I finished my first Salman Rushdie novel, Shalimar the Clown, in September. I'm not completely sure how much of what I read was completely fictional and how much was based on actual events in the tiny, war-torn nation of Kashmir, but it certainly felt real. And when I finished the novel, there were actually a few reports through different Internet news sources of events in Kashmir that could have come right out of the book, they were so similar. So I'm guessing the Kashmir part was only fictional as far as the names of the people and towns. And that's a scary thing.
Salman Rushdie tells an intriguing story, just enough of which is fact-based to make it seem very real. It's similar to the Dan Brown model of story-weaving, but Rushdie's story isn't just an "thriller/adventure novel" like one of Dan Brown's. It's a thoughtful look at the conditions of the Kashmiri people, the human condition regardless of where you call home. and the dangers of religious fanaticism. To be fair, it does have just a little bit of suspenseful action, violence, and some sex-stuff too - just like a Dan Brown novel! But there are no intellectual - yet ruggedly handsome - college professors to be be seen anywhere. (Hey, did Dan Brown steal Indiana Jones from Lucas & Spielberg? Hmmm....)
What's most interesting about Kashmir is the diversity of religious beliefs there and how little friction it causes until extremists get involved.
It was winter, so they were huddled round the fire in her hut. The goats were in the barn he had helped her build. He heard the clanking of the small brass bells around their necks. His daughter was in a condition not unlike a trance. She was at once there in the hut and somewhere else as well. She could hear what he was saying, but she was also listening elsewhere. She said, "My husband tells me. He has crossed the mountains to meet the iron mullah. The iron mullah says that the question of religion can only be answered by looking at the condition of the world. When the world is in disarray then God does not send a religion of love. At such times he sends a martial religion, he asks that we sing battle hymns and crush the infidel. This is the fundamental urge. When the infidel has been crushed there may be time for love, although in the iron mullah's opinion this is of secondary importance. Religion demands austerity and self-denial, says Bulbul Fakh. It has little time for the softness of pleasure or the weakness of love. God should be loved but that is a manly love, a love of action, not a girlish affliction of the heart. The iron mullah preaches to many hundreds from men from many parts of the world. They are preparing for war."
As a point of reference, the "iron mullah" referred to in the previous excerpt is a Muslim jihadist leader named Bulbul Fakh who arrives in a Kashmir village to polarize the Muslims against their non-Muslim neighbors, but is driven out by all the townspeople when his true divisive nature is revealed. He goes into hiding in the mountains and continues to preach his litany of hate to the terrorists-in-training there instead.
I had planned to share several other excerpts from the book that I found interesting either for their insight into life in Kashmir, the true brutal nature of a jihadist, the universality of human nature or just to display the writing skill of Salman Rushdie, but I've been too lazy to transcribe any of the others. If you're really interested, let me know and I'll upload the pages I scanned that contain these excerpts (be warned: there is profanity on many of these pages).
And speaking of India (though this has nothing to do with Kashmir, Salman Rushdie or Shalimar the Clown)...
If not for the Mumbai attack that left around 200 people (many non-Indians) dead this past week, nobody would have been any more aware than usual of the craziness in India. And even with the spotlight on India for a brief time, it's doubtful that many people have considered that the Mumbai massacre has bigger implications due to its effect on India's primary export: cheap labor.
Regarding the Mumbai attacks, it seems a good number of people don't understand the context of the attacks. Whoever pulled off the attack is thinking in terms of financial warfare those of you thinking "oh this is much a do about nothing" are still thinking in terms of conventional warfare. But body counts are pretty much meaningless in the context of global financial warfare as the Fortune 500 are far more concerned about their interest rates than they are a loss of 200 or so human lives. Every world leader with an IQ over 70 is shaking in their boots right now. Reason being the effects of the attacks on the Fortune 500 and Dow 30 will be, at the very least, as follows:
A) the cost of insuring their outsourced operations goes through the ceiling
B) the cost of providing security goes through the ceiling
C) the cost of capital (interest rate) for any projects outsourced to India and elsewhere just went through the ceiling
With so many companies as highly leveraged as they are, it doesn't take much to push them over the edge. Jack up their interest rates, jack up their insurance premiums while drastically escalating the amount of money they need to spend on security and a whole bunch of them will be plunged right into insolvency.
The answer to the question of "will they be moving their operations back to U.S. soil" is "no, they won't be as the loans they've been getting from the Big Banks are based on the assumption of ultra-cheap outsourced labor. Without these artificially cheap loans, many of them will simply go out of business as their entire business model was predicated on low-cost loans, the issuance of which was predicated on unfettered access ultra-cheap outsourced labor."
I wonder how smart all these companies that have based their business model on outsourcing all their labor to India are feeling now? If you can't tell, I'm not all that sympathetic - though I do realize that this is just going to make the economic hardships worse in general, not better, for people in the U.S. And that's not a good thing for anyone.
Man, I'm such a downer. It's no wonder nobody reads this drivel.