Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Google's view on Openness

This post on Google's belief in openness by Senior VP from Google is special as you get to understand the philosophical base of the organization, his understanding of historical trends and capacity to envision the future, understanding of technology and as a result of it all, most importantly a clear understanding of the future of their business.

These special people make this organization so unique.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Business climate

Do check out this map depicting ease of doing business in different parts of the world

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What corporates can learn from NGOs

This is what some of some of us (happy to find myself too:)) had to say about what Corporates can learn from NGOs.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

For want of a symbol?

Whenever I read about terrorist activities being perpetrated in the name of religion and specifically when it comes from Islam, I get intrigued whether a presence of a religious symbol that would have depicted peace and love would have been of any value for people who really can't understand abstract thoughts.

Abstract thinking such as internalizing the subtleties of universal brotherhood are really not easy concepts for a raw mind. Its very very difficult to go beyond the confines of the structures and historical events that impose a certain kind of perspective on the minds of people. While just emulating the symbol in some form can help in a very simple way.

Certain religious symbols inspire a certain kind of virtue. Eg. the deep stillness and highest form of sacrifice in  Jesus's image encourages one atleast not to ignore these values if not emulate them on a daily basis. Similarly, Buddha's image in meditation inspires the need for internal deep dive. In Hinduism, Lord Krishna's image goes to a large extent in encouraging the virtue of dharma and prosperity- (though the latter ideal is what is generally seen to be understood by the simple minded and the former conveniently ignored).

At times I would say that if the image doesn't inspire the actual act it surely challenges the contrarion line of thinking. For example not all Christians may believe in sacrifice and surely not in living a life of non-materialism but the symbol would surely contest any feeling on the contrarion side, of say killing others in the name of religion. Similar would be the case with symbols of other religions. Which means that just because Hinduism has symbols doesn't imply that all Hindus embrace love and peace. But surely it mitigates and challenges people who want to perpetrate violence in the name of religion.

While when we look at Islam, we find that being a monotheistic religion, it differs from Christianity in not having any symbol of worship. I would surely want to understand the reason of this design but I wonder if some symbol signifying the virtues of love, unity and universal peace would have done some good to the raw minds of terrorists and in turn impacted the larger world in several positive ways.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The most positive negative emotion?

Can there be anything 'good' about anything 'bad'?

A very meaningful message in the latest edition of Harvard Business Review where it is suggested that its fine to have regrets since thats what is going to give us better perspective towards good decision making in future.

Many a times people tend to pull others out of this mode without thinking that there is a time which is a must spend for actually critically evaluating a decision which has gone bad. Just stating that you need to 'chill' and forget is a probably the most naive way of dealing with any kind of failure in life. Its important to feel bad about one's own judgement (if it has gone awry), learn from it and then move on.

Just wondering if Tiger Woods has taken break from professional golf  for this reason?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Forces in favour of diversity

Finding Globalization another interesting theme to dwell upon particularly because of the way it influences economy, politics, environment, cultures and also values.  There are phenomenally interesting fall outs of globalization and it will great to delve into them gradually.

One of the reasons why people are becoming more and more tolerant towards diversity I guess is because people are seeking tolerance from others. When a person takes birth in a village or a small town and achieves not much in life other than one's title and the legacy of prestige that comes with it, we tend to hold on to it as our sole axis of identity in society.

This identity which develops on the basis of caste, creed, religion etc allows one to have a position of authority and some significance which doesn't seem to be bestowed naturally to the individuals otherwise.

As we go from that insular state to a more broader platform of work by reaching out to other cities and also countries (by virtue of a globalized economy) we meet new cultures, new languages, new systems of understanding people. And then the problem is turned upside down. At this stage, the person doesn't enjoy the luxury of placing oneself on the high social ground but has to make oneself accepted in the new environment so that he/she could enjoy the same respect that others in that community enjoy. For a person who had a low social grounding earlier finds him/herself in a position of relief since the original definition of social hierarchy is not recognized here.

This struggle for gaining the necessary respect or seeking of acceptance in new societies allows one to become more and more tolerant  and reasonable for the simple reason that as a person who is intolerant towards others can't naturally expect others to be tolerant towards his/her own self.

This is happening more in urban areas than probably rural areas but as the country drifts towards further urbanization, we can surely assume that acceptance of diversity would only improve with time.

Social changes are always difficult to be brought about through direct routes. Legal ways also don't run too far. Its only indirect or oblique forces which tend to challenge certain notions and give us perspectives which are much broader and larger than what we hold dearly through significant period of time.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

What binds India

This image was taken when I was travelling in an auto rickshaw within Mumbai city.

The thing that struck me was the fact that this image of symbols of two different (Hindu and Islam)religions coexisting in the the 'office' of this auto driver indicates the strength that sustains our country and acts as an example of what acceptance (or probably tolerance) in religious beliefs is all about.

I am not sure how many people with limited education in other parts of the country would be able to have that degree of inclusiveness in their minds. You can quickly think about some countries randomly and come up with answers.

This ability to co-exist is the very strength that acts as a bulwark against the divisive tendencies of our politicians atleast to some extent.

The next degree of this evolution would emerge when there would be total negation and revolt against sectarian tendencies of the political leaders and that would lead to impact at the highest portals of power.

We have come a long way and there is still a huge distance to be travelled.
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Saturday, December 5, 2009

The debate on debate

I recently had an opportunity to chair a school debate competition organized by the British Council in Mumbai. The topic for the debate was 'Freedom of Expression in Art'. The debaters were quite young and mostly between the age group of 14 and 17 years and did a decent job in putting their points across though with some scope for improvement.

A thought that came to my mind when I had a discussion with one of the very interesting audience of the debate. He mentioned about how after the debate got over, on an offline note, one of the participants who spoke against the motion of debate stated that she was actually not so much against the motion.

The immediate thought that follows is, what is the purpose of this competition? I understand that the purpose of debate is to progress towards clarity after considering diverse view points. While what the judges are expected to judge is how well is the person able to defend his/her stand. In many issues it is likely that the person may agree to some points in favour and some points against the motion then does that mean that the debater is expected to maintain a stand with stubbornness just so that he/she appears well guarded in his/her defence.

Does that mean that the debate is not actually based on the principles of debating but simply the principle of not budging from one's point, no matter what. Or for that matter for those who adulate competition in all spheres of life, the spirit of competition is the key and debate is another arena just like say a sport.

If we look at the alternate view point, should there be points provided to the participant for revisiting one's thoughts in an objective light and again come back with a more balanced perspective. Will the debater in that case be 'judged' weak or will that be the true victory of debating as a means of clarity and maturity of thinking. What should be the parameters of judging in that case?

Isn't it funny that at times as we try to recognize someone's competence in one realm, do we give an altogether wrong message on the same subject but at a different end.

Probably the 14 year old might go back home thinking that he did a fine job in sticking to his point while actually he might have missed out on the core of what a sound discussion is all about.

But surely, he is not to be blamed. He becomes a victim of another system of evaluation

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Why should Terrorism matter to us?

I am nowhere related to influencing policies on terrorism at this stage and neither can I do much beyond reading about terrorism whenever there is reporting of some facts or some fervent expression of thoughts through editorials in newspapers.

At the same time, lately I have realized that the concept of terrorism has multifarious levels of demensions which range from local politics, international politics, historical equations, law and order, lack of education, religion, poverty to name some of those aspects leading to actions routed in mindless violence.

The other reason why i feel understanding of terrorism is critical for any individual who is otherwise not connected to the problem directly is to look at how the phenomenon is shaping our thoughts about identities and how the same get translated from one generation to the other.

