Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

India has none but its own self to depend upon

Very thought provoking piece on what it means to be lonely at a geo political level. Its time for our nation to get its act together and be assertive about what our intrinsic needs and apprehensions are from a security perspective.

As someone rightly stated- 'People are neither for you nor against you. They are for their own selves'. Its so true for international politics as well.

Admitting the creation of Frankenstein: Kudos to the writer

We know how difficult it is to admit one's faults. Its a rare virtue. Mr Hussain, an eminent journalist from Pakistan has done justice by clearly and openly expressing the faults of its political and army leaders and the utter uselessness of the denial of the presence of the dragon which they themselves have given birth to and now which is bringing embarrasment to the nation from all possible quarters.

The earlier the government decides to take action against this 'terror child', the better it would be for the world in general and Pakistan in particular. I am sure a lot of Muslim brethrens would be wishing the same.

Do check this out.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Are the cynics right ?

There is a lot of cynicism on seeing the sudden flurry of response of people in Mumbai- particularly youth, who otherwise don't have a great history of actively participating in matters related to better governance. Most of the speculation is that its knee jerk reaction, more like shouting when your own backyard is on fire, contrived anger and self centeredness otherwise.

In the midst of all this noise, the important thing is to take all this in a positive stride. I have pasted down below (in italics) one of the mails sent by a Superintendent of Police from North India in one of the group mails amongst dozens that were exchanged after the terror episode.
Really liked his view point

Mr C*******,

While your angst and annoyance is correct, even these initial expression of views and sharing of advices is one step ahead in the direction in which envision things. Can anyone deny that people are slowing rising out of their slumber and are thinking more and more of their responsibilities and about their National interest than ever before? The huge turn outs in Mumbai are the best testimony to this fact.So, every person who wants changes to take place in the right direction will have to be more patient. Your works are bound to have more and more takers, sooner or later.

Amitabh Thakur

Crisis of civics education

It seems there is a competition going on between two biggest democracies on who is worse on civics education

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Mixed feelings at the Gateway meet

I will recount my personal experience about the assembly at Gateway yesterday which was organized to express solidarity for a better political order and to express the grievance about the incapability of the government in power to take strong course of action against terrorism.

I received an SMS on 30th Nov about this gathering. I had no clue who had called upon the meet and neither was I clear on what to anticipate from this gathering.

Though I am cynical towards general human tendencies atleast in terms of their involvement with things which require sustained commitment in the direction of politics, I wanted to understand if there are people interest in putting in serious efforts towards awakened citizenship.

Some observations:

1. I took a train from Andheri towards Churchgate at around 5:20pm. By the time I reached
Churchgate, the compartment was almost empty. Local trains are generally used by the middle class and below.
Inference: Not many people from the suburbs were targetting to reach that place especially from the weaker economic class.

2. As I got down at the station, I saw several youngsters flocking in groups sporting t-shirts with certain messages related to this gathering. I waited for my friend right across the station at Eros and saw hundreds of people heading towards gateway. They were mostly educated people comprising of professionals, students and some older age group people too. It was really nice to see this current of people in one direction from Churchgate towards Gateway. They were majorly the English speaking class of the city.

3. Then we started towards Gateway and were joined by some other friends of mine. Near that place it was extremely crowded while everyone was quite well behaved in terms of not getting into quarrels with one another or exchanging slangs and so on. People were shouting all kinds of slogans mostly of peace and order while primarily talking about removing the corrupt politicians and some were anti Pakistan as well (not surprisingly)

4. In terms of the gathering there were flocks of people moving in all possible directions. This was a clear indicator of the fact that people had not assembled there to listen to one voice but simply to express their sentiments in small ways. Thus it was more of a leaderless gathering of groups of people with the common thread being the angst as a result of poor quality of politics and ineffective governance

5. I went there to understand the possibility of a long term action and hence questioned some people about what beyond this evening? What would they do from 4th onwards (i.e the next day onwards) They didn't have any answer but they showed interest when i asked them for their mailids to propose an extended course of action.
Inference: The scene was dominated more by emotion rather than an attempt at doing something on a sustained basis

6. Someone handed over to me a pamphlet about some group by the name Mumbai Magna
Carta asking for Mumbai to be made independent of India with its own form of Presidential System etc which I really found in sad taste. Here we were gathering against corruption and poor politics and then someone starts talking about separtist outlook as if Mumbai is what only mattered to them!!!

Overall perception and feeling- The fact that we all could come together and express our sense of solidarity is a big first step since I have never seen anything of this nature ever in Mumbai by the educated class.
I am afraid that if this move doesn't get a vision and a focussed approach to long term action, the wave would subside. That is my biggest area of concern.

Considering the population of this city is close to 1.8 crore, for a strong social movement we need a much more inclusive and rigorous effort to improve the political order. We have to figure out ways of taking masses of people together with us.

Lets look for the next steps now.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Appeal to known and unknown people of Mumbai

It has been really heartening to understand so much of fervour and ideas that are being floated all over. I buy in to majority of those. Sharing few humble thoughts from the bottom of my heart during these sensitive times.

