Wednesday, August 29, 2007

‘Rang De Basanti’ in action

What happens when people take law unto their hands? What happens when citizens believe they are better at doling out punishments than the state? What happens when responsible citizens believe they have a right to choose what laws they will abide by and what they will violate?

Why do I think the example set by ‘Rang De Basanti’ is a bad one?

Here’s an incident, in which the infuriated mob take on a thief, punishing him. What’s the next step for India? People taking up a gun and killing a minister because they believe he is corrupt?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Qualities of a Leader

There is an ongoing campaign by TOI (Times of India) called ‘Lead India’. I guess, the journalists at TOI are asked to come up with innovative ways to woo the audience to boost TOI’s sales and they are doing a good job. The present campaign is based on the slogan ‘DO’. I really like this slogan. But what I see is that they are ‘DO’ing a good job of increasing TOI readership and nothing more. Conducting debates, publishing nice speeches, and reporting SMS-based polls is not ACTING or DOING, but just TALKING. Here’s a piece on this by Ledzius at Desicritics.

What attracted my attention was the List that TOI published listing the qualities of leader. They are as follows according to the ranking (with votes for each).

1. Honesty (362)

2. Education (127)

3. Efficiency (112)

4. Vision (33)

5. Charisma (38)

6. Ability to listen and learn (65)

7. Ability to inspire, motivate (48)

Am I the only one who finds something really essential missing in here? Or do you feel the same? Leadership has been one of my favorite topics. I believe one of the most essential ingredients for a leader and which is completely missing from the above list is ‘the ability to take strong, bold and quick decisions and implement them with concrete action’. For some reason this was quite absent from the list gathered by the team at TOI. And this is not covered by any of the above listed qualities.

And one of the criteria listed by TOI looks so ludicrous- and that is education. Why is education a necessary qualification to be a leader? I am not sure about that. Does better education naturally translate into a better leader? Hmm… this seriously looks like a collection of qualities compiled from SMS-savvy folks who have recently graduated from colleges and schools. For those who are a bit experienced it goes without saying that education is not a criterion for leadership. Education has nothing to do with leadership- examples galore from human history suggest this again and again. The only reason it has found its way in is because of our journalists who are fascinated by lofty degrees (which they couldn’t achieve) and have a very high opinion of such educated folks. No wonder they keep writing about nonsensical achievements from ex-IIT, ex-IIM, ex-MS folks whose only achievement seems to be getting that degree itself.

And what is Charisma anyway? How does one hone this quality in oneself? Is it a quality one can work on? Charisma happens to be an attribute given to a person only in retrospection. Was Hitler really that charismatic since beginning? Many thought he was a loser. The same holds true for Abe Lincoln as well. Charisma is not something you can work on to grow it in yourself, but is seen as reflection by others when many other attributes are put together. A person turns charismatic when he has shown certain of these qualities in consistent manner for certain period of time and it is usually what others perceive of him. Sometimes, it can be also an attribute that a person exudes naturally (through birth or stature) without having worked towards it (Rajiv Gandhi, because he is son of Indira Gandhi; Sonia Gandhi, because she is wife of Rajiv Gandhi, Abhishek Bachchan because he is son of Amitabh Bachchan, etc). According to me, this is a redundant attribute and should not be included in the list.

How is efficiency a leadership quality? I am not sure who put this in there. Efficiency is a good quality of a worker, an engineer, a teacher. But is it an essential quality to make a leader? Efficiency is the ability to do lot of things in a short period of time. Should a leader be efficient? Or should he be having a team of followers who are efficient? It’s like saying a leader should be a GOOD person at heart. Is being good a necessary attribute of a leader? Don't we have enough examples of BAD leaders, aren't they leaders?

I do believe we need honest leaders in India. But honesty by itself is not an essential quality to be a leader. There could be an honest leader or a dishonest one. It’s like saying he is a good leader or bad leader, but at the end of the day he is still a leader. We are not talking about nice people here. We are talking about leadership. And TOI has completely missed the point. I personally believe that folks at TOI have no clue what leadership is all about. They have no clue what leaders are made of. Being the highest subscription in media does not necessarily translate into ability to define what leadership is. And what they are currently doing is a charade to increase their subscription in the garb of doing something to the society.

The only reason ‘Honesty’ features here is because most Indians find this completely missing in most of Indian leaders and therefore it has become the most important criteria. I think the same applies to ‘Education’.

To get to the right kind of qualities one should ask “what is that extra quality that you want to see in a person by so that you are ready to follow him?”