Just as a singular thought, what would be the impression born by a 16 year old child after reading through or experiencing these elements since the time he/she took birth. How would these thoughts influence the decisions of the child in the years to come? How would the adult in him/her relate to people from specific communities?

Who takes the responsibility?

In my future expressions on the subject, I would like to talk from the point of view of various aspects of terrorism as I get to dive deep into the subjects not through any focussed time bound effort but as a need to understand the problem and its ramifications on the society to a greater degree of detail through general exploration of the subject.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Mirakle Couriers

I know i am looking funny in this snap. :) But its not about the snap. The important thing to notice is the person next to me. He is working with a courier company by the name Mirakle Couriers. The moment you open their site it says

'Mirakle Couriers is a courier company with a difference as we employ only deaf adults.'

Isn't it a miracle ?

The founder of this company called on me along with surely a lot of other people last year when he was trying to figure out some space to run his operations. I didn't prove to be of much help as there were few people to give out real estate with no charges. Thankfully his concept of employing only with people of disability turned out to be a success when he presented it in a forum called Echoing Green early this year and it seems now his concept has taken off.

I was so delighted to see a chap from this company come to deliver a courier (Tehelka magazine) that i immediately requested him to for a snap :)

The beauty of the idea lies in the fact that he has carefully understood what it takes to deliver a certain kind of services and created a model of business circumventing that while at the same time neatly targetting an important cause related to physical disability. Its a win win preposition if they deliver well. People who might otherwise find it difficult to get employment find their strength get utilized leading to high sense of self respect and this would in turn lead to higher retention rates. An excellent example of social venture.

Let me tell you that Mumbai is a highly competitive city from the point of view of starting any enterprise and it calls for immense strength to get into something of this nature when you don't know what kind of service issues you might encounter.

I wish Dhruv all the Success in his great venture.
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Thursday, November 5, 2009

On importance of facts

In a world with deluge of multiple sources talking about the same subject, facts can get distorted depending upon the tacit interests of the person who weilds the pen.

Interesting article on the need for thinking sceptically so that we don't shape our opinions on wrong information.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Economics lesson from the local kirana storewallah

High inflation has been the order of the day in our country since past few years. The other day I went to my local grocery store to buy some rice. The grocery store by the way has a very funny name - Jai Gurudev Chana Bhandar. :) He offered few variety and I narrowed down to the one being sold at 44 Rs/kg. (almost 1$/kg)

I felt like chatting with him for a while and got to learn that the owner of the kirana store came to Mumbai in early 80s from Uttar Pradesh. One of two states from where maximum immigrants come to Mumbai on account of low economic growth and also poor quality of life that the largest state offers to its people. I told that person that 'yeh bahut mehenga hai' (this is really expensive). He said there is no way that the price would come down.

On poking a bit further about the basis of his assertive statement, he started explaining his understanding of economics. He mentioned that when he came to do business in the city, the cost of toor dal (a popular variety of pulses) was Rs 3/kg and since then the price has always risen and today its being sold at 90Rs/kg. He said that people are fools to say that its because of Congress that the price is high. Using an interesting swear word he states that irrespective of which government comes, the price just can't be low for the simple reason that the interest in farming as a means of occupation is losing popularityin the villages now. When they go home every year, they get to meet villagers who want to see cities, work there and ensure that their kids get a good education.

When there are no producers, prices are naturally going to shoot up. There is nothing to get surprised about that. That was the crux of that few minute conversation.

The interesting part was that, this person has not completed his formal schooling and in his conversation, you can get a light understanding of a basic principle of economics, trend towards urbanization and the limitation of public policy in certain food prices.

Though there was nothing to bank upon but its really nice to see how each individual despite his limited formal education, tries to develop some understanding of the reason why things happen in a certain way.

I found it really interesting. This also points to the fact that we can never take for granted the opinion of the common man on political matters. No wonder his vote wins at the end of every election.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

PKK returns to Turkey

Kurds have been fighting against the government of Turkey for a seperate state and their rights since long. Recently in a historic development, the people from Kurds who have been involved in guerilla fight with the Turkish army returned from Iraq after several years. You can read about it here
The interesting aspect is that, this gesture by the Kurds is aimed at not adopting a seperatist stance but they are now extending their hand towards the democratic government of Turkey. This surrender may lead to immense advantages for the Kurds for generations to come. Atleast we should pray for that!
But why am I writing about this all of a sudden?

In my recent trip through the IVLP program, one of our colleagues (now a friend) was a Kurdish social leader who is working for the rights of Kurds in rural Turkey. We received a mail from her and realized that it was a matter of extreme joy for her since she never anticipated that this development towards conciliation would happen in her lifetime! The challenge for her was to the extent that she could not give a Kurdish name to her son and expect him not to get discriminated in educational institutions. When she would excitedly speak about politics in her country, it would be evident that some day she might be able to enter into the corridors of power and take her efforts towards the rights of Kurds to the next level. Not seen a lot of women speak so passionately about local politcs backed by understanding of history.

I was so happy to share this joy with her for the simple reason that now the development was no more a political event in some distant corner of the world. There was a person who was happier because of that development and hence that news becomes even more valuable to me.

I always feel that for us who are part of groups whose rights are well defended, it gets very difficult to relate to situation of people who are marginalized and are reeling under the battle for political space or personal freedom. Be it Maoists, Ultras from North eastern part of the country, erstwhile Punjab militants, Tamils in Ceylon, Kashmiris in PoK etc. Its just so important to have an understanding of the legitimacy of these demands and may be even try to see is some support can be mobilized at any point in time.

Whats so unique about Silion Valley?

A thought provoking essay on what it takes to create a hub for entrepreneurs.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Yess. We surely can't afford to fail in Copenhagen

Powerful speech by Gordon Brown in the wake of the Copenhagen Summit slated for December this year.

"We cannot compromise with the Earth; we cannot compromise with the catastrophe of unchecked climate change, so we must compromise with one another. I urge my fellow leaders to work together to reach agreement among us, recognizing both our common and our differentiated responsibilities, and also recognising the dire consequences of failure."

and also

" There is no Plan B for the Planet"

This statistic was also startling

"98% of those dying and otherwise seriously affected live in the poorest countries, and yet their countries account for only 8% of global emissions. This is the great injustice of climate change: those being hit first and hardest by climate change are those who have done least to cause it."

This meet is going to be a tough field for Leadership at National as well as International levels. On one hand we have a democracy where probably 90% of the population may not get an inkling of what India's stand is and its rationale, while on the other hand the discussion would be driven more by the fate of planet in decades to come. How to manage the short term interests with long term benefit of the nation and planet rhymes well with the regular challenge of meeting quarterly results with long term growth of corporate groups.

I guess it all boils down to vision of the leader at the end of the day.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Returned from the IVLP program

It has been a while since I blogged last time.

Just returned for a very learning and fun filled tour of three weeks to US under the IVLP program with another 22 people from other nations. There was another colleague from India.

The theme of the program was 'NGO Management and Civic Activism' and under this theme as a group we were taken through five different places in US starting from Washington DC, San Diego, Charlotte, Boston and Vermont.

The idea was to introduce us to the best practices of NGO managment and to show how the trinity of Government, NGOs and civil society interfaces successfully to bring about social change. The participants in general were from developing countries and the challenges in each of the country was very unique, though common at certain levels.
For example gender discrimination is there in India as well but the condition in a place like Quetta in Pakistan is much more difficult. Similarly places like Serbia, West Bank offer different challenges altogether.