As a polity, we are realizing how difficult it is to actually have a concerted opinion and action on tried and tested values of honesty, courage, democracy, liberty, perseverance, equality, universal brotherhood, secularism etc

We need to realize that despite having able successful people in different spheres of life- Business, NGOs, Medicine, Education, Law, Art, etc we have failed miserably on leadership at mobilizing masses of honest people towards a common goal of a strong democracy. Individually we are experts but collectively it seems we lose all our capacities. Everybody says that its not their business. So let the gullible people become hostages to ideologies of these grossly incompetent politicians who have mastered the art of winning elections but pathetically failed on the true Battle Front- Governance.

I sincerely admire the efforts of Karmayog to really do so much in this direction of governance since its inception.

This episode has made me realize that a lot is left undone.We have critized government time and again but have not done anything to counter their tactics. That the current creed comprises majorly of parasites is a no brainer.

When Kumar Ketkar criticized the government in June this year about taking a decision to erect a statue of Shivaji Maharaj worth 200cr taller than statue of liberty, his house was vandalized. We didn't see any strong protest from citizens. Wasn't he correct in assessing the fact that there were important areas to spend that money in. Probably that statue must have wept today to see how his name was being used for narrow sectarian ends while the police forces were left to face the terrorists with their weak weapons and were made to die.

When Raj started his North Indian tirade were we somewhere smiling within our sleeves that probably that would relieve the city off some over population. How do we explain our silence during that time. Was it tacit support? Were we piggybacking on the same genre of politics that we are whipping now? Was it lack of political will (yes from our side too)? Was it lack of courage? Politics of the worst order was being played even then. The government was late to act even then. Today I receive smses of Commandoes being from North India and all. Why don't we act without any such phenomenal human tragedy like this terror attack. Couldn't we have sent a strong message by coming onto the streets in peaceful gatherings?

We felt that our children would be secure by economic prosperity and hence have prevented our children to do anything on the lines of civic activism. Today we are showing our anger when that assumption is being challenged. Children are no more safe. They are at the peril of unknown, highly trained and highly motivated breed of HUMAN BOMBS. Scary isn't it?

When incompetent people go for votes on the lines of religion, region, culture and all kind of idiotic capabilities other than governance what do we do??I remember a time when an emerging party in Mumbai organized a debate amongst college students on Police Reforms. The participation was poor. The finals were held in Mumbai university with judges like Julio Rebeiro, M N Singh, Brijesh Singh, Mr Prasad, Bharat Dhabolkar etc. During evaluation these judges stated that the quality of debate was sad. Can you imagine the size of audience? It was less than 25 people in the college auditorium. No one was interested. Look whats happening today- Lay men with no technical competency on these lines are talking about what police should be doing. Isn't it ridiculous? During that time Shania Twain was performing in the city and our youngsters were gathering in thousands to listen to her. Yes the other program was free of cost while the concert had sky high ticket rates. What are our priorities after all? I lament.

Today we whine and go out in the streets with candles and tears in our eyes which is ok. But it will not get translated into anything beyond regular life if we don't think hard.

Quoting Martin Luther King Jr at this moment:

........ Uniting social action with educational competence, Jews became enormously effective in political life. Those Jews who became lawyers, businessmen, writers, entertainers, union leaders and medical men did not vanish into the pursuits of their trade exclusively. They lived an active life in political circles, learning the techniques and arts of politics....

The other important statement from his side:

How shall we make every houseworker and every labourer a demonstrator, a voter, a canvasser and a student?

Imagine that these people gave their lives for these ideals simply because they held these ideals close to their heart. They could see their value which escapes our eyes. If we try to evaluate our own efforts in this direction then our democracy would not score anything other than a ZERO. And who would be held responsible. WE THE PEOPLE. Why? Because we got our education on all possible lines. We got a chance to visit countries. We read the best of the books. We got the best of the infrastructure at our homes atleast. And then what did we do with all that???

I know that I am getting too cynical. Yes I am. Its great that we as NGO professionals are doing our bit but lets realize that and also ADMIT it with complete humility that whatever we are doing is not going to sustain a safe and peaceful world because there are too many variable emerging every day and most of them are beyond our direct control. We have to do more and more. And yes I am confident that we have the capacity to do that. Thats the ONLY hope.

If we really want to have a better tomorrow and if we are really not just befooling our own selves then we have to stand tall and understand whether we are really prepared to do more than what we have just been doing.Are we prepared to create a huge mass of concerted effort through all the possible citizen forums that are exisiting today to get people to go beyond their narrow identities and egos to fight divisive tendencies, identity politics, corrupt practices, violence, unjustified expenses by the government etc. Are the able men in the city- the who's who of the city of Mumbai prepared to give directions. There are a lot of foot soldiers who would be required and the preparation can be done to take it ahead.

The politicians only listen to swings of public opinion. And in a city with 1.8 crore population even a swing of 1000 people can't bother them unless it has a multiplier effect to touch the heart of probably 10 lakh or more people. It seems too difficult to me also just as it might seem to you. But thats the task at hand. No less than expecting our soldiers to release Taj Hotel along with its hostages. Isn't it? Or probably even tougher.Can we create an organized order of people whereby each housewife, each student, each artist, each professional, each general manager, each finance expert, each pani puri wala etc understand their possible roles and do the best in it.