I have compiled my own list of qualities a leader should have. These are from my personal experiences. According to me the list is as follows:

1. Ability to take strong, bold and quick decisions and follow them up with concrete action.

2. Ability to take responsibility for one’s actions- both successes and failures (especially the failures).

3. Lead by setting examples.

4. Ability to pull up resources, inspire people, gather momentum, and change opinions, to get things done. (This is not efficiency).

5. Ability to delegate responsibilities to the right people and empower them to take decisions.

6. Integrity – strength of character in face of all upheavals, downfalls and crises. Especially, the ability to stay the course when everyone else is ready to run and hide!

7. Ability to think big (Vision). A company or a nation is limited by the vision of its leaders. Bigger the vision of the leader, bigger the chances for that country to fulfill that vision!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Capitalism or Socialism?

When India got its freedom in 1947, it had a choice between two different economy models. One was capitalism styled along USA and some Western European nations, and the other was socialism styled along Soviet Union and Eastern European nations. What should have Nehru and the founders of India done? What model should they have embraced?

Imagine you are Mr. Nehru in 1947 and please study the two models given below and choose one of them for India.

Model X:

# These countries, which embraced X, had their economy stagnant during the periods between 1914 and 1939.

# The industrial production fell by about ONE-THIRD between 1929 and 1931.

# During 1929 and 1938 their share of world’s manufactured goods decreased.

# The unemployment was between 10% and 18% during 1920s. And during Great Depression it was between 22% and 44%.

# The inflation rate was explosive sometimes reaching levels where one person’s life savings would only fetch a 'drink in a cafĂ©'.

Model Y:

# These countries, which embraced Y, had a robust economy during the pervious 30 years.

# In these countries the industrial production TRIPLED from 1929 to 1940.

# Their share of worlds manufactured goods almost QUADRUPLED.

# There was virtually NO unemployment.

# There was virtually NO inflation even during the Great Depression.

# These countries completely escaped Great Depression of 1930s.

--

If you chose Model Y, you are not very different from Mr. Nehru.

Yes, Model Y was socialism while Model X was capitalism. While it is so easy for anyone to suggest that the Soviet Union’s model is a bad example in retrospect, and that of USA is a good example in 2007, it was not such an easy conclusion in 1947. The years before 1947 saw two world wars and the Great Depression where unemployment rates skyrocketed. Leaning towards too much of capitalism meant giving ground to radical elements of the Left. Social policies and welfare system was openly embraced by many Western European nations. Social democrats, with moderate social policies, were able to thwart attempts from radical Left to take over in these countries. Unemployment remained the main problem, and if it were not combated, it would mean communists would take over.

India, with most of its people below the poverty line, needed a strong welfare system, where the state intervened to help the poor to avail the opportunities. It was clear that Soviet Union set very good examples for doing that while most Western Nations failed.

During 1930-35, Soviet Union had a robust economy. Many of its achievements ‘impressed foreign observers of all ideologies’. These Western nations saw ‘the breakdown of their own economic system’. Learning from Soviet Union became important and quite necessary. Countries like Belgium and Norway adopted plans similar to that of Soviet Union’s Five Year Plans. Hitler, a strong anti-communist, introduced his own ‘Four Year Plan’ along the lines of Soviet Union to virtually eliminate unemployment.

These days, it has become a fashion to criticize and ridicule Nehru for his socialistic economy model. However, most of the Indian leaders of 1947 were of the same bent, not Nehru alone. Most Indians leaders of 1947 welcomed and hailed Soviet style economy and touted it as the only solution to India’s problems. Capitalism, which imposed a completely unreliable and topsy-turvy economy onto its people, was considered the least agreeable solution. If you were an adult during 1947, there was a good chance that you too would have been agreeing to the soviet style socialistic economy.

References:

Age of Extremes by Eric Hobsbawm.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Grow Up, India!

The recent Ronen Sen’s controversy has resulted in one day’s loss of proceedings in the Indian Parliament. The Indian Legislators are fuming over the sentences made by Ronen Sen (India’s envoy to US) in his interview to Rediff. It’s unbelievable that a diplomat’s opinions to media can fluster Indian Democracy so much that it has actually stalled its proceedings in the Parliament. Ronen Sen has even apologized but that doesn’t seem to satisfy our peevish parliamentarians.

Ronen Sen reportedly said:

“It has been approved here [Washington] by the President, and there [New Delhi] it’s been approved by the Indian Cabinet. So why do you have all this running around like headless chicken, looking for a comment here or comment there, and these little storms in a tea cup?”

