Quote of the week...please share your favourite line from Ayn Rand's writings

“Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one's values.”

Friday, October 30, 2009

An informal report on the 4th Atlas Meet - Delhi

The 4th Atlas Meet in Delhi last Saturday (24th October) turned out to be a pleasant change from the previous three. There were no newcomers and only four attendees from amongst the usual suspects!

The meeting got off to a late start as Barun, Poonam, Vikram and Arun all got stuck in traffic on the Ring Road. A discussion began naturally on the confounding dilemma that the traffic situation never seems to improve despite the construction of more and more fly-overs and signal-free junctions. Many theories were propounded, some even doubting the wisdom of putting in more fly-overs, but it was agreed that at least the delays on modern city roads are in a different orbit; they are much preferable to the mind-numbing confusion of traditional bazaars where the same time gets taken to cover just a few yards!

A related discussion began on how the cornucopia of regulations governing land-use and urban planning makes a criminal out of every citizen. Arguments erupted over whether there was even any need for "planning", and whether aesthetic spaces could or would develop in the absence of such laws. Arun Virmani, himself an architect, raised another point about how we are making a fetish of preserving everything old when it came to buildings.

Finally, over samosas and chai, the agenda got discussed and plans were made to arrange meetings with the schools that Arun had contacted. It was decided that Barun would front the initiative and talk to the principals about participation in the essay-contests for schools announced by the ARI. An additional idea that was discussed was about sponsoring a debate amongst schools in Delhi on topics of relevance. Here, one side of the argument could be provided by us through 'talking points'. Vikram shared that a school he is in touch with already organizes such a debate, and we could consider sponsoring it. Once again, the principal would be contacted and a meeting arranged.

On that positive note, we called it a day.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"Howard Roark in New Delhi"

In an article with the heading above, Jennifer Burns traces the growing interest in Ayn Rand's novels and ideas among the new generation in India. The article has been published on the website of the "Foreign Policy" magazine, a publication from the Newsweek stable.

She writes: "Not only do Indians perform more Google searches for Rand than citizens of any country in the world except the United States, but Penguin Books India has sold an impressive number of copies -- as many as 50,000 of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead each since 2005, a number comparable to sales there by global best-seller John Grisham. And that's not counting the ubiquitous pirated copies of her works that are hawked at rickety street stalls, sidewalk piles, and bus stations -- an honor that Rand, a fierce defender of intellectual property rights, probably would not have appreciated."

Jennifer Burns is assistant professor of history at the University of Virginia and author of Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right. For the article, she interviewed many individuals in India, including some of us associated with the 'Ayn Rand in India' initiative.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The 4th Monthly Atlas Meet, Delhi

The monthly Atlas Meet in Delhi will take place, as usual, on the fourth Saturday of October, that is on the 24th of October. Please mark your diaries.

24th October 2009

4.30 pm - 7.45 pm

The Agenda

Session I
4.30 pm - 6 pm: Savor Ayn Rand's philosophy and study her ideas. Two separate discussions are planned for this session. Details will be posted soon.
(A list of broad topics and areas of interest to participants was generated in the second Atlas Meet; you can read it here. If you are interested in leading a discussion on one of the listed topics, or another topic of general interest, please let us know through the comments column below or via email at info@aynrand.in)

6 pm - 6.30 pm: Tea and snacks break. Those interested in coming in only for one session, could arrive or depart during this time.

Session II
6.30 pm - 7.45 pm: Discussions on ways to spread Ayn Rand's ideas amongst students -
i) continuation of discussions on ideas mooted in the last meeting (Organizing talks in schools through personal contacts).
ii) other ideas for promoting the same.

The Venue
inlingua International School of Languages,
N-12, first floor,
South Ex - I

It is an open meeting - anyone interested in Ayn Rand's ideas is welcome. If you're planning to attend, please let us know either through the comments column below, or drop us a line at info@aynrand.in

Monday, October 12, 2009

Music and Movie 'Sharing': A Lesser Crime?

The sharing of music and movie files by means of illegal downloading and copying is as serious a problem in India, as it is anywhere else. Besides, there exists a huge and thriving piracy industry for books, movies and music here in India. Paradoxically, people who consider themselves honest enough to morally condemn theft and respect the productive work of others, see no harm in stealing the work of writers, musicians and film makers. Innumerable college students think that it is their moral right to get things for free, and those with a more evolved sense of ethical propriety do it with a wry smile. Either way, their theft is sustenance for the corrupt piracy industry and the morally wrong sharing network.

