carrying that picture postcard you wrote to Sudhir at Capri but never posted it because you had no Italian stamps?”

“I always carry it in the hope of handing it to Sudhir myself”

“You can do it now”, Masterji pointed to Sudhir running toward me. He was as we were together in school, fourteen years!”

I recognized him alright. He has always existed in my memory.

“Bir [brother in Haryanavi]”

“Where were you? Did not the Mafia abduct you at Mughal Sarai?”

“They did. I escaped and never felt like returning to Sansar, the Time-World. I met George in Bhutan; he brought me here.”

We hugged,I eighty-two-year elder and he, a fourteen-year kid brother. I gave him the picture postcard:
“Dear Sudhir, Ever since I shipped myself via Llyod Tristano’s ‘Asia’ from Bombay to Genoa,I have longed for that glimpse of Eternity as mer and moon fore-played and the ‘Asia’ skirted the Island of Capri in the Mediterranean! I threw my wristwatch into the gentle sea, sort of offering from a Time’s creature –Jitendra”

I am packing for my eighth sabbatical leave at eighty-nine. Finally, I am going to Madagascar. I shall meet Luciano and read out to him my story!

Community and Currency: Inflation And Its Cure By Jitendra Kumar Sharma

 Community and  Currency

By  Jitendra Kumar Sharma

“The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.”

                                                                                – Thomas Jefferson

“Until the control of the issue of currency and credit is restored to government and recognized as its most conspicuous and sacred responsibility, all talk of the sovereignty of Parliament and of Democracy is idle and futile.”

                        – W.L.MacKenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada (1934)

It is so mundane, yet so mysterious. You walk into a store, take out a printed piece of paper from your pocket and exchange it for whatever you need- a  loaf of bread, a glass of milk or cup of coffee. You can also get repaired your torn shoe by a wayside shoemaker or have a bus ride, likewise. Currency notes in your possession invest you with so much power and make you greedy to have more of them, without knowing the source of their power. Paper money, that in itself has no value, dictates its own terms to you. It makes you evaluate all things, even persons in terms of currency and creates a ‘buy and sell’ world.

What is your market worth? Five thousand or five million Rupees or Dollars. Your Rupee worth has nothing to do with your human worth or qualities or social value- how good or bad a son or husband or wife or daughter or friend or how good or bad a member of the community or society you are!  In fact, the more currency notes you have with you, the more power you enjoy. You can even buy more power, or make more money with the paper money under your control or possession. And, lack of this paper money can make you and your family unhappy though you may have all the skills, competence and goodness as an individual. It can bring your life to a full stop. Your health, education and your capacity to obtain amenities of life, all depend on the amount of money you have in your possession.

The otherwise worthless piece of paper, with a zero value in itself, has an overpowering influence on your life and actions. Suppose you have an ordinary piece of paper the size of a hundred rupee or dollar note, with your own name and picture printed on it, more impressive looking than the ordinarily printed currency notes and you want to buy a pack of biscuits or bottle of coke with it! The seller will not exchange it for your wants. He might even laugh at your audacity!

Thus, the power to issue money is the supreme power. That is why Meyer Amschel Rothschild, the founding father of one of the world’s most powerful financial dynasties, is famed to have said: “Let me issue and control a nation’s money and I care not who writes the laws.”

 Rothschild family’s rise was due to their dealing with the European rulers who borrowed money from them and showered honors on them. The nexus between Bankers and Politicians remains dark and deep even in democratic states. Their peculiar relationship has invested currency with a mystery. How prices rise and fall, why some people have more money, others have so little is generally regarded as a specialist’s job to know or rather guess about.  The fact is, even the economists do not fully grasp the manipulative forces of the market. They only come up with devious theories. Sometimes they say there is no inflation but the prices keep rising and the common man and housewife find it difficult to run their households unable to cope with the rising prices. Monthly pays and daily wages rarely allow earners the freedom to buy the things they need. Access to health, education and other amenities continue to evade the poor masses and lower middle classes in spite of the honest work and hard labor they put in at their offices and work sites.

Money always appears to be scarce. Currency notes in circulation at any given point seem to be always fewer for most of us. There is always less money and more people chasing it. Why? If it is a matter of printing notes, why then enough notes cannot be printed to let all members of the society have enough of them to exchange goods and services they need? In a democratic state clothing, housing, nutritious food should be available to all citizens. But some people have too many notes, others too few to exchange goods and services? This causes inequality and social tensions.

You may have heard your parents or grandparents say how different things were when they were young. It only cost one rupee to see a movie but now it costs fifty rupees to sit in a cinema hall. Petrol was only one rupee per liter in 1970 but now it is Rs.67 per liter. A brand new Ambassador car cost Rs. 13000 in 1961 but now it costs Rs. Five lakhs or more. In the intervening years, prices have risen, sometimes drastically. That is inflation.

“Inflation is when a certain form of currency starts to have less value over time. It is caused mainly by two things: people’s perception of value, and the economic principle of supply and demand”, says an analyst.

There is no scientific principle behind the rising curve of inflation or decreased value of the currency notes in your hands. It is people’s perceptions of a currency’s value that has a major bearing on its value. It causes inflation by directly affecting the value of the money. There was a time when the currency was entirely on a gold standard. Even then inflation often happened as people started to worry that the government or bank wouldn’t be able to redeem their cash [or notes] for gold. If you had a dollar that was worth an ounce of gold, but people thought the government only had half of the gold required to redeem it, then dollars would start being traded at a value of half an ounce of gold. The same has happened in cases of other currencies like the Rupee or Sterling Pound.