He has later clarified that he was referring to his ‘media friends’ and not the legislators of India. And if you read this quote again, it indeed looks closer to referring to journalists than referring to Indian legislators. Such ambiguity in reference is NOT going to stop our undaunted lawmakers to make a fuss about it – so much so that, they thought it was enough to give themselves a holiday from work for one day. What a waste of time! And what a shame!

A note about media

Especially the politicians, who are quite conversant with how media works, should understand how these sentences indeed get misquoted and misinterpreted by the media. They should have known by now how some sentences can convey completely different meaning when put out-of-context.

From my personal experience, I can say that, ‘yes indeed, such things happen on a regular basis in the media reporting’. When Outlook Money interviewed me (the supposed achievement of mine being that I returned from US to work in India), they completely made up the story. They reported that I was working in Chicago- when, in fact, there was not a single mention of that city in my interview. I had never worked in Chicago, and not anywhere close to that place, and hence the appearance of that city’s name in my context is completely unbelievable. But yet, such unbelievable stuff happens with the media.

In another incident, in an interview to IT magazine I said, ‘In India, when a fresher joins a small startup company, he is considered a loser’. And the IT magazine quoted me saying, ‘In India, a person starting a new company is considered a loser’. There’s a huge difference in these two messages.

We need to live with the fact that media does indeed get the interviewees into such mess. Some errors, misinterpretations, misquotes are quite prevalent. We can be little careful, but cannot avoid them completely. Such guffaws are bound to happen. We need to learn to tolerate them and move on. Not stall the Indian Democracy’s one day proceedings in the Parliament!

Need to grow up

India has to grow up. Its people have to grow up. Its politicians have to grow up. We seem to be ruffled by every sentence a person makes about us. While we continue to riot in our Parliament and Assembly proceedings, throwing speakers, chappals, chairs, beating up each other, we get offended when someone comments on such behavior. Have a look at this video. Indian Democracy at work!


Thursday, August 16, 2007

India’s Greatness

What is the greatness of this country if there is one such greatness?

According to me, it is the ability to allow its citizens to be what they are. India houses one of the most diverse populations on this planet, allowing them to live the way they want to live.

Take religion, for example. There is no other country on this planet which houses so many different religions in such huge proportions. India is, at the same time, #1 home to World’s 3rd largest religion (Hinduism), #2 home to World’s 2nd largest religion (Islam), #1 home to World’s two other major religions (Sikhism and Jainism). Most western nations that tout their secular principles fail to uphold their test of tolerance when compared with India. Most of these nations ask for conformity from its minorities. Their do not allow you to express yourself ‘freely’. For example, Ireland forbids Sikhs from wearing turban in its Army. England disallows Muslim women from wearing veil in its schools. France disallows Muslim kids from wearing scarves at schools. All this is done to achieve what they call ‘integration’. According to these nations, conformance to habits or customs of the majority is considered integration. On the other hand, India has a Sikh regiment where Sikhs proudly wear their turbans in the Army, it allows its Muslim woman doctors to wear a veil, and it allows its Muslim girls to wear scarves in schools. In India, there is no need to conform to the customs or habits of majority (with some exceptions of late). India’s unity and integration comes from allowing and preserving its diversity, which seems to be alien to most Western secular and democratic nations.

In languages, India is #1 home to six of the top 20 languages of the world and also has a huge population that speak English. [The same applies to India’s diverse cultures, customs, traditions, food habits and dress habits].

There is no other country on this planet where such diverse populations are living together. India is so unique in this respect that no other nation comes close to India. Come to think of it, India completely defies every rule on how a nation-state should be formed. Its people do not have anything in common ‘universally’ to make it a nation-state. No common religion, no common language, no common ethnicity, no common history, and no common ideology. Its people are all different from another in every way imaginable. The only thing that binds them together to make this a nation is that they all want to be part of India to live together (with some exceptions).

So, what makes one an Indian? It’s his wish to be part of India, nothing more, nothing less!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

India’s most important achievement

I believe India’s single most important achievement is its Democracy. It is almost a wonder that India has retained and preserved the institutions of its democracy even after sixty years of Independence. Even our forefathers might have had some doubts whether we would ever survive sixty years as a democratic nation. Just take a look at so many other nations which got independence during the same time we got ours. Many of them had problems dealing with democracy, and as we speak, many of them are not even democratic. India, however, has consistently kept its promises on this one single institution (with a minor exception).