Its only a healthy democracy with best leaders at the top who will have the understanding of what needs to be done and when. How to prioritize activities. How to get our population to work in tandem towards true NIRMAN. Can we draw out a plan for bringing people in units, hundreds, thousands gradually into a fold of awakened mass. Give them clear responsibilites and direction and energy to act upon. The same ideal of Prabuddha Bharata. Vivekananda roared long back that when our own internal constitution is weak, we get prone to diseases from outside. And thats what is happening today. Have we really understood what those people warned us against?

One of the things that left me dumbfounded about these terrorists was the phenomenal killer instinct with which they came. Just 10 of them. And yes, all less than 25 yrs. If we are to work towards a better order, we need the same instinct to enter into our blood across all sections of society but here the enemy should be divisive politics, corruption, criminals entering into politics, poor styles of administration, local parasites trying to support the terrorists, violent practices by political parties, sectarian tendencies against civilians, narrow discrimination in our own homes and premises, apathy etc.

Are we ready to roll up our sleeves and form a city level mass force with the sole end being a just and peaceful society? Lets remember that any movement towards democracy would be successful only if its tenets appeal to the uneducated as much as they do to the educated. An elitist idea will surely die. Thats why I say- a mass mobililzing force. The Times are asking us 'Can we do it?'

Let me know your thoughts please. Its not a mere opinion that I am stating. Its a statement on which I genuinely intend to act upon. But again, can't be done single-handedly .

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Limited Canvas Unlimited Paints

I am not a painter. In fact I am really bad at using colours.

Whenever I see a painting a thought comes to my mind about the unlimited nature of our imagination, sentiments as against the limitedness of the canvas on which the painter represents his emotions. A canvas is more a kind of a snap shot of what the painter was feeling and experiencing within him/herself at the time when he/she was producing the piece of art. Can it actually be an exhaustive depiction of one's thoughts and feelings? Or rather to put it this way, if I am feeling joyous and decide to paint, can the end of the canvas put an end to my expression of this emotion of joy as well? I seriously doubt.

To draw an analogy with life. If I consider this life to be a canvas, then as any individual who is alive today, my aspirations, deep concerns, sentiments would be depicted on this canvas through my thoughts and activities. One day this canvas will suddenly get over without giving any clue to this painter(self in this case). Thats one difference that I see between this canvas and the painter's canvas.

The other difference that I can see is that with the end of this canvas of life, my thoughts and feelings will also end.

This makes me impatient to use all possible colours in the best way possible :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Vada 'Pav'litics in the Financial Capital

Can you guess what this food item is?
(Close your eyes and then answer)
Did u say Vada Pav??
No. There is a difference. This is a political vada pav. Shiv Sena yesterday decided to woo another section of its vote base- this time comprising of people preparing and consuming Vada Pav. (I am surely a big fan of this delicacy :)) Uddhav Thackarey- the next head of the political group- Shiv Sena launched the 'Shiv Vada Pao' (I am wondering how many other products would get similar prefixes as the competition for Marathi Manoos's votes increases).
This tactic is aimed at appealing in two directions-
1. The producers would be getting their interests served since only Marathi speaking junta will have the license to prepare it (I know you would guess it correctly and hence no points to you :) ) and
2. A huuuuuuge population base which depends upon this simple yet tasty food item for snacks and breakfast would get to savour a differently flavoured vada (politics is the new flavour of this vada). But it surely doesn't increase my reverance for the political group :(. Thanks to the 'masterminds' to go an interesting route to further exploit the weakness of democracy.

I wonder what Obama would have done had he contemplated a counter strategy in Maharashtra. Imagine what the world would feel about him had he decided to counter it by this one
I am sure he would not have done anything similar. But this is just to remind you of the journey that politicans in India have to cover in terms of true Leadership.
By the way, I didn't understand what Uddhav was trying to prove when he stated that this new version of vada pao would challenge the legacy of the McDonalds of the world. Simple message for him......... local political gimmicks don't work in global markets. There would be no audience to these statements. Please keep these tactics in your backyard.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

State tightens its grip over IIMs

IIM All Yours!

Another case of the muscle headedness and high handedness on the part of the State to stifle the autonomy of higher education in India. The victim in this case is the group of premier Management Schools in India.

When will the politicians understand that true leaders believe in empowerment. Holding power to oneself and using it in a high handed manner is a sign of supreme insecurity and evil tendencies.

But when has HRD Minisiter Arjun Singh cared for these voices!

Hail Google!

I love the way Google keeps on looking at its own services in terms of improving them constantly. There is always something new to surprise us . I can't recollect any organization which comes up with creative ideas at such a pace that too in the realm of services.

Sometimes its the new browser or mail services with additional features, picassa with added benefits, search facility with new options and so on and on. I don't know how these features would look like in say 2010 but I am sure I would be using them and would continue to love them since they will be better then what they are today. :)

We all love creativity when it comes to us. This is one of the most visible organizations which has made it a part of its culture. And its just amazing to see how we feel like grabbing whatever new it has to offer simply because there is some incremental benefit, some advantage to the way we work or may be simply something different.