Supply of currency has a very dramatic effect on inflation. Throughout monetary history, governments have simply printed money to solve financial problems. Such a measure pushes the value of money uncontrollably downward; especially, in present-day markets where money or currency is not backed by gold. If 10 billion rupees circulating in a country are increased to 20 billion at a given time, the worth of the circulating rupees will get reduced to half.

There is the classic case of Germany after World War I. Germany was forced to pay war reparations of about $33 billion. It proved impossible for the nation to produce that much. The only choice left to the German government was to print more and more money, none of which was backed by gold. This caused one of the worst inflations ever recorded. In 1923, one needed 42 billion German marks to buy one U.S. cent [one-hundredth of a dollar]! It took 726 billion marks to buy something that had cost just one mark in 1919.

Who creates money? And to what purpose?  These issues become important currently when India is rising but 135 million people are descending into the deep gorge of poverty. Poverty is as explosive as a terrorist bomb. No segment of a democratic society can enjoy the fruits of prosperity happily and peacefully if other segments remain deprived.

In modern society, banks and banking institutions create money even though the power of printing money remains with the established governments. In India, it is the central government that has the power to print money, though, in practice, it has delegated this power to the Reserve Bank of India that prints currency notes and regulates the working of other Banks. With the entry of private banks, the purpose of creating money by the banking system has changed. It is no longer primarily social.  Banks create money to make as much profit as they can. This is done by giving loans on the highest interests and accepting deposits at the lowest interests.

The private banks are not responsible to the people for their policies and actions. In India, private capital is increasingly controlling the banking system. This is causing dissensions within the Indian economy among different forces and consequently within the Indian society. Wayward movement of inflation is a manifestation of the lack of social responsibility on the part of the banking system to a great extent and the government’s inability to control the fiscal operation of printed money.

While Tatas, Birlas, Ambanis have no dearth of borrowed capital to buy big companies and conglomerates anywhere in the world, the government finds itself bereft of funds to implement such schemes as Employment Guarantee Scheme or for improving  Health services or  Educational institutions.

Does it matter how much money is supplied? Surely, it does. It is the money supply that determines the rates of interest paid for the use of money, employment, prices, and economic growth. To some economists, money supply is the most important determining factor of these variables. Interest plays a large part in the cost of living. All business firms work on borrowed money; some borrow less, others borrow more. This gets linked to every stage of production, increasing costs all the way. These costs are eventually passed on to the consumer.

If the consumer does not pay for them, production cannot be sustained financially. Interest rates, thus, also, determine the momentum of business activity. Interest rates also influence the extent of investment in plant and equipment. When governments restrict credit, a business cannot borrow easily. Small firms feel the squeeze more than large firms who can manipulate borrowings. Workers get laid off. Unemployment increases. Higher interests mean less growth.

However, it is not the effect of higher interest rates that is confusing. It is the government’s explanations for it. Sometimes they blame “too many rupees chasing too few goods and services”; other times, the deficit of payment is the excuse. Higher interests are also commended at times because they keep the capital within the country. But one thing is sure, the government always projects itself as a persistent fighter against inflation, real or imaginary.

It is interesting to note that governments keep interests very low during the war against another country but while fighting the war against poverty within the country, this measure is not resorted to.

What, then, is money? Money is anything acceptable to people for exchanging goods and services. Even “I owe you’ [ IOU] chits, hundi or hawala, coupons too serve as money. What money is made of is not important. What is important is its representational aspects. Chequebooks, currency notes, bank deposits, credit cards, gold biscuits, metal coins are all money. Seashells, postcards, lead or brass pieces have been used as money at various points in time. Even leather pieces in the Mughal period during the one-day Saqqa Raj were used as coins! But paper currency is now used as a legal tender for the exchange of goods and services.

A legal tender is any form of money that is declared by a government good for taxes, public and private debts.

In India, the most prevalent form of money is currency or paper money that circulates all over the country in the form of notes of various denominations. Currency is no longer issued 100% against the gold standard. Government and Reserve Bank of India determine and control the maximum amount of money that can be created by banks through lending. In the USA “checkbook money” and credit card money is created by commercial banks’ and accounts for almost all circulating money.

Nature of Currency

In so far as inflation is an aspect of the fiscal operation of an economy it is necessary for us to understand the basic nature of currency and then see how it operates within the Indian economy. There certainly appears to be some operational flaw that needs to be corrected for removing inflation and sustaining growth.

The word “currency” implies that which is current. Money, in the form of currency, is like electricity or electric current that ideally ought to be available everywhere and to everyone for exchanging goods and services. The value of a “currency” depends upon its velocity to be current, that is, how fast it moves from one place to another or one person to another. As soon as its movement slows down or if it gets into pockets from which it cannot come out freely and speedily into the common circuit, the currency will start losing its value. Like electricity, currency is an invention of man. If he fails to provide and maintain a proper circuit for it, it becomes useless and even dangerously harmful.  The ultimate circuit for currency ought to be such that it delivers currency notes to all and everywhere all at once. But that is perhaps too ideal. The next best design is to make currency available in such supply and in such places as to enable the needy to buy their needs within their immediate environment.

The flow of Indian currency since our Independence in 1947 has been toward the urbanized sector. This means Indian currency is flowing, rather floating, in less than 25 percent of the entire area of the Indian population. This can never be the intention or goal of a democratic government, irrespective of whether it is ideologically left, right or center or even bereft of all ideology. The corrupt politician-bureaucrat-business nexus has short-circuited the Indian currency.  In a country like India where more than a billion people await full benefits of development, inflation cannot erode the economy if the currency keeps its regular flow and its supply is increased to keep pace with the pace of development.

