Thursday, October 28, 2010

Organized brain drain?

Yesterday I was chatting with a friend of mine who works with an IT firm in Bangalore and he stated that most of the people from our batch of engineering 2002, are now working abroad.

The increasing debate about outsourcing needs to also look at another dimension of this business model which is the loss of qualified people from India to the western economy. It is understandable that with an unemployment level close to 9% in US, there is going to be strong political pressure on the government to use all possible ways to reduce loss of jobs but that cry doesn't imply that outsourcing has only given economic dividends to India. Its not that one party's loss has been the other party's game alone. The net result has been a mix of wins and losses for both the countries. It therefore depends upon what you see and what you don't want to see.

This is how it has worked in India so far. People complete their graduation from Indian universities. Once they are through with it with all their hard and soft work, they adopt two routes to enter the developed world:

1. Go for higher studies. Once they are there, they fall in love with the culture, work environment, opportunities, money and decide to trade it with the possibilities of coming back. Many a times the higher studies is in such a niche area that it may be difficult for the person to come back to the native country.
2. Work in an IT company. Wait for an 'on-site' opportunity. Seek a better opportunity and stay there
3. Seek a work opportunity in US directly. This is a difficult possibility considering that there are employable people out there in US looking for jobs

Personally speaking its a complex sentiment to have towards seeing people from your batch settling well at the same time you realize that for ones own country, its really not that great a news. We are free to make our choices whatever they are as long as we don't intend to do any conscious damage in the process. The point is this otherwise innocuous way of going to the western world- which is primarily 4 to 5 countries (US, UK, Canada, Germany majorly come to my mind ) has lead to phenomenal loss of trained and capable human resource which could have otherwise tempered employability debates that we read in our newspapers on a day to day basis. The fact that only 4% of our graduates are good enough for working in IT product based companies while Microsoft office of Redmond has a major chunk of people from India etc. Or for that matter the number of doctors from Indian origin in UK while our rural hinterlands languish due to dearth of health care facilities. Yes, government has a lot to be blamed for this too.

The reason it deserves significance is that the IT industry which has brought tremendous glory to the country is now going to be very much part and parcel of the way we live and move. Thus the silk route from India to the US is not a distant possibility or a matter of chance. Its an 'organized emmigration route' which is much lauded by one and all.

There can be few reasons for lack of concern on this front:

1. The boost in economy as a result of remittance of people settled abroad (though i am not sure what that value is)
2. Lack of efforts in the direction of research on this subject in the country. It is likely that someone in some foreign university may do a PhD in understanding the impact of outsourcing model of IT sector on brain drain.
3. The Indian economy is doing well and hence we don't mind this leakage of intellect. Thankfully this has lead to some reverse brain drain but I am still not sure to what extent has it been able to check the flow of talent.

Immigration into areas of better opportunity and living has been a trend since atleast past few centuries since transport across sea routes became easy. Which was around 17th century.

History has instances of Britishers getting enamoured by the excellent weather conditions and highly favourable land vs people ratio of US and bought huge tracks of land over there to settle down forever. Records state that around 175000 people migrated from British to Colonial US during 17th century. The rule of communism in Eastern Europe lead to a huge migration of people from these countries which has enriched US economy like anything. The US government realized the value in opening its doors to immigrants after seeing the value that they bring to the table. In fact poor governance in other third world countries has immensely helped US and its economy. Secondly the culture of the country which is based on the principle of individualism and libery gives ample space to whosoever wants to enjoy a comfortable life. The moment you move from a repressed culture or economy to an open one, you are bound to fall in love with it.

The point is, whose problem is it? Is it India's? What is India if not its people? Which implies when both government and citizens are happy, would anyone want to even consider it in the light of an issue worth reflection?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Towards inclusive growth

There is a remarkable organized effort in the direction of enhancing the prospects of an inclusive India. Do check out the grand scheme in this article

While on one hand Sam Pitroda is leading efforts to connect the 2.5 lakh gram panchayats through broad band, the UID scheme lead by Nandan Nilekani is geared to provided the much needed identity so that people who should be getting services under various schemes of the government rightly get so. It is very difficult today for an urban youth to understand how UID would change his/her life. Probably the benefit is going to be secondary or tertiary since today he is not the person whom the government is much concerned about.