In a very clearly written article titled ‘It’s Not Stealing Because I don’t want it to be’ (click on this title to read it), Objectivist writer Rituparna Basu evaluates the psychology of music theft, including how people rationalize it, and explains exactly why it is wrong. There is also an interesting discussion that follows the article, in the comments column. I think, at the end of the day, all it takes is for people to recognize and remember that unscrupulous movie and music sharing is a crime equivalent to theft. Before endorsing any source, they also should not evade the moral responsibility to find out exactly what channels of movie and music sharing are legal, i.e., done with the consent of the original owners of the content, and what are illegal. In fact, this was the kind of realization that helped me, an erstwhile thief, improve my ways.

I’ll use this opportunity to mention that Rituparna Basu was the 2007 winner of The Fountainhead essay contest for high school students. She writes regularly for The Undercurrent. Click here to read more articles written by her.

The Best Reason To Read Atlas Shrugged

Objectivists and admirers of Ayn Rand’s fiction realize that there couldn’t be a better time or a more urgent need to advocate Atlas Shrugged to new readers. The novel is being promoted and talked about everywhere. In the same vein, I read a piece in an American Objectivist campus magazine, The Undercurrent, titled ‘The Value of Atlas Shrugged’. It is a well-written piece, and gives a fairly good introduction to the philosophical foundations of the novel, and what makes it so unique. However, while it suggests exactly why the novel is so pertinent in the current crisis, there is a missing element in that introduction, as there is in most of the current publicity campaign – a very important missing element.

And that is, a fair treatment of the story. When a novel is presented to new readers, it is generally done so by means of a snapshot of the plot and the characters. It is implicitly understood that the primary reason why someone should pick up a story is because they are intrigued by it. Ayn Rand herself would probably not have liked someone to read Atlas just because it has crucial economic and philosophical lessons to offer, which have changed the lives of so many people, and are immediately relevant. These could be powerful motivating factors, but she would have wanted people to read it, first and foremost, for the pleasure of the story. Of course, the immense knowledge that the novel demonstrates must be mentioned, but it is not meant to be a treatise. That is not how it is written, and that is not the impression that should be conveyed to potential readership. This does not mean that one must go into a detailed elaboration of the plot, but certainly a clear mention of what makes it so exciting is called for, especially since Atlas Shrugged has such an original and spell-binding plot, and such dramatic characterization!

As far as the article in The Undercurrent is concerned, it seems to suggest that the plot of the story revolves around a corporate battle, with barons of industry and science fighting against an antagonistic corporate landscape. There is no mention of the fact that it is a mystery story about an unknown man, operating in secrecy (John Galt), who is trying to stop the motor of the world, and a woman (Dagny Taggart) trying desperately to discover his identity and defeat him. As one by one, the greatest men and women of America quit their professions and vanish, and the world crumbles in their wake, the battle between Galt and Dagny Taggart becomes more intense, thought provoking and gripping. As far as the characterization goes, the heroes of the novel are all fearless, independent, rational human beings, heroic in the sense that no other author has really been able to capture. What motivates them (and what motivates the villains), and the crucial difference that has put Galt and Dagny on opposite sides, is where every philosophical, moral and political answer is contained. This is really why someone should pick up Atlas Shrugged.

When any objectivist advocates the novel, whatever the time and space they use for it, they must seek to advocate it in its entirety. And that means, conveying not only the value that the story offers, but also the idea of the story itself.

Click here to access the fall 2009 edition of The Undercurrent, which contains the article. In spite of the limitations of this article, it deems mention that The Undercurrent publishes some excellent analyses of the current political and cultural scenario in America from an Objectivist perspective.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

"The Night of January 16th" - YouTube Video

At the second Atlas Meet in Delhi, Rakhi Mehta and her team from '5 Elementz Art & Culture Society, New Delhi' had shown us a video of their stage performance of Ayn Rand's dramatic play "The Night of January 16th". Snippets from their performance have now been uploaded on YouTube.

Go to

Ayn Rand Institute thrives despite recession

A news website in Orange County, California, has an article featuring the amazing success of the ARI, which is based in Irvine. It reports that

"The Ayn Rand Institute, the largest of the Rand think tanks and perhaps Orange County’s most eclectic nonprofit (because how many nonprofits dedicated to profit arethere, really?), has seen revenues shoot up26 percent over the past three years (to$6.3 million), while net assets jumped 30 percent (to $1.3 million).

“And we might have our best year ever this year,” said a clearly-pleased Yaron Brook, the foundation’s president.

Why? “Something is going on,” he said. “People are frustrated. They don’t like what this administration is doing, they want answers, and she is viewed as having answers. The result is people are willing to write checks right now. It’s viewed as an antidote to where the culture is heading."

The full article is available here and makes for some very interesting reading.