“Money does not manage itself”, is a  Bankers’ saying.  Yes, a representative government must  so manage currency that at no time there is either too little or too much of it in circulation; because, the purpose of issued money is to make it easier for the nation to produce goods and services and easier to divide the income from national production equitably, easier to save and invest now and in the future. When a nation produces too little or too much beyond its capacity, deflation and inflation will bring unhappiness and misery to it.

Banks create money by a system of deposits and loans. When you deposit your savings, the banks get empowered to lend it to others. Banks, in fact, lend more than the deposit they receive. Thus they create debt and create money at the same time. It is a risky game because if all the depositors demand their money back, the Bank shall not have enough cash or currency to meet the demand of its depositors. The Bank will fail and depositors will lose their savings and deposits. But, on such occasions, the Reserve Bank of India intervenes and gives credit to the troubled Bank from its reserves. The Reserve Bank creates its reserves of money or currency in the same way as commercial banks create chequebook money- by seeking deposits from commercial banks and lending them whenever they need loans.

Reserve Bank of India determines how much chequebook/credit money a bank can create. It decides the ratio between deposits and loans for other banks. Where does the Reserve Bank of India get its own reserves? From nowhere. It creates its own money or reserves. In fact, it is the sole and absolute money-making machine. It is empowered to issue money/currency or cheques. It has no problem like you and me or even like the banks have. If it needs money, it can print it according to its need. Who has given the Reserve Bank of India the power to create its own money or print the currency?  Theoretically, the people of India. Actually, the elected Indian government with the approval of the Parliament. Reserve Bank of India regulates the working of all other banks under powers delegated to it by the government of India.

Is there a formula to determine the maximum amount of money available to business and consumers? Yes, the formula is the equation  A  amount of bank reserves] x B[number of rupee deposits member banks may create per each rupee of reserves]= C[ Total bank deposits]. Can this formula be changed?  Yes, the Reserve Bank of India has the discretion to do so. Increasing or decreasing Reserves is a deliberate action on the part of the Reserve Bank of India.

How do currency and coin enter the money supply? Normally, the proportion of currency/coins in circulation to the total money supply is about 20%; bank deposits account for the remaining 80%

At this point, a question arises. If credit is important for growth and development of the country and the people and it is the government who is responsible for the growth and development as well as for printing money, then why does it create debt by charging interest? Why cannot the government just issue and circulate paper money or currency for the purpose of the nation’s production of goods and services?  Interestingly, Thomas Edison– the inventor of the electric bulb who knew much about the nature of electric current also knew much about currency– raised similar questions.

In December 1921, the American industrialist Henry Ford and the inventor Thomas Edison went to the Muscle Shoals nitrate and water power projects near Florence, Alabama. There, they voiced their alternative money views for financing this project. The pro—people industrialist and inventor objected to the Government’s raising the money by issuing bonds which would be bought by the banking and non-banking operators and then have to be paid back with money raised from taxes,  with interest added.

They proposed that the Government should create/print the currency it required and spend it on this public project as a social expenditure.

The relevant excerpt from the report published  in The New York Times on December 4, 1921 and December 6, 1921 says:

                                                                                              “ If our Nation can issue a dollar bond it can issue a dollar bill. The element that makes the bond good makes the bill good also?***** It is absurd to say that our country can issue $30million in bonds and not $30 million in currency. Both are promises to pay: but one promise fattens the usurer and the other helps the people”.

In other words, a government of the people, by the people, for the people should abolish INTEREST. It should give Credit at Zero percent interest. It is within the government’s power but for reasons that have never been spelled out clearly the governments resort to shifty methods of distributing currency by creating a system of debts and deposits. The end result is the inequitable distribution of wealth and money.

In America, Abraham Lincoln said: “The Government should create, issue, and circulate all the currency and credits needed to satisfy the spending power of the Government and the buying power of consumers. By adoption of these principles, the taxpayers will be saved immense sums of interest. The money will cease to be master and become the servant of humanity”

President Lincoln went to Bankers seeking a loan to finance the Civil War ( 1861-1865) who demanded 24% to 36% interest. He returned with a troubled conscience. As a man of principle, he could not sink his nation into a debt that his people would find it hard to pay back. Courageously, he sought authorization from Congress to print full legal tender Treasury notes about which he wrote: “… (we) gave the people of this Republic the greatest blessing they have ever had – their own paper money to pay their own debts…”

Lincoln’s ‘people’s money’ had green ink on the back, so the people called it “Greenbacks”.

The Bankers were determined to wipe out  Lincoln and Lincoln’s interest-free, debt-free Greenbacks out of existence. As soon as the greatest ever American President was assassinated, the  Greenbacks were retired from circulation.

In 1913, the Bankers got the Federal Reserve Act passed by Congress that President Woodrow Wilson regretted signing: “I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men”.

The foregoing will make it clear that the so-called democracies of the west are merely plutocracies. And, if the Presidents of the most powerful democracy of the world have found themselves helpless before the invisible, strangling hand of the international bankers, weak-kneed Indian governments can only be expected to kowtow to the Bankers.

But a new awakening is pervading the democracies everywhere. Communities are becoming alive to the deep and dark conspiracies of plutocrats who control national currencies under an international system of currency manipulations. As a consequence, war, poverty, armaments, general human unfulfillment, social disharmony prevail over man’s destiny everywhere. The full growth of democratic societies remains stunted.

Small communities in the USA, Canada, Europe, and even Asia and Africa are experimenting with what has come to be called “Community Currency”.  They no longer depend upon their governments who are sold to big business and depriving poor and less privileged people of their land and property like the CPM-coalition in Nandigram had done. People are now able to understand the close relationship between currency and participatory democracy.