The challenge lies in terms of bridging the yawning gap that has arisen as a result of globalization making inroads into the length and breadth of a nation where the majority was not in a position to take advantage of the opportunities. Thus when millions of people who are mobile are short of public services simply because they don't have the requisite proof of identity important for that particular state, they may miss out on that important service which could be of value to them.

Moreover in the absence of a consolidated reliable single database of people whom the government wants to reach out to, the possibility of leakage of funds is higher particularly when we talk about a situation where values hold no importance in the eyes of people delivering these vital services.

Thus as internet penetration increases, telecom infra along with the unique identity would have the capacity to ensure that the person is able to get access to funds directly into his bank account without him having to reach out to the evil offical out there waiting with bated breath for his cut in the deal. Schemes like NREGA may be able to make a much better mark in that scenario.

Thus in short these are interesting times for the nation and we should all hope that the effort and vision behind these initiatives actually brings about the change that the country has been waiting for so long a time.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Leave Analysis

I feel HR professionals in organizations should try to do leave analysis. I mean what do people take leave from work for and try to link it to their performance, it may provide interesting insights on how individuals balance their lives and also what matters to them beyond work. Be it health, recreation, ailing parents, kids, open house in schools that their kids attend etc etc.

May be it would serve to understand employees better. To know the deeper motivations of the person. I don't know if any organization actually does it.

 The underlying essential should be: employees should be fearless and transparent in expressing the reason for leave.

Monday, August 23, 2010

On consumerism

The advent of impact of an economy driven by consumerism has captured my attention lately. The more i try to see, read about it and understand its interlinkages, it doesn't bring a very pleasant feeling.

This subject becomes all the more important because India's growth story is going to be written on this slate of consumerism since thanks to globalization, it is being chisseled as a consumption driven economy. If this slate has such sordid linkages, then what does the cumulative economic growth mean at an aggregated level?

Do read out this abstract of a book on this subject to get a peep into the complexity

Thursday, July 8, 2010

On aesthetics

Thoughtful essay on aesthetics and its increasing role in education.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Celebrating our 2nd July's- Time to go beyond

I start with the disclaimer that this topic actually calls for an elaborate essay than a blog post. 

Lets try to see how an individual's progress is typically understood in our society-
  • Birth
  • Education resulting in Physical, Social, Psychological and Intellectual development
  • Employment- Economic success
  • Marriage
  • Family expansion
  • Material milestones- home, vehicle etc
  • Professional growth
  • Children's education
  • Children's marriage
  • Retirement from service
  • Demise/Voyage
A nation's growth would look like this I guess considering that a nation is more of a concept, a continuum.

  • Freedom from any external political hegemony (this is not equivalent to birth since no one one knows when a nation took birth since then we have to go back to development of civilization (not talking in political context here)- One time
  • Journey towards Democracy - One time
  • Development of Governance machinery- Executive, Judiciary and the Legislature - One time
  • Development of institutions of public service- education, healthcare, water, sanitation, infrastructure etc- Continuous
  • Design of the economic engine- Continuous
  • Constant striving for improvement of public life- Continual
  • Protection of rights of people- Continual
  • Propagation of peace and amity through cultural discourse with the help of religion- Continual
  • Creation of environment that fosters economic and cultural richness for all- Continual
  • Establishing the nation in a global context- Continual
  • Inclusive growth- Continual
  • Establishing an environment that characterises nurturing human enterprise, balance of economic growth and protection of nature, protection of rights, political vigilance on the part of citizens, religious pursuits, cultural development through nurturing art- Continual

 I may have surely missed out on a lot of other aspects in this list but the point is that the birth and growth of a nation is far more complex and also painful than the progress of an individual. The latter becomes complex when the person is economically marginalized or else when the state fails to deliver on several accounts. Also, the journey of individual's growth is characterized by a lot of struggles on account psychological issues, social complexities, at times physical challenges, knowledge gap etc. The other difficulty about the latter is the fact that mostly it is a very lonely journey unlike a nation's journey which entails the commitment and energy of millions of people over a period of time.
At the outset it is difficult to understand how nation's progress can be ensured if you merely look at the individual's growth journey. So how do you map the progress of the complexities of nation building with the conventional line of growth of individuals as expressed above. Probably thats the very reason it calls for countless experiments and human efforts for hundreds of years to reach a mark where it is looked at respectfully by its own citizens first and then by other nations. 
Now where does 2nd July stand in all this? 

