Monthly Archives: August 2011

a few questions

Quite a few days back, immediately after the Egyptian Revolution, I had written this piece. At that time I had no clue that it would turn out to be real so soon. Jantar Mantar (and now Ram Lila Maidan) would see people from all segments of the society – some with the Tricolor in their hand, some in their heart – walk out and defy a government that assumes (and rightfully so) that it has the sole power to enact laws for the people but fails to respect the demands of the same people when formulating the clauses of it. I am just being verbose. The actual word for it is ‘Autocracy’ and as I have always believed that any form of autocratic government – be it in the Middle East or in our backyard – cannot survive. A government by the people of the people and for the people, not just in words but in spirits, is the only way to look at governance. And somewhere in that line the present Congress Government has lost its plot. Not only their steps against corruption seem questionable but also their steps against curbing a topic of national importance into a political and consequently social turmoil seem ridiculously childish.

I do not think any government official reads through my blog – they blatantly refuse to acknowledge the magnanimity of the situation around them, my blog is just a small manifestation of a Saturday afternoon’s effort to understand the so called confrontation between the ‘Civil Society’ and the ‘Parliament’ – but if they do, I would like them to answer a few innocuous questions that I think are important for me to know as a citizen who by the virtue of his age is eligible to have a one-billionth say in who should rule him. And importantly, how?

The Peaceful vs The Powerful

I was born in the year 1988. Mahatma Gandhi to me was my Father of the Nation, Nelson Mandela a great crusader against the apartheid in South Africa and Martin Luther King Jr. a visionary who demanded equal rights for people of all skin colors. They were the champions in my history book and ‘Non-Violence’ – a form of revolution they patronized – a concept. Honestly, I never ever believed that it was a potent weapon to disarm the strongest of the opposition. And then I saw Anna Hazare and his team bring the entire nation on their toes, expecting some kind of change in their current state of apathy against corruption, without a single incident of murder, rape, arson or looting. There was never an inclination or an indication of violence – neither in their speeches nor in their actions.

What made the Government, then, to invoke its police power against them? By ‘them’, I am not referring to any individual in random (though the argument holds good even for them). I am referring to two Ramon Magsaysay award winner, one Padma Bushan and Padma Shri award winner. Does the present cabinet have at least one minister who could match the international and national recognition bestowed on these people?

If History is any evidence, let us not forget that in all the cases mentioned above, it is the non-violent revolution that has triumphed over all odds, even the most oppressive ones. And by invoking the police power on a non-violent group of people who seek to protest against the pitiful way the Government has conducted investigations and convicted people involved in corruption, Congress has in fact hit back at the very same ideals that led to their foundation and consequent rise as the voice of the people.

Acceptance vs Denial

I am no Mahatma. I paid a bribe of two hundred rupees to get my driving license. I have fought with the traffic police to waive off a fine. In the frustrating labyrinth of the government offices, I have often wished that I had the power or the money to get my things done. I say that with a shame and regret that I have done my share in helping the issue of corruption in this country. But somewhere in those confessions of mine, a few that I have mentioned and a few that I have not, lies the realization that I was wrong and a resolve that if I had an opportunity to do redo a few chapters of my life, I would write them differently.

In your Independence Day speech, you pointed out Mr. Prime Minister that no government has the magic wand to finish off corruption, to which I completely agree. But what I failed to see was an acceptance of the fact that your Government has failed to check the rise of corruption to proportions unheard of before. I still do not understand why the Government is in denial of the sorry state of affairs and that our machinery has failed us.

Worse times see the rise of great heroes. And in most cases, it happens after the hero has acknowledged that it is time to do something differently. Hidden behind the political ego of your Government is an opportunist pessimist who knows that there is light at the end of the tunnel but does not want to walk towards the same. Either it is too fond of the darkness or maybe it is too afraid of light. In either case, it is not the right government. Instead it is just misleading the people to believe that the light, which is rightfully theirs, is too harsh for them to handle.

Technicalities vs Spirit

I have always wondered why we use such complex words and convoluting statements to write our laws. Why cannot the laws be written in much simpler and easy-to-understand sentences? Why cannot we have flow charts and pictorial representations? This question might come off as an immature one for someone who has studied law. I am told that it is because the law needs to be carefully worded so that no one misuses it. I agree.

But somewhere in that argument is the belief that laws are made to be broken, the belief that someone will use the technicalities to his benefit and thus crush the spirit of the law. I am too much of a novice to say whether or not the Prime Minister and the judiciary should come under the ambit of the Lokpal. I am also too ignorant of the political moves to suggest or reject a law but I believe that if there is someone who needs to follow a law by its spirit and not by its technicalities, if someone needs to set an example it has to be the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Yes, that will create very sensitive situations but is it wrong to expect your Prime Minister to be your example?