It was great to understand how US has been able to create a truly Federal Democracy and also the philosophy behind it. The freedom to connect with the politicians came as a complete surprise to me when we interacted with the City Council Commissioner of Charlotte.

On an overall basis we got to see the sunny side of the NGO sector in US and it was really amazing to see how the organizations try to work harmoniously with the civil society both educating it and also drawing its resources for its mission. Some of the organizations like 'Year Up' have clear parallels in India.

The idea of a healthy relationship with the government and the NGOs has tremendous value in terms of the potential for problem solving that can get unlocked. Not sure how much time it would take in some of our nations to learn these practices.

Along with the scheduled agenda, the 'unplanned' component of meeting and interacting with the participants from such diverse nations like Israel, Slovania, Malaysia, Pakistan, Sudan, West Bank , Jamaica etc was an altogether unique experience.

When we get to understand the internal struggles of working in specific countries, we realize that the world is really far from flat. The challenges of low economic growth leading to unemployment amongst youth, corruption, political upheavels, hostile neighbours, environmental degradation, violence based on identity, human rights violation, gender based discrimination, AIDs are some of the common pain areas. The role that NGOs can play in the face of such massive issues calls for serious introspection.

I consider myself privileged to be part of such a charged up gathering of people in a nation which surely understands what human potential is all about and how our institutions need to be organized to make the best of our time and resources.

As a group, we are now trying to understand how to take this international network of experience to add value to our local efforts towards critical issues. I am sure something of value will emerge out of this collaborative effort.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Self Freedom Evaluation

Yesterday, it was India's 62nd Independence Day.

World over, political independence from any foreign power is concerned to be of highest value and definitely it deserves that place. Having said that, I feel that there are phenomenal factors that impede us as human beings from time to time and its worth checking how free actually are we in a more expansive sense of the word

Self Freedom Evaluation

Am I free to live and interact in the company of people that I feel happy about?
Yes for sure

Am I able to live with complete freedom in terms of where i want to go, what i want to do etc- Yes to a good extent though when you are married, you can't take any decision in isolation. Also, the professional structure also limits you in certain ways. For example, i can't just take a break from work and spend a couple of months in the villages of Bengal. Economic freedom is a must for attaining freedom of this nature which I don't have today.

Am I free of all the conditioning of mind which i have developed over several years of societal influence and which also keep on developing in my day to day interactions?
No. Though I consciously make efforts to see how it affects my thought process. I think i should have the capacity of going beyond the normal state of my mind of acquiring a pattern of thinking and try to be as objective as I possibly can be

Is my personal philosophy of living in tune with my actual actions. Am I being honest to my own selves or am I trying to lead by someone else's world view?
I feel that i am free on this front to a large extent.

Am i free to decide the kind of people i want to work with?
Yes. To a large extent

Am i free to work with my belief in what i really like doing-
Yes for sure

Am I free to practice my religious faith the way i feel it appropriate-
Yes for sure

Am I free of societal notions which I don't believe in but which have been practiced from generations together and are supposed to be carried forward without much questioning? -
Yes for sure

Am i free to exercise my value system in my day to day interactions-
I would say yes but then whenever there are aspects which contradict those values, it causes difficulties in getting things done. This has got more to do with the regularly practiced values of the political and bureaucratic set up of which we are an integral part of.

Am I free of all the aspects which I consider negative-
Not completely

When i try to make a general summary, I realize that the degree of freedom that I have today is something that is higher than the freedom I had at any point in time in the near past. Probably thats the very reason I can feel more good about myself than at any time in the past.

But then, i realize that there are certain cobwebs that need to be cleared to make this journey even more joyous.

Adlous Huxley termed our inner self as 'Imprisoned Splendour'- The Atman of the Hindu Philosophy. I personally feel that my whole journey of life should actually be to unleash this splendour through various ways. For those who are able to do it completely, the world recognizes them as seers, saints, Mahatmas, Mandela, Baba Amte....

The rest like me, will keep on striving..

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

On thinking differently

If someone asks me the oldest example of "Thinking Differently" leading to success, I would say its Lord Buddha. Probably no example can surpass the impact his different thinking actually had on the world map.
Had this person not decided to take a different course in life, an entire religion which has influenced billions of people over several hundred years, would not have taken birth. He left his royal lineage to understand what the mystery of life was all about.
Can we ever gauge the quantum of value He created?

Where human weaknesses provide business opportunities

As per Indian philosophy, there are five doshas or weaknesses which mind can fall prey to-
  • Moha (delusion)
  • Kama (lust)
  • Krodha (anger)
  • Matsarya (envy) and
  • Lobha (greed)

I realize that there are some business models which actually thrive on these fundamental weaknesses.

Moha - expensive art works sold at exorbitant prices;
Kama- Pornography, prostitution, a certain line of cinema for entertainment industry, certain kind of journalism that is gradually gaining vogue; dance bars etc
Matsarya- Luxury goods where an individual rests on the material to define his/her identity; can be jewellery for some, watches for some others;
Lobha- Individuals who enter into any commercial act with an attitude of gambling;

Thus if we look at it intently we realize that several of our businesses actually exist because human beings are imperfect on several lines. Its the human weakness that creates economic value for the society. Which surely implies that one kind of growth (economic terms) is causing damage in human terms which probably no existing system is really too keen to evaluate or is concerned about.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Vital skills for the internet age

Quick thought:

In the internet age, two of the most important skills whose presence and absence can make a phenomenal difference to our overall knowledge base and hence our overall role in this vast milieu of people are Reading habit and Communication.

If people don't have these two capacities in them, they would just see a huge stream flow in front of them and they won't understand how to make use of it to improve their own lives (initially) as professionals or as healthy social beings.

Amongst the top 10 capacities that I would want children to develop, expression (both verbal and written) and reading interest would surely find their place.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Great Speech

Came across this amazing speech this morning. There is just so much of inner glow, clarity and intellect in the speech that it can't fail to strike a chord.

Surely a great specimen of the way visionaries think and communicate

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Social Entrepreneurship at Student phase

Yesterday I got an opportunity to judge one of the regional rounds of SIFE event for the second time.

I just love the concept. They encourage students to work in the direction of social entreneurship and encourage them to come out with solutions that can help alleviate the disparity that we see in our community. The winning project gets sponsorship to take it even further. Last year the Indian team stood third internationally.

The method of judging the event is quite scientific where the judges are taken through a video of around 18 mins and are given clear instructions on the parameters that they need to clearly examine such as Sustainability, understanding of the market based economics principles etc.

In this contest we get to see 20-21 yr olds coming and explaining how they managed to check out say a school for the visually challenged in Latur and realized that the training that was provided by the government was disjointed from the market and also that the government didn't put in any effort in terms of connecting the potential of these individuals to the opportunities that the market offered to them.

Similarly another group of students who are undergoing their post graduation course, explored the possibility of reviving the art form of Warli painting which is getting stiff competition from the more refined products made from machines etc. These students even got these painters to come all the way from their tribal areas and showcase their art in important outlets.

I guess introducing students to social entrepreneurship at an early stage can really help them in developing their outlook towards the disparities in the society and may be enough to light a small flame which we never know may have the potential to come out with great solution which might just transform the world of the not so blessed in unknown ways.