Now, I would like to choose one single hero who made this happen.

Hero #1: Jawaharlal Nehru

I give credit to Mr Nehru for instilling, promoting, preserving and perpetuating democracy in India. He had all the chances to veer India in any direction he wanted. He could have become the dictator and Indians would have gleefully handed that baton to him. In spite of the slowness of the democracy, which usually irks most newly formed nation in their zeal to get reforms done quite quickly, Nehru stuck to democracy and made sure we all Indians appreciated it. Even a illiterate villager in some remote part of India felt that he had a say in the destiny of this country- and that is an important achievement for this country. Sometimes it meant he had to take the brunt of criticism and ridicule which he did gladly. I believe he is the most important reason why we still have democracy in this country.

The other heroes

Indian Media

I give the next credit to Indian Media who have consistently championed and stood by adhering to the principles of democracy. They have championed it as if it is the greatest asset we have- and which is indeed the case. They have not succumbed to the pressures of political parties and instead stood their ground. Though they have been targeted, lampooned, lynched, and sometimes even killed, the folks of Indian Media did not waver from their staunch support of India's democratic institutions. They have continually reminded the Indian leaders and its peoples that we are a democracy.

Indian Judiciary

Indian judiciary has time and again came in to rescue Indians whenever there was an attempt to subvert Indian democracy.

Indian People

Of course, the true champions and beneficiaries of Indian democracy are its people. They have elected leaders into power and booted them out whenever they didn’t like them, making this a vibrant democracy.

Villain: Indira Gandhi

Indira Gandhi was one person who came close to almost killing Indian Democracy. She imposed Emergency during 1975-77, took away all our freedoms, imprisoned her political opponents, and made our constitutions, legislation and judiciary defunct. That was the saddest period of our Indian Democracy.

Special Thanks to Jindal

My special thanks to Naveen Jindal who gave ‘independence’ to our National Flag. We can now fly our flag whenever we want, wherever we want. Now, you see Indian flag in the hands of kids, in front of the cars, and almost anywhere. Truly, our flag has become free. Of course, there is a downside to such freedoms. We will see them floating down the gutters and strewn on the roads. But no matter what, we will keep our flag ‘free’ – in spite of such gross ‘misuses’.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

'Our sentiments are hurt'

'Our sentiments are hurt by the works of others' seem to be the prevailing disease in India. Of late, some Indians have attacked others because their 'sentiments were hurt' by the work of the others. They have taken up arms to bash up the person, arsoned their homes, ransacked the proceedings and filed police cases. The Indian Government, instead of coming to the defense of the victims of such attacks, has instead colluded with them in certain cases. This country has consistently turned a blind eye to such attacks and in some cases has colluded with such attackers. And therefore, this state and its people have not set the right examples.

Bad Examples

A Muslim party (MIM) of Hyderabad attacked Taslima Nasreen, a Muslim author, for her works, which according to these attackers 'hurt the sentiments' of 20 Crore Muslims of India. They said they anger was so much that they would have killed her. The MIM party which spearheaded the attack on Taslima has gone ahead to file a case against her for 'promoting communal enmity'.

Sikhs in Punjab protested against Dera Sacha Sauda Chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, for donning attire 'impersonating' one of their gurus, Guru Gobind Singh. The fuming Sikhs said that 'their sentiments were hurt' by these actions of Dera Chief. The Sikhs have rioted with the Deras and also filed a case against the Dera Chief. Few people were injured in the riots and the police firing.

A Christian in Mumbai went on a hunger strike to force the government to ban 'Da Vinci Code'. The governments of AP, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Goa went ahead and banned this book citing the reasons that Christians' 'sentiments would be hurt' by this movie.

Hindu protestors stormed an art gallery, filed a case and beat up some people when an art student showcased his art for 'internal' assessment in a university. In another case, Hindu protestors stormed an art gallery which showcased MF Husain's paintings, and filed a case alleging him for 'hurting the sentiments' of Hindus. This artist is now baited by police and the courts in India waiting him to come back from his self-imposed exile.

Indian nationalists and regionalists protested against Narayana Murthy when he preferred the National Anthem to be played by music and NOT sung. This particular incident has 'hurt the sentiments' of many patriotic incidents who have gone onto register a case against Narayana Murthy under a silly act called Insult to National Honor Act.