Last year 2009, July the 2nd, Justice Shah delivered a landmark judgement to decriminalize homosexuality and to uphold the rights of people people who are different on a specific level. If means a lot for someone who on account of having a different sexual orientation has lead a life of shame and ignominy for long. Gautam Bhan has taken a wonderful perspective on this by bringing to light the importance of upholding Constitutional morality in matters which should be considered purely personal in any civilized society. He has rightly pointed out that our examination of these judgements becomes all the more critical in the light of growing intolerance as being seen through Khap Panchayat idiosyncracies of Haryana and 'honour' killings.
The importance of these days has to be seen in the light of the fact that it takes several years of struggle to bring about a legal change and then probably another several decades to translate that change onto the social reality. Its just like dowry. It may be illegal but still there are instances of dowry related violence that one gets to read on a day to day basis.
Thus if we want to examine the progress of our society, we need to celebrate those moments which can be construed as inflexion points or milestones in the progress of a nation. Such episodes of important judgements or government policies should be included in the curriculum of schools and discussed thoroughly by students if one wants to create a community of people to gauge how one should position one's private growth pursuit amidst the larger pursuit of nation building which would call for several thousands of such changes spread over probably few centuries to see that dawn that makes one feel proud of one's country.
Has talking about 2nd October or 14th November really lead us anywhere?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Violence Works!

We generally don't like to debate on violence per se as most liberals would denounce it as uncivilized, illegal or whatever you want to call it. Irrespective of what our attitude towards violence is, the fact is -" IT WORKS".

Living in a high pressure society like Mumbai its easy for me get reminded on what makes people get violent. In fact I feel that it is only because people in the country are tolerant that these acts are of sporadic nature and have still not become norms despite the pressure that exists all around.

There are various levels on which nature of violence can be examined but here i take the opportunity of understanding when does violence actually create the necessary impact at a political level.
War against nation is the biggest demonstration of violence at political level but other than that if we try to understand mass violence within the democratic structure and violence outside the democratic structure it gives us some useful insights on when violence is able to attain immediate ends. I am not talking about any deep spiritual ends here. Only political ends.

In a city where there are over 15m individuals residing and where lakhs of people find their lives getting difficult on account of immigration, anyone who experiences this kind of a life for a few months would get to sense what living at the bottom with limited means can actually mean. With 50% of the society living in slums with extremely sordid living conditions, poor sanitation,  constant stench, with no sunshine, the mind is already in a stressed state. On top of it the daily travel under horrendous commute systems where few people lose lives on a daily basis by slipping off the footboard or from the roof of the train, will it really take too much for people to lose control? What has been written in the Consitution can be debated in rose wood built conference rooms and probably on internet groups. What it means to experience this kind of a life is beyond comprehension unless one really is intending to understand the very nature of this constant stress which is part of everyday existence for millions in the city.

When people are seething with stress, political parties strategically use violence as a means for establishing their own muscular identity and dividends are seen in no time. Its primarily because the party did what the individual couldn't. The native wanted to kick the butt of that person who took away his railway job but could not garner the wherewithal to do it. No wonder Raj Thackeray became a local hero in no time.

 MNS which used violence as a communication tool really well against North Indian immigrants was able to win 13 Assembly Seats in the first elections that they contested. This is no mean feat though there was a legacy involved here as well. Similar was the case of Narendra Modi during the Gujrat carnage. He made a point very clearly but followed the same with strong administrative acumen and now the same person is being touted as a Prime Ministerial candidate from the largest opposition.

On the other hand lets look at what the Maoists are trying to do across hundreds of district which bear the testimony of several decades of government misrule. They are using violence as a strategic tool but since they are doing it outside the ambit of democratic structure and since it is directed against the State itself, there is only going to be loss of people on a long term basis but no transition of power. I don't understand how anyone can imagine that such a war can ever be won. Considering that this war is not driven by agendas possible within the democratic framework, it is foolhardy to imagine that a new Constitution would be drafted by underfed gun weilding Naxalites. But yes, this is the biggest concern of the PM and the Home Ministry at this stage. Why did it take this long for the government to understand that people can't be taken for granted. That speeches in international forums on the journey to become a major international power can't be made unless one keeps the picture of over 70% population also in view.

But if you ask whether its completely futuile to act thus, the answer is probably No. If we take a closer look at it, we realize that the common theme of violence in both these instances is the fact that the parties were able to make their point loud and clear. Its only because of the Maoist struggle that there has been a seperate report by the Planning Commission trying to understand the issues it entails and the reason why the same is being factored in while trying to study India's business attractiveness.