This ability to break habits of people and to make them acceptable to new features or functions is a great attainment, which I guess has a lot of lessons for how work or life in general can be made more exciting and productive.

Hail Google!!! Hail Creativity!!!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Observe your Inferences for its all that matters

The entire world where we exist is a product of decisions that mankind has taken. From coming up with hospitals, to waging wars, to spreading love, educating people, discoverting new things, implementing policies etc etc. In that case this existence is the manifestation of decisions that have been taken in the minds of billions of people since ages.

The underbelly of decision making is the capacity to draw inference. If drawing inference be the driver of what we do and what we don't, should our entire learning be focussed on being more capable in drawing inference. How to draw inferences without allowing any of our prejudices, biases or notions to colour our view points. To consider the impact of each decision on generations that are going to come to existence.

Its a great skill to have I guess and of supreme importance to society too.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The better we are placed, the more visible we become

When we have plenty of anything with us, our real character surfaces.

To explain my point, when a child takes birth in a prosperous family, the level to which he or she can make use of this life of convenience, decides the inner substance; similarly a politician who has highest authority to take decisions would show his intellect and character by what he/she does with that power; again when all means of communication are available to us, our interest in communicating with people indicates the presence or absence of interest in conversing with them.

Another way of understanding this is by studying people who could achieve much more with certain limiting conditions. That would give a comparitive viewpoint to the possibilities of human spirit.

Its only when we are short of certain conditions that we feel like attributing the blame of our state to external factors. The moment these external limitations are gone, there emerges the individual with his strenghts and frailties of mind. An image which is no more veiled by limiting circumstances.

Thus if you have to test the potential of any person, give him all that is required to work comfortably. His work will then be his true signature.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Incisive thoughts on the dangerous religio-politico waves emerging in the country

Pratap Bhanu Mehta once again brilliantly analyses the threats of the present day dangerous politics that is a part of our lives now.

Quoting the way he ends his thoughts:
We are now like characters in the Mahabharata: the accumulated weight of past misdeeds, and the formations of our nature have reached such a point that simple solutions seem unimplementable. The burden of our pre-commitments makes us unable to make any simple gestures of hope. Solutions are easy to propose. More than solutions, we need some deep thinking in the sense that Hannah Arendt mentions as an antidote to evil: the kind of thinking that is not lazily waiting for someone to propose solutions, that can penetrate to the roots of our psyche rather than remain trapped in entrenched divisions and superficialities. It is not overdramatic to say that we are nearing a precipice, and only something quite drastic can prevent our steep fall.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A case of negatively reinforcing loop for the weaker cities

Interesting article on municipal financing in the JNNURM project.
It makes a strong case on why the government approach is flawed in favouring the cities which already have the capacity to pull investment from the market. The government needs to play a role of putting more weight behind cities which need its support and which are considered to be unattractive by the market due to various reasons.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Canteen at the origin of better organization culture

I was speaking to a friend of mine this morning and she mentioned about a very simple idea that she had heard from someone on building better relationships with your colleagues in your organization.

The idea is to have lunch with one new person in your organization every week.

(The duration of the implementation of the idea would be a function of your continuity in the organization and the number of people working there )

I am sure the creative minds would be able to work around this idea to come out with several interesting variants.

I loved the idea ! :)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Food Policy as the nucleus

Michael Pollan successfully uses systemic thinking to bring to the fore the challenges in front of Barack Obama for tackling the problem from the right end. He has very interstingly brought to the fore the importance of conceptualizing a strong food policy that would have implications on alternate energy options, health policy and lead to steps towards cleaner environment.
Very insightful article
The website is highly recommended for people who are interested in ecoliteracy and ideas towards making it a way of life.

Unfettered heart

The beauty of selflessness as against the ugliness of selfishness.
Check this out

Just as there is no limit to being cruel and apathetic towards everything around, similarly there is no limit to being generous and caring for unknown .

The other beautiful thing is how this lovely act, triggered to create an entire foundation aimed at doing more such wonderful things. Love and hate both have such strong multiplier effects.

Its always our choice, what sentiment we want to nurture in our hearts...........

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The many deaths that ideals will die on the altar of Indian politics

Our politicians will keep on setting low standards of character from day to day. Mar'Great' Alva has been with the Congress for donkeys years. Now when her son Nivedith was declined a Congress Party ticket from Karnataka, she has decided to revolt against the party by becoming a whistle blower. The party has also decided to part ways with her considering the damage that her words are doing to the party image.
Not a single media group has been able to write about his credentials to contest elections. After all the party heads have themselves set standards for the supreme importance of the science of genetics as against the 'trivial expectations of governing a nation that too like India.'

(Don't miss out on the interestingly ironic image of Obama on one of the ads on the left side of that webpage. It seems he is laughing at the abysmal state of the ways of our netas)

Though cronyism and nepotism in both the national parties is hardly a shock, but when such words come from the torch bearers people do stand up and take notice.

Had her son got the ticket, she would have happily continued to do whatever she was doing. In that case it would have been all acceptable to her. Probably she was nurturing this expectation to get a ticket for her son since long and hence it has come to her as a major disappointment. If something is wrong ethically in terms of ideals of a democratic polity, it always remains wrong irrespective who benefits from that wrong.