Such incidents are NOT symptomatic of just one religion or region. ‘Our sentiments are hurt’ is a disease that has caught with almost every religion and region in this subcontinent. We are making new rules and laws now. They are based on what we call as 'sensibilities'. We are affected by what you wrote, though we have never read it. We are affected by what you think, though we don't know what it is. We are affected by what you paint, though we have never seen it.

Selected justifications

Some Hindus are of the opinion that it is OK to vandalize and kick out MF Husain, but it is NOT OK to attack Taslima. Some Sikhs are of the opinion that it is OK to target Deras but not OK to ban the book detailing 1984 riots. Some Muslims are OK with attacking Taslima but not OK with Hindus running riot in Gujarat. These people who opinionate these so selectively are educated and uneducated, both men and women, are coming from rural and urban India. Such selected preferences of our sympathies and selected justifications of curbing of our rights has become symptom of this disease. When we sympathize with those who banned the book that detailed riots of 1984, and when we sympathize with those who ban Da Vinci Code, why can't we sympathize with attack on Taslima now?

Some people justify the Hindu actions, such as those perpetrated against M F Husain or against the artist from Vadodara, as 'largely reactionary and politically motivated'. However, they reason that the cases coming out of Muslims to be entirely different from these actions of Hindus. This preferential treatment holds true for each religion and its supporters. They reason that their own fights are somehow justified and completely valid compared to those of other religions.

Is a 'reactionary' movement slightly better one compared to other kinds of fanaticism? What if one were to prove that the present Islamic antagonism originates from Post-WWI events, and therefore is a 'reactionary movement'? Would that somehow legitimize the Islamic fundamentalism and the terrorism? Aren't MIM actions 'politically' motivated? Is a politically motivated action slightly better than other actions?

While many Hindus have joined the protest against what happened to Taslima in Hyderabad, which everyone agrees is a despicable and shameful attack, they have NOT raised a protest when the book detailing riots of 1984 was banned by the Government of India. What outrages us the most? Is it the 'kind of action itself' or the 'blind irrationality' that motivates those actions? How come so many Hindus, even the educated and elite, actually supported and rationalized the vandalism against MF Husain's paintings terming it a 'natural outburst'? How come so many Hindus justify the Godra incident as a 'natural reaction' to the torching of train by alleged Muslim arsonists?

Such selected justifications will only take us down a spiral path into middle ages. We need to condemn all such actions, whether it comes from a Sikh, or a Hindu, or a Muslim, with the same vigor. We don't seem to do that. We seem to sit back and rationalize some of them 'as reactionary', somehow making them look better!

Educated people support such attacks

A Muslim commenter wrote on a forum that his well-educated sisters support this attack on Taslima. He reasoned that these sisters are quite OK to apply Sharia in such minor doses and they actually welcome it.

These little rationalizations of irrationalities spell the doom for all of us. If ever there is a little room for rationality in this country it is because of its diversity. If this nation were overwhelmingly Muslim, Sharia would have been implemented in much larger doses affecting (negatively) all of us. And if it was overwhelmingly Hindu, we would have sanctioned the plight of untouchables as verdict of God.

When educated people condone certain irrational acts, under the name of any blind belief, we set precedents for much larger actions in the name of that belief. How will the same well-educated sisters react if they are excommunicated from all public places in the name of Islam as done under Taliban? When the educated and elite support these little incidents, they are giving power to such elements who would eventually impose radicalized versions onto these supporters.

In one of the earlier articles ‘India Curbs Freedom of Expression I’, I urged each of us to oppose all such acts. I repeat myself here.

I see dangerous trends coming from different parts of India. As a first step, only selected few will be targeted - those who criticize, enjoy artistic freedoms, call spade a spade, will be attacked for their liberal views, for their expressions of art, and for their individuality. But once that is done, they will come back for the rest of us.

The goons and activists are entering the political body of India while their silent sympathizers provide the necessary support. These little demons that we are nurturing and abetting now will come back to haunt us as evil giants, who will take away all our enshrined freedoms which come so dear to us. When they do come back as grown up usurpers of freedoms, they will affect our mainstream life affecting each of us, including the silent sympathizers, not just that single artist who painted erotic art.

How to vent one's anger

In a country like India, where legal recourse is expensive and usually a long ordeal, how does a common man vent his anger and frustration at the system? What does he do when he believes that an author or painter has defiled his sacred objects - his gods, his prophets, or his nation? Should he take up arms and cudgels every time he gets angry with the system, or an author or a painter?