The word community comes from the Latin ‘communis’, meaning “common, public, shared by all” or many. “Com-” – a Latin prefix meaning with or together, “-Munis-”   suggests “the changes or exchanges that link”. Municipal and monetary both get linked here and Latin “-tatus” implies small, intimate or local. A web definition of “local currency” is a currency not backed by a national government, and intended to trade only in a small area, also known as “community currency” or “complementary currency”. If introduced in India at the panchayat level, “community currency” will cure both inflation and corruption. Prime Ministers will have no excuse to console the villages that only 15 paise of the rupee reach the poor. It is no longer a new-fangled scheme. It is a tested and tried result oriented panacea that stares smilingly at Prime Ministers, Finance Ministers, their economists and bankers who have been befooling the people for a long time purposefully.

The local currency systems are successfully working in Ithaca, the seat of Cornell University, USA. They have called their local money as “Ithaca hours” which is equal to 10 US dollars being the average wage per hour in Ithaca. Salt Spring Island introduced its currency in 2000 and it has advantages over Ithaca Hour since it is backed 100%, by the Canadian dollar , equal to the national currency in value and is well-integrated with the latter. This will be a good model for Indian panchayats to design their currency for local projects and the government’s employment schemes. The Banks can also join these schemes as they are doing in Ithaca and Salt Island. Berkshire, the Schumacher Society of Berkshire’s dollar introduced in September 2006 is also performing well. LETS is yet another system of local currency that has created models in various parts of North American and Europe.

A local currency can’t leave the community it serves, so it ensures connections between people exchanging skills, goods, and services. With a local currency, the community is less affected by fluctuations in the external money supply. It also frees itself from corruption since local currency cannot be accumulated as a commodity and has to remain in circulation. It has no value outside the community, nor beyond the time of its expiry date. It eradicates greed for money; it instills the true meaning of wealth among members of the community.

Creating community currencies encourages participatory democratic processes. It empowers people. It nurtures hope, creativity, respect, and compassion. Local currencies help communities live according to their values rather than as merely green-eyed consumers. In a happier world, money would become obsolete, and the gift economy, true meaning of community money shall prevail. It is an ideal instrument for Panchayats and local government to finance their projects

===The End=== of Inflation And Its Cure: Community Currency=JKS

Free Reads 1. Chapter 1. Maharaja Agrasen and Agrawal Re-birth 2. Marshall McLuhan


Free Reads


  1. Chapter 1.  Maharaja Agrasen and Agrawal Re-birth 2. Marshall McLuhan



Maharaja Agrasen and His Vaish Agrawals

Wealthmakers and Winner Caste of India 


              Jitendra Kumar Sharma 


My Maternal Grandmother Dropdi Devi                                                                                      

Affectionately called Bebe Bhopi

By the Narwana Baniya Community

Who respected and sought her advice

As their Leader

And Protector of Their Rights



Chapter  1.  Maharaja Agrasen and Agrawal Re-birth 

>When the Vaish and Agrawals found their Maharaja, it was due to extraneous reasons and not because of their own curiosity or efforts to discover their own past.



  Maharaja Agrasen of Agroha, glorious and powerful like a true king, was discovered in the last nine years of the British rule in India. The late arrival of their Hero in Indian history and belated knowledge about his life and works has imparted to the Vaish, especially the Agrawals or Aggarwals who claim superiority as a Vaish sub-caste, an extraordinary and unexpected social impetus. For the first time they feel inflated with pride as a caste who is capable of attaining political power. They are no longer shy but strident about making and piling up wealth and regarding it as a source of social and political power rather than mere ‘grime of the palm’, conventional Hindu view of wealth and money. 

Maharaja Agrasen has goaded them to overcome the social inertia of ages, go for the kill and emerge as the winner caste of modern India. 

Whereas Brahmins have lost their knowledge and the highest rank and authority over other castes and also their prestige in  the Hindu caste hierarchy, whereas the Kashtriye have been reduced to a non-descript  caste and lost their privileges and position as rulers and warriors, whereas Shudras have abjured the very word and adopted Dalit as their new identity to claim reservation and affirmative action  from the Indian state, the Vaish caste, on the other hand, are extending their traditional socio-economic horizons by dint of their inherent business acumen and new-found elitist caste status. They are gearing up the engines of growth to rebuild their community, increase its power and unravel its intrinsic stamina, without looking up to the state for help or other props. They appear to be reclaiming their caste with pride. They are using their Baniya gotras [surnames] and family names with a self-conscious sense of renewed caste identity. 

The Baniya today has been pushing himself and the rest of Hindu society into new directions and adding extra dimensions to modern Indian social dynamics while setting up unprecedented benchmarks for achieving heights of wealth and power, collectively and individually. 

At the time of writing, Lakshmi Mittal, the world’s unrivaled steel tycoon, recently lost $3.5 billion (around Rs 13,700 crore) due to the global stock market crash. But, perhaps, the Non-Resident Indian , Lakshmi Mittal, still remains Great Britain’s richest man. Dhirubhai Hirachand Ambani (28 December 1932 – 6 July 2002), Indian business entrepreneur, founder of Reliance Industries, has been among the select Forbes billionaires. He had also figured in the Sunday Times list of top 50 businessmen in Asia. His life was a true “rags to riches” story. His two sons, Mukesh and Anil, are top businessmen of India and billionaires in their own right even after the family and business split. All these men do the Vaish community proud and help renew their  tradition as wealth-makers of Hindu society and Indian nation. 

Agrasen, who ruled over Agroha, had some unique qualities as a ruler and progenitor of the Agrawals. He may rightly be described as a Socialist King. Just as  Christ is supposed to have washed the sins of all Christians, Maharaja  Agrasen’s memory, as a just and progressive if not a revolutionary ruler, appears to have washed away the Baniyas’ guilt  about usury and exploitative money lending they had been practicing  from times immemorial. The sacred memory of Maharaja Agrasen, their original ancestor, has wiped out and helped them forget their anti-social stigma of ages in a jiffy.  