Seriously speaking these instances that emerge from time to time just reflect the moral bankruptcy that is plaguing our politicians. They are as thick skinned and insulated from ideals as anyone can get.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Economist backs Obama

A very balanced Statement of Preference for Obama's candidature for the position of US President from The Economist.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

MNS bids Farewell to Peace in Mumbai

To unify people and country and take them to the road of construction calls on the likes of Leaders or Statesmen such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Patel, Mandela etc. The much easier route is to gather hooligans in the name of 'karyakartas' and vent out their angst on helpless people.

When society is divided into layers and subliminially pitted against each other, when urbanization challenges go out of control and when youngsters having wasted their years in doing anything but preparing themselves for a professional life, democracy throws an opportunity at a person who is hungrily looking for the seat of power no matter how it comes. Such conditionalities give birth to netas such as Raj Thackery.

Emerson stated that Power is as good as the person who wields it. In this case if we use converse reasoning- the use of power can somewhere hint at the character of the person who is actually weilding it today in the designation of Head of MNS.When the divisive tendencies in the country are giving way to violence by another similar brigade (Bajrang Dal) against Christians, by terrorists againts masses, communal riots etc, the need of the hour is to come out with political leaders with the metal and vision to unify the nation. Here we see a neta emerging who wants to create further lines. I really lament at the fact that people who take birth in families from where they command a natural source of power (irrespective of their own credentials) most of the times end up in being very mediocre or opportunist power hungry netas. Rarely have we experienced people from a certain family giving way to bring Statesmen.

The State continues to allow Raj his way as somewhere they understand that if this person is muzzled, it is likely that the ruling party's vote bank would also get a hit. There is a seperate political angle to it which can be best understood from this piece by Kumar Ketkar

If he wants to create a strong cadre of local youths who can really contribute towards a true 'Navnirman', the focus should be in helping them develop skills by which they can compete with any individual on the basis of merit. Only a naive can have an imagination that by making thousands of these people roam on the streets, breaking glasses, assaulting people would make them more employable or useful for the society? If the problem is that locals are not getting opportunities on account of people from outside coming in, then there are better measures to come to a robust solution.

Statues of Ganesha and Shivaji can be erected anywhere (Mayawati who is possessed by self love is her near cousin in this mission) but the real Divine Spirit which exists in all of us and is weakly represented by these external manifestations is getting silenced by these acts of a political group. The more he continues these acts, the more the society would be drawn towards jungle RAJ. All pomp and show of celebration of one's culture sound hollow if the fundamentals of love for the mankind is absent.

Our toothless and highly politicised judiciary will not be able to do much against him till they really introspect where all this can lead to. But I guess the damage has already been done. Not in terms of terrorizing others but removing the feeling of brotherliness from the heart of tens and thousands of people who are on the roads and probably lakhs of people who are silently providing their support. Enforceable laws have their own limitations. They can't change the thought process of lakhs of people. Can unenforceable laws of love be institutionalized in such situations? The worst sin that a man can do is to make a poor and vulnerable person feel that he is actually poor and that he is really vulnerable and helpless. And he has done exactly that.

When I was in my school, I remember witnessing skits with four kids dressed as Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian giving messages of unity of religion. But now, thanks to netas such as these there would be several roles that our children would have to enact in their schools to give out further such messages. It would not involve just 4 but maybe 20-30 or more depending upon say region,caste, creed etc etc.

But will it change anything? Though that appears to be our only hope.............

Monday, October 20, 2008

Views on 'Cinema'

I along with my wife have been visiting the Asian Film Festival since past few days and we treated ourselves with some amazingly sensitive movies.

The medium of cinema always fascinates me.

To talk about cinema, let me take a dig at the psychology of it as it seems to me. I feel that movies allow us to experience characters in reel life which we either may want to live, may not want to lead (like villains), would want to connect emotionally, physically relate to etc etc. When someone imitates an actor's dress, hairstyle, conversation style etc in effect they want to connect to him/her physically. The reason a movie like Rock On! catches onto youngsters is because somewhere they sense a hope in chasing their dreams. In this case, the personalities in the movie and also their mission is what the audience connects with.

Similarly we have a lot of people enjoying the character of the emerging revolutionary in Motorcycle Diaries or the role of Forrest Gump. We love these characters probably because they are special and we somewhere want to be like them deep within our subconscious level but rarely do we gather the courage to become like them. At times there are certain elements in certain characters that appeal to us and not the total self (which is very often the case i must say) and also we have to understand that in our limited lifetime, we can't lead multiple lives. But still to what extent we can stretch ourselves, is completely our personal call. I feel a lot of movies like Rang De Basanti, A Wednesday appeal to us simply because we somewhere try to identify our inner vaccums with what the character tries to portray over here. The loving character of Rajesh Khanna in the movie Anand where he constantly smiles despite knowing that his life is going to come to an end. I have not met a single person who was not touched by the character.

At other times it might just be a brilliant performance, script and direction that mesmerizes us.

This ability to connect to the audience in a way such that the audience finds himself/herself emotionally connected to a character can be one of the tests or challenge which the director might like to take up.