For Education to have true relevance, it needs to be rooted in the social, political, economic context of the times. In a country such as ours with such phenomenal challenges in all three dimensions, we just can't afford to adopt a singular goal as otherwise, a lot would remain unanswered.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Time for Self Introspection for a National Party

A candid and thoughtful expression of the challenges in front of BJP from Sudheendra Kulkarni as the party is made to get into an introspective mode and compelled to answer the question 'Where do we go from here?'

No wonder that this article raised major red flags within BJP as it comes from someone who has been an intrinsic part of the political group and also writes very regularly in support of the party in various dailies. 

Its rare to see such honest admission and calls for great character. 

Urgent need for Systems Thinking

Insightful interview of Peter Senge on the need for systems thinking and how its absence from our thought process has led us to these difficult times in terms of sustainable development. 

These lines are so true-  'We don’t see the system because we’re habituated not to see the system. We’re organized not to see the system and we’re intellectually organized not to see the system. So it starts there.'

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Stand & Deliver

Some news headlines state that the electoral results herald a new dawn in Indian democracy. It somehow rings hollow in my ear as anyone with even basic study of progress of Indian politics would understand that we are not meeting a party which is as fresh and promising as a morning star.

If we try to understand the results in the larger context of time horizon and also try to observe which party has come to power, it throws some salient insights.

Congress is not an altogether fresh party. In fact wherever we stand today as a country with all its ills and strength, the credit goes to a large extent to this party. The only thing that is positive about this result is that its the best possible result amongst whatever choices we had. Its not the ideal government by any figment of imagination.

A party which has pathologically burdened into the nation's design, systems which reek of corruption, practices which allow terrorism to flourish in the name of secularism, clear interference with key bodies like CBI, Police machinery as clearly indicated by sudden withdrawal of case by CBI just 10 days before elections, should rather introspect and understand what does Rahul Gandhi imply when he says that that he wants to change the politics of the country.

What does it mean to change the politics of the country?

Identity politics is one key cancer and only a national party like Congress could have given a jolt to it and it has done that. Though we can't say that it ignored the caste and religion of its candidates when it fielded them from various constituencies. Obviously that mattered but important thing is that this aspect didn't weigh too much on the large issues of national significance which was beyond the comprehension or interest of stone age parties. 

The UPA gets a new term but it comes to power with some clear legacy of dark practices which have weakened the nation at several levels:

Complete comfort with policy of reservation. Will they replace Arjun Singh with someone who is really deserving and understands the issues that mark the important sphere of Education. How will this important sector be approached. Its just so vital as a growth engine of the nation.

Dynastic politics- a system which gets its strength from centralized decision making by a certain family and sees results arising out of this non democratic behaviour. Why would it want to change it?

Sychophancy- A party where people live by expressing their allegiance to the high command. Whether you talk about a 21 yr old karyakarta or you talk about the haggards like Arjun Singh. Would they want to change this culture of nepotism and favouritism? Is that a good example for the youth to emulate.

Corruption- The issue of multiple thousand crores being stashed in Swiss Banks. What is the debate all about? Who are the culprits? Where are they? Why is this party silent about all that? A party whose methods and policies since post independenced have only entrenched the present day ailing machinery of government systems. Manmohan Singh didn't show any interest to work in this direction. There are surely corpses which are stinking in their cupboards. And its time that the government takes this issue with vigour.

Aversion to Privatization- With a clear stand favouring more of government control, will they be able to sense their own limitations and allow the market to decide who produces what and at what rate? Obviously there are riders to it and needs to be looked at from sector to sector.

External Security- A party which has shown utter ignorance to terrorist attacks. What would its stand be now? Who will handle this portfolio and how will they want to define importance of security as against their favourite word 'secularism'. Will they take any effort to check open gate infiltration from the eastern part of the country. 

Insecurity with local governance- Will this party show interst in bringing about true democracy by devolving power to small units at the basic urban and rural level. Its larger national machinery doesn't believe in this style which is heart of democracy. Would they look at it differently now.

Agreed that Congress showed great strategic insight to carve out this electoral victory, but just stating that they want to thank the youth of this nation and clean its politics is not enough. 
Passing the test of democracy should not be inferred as a step to absolve oneself of all the sin. Its no 'Ganga Snan' as the leading opposition party would like to put its faith in. Its simply that with our present day parliamentary form of governance, we as a polity were left with no better option and we still are optimists and feel that UPA can bring about a change.

The country needs to develop on several thousand accounts and its only through good governance, healthy politics backed by strong ethics that it can be made possible. 

The country as a whole has given this opportunity. Its time for the party to now STAND AND DELIVER

The Nation's clear Mandate

With the UPA getting a clear mandate to form the government, the result has laid to rest the turbidity created by the political creatures like the various wannabe PMs in the waiting. 

As rightly stated by a number of groups, its basically cutting such parties to their size. It would have been a nightmarish thing to imagine BSP asking for PM's post to put up more elephants in Delhi in the name of governance. Remember her slogan after winning the UP elections 'UP hamari hai ab Dilli ki bari hai'. The kind of aspirations these moral and ethical midgets and incompetents have, completely gets dwarfed in front of the grand ideal of national level governance but unfortunately somehow the political equations had given them the importance far larger than their proportion. Not that their game is over, but the important thing is the jolt. What happens after this needs to be seen.

Agreed that no emerging parties with promise of clean governance could make a major dent, but the very fact that the formulaic way of reading people's mind and taking them for granted was unacceptable to an extent, is clearly indicated by the loss of people like Chiranjeevi, Mulayam Singh (reduced to 24 seats from 36), Paswan (wiped off), Lalu (reduced to 4 seats from 24) and the debacle of the Left. 

The hopelessness of their thought process can be understood from the fact that when Lalu was asked that question on losing out, he mentioned that it was an error to go to the electoral grounds all by themselves. As if everything else about their ideology was brilliant.People who are only their for power broking and are literal termites of parliament like Amar Singh and Mulayam Singh have been clearly shown the mirror.

If we get into individual results, there are some very interesting revelations but the key aspect is that, this is the best possible that the country could have expected given the nature of electoral politics that we have been carrying and experiencing through the years and the possible permutation and combinations that could have been possible. Its not that all people who have been elected are part of any galaxy but simply that its much easier now for them to correct their wrongs and see that they deliver on their promises.  

More than anything else the country at this stage needs clear minded people at the top who have the leeway to take vital decisions on financial issues, security aspects, poverty alleviation and education along with others. This can only be possible if we have people who can think well and are not tied to people who can only think narrow and ill. Probably i am repeating this point since this is the biggest reason of the simple satisfaction that i carry. 

Now the government should be well set to chart its course and see that whatever it left undone or didn't do well needs to be taken up with utmost priority. There are enough lapses on various accounts and getting a clear majority at this juncture makes its task easier. 

I expressed my thoughts in one of my blog posts last year in the direction of when our true nature actually emerges.  This day reminded me of it. 

Monday, May 4, 2009

Insights on 15th LS Elections

This article from The Hindu newspaper, neatly captures some of the important facts which underline the 15th Lok Sabha elections.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

National issues deserve their due: Will the result of 15th LS elections reflect that?

The recent case of CBI giving a clean chit to Quattrochhi around the time of elections, raises suspicion on the way Congress has been known to interfere in statutory bodies like CBI who are meant to be away from political interference.

In this editorial by Pratap Bhanu Mehta he points out a very significant quality of any leader and also a political group of setting up institutions which would cater to the needs of the society without falling prey to partisan politics. He points out to a very serious threat the society faces on account of such irresponsible and self centered behaviour at the expense of loss of trust of the society at large on institutions which are meant to uphold truth and justice.