Their own guilt and other castes’ condemnation of their methods of making money from money, keeping their debtors, farmers and  poor members of the society in their perpetual bondage, appear to have been forgotten suddenly. They are no longer hesitant, timid or shy of displaying their wealth, wearing fashionable clothes and mixing and mingling with other castes and  openly competing for power and wealth. 

Discovery of Agroha and emergence of Maharaja Agrasen as the Vaish Emperor of Agroha, have incontestably contributed to the modern Baniya renascence. In the midst of drastically changing times Baniyas once again find themselves in the role of super wealth -makers. Resurfacing of a royal past from the deeper recesses of their collective memory has recharged them with an atavistic urge to relive as Rajas and Maharajas, a privilege denied to them for centuries. They are emerging not only as a community of enterprising leaders of the booming Indian economy but setting new trends in styles of living. They are living in palatial houses and rubbing shoulders with the high and mighty of the world. They are grabbing multinational corporations abroad and furiously setting up intercontinental industrial empires. They are the dreamers and protagonists of an advancing India that is currently smitten with desires and dreams of becoming a super-rich world power.

Vaish have become economically the most dynamic caste in Independent India. Maharaja Agrasen has given them a new birth as a dvija [twice–born or born again] caste of the Hindus.

Maharaja Agrasen, mythic or historical, has turned the Vaish Agrawals into the front-runner champions of Business and Industry. 

 Up to the end of the British Raj [August 15, 1947] Vaish observed equality to a greater extent within their own caste than other Hindu castes. They also obeyed laws and social customs more strictly than other castes. Mutual consent rather than compulsion prevailed among the Vaish or Baniyas as a community. In spite of their wealth and means, they lived very frugally and maintained low standards of living and wore indigenous dress or dhoti-kurta during the British rule when other castes had fallen for the British ways and imitations. They, more than other castes, lived within the caste discipline or confines of  sub-castes  they were born into and  meekly stuck to  the station  in life  the Hindu caste system had ordained for them. 

They avoided quarrels and conflicts with other castes. In fact, the Baniya during the British rule got stereotyped as a miser, cowardly weakling who consumed dal [pulses] and passed wind fouling the air in his shop as a sedentary doormat. Yet, the traditional Baniya had inherent capacity to bear losses, grit and tenacity to bounce back to a thriving business again and again. A Baniya would take financial risks quietly and stoically. Making money was his dharma and he would go anywhere to make money. There are stories of a Multani Mal who left his village in Narnaul [Haryana] with only a lutiya [small round brass mug] and became the richest man of Patiala. He became richer than the Maharaja and lent money to the profligate Maharaja Bhupendra Singh of Patiala. He established the famous industrial house of the Modis. 

That the Baniyas, irrespective of the stereotype, were capable of daring to go where others would fear to tread provided it was for making money is a fact of history. They would travel far and wide in search of fortune, live away from their families in strenuous circumstances, face risks and dangers in hostile territories to increase their wealth or regain their lost fortune. 

I recall an incident.  In 1947, my maternal uncle was posted as District Magistrate at a town called Bassi Pathana [ in Patiala state, near Sirhind, Punjab], temporarily co-opted from his judicial post as a sub-judge to meet the exigencies of the pre-partition Muslim-Hindu riots.  As the name suggests, Bassi Pathan was a dominantly Muslim Pathan town. It had 13000 Muslims, 3000 Hindus. In June 1947, after the partition of India became imminent, Muslims started leaving for West Punjab, would-be Pakistan. In order to avoid possibility of violence and foul play, my uncle imposed curfew and martial law on the outskirts of the town where the Muslims were accommodated in a transit camp prior to their departure to Pakistan in a caravan. No unauthorized person was allowed to go near the Muslim Transit Camp. District Administration had clamped shoot- at- sight orders in the prohibited area. 

One night my maternal uncle, Pandit Om Prakash Sharma, went on a surprise inspection of the camp site. From his military jeep, he spotted three shadows lurking on the fence along the camp. The army men trained their guns but my uncle stopped them from shooting and straight headed toward the shadows with jeep lights blazing on them. Shadows changed into three dhoti-clad, round black-capped Baniya Sethjis of the town known to my uncle. He asked them what had brought them to the danger zone and said the army constable was about to shoot them. They confessed that they had come in the hope of striking a profitable bargain with the departing rich Muslim families who would be willing to sell their jewelry cheap. The gold dealers reckoned  that the departing refugee Muslims would prefer keeping  a few rupees  in their pockets to carrying their women’s ornaments as that would help them meet the needs of the long journey and expenses they were bound to incur on reaching  their unknown destination in their yet to come about homeland, the so-called Pakistan. 

“That was foolhardy”, said my uncle and sent them back to town under police escort. I recall this incident to prove that Baniya stereotypes are only stereotypes and do not tell the truth about the Baniya’s daring and venturesome bargaining spirit. The Baniya is made of a sterner stuff and capable of risking life and facing dangers if that promises to bring him money. Increasing his money and fortune is a Vaish’s dharma. 

The arrival of the British affected fluidity of the caste system but the Baniya felt comfortable under the British rule and British laws. He could carry on his not so socially respectable or elevating vocation of lending money on exploitative terms safely under the British dispensation. This aspect of Baniya’s making money from money further lowered him as a caste in the eyes of reformers and progressive elements of Indian society,including Gandhi though himself a “Baniya or Bania”, during the times of freedom struggle.  

The great story writer Munshi Premchand, a Kayasth by caste, has written profusely about the degradation and dehumanization  the money lending regime as  practiced by the village Baniya and the zamindar inflicted  on the poor and hapless Indian villagers. 