Thus wherever we see mass unrests leading to violence, we can consider it to have a clear rationale (though not necessarily overt) and unfortunately in an imperfect world such as ours, this channel of communication works really well and probably real fast too!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Thought on leadership

Satish Pradhan who is the Exec VP of the Tata Group had to say this about leaders

"People need the leaders to paint an exciting picture of the future but equally don't want a complete gift wrapped package that they can't add themselves to! There is a tight rope walk between the visualisation of the countours, coordinates and hues of an inspiring enough future and giving people the space to add their own mountains and rivers or even small flowers and blades of grass to the picture to create a powerful shared vision of a desirable future that has a compelling pull for the people. "I want to understand how I and what I do fits into the big picture".

Makes so much sense

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Execution orientation

In continuation of the trend of getting people from the corporate sector, the government has gone ahead and formed a panel of industry experts who have credentials of implementation of great ideas as thats where we need the brightest minds today - translating big ideas into changes on the ground.

One thing that is strong about this government is the interest in getting the right people on board. Will come to the area where it is showing biggest signs of concern.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Lithium deposit in Afghanistan

One of the interesting stories which serves as a refreshing break from the usual monologue of insane taliban and a state of war in Afghanistan is the story of discovery of lithium deposits worth 1 trillion $ that has the potential to reform its economy enormously. You can read it here.

As we take a look at its economic potential in isolation without looking at the more structural aspects of this discovery, everything seems hunky dory about the huge demand of this element in manufacturing of batteries and hence the potential of seeing a beeline of nations like US, Russia and China to get access to this deposit.

A couple of days later a very insightful article written by Amity Shlaes using black hat thinking to understand how such deposits can cause further damage in the absence of structures of democracy and property rights which surely are critical to take the best advantage of such potential economic conditions. The writer shares interesting perspectives from nations which failed to use their natural bounty unlike Botswana which was able to attain what appears attainable at the outset only because it had the requisite political and legal underpinnings.

The correlation between economics and politics is very clearly elicited by this instance. Really liked the effort to examine the situation from a more objective standpoint.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The tapestry of our lives

Ramesh Ramanathan brings about a very important thought in this piece in Mint. Few days back I wrote about the contradictions that define our lives. He brings about the contradiction of the need to provide for one's family and the hundreds of challenges thrown up by a market driven economy and at the same the the phenomenal amount of work to be done in public life where markets can't reach.

I liked the metaphor of seeing society in the form of a fabric whose threads need to be tied up by each generation. Some of those tapestries are in a haywire shape like say in Afghanistan, Iraq where no one would choose to relocate to while some of the tapestries would be very fine like in a lot of developed countries. The choice before an individual is to see which of this social tapestry does one want to align oneself with. Do you choose to contribute to the tapestry of your own environment where lots of people have contributed several years of their lives since independence or would you like to experience the silkiness of the fabric of the nations whose work has also been done by several generations of toil.

The key point is that both the aspects have to be balanced. You can't afford to ignore the challenges of social life, problems and try to choose only one's private pursuits. The problems that plague our judiciary, politics, human development indicators are our very own. If we choose to define the boundary of our lives on the basis of our own loved ones, we will never see a bright future. Or we may never know where are we pushing our own lives in the process. There is a serious limitation in pure self interest.

I would say this is particularly important for those people who have the acumen and rigour to contribute in the more challenging domain of public life where the fruits of action are determined on altogether different principles. Things have never remained as they are if no one acts on them. For example rights for homosexuals would not have been granted in the country had the intelligensia chosen to avoid the difficult arguments, or for that matter the efforts of thousands of black leaders under several decades of repression.

The silver lining is 'no contribution is small'.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Aag ki Bheekh by Ramdhari Singh Dinkar

Dinkar had a unique style of writing poetry. Its refreshing to go back and revisit those poems which were once part of our school syllabi.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Premji foundation's audacious goals

Education sector is experiencing interesting changes. Several NGOs are putting in efforts to bring about change in the education sector by approaching the problem in ways they deem appropriate. Some of these efforts have potential to be scaled up while some others may not be able to run too far.

As the country meets the challenge of poor quality education posed by the 21st century economic growth of the country, we realize that the solutions sought would need to come from BHAG (big hairy audacious goals) the way Jim Collins puts in his book- Good to Great.