Thus the moot question is, whether there is any value in the public raising its cry over police reform as represented by mandates given to politicians prior to elections during citizen group meetings asking them to work towards it. Aren't we fooling ourselves when we try to ask lone MPs from one or two constituencies to work towards such key national level problems where probably as individuals they are powerless since the overall framework of these parties has clear stakes in allowing those issues to persist.

The only way in which the electorate can arm twist and make the govt act on such lines is by bringing to fore such issues as a collective during General elections. Unfortunately this is not to be seen in India since the electorate rarely votes on national issues. Despite the fact that Congress has shown utter ineptitude in responding to the menace of Naxalism and Terrorism, there is hardly any nation wide concern to be seen. And the reflection of the same can be seen when go through the political manifestos of the national parites wherein we realize that none of the manifestos talks about fundamental reforms in depoliticising institutions meant for social welfare like IIMs, CBI, Govt Hospitals etc. Moreover the birth of Coalition politics will only cause problems in fixing such vital bottlenecks.

Sitaram Yechury CPI(M) leader while answering to one of the questions related to fragmentation of our electorate, marks that 'I think it is a process of maturation. You cannot have a social plurality that is as wide as we have in India and have a political monolith. Your social diversity has to reflect in your politics. '

The point is that if this be the India of tomorrow, with regional parties coming up with their local issues during General elections, how are we going to decide the course of the country at a larger level. These regional groups will give rise to Coalition as an inevitable option but this is only going to relegate the national issues to the margins and whether we get a Maharashtrian PM or a Dalit PM at the top would be the sole subject of debate.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Horse of Democracy

Elections should ideally be Celebrations of Democracy. Thats the time when the electorate gets to decide whether it is happy with the performance of the government or not.

Today we see gloominess on account of limited choice of parties and sense of pessimism and fear about who is going to be at the helm of nation's affairs . The country needs ablest people at the top when we are finding ourselves in the midst of explosive neighbours, deep global economic turmoil, poverty getting manifested through violence in the name of Naxalism, dismal state of farmers in some part of the country, antiquated policies on education, health etc.

Will we get the right persons in the most important positions to take the country ahead or are we going to find the most incompetent pachyderms.

Instead of being the elephant which is required to lumber on carrying the weight of dynastic politics, black money, divisiveness, narrow sectarian agenda, rotten and stinking mix of religion and politics, corrupt bureaucracy, I aspire for the democracy that is represented by the horse above.

As times change, the society should be required to validate its notions, its beliefs, its errors and make the right changes. These aspirations should match the times and also the need of the nation as a whole in the context of the global forces. The electorate needs to rise beyond self centered agendas; they need to understand what national leaders should be focussing on; people need to know what MPs are required to do; on top of it all they should be willing to understand their own role in making democracy a success.

Only when the electorate in general matches the pace of changing times and gives up its traditional clinging to its own fears, jingoism, communal mind sets, corrupt and greedy nature, will it be able to set a pace to give the political class a run for its money.

The electorate should be like that horse whose aspirations are forward looking, symbolize energy, youthfulness of ideas, strength, inner steely character and Extreme longing for Freedom from both the soft and hard atrocities of the State.

And as this horse runs its course with complete Freedom, the party most suited would be the one which understands the mood of this horse and is able to saddle it to take charge of it for the next five years and lead it to greater heights.
Thus, not the political party but the horse is central to the success of this nation.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

15th Lok Sabha polls

As our country enters into its 15th Lok Sabha polls, there are interesting changes in the social and demographic landscape which would surely have impact on the forthcoming elections. 

The most important and also tragic part would be the post poll zero ideology driven and only opportunism based power struggle which might lead to a very weak government at the center with most incompetent people at key positions.  

Candidates/Political parties whose performance in the Lok Sabha elections interest me more:

The political equation in Uttar Pradesh- The state which sends 80 MPs to Lok Sabha.  How does the pie get distributed amongst BSP, BJP, Congress and SP? A state which has remained backward on social as well as economic parameters doesn't seem to show any sign of coming out of this situation of poor governance.

Janta Dal (U) in Bihar- Apparently Nitish Kumar has done a good job in Bihar as the CM. If anyone can challenge the hopeless caste based politics in the state of Bihar, he seems to be the most promising candidate.

Lok Satta Party in AP- a promising party with strong leader- Dr Jayprakash Narayanan, but questionable second rung. The performance of this party would to a large extent decide how it 
manages to interest youngsters in other states. 

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena Party which has fielded 11 candidates in Maharashtra- a party trying to use violence to capture the issue of immigration in Maharashtra. A party which has the potential to change the contours of society in Mumbai around ethnic lines atleast in the next 5 to 10 years.

Praja Rajyam Party- Party started by Chiranjeevi in AP and being considering to have the capacity to give a strong challenge to Congress in that state.

Kalyan Singh defected BJP to join SP. Considering the baggage of Babri Masjid demolition in 1992 when he was the CM, how does his candidature help/dent the prospects of SP, which has always gone by Muslim vote bank politics

Arun Bhatia - former accomplished bureaucrat standing as an independent from Pune. The country is in need of such high performers

Mallika Sarabhai from Gandhinagar Constituency- she is standing as an independent against L K Advani

Rishi Aggarwal - an environmentalist from North West Constituency of Mumbai standing on behalf of Jagore Party- New party

Meera Sanyal from South Mumbai - independent against strong Congress, MNS and Shiv Sena candidates

Dr Mona Shah and Rajendra Thakkar- Candidates from Mumbai fielded by Professional Party of India. A new party driven heavily by the thought that Professionals can be good politicians but seems to sound too simplistic a solution to excite the electorate. 

Varun Gandhi- the idiot son of Menaka Gandhi and representative of BJP who came into limelight on account of the venom he spewed against the minority community. His electoral performance will be a reflection of the quality of electorate in Pilibhit.  Not much to say about BJP and its murky and convoluted ideology.

Last but not the least, Sadhu Yadav, the estranged brother in law of Lalu Yadav who has joined Congress. He is pitted against Prakash Jha from LJP (headed by Paswan) Considering the fact that this constituency is dominated by Yadavs and having defected RJD, its likely that this candidate would lose because of their loyalty to RJD.  

As far as completely new candidates are concerned, it would be interesting to understand the number of votes they are able to capture as that would be an indicative of how the electorate perceives clean chit candidates.

Other interesting statistics can emerge from understanding the popularity of the new parties like Bharat Uday Mission, Bharat Punarnirman Dal and Jagore Party. None of these groups seems to have a convincing mandate though they are talking about the promise of good governance