I guess this power of cinema to allow people to lead multiple lives (albeit in an imaginary mode) provides the logic of why it is such a popular genre of entertainment.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Share and Grow

Wonderful example of how knowledge sharing between nations can help in solving key social issues.

Operation Flood being replicated in Africa

As the social sector grapples to solve the intricate challenges at the grassroot level, it would be worthwhile to understand how agencies can really crash the journey along the learning curve by sharing their knowhow and avoiding the pitfalls.

Where is the gap then?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Against compartmentalized Living

I find it strange as to why we all get into a tendency of narrowing our scope of learning or interest to just a few things. I have felt that people from a certain field tend to prevent themselves from understanding or knowing about other fields and feel comfortable i existing in pigeon holes of knowledge. Somewhere we forget to understand that all aspects of knowledge have been derived or must say have actually been extracted from facts, experiences and theories of what we see around us and the more we know about varied things, the better would be our relationship with the world at large.

For that matter why should some MBA working with a corporate agency be oblivious about political philosophy like tenets of democracy even though he is supposed to have the calibre of understanding it and even while he is not required to work towards it, he needs to know it if he is living in a democracy.

Or for that matter someone who is an artist can also try to dabble in the field of social entrepreneurship or science for that matter.

I am understanding this gradually that there is just no limit to our mind with respect to what all it can grasp and also how it can apply. Its our intellect through which we decide to lead narrow and constrained lives and that too completely at our loss and we don't even realize it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

From 'Divide and Rule' to..........

We read in history that under the British rule, the policy of governance was 'Divide and Rule'. When I contemplate over the progress of the way society in India is governed today, I don't find much of a difference.

Today, with whatever differences we see in the society, politicians in general try to understand that and make best use of it to their advantage. So the political mantra now is 'Understand the divides, leverage them and rule'.

When someone would say curb SIMI movements, the other party would accuse it of being communal. Then another one from some quarter would shout about reservation for the deprived class and then another great artist would be seen relishing the Iftaar party.

When and how will all this change?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Syria: State regulation on dissent

Despite the mess that we see out here in our politics there are still certain things which are really precious and which we all should feel happy to enjoy with respect to non-interference of the State

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Age isn't a virtue....all by itself

Answering to a question on impact of John McCain's age on election results, Jack Welch answers that there are three essential aspects which would decide his success just as for anyone else. The attributes he emphasizes are

Curiousity about the age
Willingness to change and
Wisdom that comes with age

I think these points make a lot of sense . Read on>>

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Are you biased? I surely am..

Would it be wrong to say that we all are biased? Or let me put it in a positive light. Is it possible for anyone not to be biased.

I guess understanding our biases can help us understand ourselves better. Please have a look at these different categories of biases in case you are interested in knowing yourself better. It would surely help you in your tough arguments.;) I never knew there were so many psychological traps lying within our minds. :)

Whats the colour of your lens???

Our thoughts, actions, reactions to situations around us are always coloured and influenced to a large extent by our past experiences, our values, principles, culture, education, aspirations etc.

Unless we become cognizant of this 'lens', it is likely that we may not be able to understand or interpret the situation at areas where it actually deserves to be noticed. Or rather I should say that it may prevent us from having a holistic view to situation at hand.

To substantiate my point, recently I floated the idea about coming up with a model orphanage as part of our initiative in Anupam Kher Foundation, and I sought opinion from two experienced persons to begin with. One of them who is a counsellor told me about the things to be kept in mind in an orphanage, challenges of adoloscent kids, the caretakers and their qualification, possibility of volunteers etc. She didn't think too much on the location of the orphanage or the process of building an orphanage in that area and the constraints that it would give birth to.

The other gentleman is VP projects from a major multinational company and he only suggested me on the duration of completion of construction, the cost of inputs, how the existing scarcity of labour and high price of steel and cement would lead to a certain cost etc. He didn't give even a single idea on what should be our approach towards children of different backgrounds, age groups, their education etc.

What I want to say over here is that even after all our experience and qualification we always tend to be driven by what we have experienced in life. Which implies that since our experience would always be restricted and narrow, our analysis more often than not is going to be far from complete. Its scary since it might even be faulty many a times. You can take any decision in the society. On the contrary the reality is always futuristic and it needs to be understood in entirety to do justice to solving the problem at hand.

In the above case both the persons gave very useful insights, but still coloured and limited.

The lesson for me over here is that we should always be aware or conscious of how our thoughts are getting driven at any point in time without actually attaching ourselves to those thoughts completely. Which implies that we should always be open to new thoughts, ideas, directions, people etc. That might help us in thinking systemically and possibly the final answer would be better.

What do you think?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Potential Vs Limits

Really liked this answer by Mr Mark Parker, the CEO of Nike in the company's annual report for the year 2006-07.

What is the core of NIKE’s philosophy?

We believe in potential, not limits. The 4-minute mile was safe, until Roger Bannister. Lou Gehrig’s 2,130 straight games was safe, until Cal Ripken. No one would ever clear 29 feet in the long jump, until Bob Beamon. Nobody would ever beat Bob Beamon, until Michael Powell. That’s how it is with NIKE. We believe.