Amongst the players in NGOs who are really trying to make an impact at a large level, the Azim Premji foundation comes across as a clear player to be taken really seriously. Check this out.

This group is starting a university to develop teachers who can take the challenge of educating the less privileged who pose a unique plethora of issues to grapple with both for the educators and also for the administrators. This foundation which consciously avoided getting into the implementation mode of NGOs and focussed more on trying to influence policy at the State level. This decision of starting an education university is a distillation of the efforts gone in research and deliberation with various experts both from the government and outside it.Their understanding (which looks fairly appropriate) is that without good teachers we can't move much further in this direction.

It is getting more and more evident that the solution will not come from the HRD Ministry till we don't have the requisite political will (though Kapil Sibal is trying really hard) across all levels of education delivery. The challenge comes mainly from the fact that education policy unlike infrastructure development doesn't get translated in the same vein in which it is planned out mainly because of the nature of this service. Its not like you budget for 10 million vaccinations and you role it out and get polio eradicated. Making a person think and act responsibly is a far too complex a challenge. A paucity of funds at either the state or center level can downrail the best of the plans drafted at the Yojna Bhavan.

Thus projects which are really ambitious and which are backed by really able people can probably bring about impact much faster than the pace that we are otherwise used to.

Best wishes to this foundation for its audacity.

For further views on education you can check out my other blog

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ardh Satya- Half truths of our existence

Existence for human being is all about contradictions. The concept of death doesn't exist till we don't accept life. The moment a person takes birth, the end of his life is termed death. Various contradictions affect the way we connect with the world around us. Some of the prominent ones are

  1. Life Vs Death - two sides of the same coin
  2. Leading a life of Conformity Vs Individualism
  3. Outer loud noises Vs the inner garden ('buy this buy that' of Material life Vs Spiritual life)
  4. What I am personally inclined to do Vs what will help me survive on this planet successfully 
  5. The feeling after having a wonderful meal in a restaurant and the sight of the first hungry child whom one meets on the first traffic junction (Haven't you experienced that?)
  6. The freedom of childhood and the responsibilities expected from adulthood (remember the song -' bachpan ke din bhi kya din the, udte phirte titli ban ke')
  7. What I am Vs How I want others to perceive me as (my vulnerabilities Vs my persona or image) - Tiger Woods got caught in this contradiction
  8. The readings on the all powerful and formless God and the questions on how does he allow injustice to happen unabated? - Should I be an atheist to be on the safe side?
  9. The need to be loved by known and unknown people Vs one's own limitation of feelings towards others beyond family members
  10. The world I live in Vs the world I would love to live in 
  11. The ruthlessness of competition Vs the merit in competition
  12. Leap frogging into modernity Vs clinging to what got changed
  13. And so on.......
There might be other contradictions that one may encounter on a give day like seeing someone injured in an accident and then wondering whether to attend to him or to rush to one's office.

The more I try to be observant about these contradictions, I experience a sense of capacity to take away one's positive energies unless one is clear about one's own perspectives. I also realize that my happiness lies in understanding the limitation of the human self as it tries to grapple in the midst of choices that are thrown up as a result of these dichotomies of life. The other step is to see what best we can do to alleviate the impact of these tensions as they get created by circumstances.  For example the person who finds himself in a strong position can reach out to the needy at times. Be in a profession that suits one's heart and mind. Similarly if I am able to create the small world around me( which I would ideally aspire to see be all pervasive), I feel better and thus manage that contradiction better. Or when one tries to expand one's own horizon of inclusiveness and tries to be more compassionate towards known and unknown people. The need for that behavior from others fades away when one starts assuming that same quality in oneself that one seeks in others. 