I was talking to a wise Turk in his 50s. He said, 'In those days, in Turkey, if one disagreed with the other, the only way to deal with it was to kill the other. What we owe to the Englishman is that he taught us to say to each other, "We agree to disagree"'.

We need to educate our people on how to vent their disapproval, disappointment, anger and anguish in a civil manner, which does not involve ransacking a gallery, vandalizing a house, hitting him, ambushing him, killing him/her, etc.

If one believes that certain blatant lies are spread about one's religion, one can go about correcting them. If a book has spread those lies, you can also write another book to correct them. If indeed those lies can be combated in a court, you can take the author to the court. There are civil ways to deal with a disagreement. Ransacking and attacking the proceedings is not considered civil.

We need to create an atmosphere of healthy debate in this country (not like the ones shown on TV these days), where we can agree to disagree, where we do not curtail other person’s right to express something just because our ‘sentiments are hurt’. Consequences of curbing of freedom of expression, even if that expression includes ‘lies’ and ‘propaganda’, are more disastrous than living with ‘lies’ and ‘propaganda’.

Voltaire supposedly said- I disapprove of what you say; but I will defend your right to say it.

Notes to myself from long ago

Here are some notes that I wrote to myself many years ago.

About myself-
Had a cool childhood
where most of the time was spent

on trees trying to infer how the ancestors of man lived
and in the murky canals to gather
what many philosophers
have gathered in their pursuits…

Born to a scientist father who thought it was cool
to talk
to his seven-year old kid
about stars and solar systems…

Turned an atheist at age seven...
and that’s when
the good-old-God started playing games with me

**

Life is so dear to us…
that we promote ourselves and our kids
calling it- 'protection and preservation' of life
by feeding ourselves with salami, hotdog and teriyaki chicken.
Hey, what would happen to us if we die to find out that the trinity is composed of
a cow, a pig and a hen?

That's when we go to Hell, I guess!

**

I think we are all living on an electron like particle (Earth)
orbiting another glowing particle (Sun)
inside a molecule of a protein in an organic substance
excreted by a giant being
called God!

Just a thought!

**

Yup, why did God have to create such a vast Universe
with mysterious Black Holes, Quasars and Pulsars
With billions of Galaxies, stars and planets
if all that concerned him was to send the man
To either Hell or Heaven
based on what he thinks is good or bad?

Sometimes, I think he is Crazy!

**

I set out as a young kid to know everything.
Well, many ask me what is that 'everything' that I wish to find out.
(Some would quip that it is all about Porsches and Ducatis…
and I almost tend to agree)

**

Ethics are relative with respect to time and place!

They change, vary and sometimes contradict each other.
And they are subjective, too
And hence the whole topic of discussing Ethics becomes so interesting...
Its the only game a man can win against God!
(Or is it the other way around?)

**

I thought that History, Philosophy and Science
were completely disparate subjects…
Then, I realized that I was completely wrong.
Now I know that they are all intricately connected
and that there is an underlying beauty in those connections;
and my life is devoted to understand that beauty.
Hey, someone also said-
There are no facts, only interpretations

**

Science has been the greatest tool Man has invented to describe things around himself
and also to comfort himself that all he dreams and imagines are in fact true…
That's how God plays with man… he gives man these small tools to play with...
and amuses himself while that man makes a joke of himself
;-)

That's me smiling back at God!

**

If God was so perfect, he wouldn't have created me - Sujai
If Man was so perfect, he wouldn't have invented me - God

(I haven't responded to that retort of his yet,
but I do hope to write a book one day…
Who knows? He may even read it)

**

I think God is a man…
Who else could have spent so much time in creating the woman, so beautiful
and the man, just like a blob of meat? (exception - Taz)

**

The struggle of life is to make this imperfect world less imperfect!
And somehow that limit tends to infinity

**

Sheepish me!

Imagine seeing in the front page of a newspaper an article or message similar to what you have been writing for quite long time but which you never published!

Today in the morning, I took one look at the first page of TOI and there it was on the first page, a message called ‘DO’. I have been writing this article ‘To Better India’ for over six months now, updating and editing it once in a while. It was almost complete, but I was just waiting for a good time to publish it- I thought this August 15th might be the right time. And TOI beat me to it. (After seeing it, I didn’t want to wait further. So, I went ahead and published the premise part of the article and hope to publish the rest later.)

This happened to me thrice in the last ten days when I saw an article or blog which carried similar message to what I had in my Drafts folder. That is a very yucky feeling. That someone else conveyed the same message before you could only because you were lazy, or didn’t take enough time, to publish it.

