Cultures and Dominance

  • The historic district of Montmartre in Paris,France

I am writing this blog sitting at a Starbucks in Paris. A few days back, we were in London which was the capital of the world for more than a century with England being the global cop.

Being a citizen of the current global cop helps me develop an interesting perspective. Living in the current capital of the world also adds to it, though new yorkers will hate me saying that. But the proof is in the pudding, no matter where you look. All the way from people carrying iPhones to taking Uber cabs.

Let’s switch gears and take a walk past the memory lane and start with the city I grew up in, i.e. Jaipur. It was the summer of 1790, June 20th, to be exact. Jaipur was a state at that time. Amid scorching heat in the area near Jaipur, which is roughly present day Sikar, there had been an army stand-off for more than two weeks.

One side was Jaipur + Jodhpur and some Mughals under Ismail Beg. The other side were Sindhias + Holkars with army trained by British and French and in fact led by a French officer.

Once the stand off was over, it was a short battle. Jaipur and Jodhpur got defeated. Beg’s army wiped out. Rajputs and Marathas both being fierce fighters, the decisive factor was marginal advantage and that Marathas got by european weaponry. Interestingly, the current chief minister of Rajasthan is Vasundhara Raje Sindhia, one of descendents of Mahadaji Sindhia, though she did not get this seat by winning the battle of Patan. But it would be very tough to convince someone who went to sleep in 1790 and woke up in 2014, that this was not the case. Jaipur itself was not conquered but it was left one step short of it, and after 27 years of challenging times, Jaipur succumbed to becoming a British protectorate in 1817. Ajmer was conquered and came under direct British rules a few decades afterwards.

Mahadaji was not representing the British, by the way. He was representing himself like everyone else was. Even the 1857 uprising was a bunch of folks representing themselves who joined hands. It was not India’s freedom struggle. There was no nation-state by the name India. India was definitely a nation-state candidate with contiguous land and loosely similar culture. But the British railway network was the biggest factor in making it a nation-state besides every other factor you read in the books.

Do you think the outcome would be different if Jaipur had won? Maybe it would have delayed fait accompli by few decades. Maybe Jaipur would have helped the 1857 uprising rather than helping crush it.

European fire power was indefensible until after the Second World War when America took over both military dominance as well as role of global cop.

The peace in present day europe does not at all remind of its bloody past. Maybe one reason they are peaceful is that they no longer have to compete for global dominance. That role is already spoken for.

Coming back to 2015 Paris where I am sitting, it’s amazing to see how much history is associated with the city. Champs-elysses is the road on which armies parade in good times and bad times. Even Hitler chose it for his victory parade in 1940 and allied forces did the same in 1944 after Hitlers all.

The Eiffel tower is an amazing man-made structure and stands with proud next to the river. No wonder french call it Iron Lady.

Another thing worth noticing in Paris is how most of the buildings have retained their old architecture. It gives them a distinctive classy look.

Obviously, Paris is the fashion capital of the world and nothing more needs to be said about it.

Now, I am 300 ft under water in the English Channel going back to London. Having transport under a sea-bed is definitely cool and an amazing accomplishment for mankind.

What amazed me most is the tube network. It’s the oldest metro system in the world, with over 120 stations. It got started in 1861 with steam engines and had 35,000 riders on day  1.