Contradictions to me are intrinsically a nature of life (its property) and the biggest one of this contradiction (Life Vs Death) will consume us all one day.The rest of the contradictions that take birth in the light of this biggest contradiction would keep on challenging our wisdom thereby encouraging us to be better and better with each step into complexities of life. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Report on Higher Education issues in India

A very incisive report on higher education woes in the country. Must read for anyone interested in understanding the space better.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The problem with Thalis

I had the opportunity to go and check out a restaurant which offers a Thali system of meal- quite a famous chain of restaurant by the name - Rajdhani. A 'thali' by restaurant lexicon stands for a meal which provides you a plethora of options. You start with three deserts and that is followed by atleast 4 to 5 curries, some yoghurt and then a range of two to three sweets. By the time the entire thali is served you realize that there is so much on it to eat that it gets difficult to choose. You feel like having everything because everything looks tasty :). So after i had tried most of the dishes in small quantities, i found it difficult to state which particular curry i liked more than the rest. So when the person came to ask if I needed more of some particular curry, i just randomly indicated my finger. Does that happen with you too? :)
I wondered if i had gone ahead with only one single curry (the way i normally do) and just enjoyed that to the utmost, would I have relished my meal better?
At the end of it all came the dessert- that too the choice to choose one amongst three. Again after having couple of spoons of one, i realized that i really didn't have the capacity to enjoy it any more !

May be in the middle of two meals if I would have had the same dessert, it would have tasted better.

I wonder if I face the same 'thali' phenomenon when i have to choose to read a particular book from amongst plethora of choices or check out a certain blog or a movie or any product- say a cell phone or a pen. Does the 'thali' phenomenon rob me of the joy of not having too much choice at hand. Is a state of moderation better for me? A state where i am provided few simple alternatives with each being good in a certain way and i am required to just relish to the very core, the option that i go ahead with.

I get reminded of the saying 'Less is More'

Monday, March 8, 2010

The poem in search of its poet

Came across this beautiful poem at the entrance of Research and Development facility of Nicholas Piramal at Mumbai day before yesterday as we went to take kids for a science trip to the facility.

The poet's name was not mentioned. Did some search on the internet and got an indirect reference of this poem by Tagore who stated that this poem was translated from a peom written by a woman from medieval India.  Now to me its like a poem which is unconcerned about the search for its creator.

I salute the Life which is like a sprouting seed,
With its one arm upraised in the air, and the other down in the soil;
The Life which is one in its outer form and its inner sap;
The Life that ever appears yet ever eludes.
The Life that comes I salute; and the Life that goes;
I salute the Life that is revealed and that is hidden;
I salute the Life in suspense, standing still like a mountain, And the Life of the surging sea of fire;
The Life that is tender like a lotus, and hard like a thunderbolt.
I salute the Life which is of the mind, with its one side in the dark and the other in the light;
I salute the Life in the house and the Life abroad in the unknown,
The Life full of joy and the Life weary with its pains,
The Life eternally moving, rocking the world into stillness,
The Life deep and silent, breaking out into roaring waves.

Life has continued to mesmerise people since ages and it will continue to do that for ever. Love the way this mystery envelopes us and also defines our journey on this planet.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Language and us

Took an auto-rickshaw for a local travel within the city of Mumbai. Its important to name the city as thats important to understand the relevance of this light anecdote.

The route that we took was diverted as people from the Islam faith were doing their namaz (prayer) near the mosque and that being small, some portion of the road gets used for it. The driver without any complaint diverted the vehicle. For me it was not new since i am familiar with this practice. Its like a tacit understanding where some persons would gently ask you to use the adjoining road as this road is being used for prayers.

Then we took the main road from an alternate route (without any hassle) and travelled along. We met some traffic at a distance. The auto brushed past one person and he started shouting at him in the local Marathi language. The driver very politely used the same language in responding and admitting that he didn't do it intentionally. After some grumbling that person left.

With his fluency I felt that he was also a Maharashtrian. In this city politicians are trying tooth and nail to assert their muscle on who is going to be the better safe guard of the local population (Marathi speaking) who according to them have a threat on 'culture' and more importantly jobs which are getting diverted to the outsiders. The issue is more complex than that but will park it for perspectives on some other day.

In this context, autorickshaw drivers in the city are majorly from the states of UP and Bihar and they have faced the brunt of this linguistic politics and it seems that their travail is only going to become worse with time.

After the person (who had the brush with the auto) left, the driver explained to me how he had learnt the tact of using the local language to appease such people though he knew that he himself was not completely at fault.  He also stated that response in any other language would have inflamed the person further on the name of someone from outside coming and literally pushing him.
I asked him 'So aren't you a Maharashtrian ?'. He stated with a smile no 'my mother tongue is Telugu' though I was born here and hence know this language quite fluently.

I acknowledged the driver for his sense of secularism in terms of agreeing to take a different route by showing respect to the sentiments of  another section of society (without any element of not being happy doing so), his willingness to pick up both his native language and also the local language. The humorous aspect was how a particular act becomes relatively less abominable when the person who has committed it can speak your own language.