I have about 50 or odd articles in my Drafts folder, some are just mere ideas, with a title and few words to describe the idea, while most of them are half done. While the rest are almost done waiting to be published. ‘To Better India’ was one of those 'ready to be published', and TOI has beaten me to it!

Sheepish me!

To better India I

In my previous articles which total more than 100 by now, I have criticized India and its people. I believe that criticism is only an important step towards maturity. What we really need is concrete action to translate that maturity into something tangible for one’s betterment.

I believe that action and action alone can help this country. Each of us may have thought about hundred and one things to improve this nation. But unless we act nothing will happen. And to start that action is now- today.

A slogan that I like a lot is: ‘Just Do It’ (from Nike). Yes, it’s a powerful slogan; and when applied to this nation it can create wonders.

Where does one begin? I want to bring out top three things India has to work on to better the system- and this responsibility lies with the entire system- with the people in power and also with the people who vote such people into power. That includes all of us- the adult population of India. According to me, the following three are the most important issues:

1. Primary Education
2. Roads
3.
Water Canals

You may find many items missing in here. Where is poverty, population, corruption, untouchability, casteism, employment, regionalism, communalism, terrorism, economy, energy, defense, communications, etc? I don’t think those issue are as important as the above three.

Why did I choose only three? I believe that for any person to rectify himself, he has to work on at the most three weaknesses or less. If you have more than three issues to deal with at a time, nothing gets done. You are too defocused. I am applying the same concept to this nation. Take three issues at a time- the top three, go after them aggressively with unrelenting passion and hunger, putting all your resources behind it to make it happen, and then after some period of time, make another assessment as to what the top three issues are and then act on them.

[To be continued]

Monday, August 13, 2007

Reservations XVII: Bad Jokes

During those anti-reservation protests of May-Jun 2006, some upper caste Hindus took brooms and started sweeping the streets, and chanted songs warning lower castes to ‘be in your place’ (‘apni aukat mein rahio’). Describing this incident, and how calmly the TV channels have aired it, Siddharth Varadarajan (of THE HINDU) writes:

Nobody asked what kind of doctors these ‘meritorious' students were likely to become if they had such contempt towards more than half the population of India.

And now, I see another story floating around these days. This is forwarded to me by many professionals, and if you see the train of e-mails, you will see that it has gone through many top IT companies in India.

The story goes as follows:

Ant & Grasshopper

The Ant works hard in the withering heat all summer building its house and laying up supplies for the winter. The Grasshopper thinks the Ant is a fool and laughs & dances & plays the summer away. Come winter,the Ant is warm and well fed. The Grasshopper has no food or shelter so he dies out in the cold.

Modern Version

The Ant works hard in the withering heat all summer building its house and laying up supplies for the winter. The Grasshopper thinks the Ant's a fool and laughs & dances & plays the summer away. Come winter, the shivering Grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the Ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others are cold and starving.

NDTV, BBC, CNN show up to provide pictures of the shivering Grasshopper next to a video of the Ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food.The World is stunned by the sharp contrast. How can this be that this poor Grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?

Arundhati Roy stages a demonstration in front of the Ant's house. Medha Patkar goes on a fast along with other Grasshoppers demanding that Grasshoppers be relocated to warmer climates during winter. Amnesty International and Koffi Annan criticizes the Indian Government for not upholding the fundamental rights of the Grasshopper.

The Internet is flooded with online petitions seeking support to the Grasshopper (many promising Heaven and Everlasting Peace for prompt support as against the wrath of God for non-compliance).

Opposition MPs stage a walkout. Left parties call for "Bharat Bandh" in West Bengal and Kerala demanding a Judicial Enquiry. CPM in Kerala immediately passes a law preventing Ants from working hard in the heat so as to bring about equality of poverty among Ants and Grasshoppers. Lalu Prasad allocates one free coach to Grasshoppers on all Indian Railway Trains, aptly named as the 'Grasshopper Rath'.

Finally, the Judicial Committee drafts the 'Prevention of Terrorism Against Grasshoppers Act' [POTAGA], with effect from the beginning of the winter. Arjun Singh makes 'Special Reservation' for Grasshoppers in Educational Institutions & in Government Services.

The Ant is fined for failing to comply with POTAGA and having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes, it's home is confiscated by the Government and handed over to the Grasshopper in a ceremony covered by NDTV.