The concept of believing in potential and not limits is a very deep one. If you look at the way the human civilization has progressed since ages, all of it can be attributed only to one factor-the human potential. The indomitable spirit about which Victor Frankl speaks in his book 'Man's Search for Meaning'.

If organizations and goverments recognize the untapped potential of their employees and citizens, imagine the direction they can give as they try to lead them. Its worth giving a serious thought.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Recruitment ad by Sir Earnest Shackleton

Came across this interesting piece of advertisement that was posted by Sir Earnest Shackleton in the year 1915, when he was preparing for his famous expedition to Antarctica in his ship named 'Endurance'.

He wanted to deter people from applying since there were more than 5000 applicants for the 30 member crew that he was looking for. The greatness of his leadership is evident from the fact that such a huge number of people were wanting to go with him for that challenging an assignment.Mark that the beginning till the end of this add has a pessimistic connotation and thats not because the Leader was pessimistic but more because he wanted to give a clear picture about the nature of assignment. The last line just says it all- honour and recognition in case of success. I guess any major attainment in the national or international area would fit this bill. No?

To know more about Shackleton and his leadership traits check out Endurance

Hats off!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Reservation... Perpetuation of injustice?

Is reservation a solution to caste based discrimination and injustice. Read this news item.

I feel the greatest leveller in society after death is market. Rapid urbanization is reducing the significance of archaic notions such as caste system and merit is getting recognized and rewarded to a large extent atleast in the private sector.

For any individual who has the requisite talent today, there are plenty of opportunities for growth and development. Companies dont hire for caste, creed etc; they need quality workforce for meeting their business ends. This is one of the greatest plus points of the private sector and the market theory. It just cant afford to take a hit on its profitability and hence it has to rise above these parochial modes of classification. This is one of the critical forces which is levelling the Indian society on both economic as well as social grounds.

Do you bother whether the software that you use for accessing your account in a particular bank has been designed by a Dalit or a Brahmin. Of course not!!!

In the midst of global forces challenging the hollowness of such concepts, the reservation system only entrenches it further and says loudly that this difference is here to stay. The government will ensure it perpetuates as thats how the government can predict its chunk of votes from the beneficiary community. Also, at urban areas where caste and all discussions are reducing on account of increase in education, this policy keeps on reminding people that there are layers in the society and there is a section which needs the crutch of reservation.

The crime of some other individuals is being compensated by the hardworking students who want to excel in their studies and have nothing to do with caste system. Its another social injustice.

Alternative measures towards social justice

The quality of the government run primary schools is such that it reduces the learning abilities of the child rather than gifting him with anything concrete.You need to go and check the performance of these schools to understand the pathetic state of affairs. Naturally when underpriviledged kids would study in such hopeless learning centers, they would become totally blunt intellectually (for most of the cases, not all). Now instead of improving its responsibility of providing good quality education at low cost, the government struggles to find a good solution and creates the concept of reservation.

Ideally if the quality of delivery of education at the primary and secondary level is enhanced, the problem of incompetitiveness amongst students would be minimized as they would get education at par with the more well off people.

The government can ensure that all candidates (irrespective of economic background) who have proved their potential in primary and secondary education would get a chance to continue their studies and rise in life. This would be a true reward and an incentive for students to do well at all levels and they would also feel honestly supported by the government.

There are several ways of establishing social justice including the education sector.

Strengthening the norms of justice for people who are victimized by the upper castes through fast track courts with speedy and stringent punishment for the guilty, is one step where government has failed miserably.
Secondly the plight of dalits who are involved in cleaning of our cities leaves much to be desired. Check this out.... Why is government shying away from its responsibilities and passing it on to hardworking students who are trying to raise their head in this highly competitive world.

We need leaders who can do more than just come out with elephant statues through hard earned salaries of the public.

That would serve as a much stronger affirmative action than merely securing seats for a certain class and depriving better performing students from getting admission becuase they are not from the reserved category.

The population of this nation doesnt need crutches in the form of reservation- it needs capable administrators- who understand how to kill social evils rather than perpetuating them.

Jai Hind !

Lets earn our faith

Significance of religion in our nation

The importance that religion has in the Indian way of life is something that warrants serious deliberation. Its sensitivity many a times keeps people away from discussing it openly. Sethu Samudram being one of the interesting examples. But that doesnt clear the confusion that surrounds the understanding of religion in our heterogeneous society. Some of the most tragic riots have got triggered on communal lines. At the same time religion generates phenomenal positive energy during festivals. Its such a strong unifying force !

I take liberty in proposing an idealistic view of acquiring ones religion.

Considering the fact that something so critical to our social fabric lies misunderstood or misinterpreted by majority, is a real tragedy. The very fact that the same concept has provided center of gravity to giants such as Vivekananda, Shankaracharya, Rumi, Mohammad Younus on one hand and Osama and the likes on the other hand, pushes me to reflect on its potential. The power of this force to create people of diagonally opposite view points of life, has been a subject of much fascination and intrigue.