To this question of mine, some may argue that I know too much of the Jan-Lokpal Bill and too little of the Government’s draft, which to some extent is right. What I fail to see through is that how come people all over the country know so much about Jan-Lokpal Bill but so little about the Government’s Draft of the same. Agreed they have taken the efforts to popularize their draft, but then why has the Government not bothered to do the same? Only two people do not bother to explain – the extremely wise and the ridiculously idiot. And the extremely wise are usually right.

I do not believe a law can change the way corruption has engulfed our daily lives. To me, corruption can only be eradicated by introspection. People should spend more time looking into themselves and preventing every act of corruption they are privy to. This article was never about the Lokpal Bill. It was about the word ‘Government’!

I spent quite some time on reading the clauses of the Jan-Lokpal Bill vs The Government’s Lokpal Bill today. I had a few questions to begin with but ended up with many more by the time I finished. One of the most pertinent ones was what is being proposed in the Jan-Lokpal Bill to watch over the Lokpal itself. I did not find any satisfying answer. Someone with more knowledge, would you care to explain?

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soliloquy

In wilderness, on an insignificant milestone
I sit and reflect all alone.
In the vastness of the road, behind and ahead
Of the smiles shared and the tears shed.

Memories trespass and shred my thought;
Queerness, some borrowed some bought.
The road has been a friend, a bad friend
It gives you company but leaves you drained.

When on the road, people come and go
A few stay for a drink or a draw.
Some conversations happen that never should
A few remain unsaid, rarely understood.

I get up and begin my stroll,
To the horizons that beckon my soul.
A confusion stills lingers on, I hardly share
Is being lost better than going nowhere?

plain vanilla ice-cream

My Guest Column at The Viewspaper

That’s right! That is what you call the most successful ice-cream flavor in the world. The chocolate syrup that you add on it, is considered a delicacy but the poor ice-cream beneath is plain vanilla. Let me stress a bit more – PLAIN vanilla ice-cream. Interesting isn’t it?

Now the question is, if it is just so plain, what makes it the most successful ice-cream flavor (according to one of the surveys its market share stands at 29 percent where as the next best – Chocolate – could only manage 8.9)? The reason is simple. It is because vanilla, as a flavor, can be mixed and matched with the maximum number of syrups and add-ons and in doing so the taste does not deteriorate. Instead the taste of every add-on is inculcated resulting in a beautiful delicacy, which comes in small plastic cups and you eat it with even smaller plastic spoons.

On other hand, you would never call a chocolate or a blueberry as plain chocolate or plain blueberry. It has a distinct taste of its own and does not go very well with many add-ons. Now do not get me wrong. I am not saying that it is an entirely bad quality to have. But I do want to emphasize the fact, that their presence does not give us the right to undermine the importance of something as beautiful as ‘Vanilla Ice-Cream’. (Go ahead and add on a little chocolate syrup, if you want. It still remains a vanilla ice-cream though!)

A little extrapolation of this thought (an observation not verified by experiments, but by experience) tells me that this thought process is not limited to the world of ice-creams alone. Think of the last time you actually thanked the guy who puts coffee powder into the vending machine that gives you your regular dose of caffeine. Forget thanking, have you even noticed him? And there are countless others like the person who sweeps the streets of your locality, the guy who bills you in the grocery marts, the person who serves food in a restaurant and the uniformed watchman who guards your house. The list is huge. In their own little way, they have been contributing to the life that you live everyday and much like the vanilla ice-cream lost under the chocolate syrup, they fail to get even the faintest smile of approval from you for the presence they have in your life. It is strange how often I see people complain that their managers do not give them enough credit for the work that they do, Fair enough. You deserve it. But so does the guy who wakes up at 4 o’clock everyday to ensure that you get your share of the latest news at your breakfast table.

Imagine waking up one day to none of them. Imagine waking up to a world without vanilla ice-cream.

However, we do notice Hina Rabbani Khar, with more attention being paid to her Birkin handbags and Cavalli sunglasses than the agenda she brings to the table. She came as an ambassador from a country with which we have multiple long-standing issues and all that we noticed is her white salwar and matching pearl set. The only good part being, that people finally had something good about Pakistan to post on their Facebook pages. (I remember the posts that came after the innumerable cricket matches and the now-frequent bomb blasts and I was always grieved by the fact that people thought everyone in Pakistan is an idiot or a terrorist (not that there is much difference between the two!) and their moms and sisters were by birth objects for abuse). It finally took a beautiful foreign minister to set things right. And yet we tell our kids – beauty is only skin deep.

I do not know how successful Hina Rabbani Khar’s diplomatic visit to India was but I am sure she has a very good prospect in Bollywood. (Yes, she is 34 but you can always fit her in a ‘Bhabi’ role. Consult Ram Gopal Verma for more details on this one.)

So the next time you go to the ice cream parlor, smile at the guy who scoops your ice cream and ask for a Vanilla Ice-Cream. Drop the ‘Plain’.  (And give Hina Rabbani Khar a break. She is a foreign minister and deals with things that both you and me do not understand. Let her do her job. The girl next door also has a beautiful pearl set. Sad, you never noticed!)