Arundhati Roy calls it 'A Triumph of Justice '. Lalu calls it 'Socialistic Justice '. CPM calls it the 'Revolutionary Resurgence of the Downtrodden'. Koffi Annan invites the Grasshopper to address the UN General Assembly.

Many years later... The Ant has since migrated to the US and set up a multi-billion dollar company in Silicon Valley. 100s of Grasshoppers still die of starvation despite reservation somewhere in India. As a result of loosing lot of hard working Ants and feeding the Grasshoppers, India is still a developing country!!!

[End of Story]

What a sad state of affairs!

I am not sure why people keep floating such stories. They are not even amusing to start with. It actually shows their true nature which is quite disturbing. Just look at the names listed in the above story and see how it is clearly biased against lower castes, minority religions, the poor, the UN, Human rights groups! One wonders who these Grasshoppers are. Clearly they seem to be coming from the lower castes, the poor, the minorities and the Muslims.

Why is it that all the criticism is thrown at media agencies and the UPA government (which includes Lalu and Left parties) and why is there is no mention of BJP or its leaders in here? Can’t one easily figure out that this is a right-wing urban upper caste Hindu propaganda?

In fact, the story should have ended this way to make it more realistic in tune with the real world.

Realistic Version

Ant migrates to US and discovers that a US institute has rejected him to enroll a Pacific Islander student (a grasshopper) with lower marks, and that a top software company recruited a Hispanic engineer (another grasshopper) with lower GPA.

When the Ant gets hospitalized for a surgery, he continues to harbor these prejudices and refuses to be operated by a Black surgeon (another grasshopper) pointing out lack of competency in that surgeon citing affirmative action policies. That act is seen as an act of gross insult and soon the Ant is thrown out of the organization where he works.

The Ant gets disillusioned by such practices of affirmative action, gets angry by the shabby treatment given to him (when he was only furthering the concept of ‘merit’).

The Ant sticks to a coterie of upper caste Hindu Indians, participates in religious festivities at a nearby temple, debates on how Muslims and lower castes are ruining his country, sends his kids to nearby Hindu instructor who teaches Vedic Mathematics, and gratifies himself telling every one how his ancestors had invented zero.

Friday, August 10, 2007

India Curbs Freedom of Expression II


Taslima Incident

The famous Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen was attacked by radical MLAs of MIM Party (Majlis Ittehadul Musilmeen) in Hyderabad. The head of this party, Salauddin Owaisi patted the back of the attackers and said that his party was ‘ready for bigger sacrifices’. MIM has taken upon itself to be the upholders of Islam and has acted in response to ’20 crore of Muslims’ in India who ‘have been deeply hurt by the provocative writings of this woman’.


Mr. Owaisi went onto say that “The anger against her among Muslims was such that she could have even got killed.”


Justification


Mr. Owaisi justified his act drawing from how Hindus protested against M F Husain’s paintings. "When M F Husain drew some paintings, some felt it was insulting to their religion. But no one who vandalised the exhibition where Husain’s paintings were on show were arrested or punished." he said.


All fanatics are the same


So what’s the big difference between the zealots of Hindus and Muslims? Nothing!


All zealots are alike. All fanatics are alike. All sympathizers of such fanaticism are alike. All those Hindus who denounce M F Husain’s paintings and those who justify his persecution are no different than all those Muslims who attack and denounce Taslima Nasrin and her works.


I keep saying this again and again. In our attempts to combat our enemy, we are becoming exactly like them. Every zealot and fanatic is upping the ante in their ongoing movement of suppression of our freedoms and their expressions of fanaticism.


These days it is not about the ‘freedom of expression’, but all about ‘expression of fanaticism’. Don’t you think that the zealot Hindus should congratulate MIM for their show of camaraderie and bravado? Shouldn't they join hands and have a big party to celebrate how successfully they have suppressed our freedoms?


It's never the fringe elements


Taslima said that 'those responsible for the incident are only a minority'. Many people quickly conclude that such people are just the fringe elements, a miniscule few, a rarity. But that is never the case. We never seem to realize one thing. The people who actually attacked might be a handful, but they are backed by many people.

For each attacker, there are hundred wanna-be attackers. For each wanna-be attacker, there are ten thousand active supporters. For each active supporter, there are a million sympathizers. We think it is only the fringe elements acting, but that is never the case.

For every goon who vandalized M F Husain's paintings, there are million Hindus who support and sympathize his actions. For every goon who attacked Taslima the other day, there are million other Muslims, both men and women, educated and uneducated, who support and sympathize his actions.

We need to understand this and NOT DISMISS it.