The interesting part about religion is that it becomes part of our life the moment we take birth in it. A baby becomes a Hindu or Muslim or Christian or Sikh before he or she learns to spell A. Its strange. All religions are deep and require introspection and years of study to understand it completely. Thats why different sages and peers have spent years just diving deep within their own selves. Strangely the understanding of such a subtle and deep concept remains elusive throughout lifetime to majority as our society confers a religion the moment you take birth in a family.You may be from a particular faith without having ever opened the most sacred text of that religion; forget about internalizing its values. I find it dangerously absurd. People develop their understanding around practices at their home- e.g. worshipping on a periodic basis, adhering to certain values, practices etc. Many a times people misidentify ritualism with being religious and thats where it gets dangerous.

The point is that the emotional aspect of being from a religion is so high that it has capacity to rob an individual off his reason. More so if the individual is uneducated or lacks the capacity to think. Most of the violence in the society in the name of religion are committed by people who have totally incorrect understanding of religion.
Imperfect understanding of no other concept in the world has had such severe impact as incomplete or incorrect understanding of religion. Most of the terrorist activities in the world stem out of political and religious forces. You may not know Heisenbergs uncertainty principle yet you may become a great marketing professional. But if you dont have an understanding of religion and someone takes charge of your emotional afflictions towards your religion, you may become a weapon in the hands of that person. If you belong to the fanatic school of thought, probably people might brain wash you and turn you into a suicide bomber.

Proposed idealistic solution

Why cant individuals take birth in no religion and then acquire their entry into a certain religion through due understanding and appreciation of the religious tenets of a particular religion. This may take around 15-18 yrs if needed (in parallel with academic pursuits) but at the end of it we will have people who understand their faiths in and out and know its value in civilized world. This will atleast ensure that only those people take religious sides who have correct understanding of it. And when they have correct understanding, they would never get violent as no religion favours violence. Thus people who dont develop an inclination towards a particular religion remain away from influence of the self styled religious leaders and they would have no reason to harm individuals of any faith. Sometimes not to belong to any faith is a safer situation.

When practicalism leads to blood bath, idealism is worth taking a shot at. The world would definitely be safer in that scenario.

Jai Hind !

'Chalta Hai' nahin chalega

The day my nation adopted or rather accepted the vice of chalta hai, we opened our windows to all kinds of debilitating practices.

We started spitting on the road, pissing by the side walls. Getting away by paying a fraction of the penalty for unlawful activities, became a subject of jest. Coming late to meetings got converted to the stale joke of Indian Stretchable Time. Using deceit in competition became a mark of ambition. Holidaying at the nearest picnic spot on the day of election, littering on the streets by taking our hand out of a Honda City, started sharing e-mails on how the select section of our brethren speak English and everything and anything.

The danger with this attitude is that it allows us to accept anything and everything which a more advanced nation would frown at. Gradually it reduces the shock value of things and acts as a nice tranquilizer and we stop getting angry at the above mentioned things. This attitude of chalta hai has done more harm to this nation than perhaps anything else. How can we assume a Shanghai out of Mumbai or any other transformation of sorts unless we start checking these things within and without!!!

The belief (which I have found in a lot of people) that we have rights and government has duties is a statement smacking of sheer arrogance and is to a large extent suicidal for overall development. As responsible citizens we have to settle for nothing but excellence in our day to day activities. Be it turning to the polling booth in largest number or mainting our nation clean.

We, as a nation have immense potential- we just cant allow it degenerate into mediocrity If we want our corporates to compete with the Apples and Googles of the world or want our government to match our infrastructure to Shanghai or for that matter see our atheletes match up to the mettle of their western counterparts, only excellence in attitude would be the key. Chalta hai nahin chalega.

Identity Politics: Lets derecognize it!

Trend: Drivers of voting being anything other than merit

We as a nation have tradionally believed in dividing ourselves on frivolous lines of religion, caste, creed, language etc. In fact our micro identity has given us more comfort than our larger identity of being Indian. We saw these being taken advantage of during the British rule, but still we are not prepared to give that up. In fact it is part of our social fabric now.

In that kind of a context, we take the same sentiment to the poll grounds (uneducated people necessarily) and nominate the person who most closely resembles our own identity. Now a days the other identity card that our parties enjoy playing is the card of secularism.

In fact people are not totally wrong in thinking so. A lot of our politicians have proved their merit or rather lack of it in living upto these expecations. The philosophies of equity, equality, justice, governance dont mean anything to them. Vote ke liye sala kuch bhi karega !!!

It is funny to see how a certain family in our society has displayed natural churning of party heads despite an obvious and glaring decline in leadership quality of its successive generations. Looking at the trend, this appears to be a logarithmic curve which may never touch the x-axis.

The Moot Question

In that kind of a situation who is to be blamed. The man who believes in these petty identities or the person who sees in these divisive tendencies, a natural plank that would spring board him into authority?

The Alternate Approach:

For us to become a truly healthy democracy, we have to rise beyond narrow confines that our birth grants us and reward merit and merit alone. The complex tasks of governance and public administration can only be assured through individual qualities of intellect, honesty, leadership etc. Caste, religion, location etc pale into insignificance. Its a dis-service we do, when we vote giving consideration to the above identities.

There are excellent examples in the form of Gandhiji, Patel, Vivekandanda who outgrew their birth identities and displayed leadership at national levels. We can learn several lessons from their lives.This is one of the vital ones.

Jai Hind !