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Right to Dream

Last evening there was an event at the Prithvi theatre in Mumbai on Mahasweta Devi. They had invited Mahasweta Devi to have an interactive session with the audience which was preceded by an hour long documentary based on four interviews of the great authoress .
She is an 84 year old Gandhian who comes across as a very strong lady who is both individualistic as well as a humanist from the core of her heart. A prolific writer who has spent decades in writing and has received the best literary awards of the country.
I got introduced to her thoughts few years back, when i saw the movie 'Hazar Chaurasi ki Maa' which was based on the Naxalite movement that originated in Bengal. She wrote the book in 1975 after few young men came to her one day and complained that she always writes for rural Bengal but never for what those people are going through. She said that she never saw who those people were as they were standing on the road in a zone where the street light was not reaching and she could also not give any immediate answer to them.
Some of most fascinating aspects of her personality are her rootedness to the Indian ethos, her deep sensitivity towards social causes for which she has worked tirelessly to the extent of giving away her award monetary contribution, her very simple lifestyle which allows her to connect to lakhs of people who adore her work as well as her persona.
She recounted the greatness of Gandhi when she got a chance to meet him in 1946 when he came to Shantiniketan; this was the second time he came there after he had met Tagore some years back.
When the servants of the place came to greet him, he asked where was Gopi (one of the other servants who was present when he came their last) and how their sons and daughters were doing. The greatness of that individual can be gauged from this simple instance. This was the time when Gandhi had spent decades being at the helm of India's political affairs and still was 'human' enough to remember why a certain person was not around and the well being of their kins.
The fact that the authoress could remember it after 60 yrs of its incidence gives a clear idea of what actually makes an impact us. What defines greatness. She lamented the fact that there were almost no individuals like him these days not just in India but across the world.
One of the strongest messages that she gave was on believing in the "Right to Dream" as that is what defines the progress of individuals and society as a whole. She stated that those dreams that managed to escape the jail of one's society allowed her to become what she is right now. Her belief in equal treatment to all be it tribals, down trodden, rich etc was very strong.
As an answer to one of questions on whether she had ever written for dalits, she stated that she never writes keeping the identity of the individual in view. For her an oppressed person has no identity. Whether he is a tribal, a dalit, Hindu, Muslim, Christian etc really loses significance.
She is surely a Legend.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Less is More- An interview

Such clear thoughts on spiritual matters is not common. I experienced a very balmy feeling as I read through this interview

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Being too busy may not be the right thing

I received this post as a forward in my mailbox this morning. Didn't try to validate its factual accuracy as I realized that the message was clear and something which we all need to carry with us at work.

Live a life of love. - Ephesians 5:2

The great Scottish essayist and historian Thomas Carlyle married his secretary, Jane Welsh. She continued to work for him but when she got ill, Carlyle, who was deeply devoted to his work, didn't seem to notice, so he allowed her to keep working. But she had cancer and eventually she was confined to bed. Although Carlyle truly loved her, he found that he didn't have much time to stay with her or much attention to give to her. Then she died.

After the funeral Carlyle went up to Jane's room, noticed her diary lying on the table, picked it up and began to read. On one entire page she'd written a single line: "Yesterday he spent an hour with me and it was like heaven: I love him so much." A reality he had somehow been too blind to see now revealed itself with crushing clarity. He'd been too busy to notice how much he meant to Jane. He thought of all the times he'd been preoccupied with his work and simply failed to notice her. He hadn't seen her suffering. He hadn't seen her love. Turning to the next page, he read words he'd never forget: "I've listened all day to hear his steps in the hall, but now it's late and I guess he won't come today."

He put her diary back on the table and ran out of the house. Friends found him at the side of her grave, covered with mud. His eyes were red from weeping; tears were rolling down his face. "If only I'd known, if only I'd known," he cried. After Jane's death, Carlyle made little attempt to write again.

Are you neglecting your loved ones?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

'Market to Mother Nature' accounting

This insightful piece by Friedman raises some very pertinent questions.

Friedman makes a compelling case of the need to look at how the model of engine of wealth creation is impacting sustainability and also other values of human co-existence and growth.

The fact that the consumers would in general rarely ever look at the environmental implication of buying more and more goods, puts pressure on the business leaders and our policy makers to come out with 'Market to Mother Nature' accounting system to explain how our actions are systemically connected to larger wheel of existence on this planet.

The progress of mankind in the decades to come would be measured not in terms of the cumulative and widespread wealth that gets generated but also on how responsibly that wealth is generated. If the wealth of today only leaves dry arid lands or over flowing water bodies and creates imbalance all around us, we will be left no option but to perish miserably.

The more people we have on this planet with appetite for more and more consumption of fuel, goods, food etc, the greater would be the challenge to think systemically and go beyond isolationist planning models where we fail to consider the other dimensions of existence.

Its not that reaching out to environment is the be all of everything. The kinds of crimes being conducted in the garb of market today also clearly hint at the importance of diving as much within ourselves as much as we are trying to look outside.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Celebrity endorsements or Mockery of Human Intellect?

I admire Aamir Khan for his acting but I wonder at this concept of celebrity endorsements. In fact I really find it asinine to say the least that something like Earth Hour needs his image.

Global warming is a major area of concern with loads of data on it available over the internet. It is a problem which has attracted the brightest brains in the world. I wonder as to why is it that despite all the efforts put in by researchers, activists, NGOs and even governments of the world we still need an image of the above nature with one of the popular actors carrying a candle to signify shutting off power for an hour and that his support to the cause gives it an extra ounce of seriousness.

How does this problem gain in significance on account of this image???

Does that imply that unless such people who are not anywhere related to the cause come and just stand infront of the camera for a shot, our educated mass will not get convinced. Doesn't that somewhere imply that the underlying assumption here is that educated mass has actually lost all its grey cells? The same is the case when we see Amitabh Bachhan offering polio vaccination drops.

Media guys may argue about the importance of perception but again what does it mean in terms of something which is so real and talked about. Why on earth do we still need IMAGES to inspire us? Can't we take the effort and do something about things which are real just because we understand and believe in the cause and feel strongly about it???

I recollect a group of students from an undergraduate college approaching me for the walk they were trying to do on 1st Dec'08 towards AIDS day. They mentioned about their difficulty in getting a celebrity as otherwise it was difficult to convince the media. How very insane!! Is AIDS such a small issue that it needs to be backed by someone from the film/tv fraternity to come and endorse? Can't the students have faith in their own selves and march because they themselves feel that the cause is worth their sweat and time?

The same public mindset is well taken advantage of when we see actors who have had their popularity time on the screen switch to the political circles. The idiotic junta would flock them from all corners to get a glimpse when Sanjay Dutt stands for Samajwadi Party or when Chiranjeevi launches Praja Rajyam.

I am afraid that unless we ignite the candle of passion and knowledge in our own hearts, we will continue to depend upon the candles held by images which probably may have altogether different 'causes' that they hold dear than what they are trying to represent there.

Monday, March 23, 2009

New Designs for New Missions

This article provides interesting insights on the different designs of organizations which are trying to make impact on social issues by making use of innovative models of ownership

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Symbols of Strength- One of the many ironies of our times

He did whatever he felt was important and did it well. The rest of us can quibble endlessly about who should own his possessions.

Vijay Mallya, chairman of the UB group, bought articles belonging to Gandhi which were being auctioned in New York. He paid 1.8M$ to get those items and then gave them to the government. A nice gesture no doubt.

When great leaders pass away, generations to come can pay homage to them in several ways through the years. I feel that the appropriate way to do that would be to 'understand' those principles that these Himalayan individuals stood for and to attempt them to constantly visit the relevance and applicability of values in the fast changing times.

According to me Mr Mallya is a complete irony to the values that Gandhi stood for as he leads a life of excess and indulgence and glorifies it by all possible means, but when it comes to enterprise, Mr Mallya may be a good example as well. Yes, his Kingfisher Airline does breath the words that 'customer is the king' and this was something which Gandhi believed in as well.

Having said that, the hollowness of certain events is at times too difficult to really accept. In NY probably these belongings might have gone to some rich businessman who again would have scant respect for Gandhian way of living but then what difference would it have made to treasure those possessions? What value do these items have if they don't bring along with them to the actual possessor, the principles which defined the life of the person.

If the keepers of these possessions of great people (Mallya or Mr/Ms X whosoever wanted but could not buy) really want to understand Gandhi and treasure his thoughts, a very simple way would be to get hold of his books which till today in an age of high priced books, still would barely cost anyone over 150Rs (approx 3 US$). There are books worth 5Rs (ya 10 cents) which may provide us more value than some non living objects which were those bare essentials which he could not do away with.