A related article traces the origins and personal history of Yaron Brook, ARI's charismatic president, whose leadership has seen the foundation grow to more than three times its size from when he took over the reigns in 2000. It asks and answers the question

"How did Yaron Brook (brought up as a socialist in a Kibbutz in Israel) come to be one of the nation's – nay, the world's – leading spokesmen for "rational selfishness" and "laissez-faire capitalism"?"

The full article is available here

Monday, October 5, 2009

Tara and Govind: The first couple of Objectivism in India

Tara and Govind Malkani were the first couple of objectivism in India. The Malkanis were beacons for objectivism in India, for almost four decades. Last week, on September 26, 2009, Govind Malkani, 77, passed away in Bombay. Almost ten years ago to the date, in Sept. 2000, Tara Malkani had died at the age of 73. In the late 1960s, and the 70s, the Malkanis were almost regulars at the annual Ford Hall Forum lecture by Ayn Rand in Boston.

Together the Malkanis hosted the Ayn Rand Club in Bombay for over thirty years. Over the years, they had collected almost every book, cassettes or video tapes by or on Ayn Rand, and objectivism.

I came to know the Malkanis in the mid 1980s. And for a few years in the late 1980s, she lent out the tapes from her collection, lectures of Ayn Rand, and others, for us and others to listen in over six cities across India. Many friendships were established at these clubs have continued till today.

It would be great to hear from those of you who had known the Malkanis personally, or had known about them. Some of my additional comments can be read on our website here.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Frank Lloyd Wright sketched a home for Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand had started a two decade long correspondence with the legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1937. Although the two met for the first time a year after the publication of The Fountainhead.

On display, at an exhibition on "Drawings and Objects by Architects," currently being held in Los Angeles, is "a preliminary rendering of a "cottage studio," in colored pencil on paper, that the legendary architect crafted for Rand". The cottage was never built.
"Cottage studio" is an unlikely term for an imposing, cantilevered building with horizontal bands of fieldstone. Asymmetric terraces of concrete or stucco radiate off a vertical spine, perhaps a chimney, and seem to float on ribbons of clerestory windows.

With expressive gestures, Wright suggests cascading vines and fountains to soften the composition of hard materials. A writing studio was to be placed at the top of the tower with louvered windows to capture light, ocean views and air. Rand (1905-82) expressed her delight in an October 1946 letter to Wright:

"The house you designed for me is magnificent. I gasped when I saw it. It is the particular kind of sculpture in space which I love and which nobody but you has ever been able to achieve.

In "The Fountainhead," modern architecture provided a convenient vehicle for her views. In her 1937 letter, she told Wright that her new novel "is to be the story of an architect who follows his own convictions throughout his life, no matter what society thinks of it or does to him. . . . A man who has an ideal and goes through hell for it. So you can understand why it seems to me that of all men on earth you are the one I must see."

But she added: "My hero is not you. I do not intend to follow in the novel the events of your life and career. His life will not be yours, nor his work, perhaps not even his artistic ideals. But his spirit is yours -- I think."

The letter is one of hundreds in the posthumous 1995 collection "Letters of Ayn Rand" edited by Michael S. Berliner.
Please read the complete article "Frank Lloyd Wright sketch on exhibit" by Martha Groves, in the Los Angeles Times, on 3 Oct. 2009.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cost of the Fundamental Right to Education

An article in the Times of India a couple of days back reminded me of one of Ayn Rand’s striking essays in which she defined the nature of fundamental rights in a free and rational society.

This article, devoted to the cost of the ‘fundamental right to education’ in India, presented a whopping sum of Rs. 1.78 Lakh Crores, as what the government needs to fund this right. In figures, this is Rs. 1,780,000,000,000! The details are available here.

However, according to Ayn Rand, the phrase ‘fundamental right to education’ is invalid. Fundamental rights, or individual rights, according to Rand, are those rights which every man and woman in a rational society should enjoy, by virtue of being a human being. This is what she wrote in her essay, Man’s Rights:

A “right” is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life. Life is a process of self- sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action-which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)

The concept of a “right” pertains only to action—specifically, to freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men.”

In a free society, there is no right to a product, according to her (education is a product). If the people are given the right to any product, it is always at someone’s expense, as every product has to be produced and paid for by someone.

If some men are entitled by right to the products of the work of others, it means that those others are deprived of rights and condemned to slave labor.”

In the case of the fundamental right to education, there is only one way the government can pay for its whopping costs: taxation (whether direct or indirect). If you are an earning individual in India, you must pay for the education of your countrymen, whether you like it or not. In fact, in all probability, during your student days you were also the recipient of education paid for by someone else.

On the other hand, the right to property, which is a crucial fundamental right in any civilized society, is not a fundamental right in India.

Click here to read Ayn Rand’s article ‘Man’s Rights’. It is a good opportunity to reflect on some of the fundamental rights that exist (and don’t exist) in our constitution.