I guess people learn to position themselves in whichever context you put them in. As much as this can be termed street smartness, it is also about recognizing the divides, acknowledging their presence and abiding by that.

Thats where it leaves a doubt in the mind.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Human Sphexishness

Sphexishness. Heard of this term before ? Interesting read

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Changing morality of humour

Saw this movie- 3 Idiots the other day. Its an interesting movie and can be discussed on a number of lines. For example- What makes it a hit, The use of emotional moments, The actual issue on education that it deals with, Super performance of the artists, Average music scores etc etc.

I feel like expressing my thoughts on the changing morality of humour over a period of time. In the years to come i will try to keep pace with changes and how they stand on the axis of time.

What struck me in the movie was the fact that it didn't have any bounds on what can be laughed at. For one, funny teachers (or masterji) with a chari in his hand has been a subject of humour since b/w movie days.
  • A paralytic father being shown in a humorous way
  • Friends poking fun at each others parents
  • Poverty in the home of one of the characters has been depicted humorously though actually speaking there is really nothing humorous about poverty or else people would have loved to experience it regularly
  • Middle class norms have been very blatantly laughed at e.g. daughter waiting to get married for want of dowry
  • A speech where the word 'balatkar' (meaning rape) has been inserted in the wrong place excites huge laughter in the crowd
  • Ritual of immersion of the last remains of one's life
  • Certain social beliefs like wearing rings for a safer tomorrow
The acceptability of humour in aspects which actually are not fundamentally humourous can mean the following:
  • Increasing acceptability of humour in 'holy cow' areas indicates mark of a more broad minded and liberal society. Assuming that society is equally broadminded when something it holds dear also gets scoffed at publicly
  • Mark of a society that needs to just let-go when it comes to entertainment
We are talking about shift of times of mid 50s when there would be a seperate comedian in the movie accompanying the hero. The hero would always be wise and responsible like Guru Dutt (how can he be a subject of laughter? :))  to gradual shifts where the key protagonist becomes comical like in Chupke Chupke, Andaz Apna Apna, Golmaal or Namak Halaal to raw below the belt humour which is quite common these days to broad based humour that we see in a movie like this one- where anything can suddenly inspire laughter.

If this movie is just an indicator of the two factors stated then probably it seems innocuous. But does it also somewhere serve as an indicator of a society which is gradually losing its sensitivity. In a metropolis, witnessing insensitivity is a norm. In fact seeing display of sensitivity becomes an event especially in public places. Can we imagine the impact of such humour on kids?

Or does it somewhere imply mocking of the shells that have enveloped and defined our identity since several years of hollow unchallenged practices like women should not be financially independent, an economy growing at 2.4% for decades hence majority remained poor etc.  Does this humour somewhere echo with the changing mood of the economic growth of the country and the upwardly mobile youth of today who wants to laugh at his own past and just come out of it? Is that the right way to do. Is there a moral question that we can't skip answering?

As someone expressed in an article that i read, are we also, in the process somewhere becoming part of the larger joke or probably it just means that the author of this blog has a weird sense of humour.

Anything can be true :)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Which way will the Lotus tilt?

Being the only national party in the opposition, it is very important for BJP to get its act together. Since its clear defeat in National elections in May'09, we are yet to see any concrete change in the outlook of the party. Leadership roles have been revisited but the its connect with the RSS ideology has not gone through the lens of critique and objective enquiry.

In this recent speech of Mohan Bhagwat, where he makes some pertinent points on the issue of identity based politics (ironically) and also on the fact that we should learn to milk nature for our economic needs but not exploit  it. The same point on the attitude we need to have towards nature has been expressed by eminent international thinker like Fritjof Capra in his book Network Connections where he makes a strong case for nature to be seen and related to as a mentor.

But at the same time, the comment can actually be made without talking about the Hindu culture or else criticising the Western style of living. The moment religion is interspersed with political debate at any level, we run the risk of losing the capacity of our own eye for loopholes that exist in our own backyards. Not all Hindus in India believe in a life of 'thoda hai thode ki zaroorat hai'. In fact you will find the most greedy and selfish of people thronging temples at specific occasions - in all parts of the country. If religion and its implications on behaviour are not at all clearly expressed in our social behavior then who are we to criticize  certain other group.