Slippers- for walking on rough earth

Specs- so that he could atleast see properly

Bowl- to have his meals and

a Timepiece- to keep track of his schedule which he observed religiously

Don't these items stand as tall symbols of what support system is actually needed for an individual who wants to move the world around him. Its a clear dictum against the relevance of a society which worships acquisitiveness.

What are we all waiting for?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Protectionism is not the answer

As the economic powers (G20 nations) pull their hair to figure out solution to reviving the economy, the constant beep of protectionism of their economy as a policy is constantly being debated at various levels, primarily driven by political reasons. 

Considering the fact that the Indian economy has lately flourished predominantly after opening up the sluice gates of trade, this is something that the country can ill afford to ignore. India's dependency on the markets of these countries is higher than their dependency on our markets and hence it would hurt us much deeper. 

A very interesting set of opinions from seasoned economists on this theme can be accessed at>> 

Thankfully the wave is still against protectionism

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Innovative way to engage with Citizens in Burundi

Interesting example of using Radio for connecting with citizens in Burundi to sort out corruption issues.

Really liked this approach by Burundi's Minister of using Radio as a medium to engage with the citizens to listen to their woes of corrupt practices of governance.

An outlet to express one's thoughts to someone who has the capacity to take decision and do something about it can be of immense help in a society where people are getting fed up of the situation and are at the brink of losing their control over their actions.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The GREY world around me

If someone asks me what my favourite colour is, I would always say- Grey.

I always feel that as individuals in society, we should have the capacity to look at things around us or people whom we relate to, with complete objectivity.  Let perfection remain an imaginary concept just as no one or no situation is completely hopeless.

If we go by that state of mind, we will be open to accept criticism starting from our own self,to knowing that friends may not always be right, the way we work may not be perfect, religion we adhere to, systems of interaction, societal norms, traditions, global values that permeate cultures, celebrities etc etc can all be wrong and hence i can't always blindly follow them.

A lot of problem in this world has been created because we have accepted our institutions, our friends, relatives, political groups etc to be right and understood certain things to be always wrong. Hence the notions- don't argue with your parents; follow the affluent; criminals are bad people etc.  We have blindly gone by these ideas. 
At a larger level it gives way to a group thinking which has very harmful impact. Remember the hippie culture? Traditional continuation of racism in developed countries, Casteism in India to name a few of them. Or the immediate reality in front of us in the form of both examples of excellence as well as threats to peace, environment degradation, noise, psychological problems etc.

If we understand that neither individuals nor insitutions are purely white but grey in shade, we will be open to understanding whats right as well as whats worth relooking. Some examples-

  • I would accept critique from anyone who finds fault in me
  • I will be happy to accept that my relatives, friends, teachers all have their areas of improvement 
  • A Congressman would accept that heredity doesn't guarantee leadership
  • We will constantly evaluate our lifestyles and try to improve
  • Organizations would understand that all their processes are worth revisiting and developing upon
  • People adhering to certain religion would understand that its only the search for truth that matters. Rest are all details.
  • Emerging parties would understand that they also may not have the answer to all the ills of this world 
  • Youngsters who are heavily influenced by the west would try to understand what ails that society too
  • Developed world would see the peril of too much of acquisition both to their own mental state, to the environment and also to the people who are trying to benchmark their ideals to this kind of living
  • Children would accept the fact that their parents are not perfect. All instructions from their end has to be weighed on the balance of reasoning and merit not of their own self but the larger society that we are a part of
  • People would not blindly emulate stars but would try to learn from certain qualities that they stand for
This acceptance to the fact that nothing is really perfect or completely imperfect, can open several doors to improvement at various levels.

The moment the onus on understanding shifts from popular notion to myself, I realize how important it is for me to observe myself, my notions, values as these are critical filters through which i  make sense of the world around me with all its seemingly colourful shades but with GREY being always the dominant one. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Remarkable letter by Martin Luther King Jr

We talk about freedom of expression. But more important than that is the heart and mind of the individuals who are expected to make use of that condition of the environment.
Freedom is a very important social and political condition for a strong mind to flourish. At times i feel that not everyone deserves it. Especially not people who harbour racist tendencies in their minds.
This cartoon that got published in the New York post indicates that as much as the world advances through progress in technology and better governance, there are going to be people with primitive and weakening thought processes. Press is the last group which should entertain such kinds of work.
Check out this amazing letter by Martin Luther King Jr written in 1963.
Mark these words which are timeless-
We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.
What a beautiful and clear understanding of Philosophy of Justice. I feel that such people were living embodiments of divinity. So much to learn from their lives.

Jai Ho !

A R Rehman's attainments by winning the coveted Oscar is a clear testimony to the significance of values like Passion for work, Innovation, Perseverance in the field of Music. Such awards more than anything else are strong symbols for what goes into attaining them. Lots of lessons for the emerging talent to keep striving for the best.
In the midst of assembly line songs churned out by the Bollywood with almost nil memory life, his music (along with some other talented and genuine artists of the country) would continue to mesmerize the generations to come.

Hats Off to You, Rehman!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Insightful report on Youth in developing countries

Considering the fact that youth comprises a very significant proportion of the population particularly in developing countries, the recent World Development Report 2007 focuses in a very detailed manner on the aspects which need to be catered to so that this section of society is able to constructively engage in economic, social as well as political activities.

The report can be downloaded from >>

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Review of Reviews of Slumdog Millionaire

No. Its not about Aparajito.

I have not seen Slumdog Millionaire yet but reading the reviews have brought more entertainment value to me than I guess what the movie would be able to provide.

Here are some of the opinions I came across. (not using the exact words though)

  • Lot of people have praised the movie in terms of the starkness with which they have shown truth and also for the entertainment value that the movie provides through a nice storyline, great music score, direction etc
  • India has been shown in poor light while this is not the real India
  • We come up with so many films but our good movies always tend to get ignored while here we have a western director who takes a snapshot of slum life in India and aims to get an Oscar. These hollywood guys know how to pat their own backs.
  • Some have stated that movies where India is shown in sad light are always preferred for awards. They have remembered Ray and Mrinal Sen's movies in which many a times the director has tried to cover the dire state of people and how those movies got several awards
  • Jagjit Singh vents out his frustration on seeing Rehman getting an award for coming out with great music score for the movie. It was really in a very bad taste
  • Some people have criticised on why the director has projected that the victim in the movie was at the receiving end of Mumbai riots and why has he shown to be a Muslim particularly.
  • Some have stated that they should not have used the word 'dog' as it is derogatory

I will not talk about all perspectives here, but we as Indian viewers should admit that we really are not great promoters of really nice artistic movies. Somehow in the midst of drudgery of daily life, movie is only seen as a medium of entertainment which in turn has been crudely defined by songs, dance, comedy and drama. Anything which remotely tries to touch upon the finer aspects of human emotions, be it tragedy or serious themes, tends to go down in viewers category. And media doesn't feel like talking much about such movies after that.

We still see no brainer movies like Singh is King raking good moolah in the industry.

The great sign is that experiments in lateral themes have started and we are seeing some wonderful work emerging as well but in general as an audience we fail to see the beauty depicted by previous directors who were really able to successfully showcase strong human emotions through richly carved themes. The people who comment on poverty being glamorised are the ones who never go to watch Aparajito by Ray, Meghe Dhaka Tara by Ghatak or Dweepa by Kasravali because these movies have projected poverty. The thing is probably they havn't yet developed the eye or the sensitivity to understand what the director is trying to show. If we observe minutely, poverty is just the context. The lens is always on very subtle and profound human sentiments.