Prem Chand has portrayed the degrading impact of money lending in such stories as Sava Ser Gehoon, Kafan, Posh ki ek Raat which tell the tragic and pathetic tales of the poor villagers of India who borrow small amounts of money that pile up into astronomical sums of money because of exorbitant and arbitrary rates of interest. The poor borrowers lose their freedom, dignity and humanity and get reduced to bonded labor generation after generation because of the inherited burden of unpaid debt. In the story Kafan [Shroud], a poor villager borrows money on the pretext of buying a shroud and pay funeral expenses of his dead wife but actually he and his son go on a drinking and meat-eating spree as the dead body rots. Mehboob Khan’s 1957 film Mother India, too depicts the village Baniya or money-lender in a villainous role. 

 Coincidentally, Prem Chand was writing about the corrosive social effects of money lending at the very time  as H.H. Srivastava, another Kayasth and archaeologist, was carrying out archaeological excavations at Agroha, a village in the then district Hissar of British Punjab,, now Hisar to bring to light the reality about Maharaja Agrasen and the remains of his Janpad or ‘republican domain’ or kingdom. 

The British had ordered archaeological digging of Agroha which is now in Haryana near Hisar in late 1930s. This is how and where the Agrawals, the most advanced sub-caste  among the Vaish, found their lost King and his kingdom. The archaeological finds at Agroha have had a revolutionary significance for the Agrawals. The British abandoned the excavations, allegedly, because of the World War Two. The Indian government has not thought it fit to resume the excavation of Agroha nor have the Baniyas and Agrawals sought further digging at Agroha with much zest. The Haryana State government made a half-hearted effort in 1976 to dig up the ruined city that lies buried under a mound near the town of Agroha but it was inchoate. 

Even the inchoate archaeological excavation at Agroha has done wonders for the Baniya as caste. They now have a Maharaja who beckons them from a hidden and mysterious past. After the independence of India in 1947, Maharaja Agrasen of Agroha seems to have delivered to the Vaish or Baniya Agrawals of modern India a magic wand that has been delivering wealth and power and glory to this not so elevated a caste of the Hindus till recently. 

 The British were quick to grasp the divisive potential of India’s caste system and use it for perpetuating their imperial rule. During the initial days of the British East India Company’s rule, caste differences and customs were accepted, if not encouraged. The British law courts, however, disagreed with the discrimination against the lower castes.  British policies of divide and rule as well as enumeration of the population into rigid categories every ten- year census contributed towards the hardening of caste identities. The Baniya caste felt comfortable under the British dispensation. They enjoyed the protection of the British laws. They could ply their trade and practice exploitative and usurious money lending unmindful of the protests of socialists and social reformists. 

Against this bleak and depressing Baniya caste scenario, it was perhaps not so ironical that the British rather than the Vaish Agrawals themselves discovered their Proto Progenitor Agrasen, a Socialist Maharaja, who ruled over Agroha like a Kashtriye king. 

In free India, the Vaish caste needs no protection or patronage of the state. They have learnt the art of manipulating or buying the powers that be for gains in business. Their Maharaja Agrasen presiding over them, they need no Presidents and Prime Ministers for their vertical rise as a caste of wealth makers and prime movers of the Indian society. 

    =====End of Chapter1 Maharaja Agrasen and Agrawal Re-birth=====





*Remembering the Guru


         Herbert Marshall McLuhan


         Jitendra Kumar Sharma



It was a sunny bright afternoon on a day in September 1962 – just the day for a stranger to get acquainted with city streets. Walking through the  Park, I crossed over to the other side of the university campus and stopped to look out for someone to ask where I stood exactly on the map of Toronto. Presently, I saw a tall man, his hair slightly curly and wavy, his trousers hanging casually on old-fashioned suspenders, apparently sunning himself  but somewhat occupied with inner thoughts. I advanced a few steps. As he looked towards me I exchanged a stranger’s smile. Then I do not recall how we got started on a conversation that lasted nearly three hours. Mostly we talked about T. S. Eliot, the great American-born English poet. A man with a triangle-shaped beard introduced as Harley Parker [Canadian Painter who has co-authored books with Marshall McLuhan] came over. Our conversation eventually ended. But I had already ‘clicked’ with Marshall McLuhan, totally oblivious of his name and fame. 

From the front lawn we moved into his book-laden office at St. Michael’s College where McLuhan solemnly announced to Harley Parker that I was an “Eliot Man”. A little later Father Morin entered McLuhan’s office carrying his English translation of a French poem by T.S. Eliot. “Show it to him”, said McLuhan turning to me: “He is the Eliot Man.” And he continued: “You got it made”. “Are you familiar with this expression?” McLuhan, as I found later, was always keen to know how men of one culture use and respond to the clichés and archetypes of another culture. “You can write a Ph.D. dissertation on T.S. Eliot”. McLuhan translated “You got it made” for me. 

I was a young man smitten with wanderlust. But I had come under McLuhan’s spell. A few days later I enrolled myself in the Graduate School at the University of Toronto. I was to make Canada my home for the entire decade and McLuhan my teacher, friend and philosopher. 

Only toward the end of our first meeting did I come to know that McLuhan had just completed the manuscript of Gutenberg Galaxy, the book that was soon to launch him as the Philosopher of the Electronic Age. In later years, I had occasion to watch McLuhan on TV, listen to him on the radio and read his books. But, I am confirmed in my belief that neither television, nor radio, nor the printed word were his true media. Conversation was the medium to communicate with McLuhan, the medium for understanding McLuhan. For he thought and talked at the same time. It was an exciting experience to view the instant verbalization of his thought-process. While communicating with McLuhan, walking went better with talking. On TV or in a panel discussion on the radio he was likely to be defensively aggressive.Talking with him long hours was like being on a trip of exploration in the invisible world of thought. 

