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.