Thats the very reason why a movie like Maine Gandhi ko Nahin Mara which was an amazing depiction of the death of Gandhian values after his physical death by not just one person but by people at large. Or for that matter a movie like Khuda ke Liye from Pakistan which was brillliant on several accounts from the point of view of the pain of the director which drove him to make the movie to which he did phenomenal justice, music, cinematography and performance.

A movie like Tingya where the director had to approach over 23 producers after getting acceptance of one, failed to draw any footfalls to the theatre while the same won international recognition. Yes. The story was again based on a poor child from Vidarbha- an area in Maharashtra which is more in the news for the farmers who have commited suicide on account of harsh economic state. The performance of the child was amazing in the movie.

I don't know what the western panelists have in mind. Maybe they are biased or maybe not. But the point is, the question we should ask ourselves is, as a society have we been able to promote good quality movies based on rich stories, great performance which can appeal to the sensibilities of not just few people in a nation but viewers from across cultures. That is a hallmark of a great movie. Unfortunately one of the biggest entertainment industries in the world- Bollywood, can't boast of many such works since it has always catered to populist tastes.

Will a movie like 'Children of Heaven' by Majid Majidi get support from the audience?

Friday, February 6, 2009

For Whom the Bell Tolls?

Very thought provoking interview on sustainability by John Sterman where he touches upon aspects of systems thinking, personal values, economic imperatives, global needs etc

He gives an indication of the gravity of the problem in a very cogent and non threatening manner. At one point he states,

Pretty quickly people discover for themselves that as long as everybody in the world wants more—as long as everyone in the world wants to be as rich as we are, and we all want to be richer than we are today, there's no solution.

“As long as everybody in the worldwants more, there’s no solution.”

What makes it particularly hard is that this is a conversation that's not permissible in our society. Even the English language doesn't allow it! There are words for not having enough—shortage—but there's no word for excess demand. There's no such word as a "longage" of demand.

Its one of the most intriguing questions in front of the world today. On one hand we all understand that economic prosperity is the key to growth, while at the same time we know that nature has put a cap on us with regards to how fast and how well can we grow. If we ignore that signal on the signpost, it is only going to be at our peril.

Growth in economy will result in damage to environment and that growth will then fuel further damage in terms of more vehicles on the road, more power consumption, more water consumption and a lifestyle centered on excess of everything.

The question in front of the society today is in the continuum of time, which road should we take? Should we continue to consume more and destroy more or do we attempt to figure out that mysterious proportion at which each nation can meet its need as well as manage its greed without causing grave consequences for the next generation?

The countries which have progressed at the expense of environment and also other nation's peace and harmony need to take a strong stand and exhibit their leadership at this juncture to set a worldwide movement for a cleaner lifestyle.

And this movement has a role for each an every individual as even switching off an extra bulb is a contribution in that direction.

Wish we all ya 6.7 billion people on this earth could stand in solidarity and express our commitment towards a cleaner future for the generations to come.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

In support of Teachers

In the midst of growing debate on how the bail out money from the Obama government needs to be spent, here's a very strong case by Thomas Friedman where he makes a pitch for bringing down the tax for teachers .

He makes a great point when he says that instead of merely providing more money to people, it should also be used for coming up with better labs and good quality teachers on board for our children as thats when we will be able to get the Steve Jobs and Bill Gates of the world who would be able to generate employment for lakhs of people.

The fact that market forces have not been successful in improving the quality of teachers, throws open a very important challenge which is not getting its due in India.

Quality of education, which is the fundamental lever to decide the way the society is going to meet the challenges of future remains a majorly undecided question not just in the most powerful nation of the world but also in a developing country such as ours-India.

Its time we start giving it the thought which it deserves

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Why we should love Politics

A very thought provoking essay on significance of politics and how it is part and parcel of our daily lives. It brings forth very elegantly the distance that we have to run for not only accepting politics as a necessary function in society but also constructively engage so that we make it the right process for the progress of our country.

The author at the beginning makes case for the fact that anyone who detests politics is actually a hypocrite and the remaining article then substantiates that point by thoughts from different political philosophers taking very relevant examples from our times.

Friday, January 30, 2009

American laws strangulating Freedom of its citizens?

A very insightful piece on how over regulation in the name of protection of Freedom of people in America is actually curbing the same thing which it is required to protect. Its a case of the fence eating the crops.

This quote from Tocqueville in that article makes so much sense

"freedom less necessary in great things than in little ones. . . . Subjection in minor affairs does not drive men to resistance, but it crosses them at every turn, till they are led to sacrifice their own will. Thus their spirit is gradually broken and their character enervated."

This also explains clearly, how in our society, by curbing the freedoms of our children by burdening them with too many books, exams, parental expectations, tuitions etc, we tend to nip their creativity in the budding stage itself.

Once that job is done by parents and school alike, in the later stage of their lives, people don't mind even when their freedoms are curbed by government in rampant ways.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Participating in a talk on Climate Change

Dear Reader,
I am getting a chance to speak on the theme 'Youth India on Climate Change' along with experts from the field. Though i am not an expert by any stretch of imagination on this important field, I would target to cover the importance of ecoliteracy and the ways in which we can bring about sensitization of youngsters in this direction, through means which appeal to them.
I guess there is phenomenal scope for bringing environmental aspects into the curriculum of children from primary school level itself so that they start thinking about these vital aspects from the right stage and make much larger impact through their lifetime.

It would be great if you can make it for the discussion.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Nature's Healing Touch

Going for an outing is always a joy.
This weekend, I along with my wife and three friends, went for an outing to a place near Satara in Maharashtra.
Despite the fact that the long weekend made several families to rush out of the commotion of the city, we managed to figure out a place which was kind of away from the popular view.

Nature has an impeccable quality to just lay all thoughts to nought. Mountains, lakes, birds, clear sky, infite number of trees just lie there. As if they all wait for us to 'learn' from them on what is not going right in our lives. Nature it seems is a silent physician. It heals the mind by just being there. It seems to have the answer to all our questions yet maintains the humility of a lamb.

I remember the calm surface of lake with gurgling sound elegantly surrounded by majestic mountains. The gradually changing tint of the sky around sunset to a stage where it is
completely dark and the sky gets all studded by beautiful stars. It whispers- 'Let each person absorb all this the way it appeals to him/her'. No one can escape its grace, its 'naturalness', its depth, its power, its mystery...

The serenity of the place invited us to visit it another day during morning hours when it had new gifts to offer in the form of cows coming in from nowhere with lovely chime of bells dangling around their necks grazing the pasture with an absence of urgency which is at complete contrast to the commotion of city life.

We visited a vast plateau, an old temple perched on a dilapitated fortress on top of a hill, met a farmer who showed us his farms of sugarcane, tomatoes, strawberry etc.

I know lives can't be lead by staying by the side of a lake, sharing stories with friends on a hill top, climbing trees and watching meditatively at the setting sun, but still these moments remind us about the mundaneness which we so easily accept as part of our city lives.

Amongst several lessons which I learn from such trips and interactions with friends, the one which I hold dearest is to regularly sever oneself from the outer life and dive in search of something which is more constant.

To me, Nature with its qualities seems to be the external manifestation of that Inner Oasis.
I thank my friends (Kapil, Abhishek and Shilpa) for this lovely opportunity.