McLuhan was generous to me with his time. There were days when we would converse for seven or eight hours. He often invited me to his home. On Christmas Day, if in town, I was always present at the exclusively family dinner at the McLuhans’.  Besides in his house, his office, while going for lunch, at the cafeteria, on sidewalks, right along the curb in a busy street or on the patch of grass in front of his office, mornings, evenings, afternoons I always managed to draw him into long talks. Later, when the grapevine said that McLuhan’s consultancy fee was three thousand dollars per hour, at the end of a long conversation once I said: “Professor McLuhan, you lost twenty four thousand dollars today”. He responded with utter humility: “I always learn from you, Jitendra!” 

Marshall McLuhan did not suffer from pride of knowledge, the first infirmity of a scholarly mind. This was proved to me on several occasions. One afternoon I got a phone call from a McLuhan fan, Dr. Hugo McPherson, later to become Chairman of Film Board of Canada. An excited Hugo said: “Did you listen to Marshall’s broadcast on Eliot?” McLuhan had just finished a CBC obituary talk on Eliot in which he had quoted me at length. I was no authority on Eliot but only a graduate student at the university! One day an American lady knocked at my suite in the Daniel Wilson Residence, U of T and with a look of curiosity murmured to me: “Are you the fellow McLuhan quoted in his lecture at Philadelphia?” Puzzled, I could only say “I don’t know”.                                                                                            

                                Cartooning for Priestley 

Perhaps McLuhan had more confidence in my understanding of Eliot than I myself had. So,  instead of proceeding directly for Ph.D. I had decided to do my Master’s first. Since I had very little money and had not been exposed to the North American custom of dating, I had to spend most of my time in studies. As a result, within seven months, even before the academic year was over, I fulfilled all requirements, including the dissertation, for the Master’s degree. Ruefully, I discovered that I had committed a great academic heresy. The accepted period of completion for Master’s in English was two years. The Department Chairman, Professor Woodhouse let it be known that my credentials as a Master’s candidate were dubious. Also Dr. Marshall McLuhan’s role as director of my dissertation was suspect in departmental eyes. A minor intra-departmental battle ensued. 

The greatest opposition to my being examined within the academic year came from Professor F.E.L. Priestley. Heavy scholarship permanently enthroned in his thick spectacles scared students away from his sight. In the final round, however, Priestley lost in committee vote three to one. The compromise arrived at was that I could be called for oral examination but only after the close of the academic session though before the end of summer vacation. Another point yielded to Professor Priestley was that the Examination would be held in his office instead of Professor McLuhan’s office. On the appointed day, Professor Priestley was late in reaching his office by five minutes. The venue was shifted to a neutral territory in the meantime. In Professor Frank Watt’s room the Examination began. As expected, Priestley was giving me hard time. He was determined to inflict the heaviest punishment for my academic aberration. Professors McLuhan, Watt and Ross sat in silent sympathy unable to come to my rescue. 

Just as I was about to fail, perspiring, I asked for a piece of chalk and blackboard. There was none in the room. Instead, I was allowed the aid of a pencil and piece of paper. I started to explain my concept of time with the help of diagrams. Every half-a-minute or so I would make a drawing, stop and say to Professor Priestley, “ Is it clear, Sir?” Each time Priestley responded with a most unsmiling “yes”. After five or six “Priestley yeses” I suddenly decided not to take a further risk on Priestley yeses. I clinched the entire explanation then and there. With a sweep of my hand I declared to all present: “Sir, this is all I had been saying all the time”. Professor Priestley caught through my trick but an instant late. For a stupid stare crossed his impressive, scholarly countenance. I had performed an exercise-lesson fit for a primary school child and here was Priestley saying “Yes, yes” all the time. Professors Marshall McLuhan, Malcolm Ross and Frank Watt avoided exchanging looks with me, lest they burst out laughing. Silence fell on all of us. The examination ended abruptly. Nodding scholarly heads indicated I should exit the scene. 

I had hardly entered my room at College Street that the phone rang. It was Marshall McLuhan. He was laughing and saying: “Never forget that trick…. That bit of cartooning you did for Priestley, Jitendra…..”.  “Have I passed?”  I asked. “Priestley is supposed to announce your result”. McLuhan had a few more laughs and invited me to meet him the following afternoon. 

                                                  McLuhan’s Advice 


A valuable advice I received from my Guru a long time ago often comes back to me. In my early days in Canada, like any other immigrant, I was beset with pressures and problems of a new socio-cultural environment. McLuhan, finding me depressed at times, would say: “Respond, do not despond”. And when I had become a member of the university teaching faculty and was drawn into minor conflicts with the Establishment, Marshall would say: “Do not react, only act”. Often, he would recall the strife-ridden life of his friend and colleague, the late Professor Harold Innis, author of Bias Of Communications. At times his eyes were bedimmed while warmly remembering Harold Innis who, according to McLuhan, suffered enormous discouragements by the Establishment yet continued his work. His own interest in communications, he said, he surely owed to Harold Innis. “Act, do not react”, is a piece of advice I have often found difficult to practise but most rewarding whenever I did practise it. 



Marshall McLuhan, Philosopher of the Electronic Age, explorer of speed and movement, seer of the Global Village, futuristic perceiver of anti-environments, himself would rather opt for a world that had already gone out. He always preferred walking to driving. Often, I would offer him a ride in my car but he would say with a chuckle “No, I shall use the ‘public conveniences’.” In 1969 he returned to Canada after a stint at Fordham University, U.S.A. He had to undergo an operation for tumor of the brain during his stay in New York. One evening, I happened to meet him just as he was leaving his office. Again he preferred to use ‘public conveniences’ rather than ride with me. So we walked and talked till we reached the Bloor Street sub-way station. Suddenly I asked: “How is the family?” McLuhan put his hand on my shoulder and with brimming emotion said: “You know when we went to New York we were nine. Now we are only two.” And he ran downstairs to catch the train. 

My memory wandered back to early days of my acquaintance with McLuhan and days and evenings spent at his modest Wells Hill house, full of children basking in the ambience of parental affection. Mrs. Corinne McLuhan, the very ideal of a mother and wife and handsome McLuhan children all flitted across my memory screen. I had become quite fond of the youngest two, Elizabeth and Michael [twins]. I did not myself realize that all the McLuhan children had now overgrown the need and care of their parents and were discovering the world on their own, away from the family home. A deeper glimpse into Marshall’s fatherly heart was provided two days later when I visited McLuhans’ new house at Wychwood. It was a part of an excluded estate, though right in the city of Toronto. It was large and certainly graceful an abode. But, inside it was empty, and curiously I recognized the old drapes I had seen at their old Wells Hill house. Marshall put on a record and went inside to get me drink.  Mrs. McLuhan looked at the drapes and whispered to me:“Marshall can’t get used to new things. I can’t change these old drapes.” McLuhan children had gone away but the old drapes remained to give him the feeling of family togetherness, I thought to myself. 


McLuhan took me on a tour of his new locality. It had more than eighty Spanish style villas and bungalows on a beautifully landscaped piece of land with sinuous walkways and a narrow stream flowing. We walked up and down and talked as we went along. Suddenly, McLuhan stopped. He drew my attention to the house we were passing by and asked me to regard the house carefully. Then he said: “Do you find this house any different from other houses here?” I replied: “Yes, this house is a variation on the modern, matchbox style.” McLuhan hummed a little tune and said: “Is it not funny?”  The  only  couple  seeking divorce in this neighbourhood live in this house.”  Well, sense or nonsense but the form of space we live in does affect our social, cultural and family behaviour. 

The only time I saw Marshall McLuhan drive a car turned out for me an occasion to remember. I had gone to his Centre for Culture and Technology and was much surprised to see him seated in the driver’s seat outside the building. The only other occupant in the front seat was Barrington Nevitt, the Canadian Civil Servant with whom Marshall was co-authoring their book The Executive Drop-Out. I hopped into the back seat without knowing where we were going. We had hardly hit the road when McLuhan raised a question: “Of all the Asian countries, why Japan alone took to rapid industrialization?” Thoughtlessly, I happened to say: “Because the Japanese have to import food”. McLuhan jammed the brakes and brought the car to a halt. He looked back to me and said: “You have solved an eighteen year old problem for me”. Then he reversed the car, called Mrs. Margaret Steward, his Secretary, and got my remark noted to her. 

McLuhan was a philosopher of insights rather than of ideas. Consciousness and not merely knowledge was the field of his perception. He found poetry and art more dependable sources of environmental understanding. McLuhan’s response to human sensibility was not merely conceptual or bookish as I discovered one cold January morning- the day I had to defend my thesis on T.S. Eliot. The university had invited Professor Rajan, an Indian, to be on the Board of Examiners. As arranged between us, I reached McLuhan’s office from where we were to proceed to the Examination Room together. I found McLuhan waiting for me shivering in a terylene suit I had never seen him wear before. He did not even put on his overcoat and started to walk with me. Surprised, I stopped and said: “What happened to your tweeds?” Tweeds were his habitual winter wear. The shivering McLuhan replied: “I didn’t want to hurt Professor Rajan’s tropical sensibility”. We ran to the other side of the campus and sought shelter in the heated building of the Graduate School. McLuhan went in and I awaited to be called for examination. 

As I entered the room, I looked at the august representation of scholarship collectively and individually. I looked at Professor Rajan and immediately turned to McLuhan. He concealed a smile from me. In the solemn atmosphere of high academic stance I could also only suppress my laughter. Professor Rajan had turned out in heavy tweeds, in spite of his “tropical sensibility”. 

One day I asked McLuhan to lunch at Daniel Wilson Residence, University College where I was a Don. The University College had several anti-McLuhanites. McLuhan’s Understanding Media was then creating “history and hysteria”. After lunching at the High Table we went to the Senior Common Room for coffee. The hour passed by quietly. As soon as McLuhan left the scene, some of my colleagues joined me and started talking about my guest of the afternoon. One of them said; “McLuhan ought to have PRs”, to make him acceptable to the academe. Another said: “I thought he already had PR’s working for him or else how could he have the few friends that he has….” 

Oscar Wilde, himself a celebrity once remarked: “A worse thing than being talked about is not being talked about.” I reflected on this observation. How lucky I was to have known McLuhan before he became a celebrity. Surely, understanding McLuhan has been more enriching for me than understanding Media. 

           ===========The End—–Dr. Jitendra Kumar Sharma======








Sikh Immigrants and Canada’s International Ambition by Jitendra Kumar Sharma Increasing immigration is not altogether a consequence of altruism of western countries. They need immigrants and have a choice of what kind of people they want to import from other countries to sustain and expand their economies. Their aging population and lower birthrates is creating retirement “bonanza” for its native population and robots yet are not

Sikh Immigrants and Canada’s International Ambition

 by Jitendra Kumar Sharma 

Increasing immigration is not altogether a consequence of altruism of western countries.  They need immigrants and have a choice of what kind of people they want to import from other countries to sustain and expand their economies. Their aging population and lower birthrates is creating retirement “bonanza”…….

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