Are the principles of democracy an Eastern product? Are the principles of economics that sustain the society today an Eastern or Hindu principle? Where does the fountainhead of technology and high quality education lie? Why doesn't BHU produce the most excellent scholars?

Secondly, the more you try to talk about religious stand point in things, people would tend to ignore you in the name of being communal though there may not be anything communal in the particular thought- just like the thought on sustainability. Also, why is the party not able to understand that the youngster today one doesn't seek too much to get into understanding religion (which has other negative implications) and secondly, he is not really able to get too excited about religion based hysteria that has been very successfully generated by the same party in the past. This can surely be stated about the youth which is staying in the metros. The reasons for this are umpteen, primary being the lack of capacity of this hysteria to bring about fundamental change in our economic well being.

Nitish Kumar has learnt the right tune for Bihar and no wonder he got recognized for his efforts and his life now is going to be much easier if he only plays the tune of development in the way that he has been doing. Its going to be really difficult for the opposition to challenge him.

While at the same time BJP is not really recognizing the vantage point from where it needs to really challenge Congress. Its struggling with its legacy and is not able to realize that the strategic repositioning may call for questioning some very fundamental assumptions. The risk being that if the same is not done now, then 2014 results also may not be too different.

BJP needs disruptive change. Though politics in India has never been about disruptive changes. How to make it happen is the biggest question for Gadkari as he assumes a very important position.

To me it appears the most difficult leadership problem for BJP at this stage.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hillary Clinton's speech on US approach towards the development sector

This speech by Hillary Clinton given at Center for Global Development makes some very important remarks on the way US intends to approach development challenges in countries which is intends to support through its various programs.

I really liked some of the points along with the q & a at the end of the session:

  • Important to understand how to channelize the dollars. To new countries or to countries which can act as regional anchors to development
  • The importance of understanding the context of problem in each geography and to come out with local solutions. There is no formulaic approach to development
  • Model of development based on partnership and not patronage
  • Engender local leadership
  • Not to help those who are able but not willing to help themselves
  • Aid chases need while Investment chases opportunity. Hence have a keen eye for investment
  • Work together with agencies so that we don't become redundant or duplicative
  • Work so that the 3 Ds of Development, Diplomacy and Defense get reinforced
  • Convergence of areas where the organization would focus its resources and skills
  • Looking at development not just from a moral stand point but as a strategic, economic imperative important for global stability and sustainable growth
  • Investment in technology and innovation
  • Further focus on women and girls since they are key to social, economic and political upliftment

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Openness towards private sector expertise

Have a look at the following postings in key Government positions that have been confirmed in the last 8 to 10 months.
  • Dr Sam Pitroda - Head Knowledge Commission and former head CDAC and other important institutions was appointed by GOI as Advisor to PM on Innovation, Infrastructure and Information
  • Nandan Nilekani- Ex CEO of Infosys- Chairman of the committee responsible for the implementation of UID program at a PAN India level 
  • Kaushik Basu - Former Chairman of the Department of Economics, Cornell University, US. He was also the Professor for Centre for Analytic Economics and Program on Comparative Economic Development at the same university.- Chief Economic Advisor to GOI
  • Arun Maira- Ex CEO Boston Consulting Group, India.  - Member Planning Commission and recently appointed as the Head of the committee required to figure out changes that need to be brought in at Planning Commission to make this very important division of policy formulation more effective
  • Subir Gokarn- Former Chief Economist for Standard & Poor Asia Operations along with other private sector portfolios- Deputy Governor RBI

There are few inferences that can be drawn from the above:

  1. Indian government is opening its minds to get quality talent from lateral positions
  2. The private sector leaders are willing to occupy highly responsible positions in government divisions
  3. Positions at the top in governmental divisions will be more attractive for private sector high performers as compared to middle rung where there would be a lot of sloth, inefficiency and also low income opportunities
I guess its a welcome sign on the part of the government to show indications of getting expertise from areas where government surely needs specialists as against the the generalist babus. A big change which is yet to be seen in the government human resource approach would be when the policies would allow people from the private sector to actually move in to government sector and vice versa. This osmosis might allow a lot of best practices of the private sector to be shared with government bodies and would help in strengthening the human resource machinery which is far from perfect requires fresh ideas and energy at various levels. The challenge would also be to make the culture at governmental divisions attractive enough for people who are more comfortable with the MNC work culture and professionalism.

The pace of change is too slow to be noticed or talked about but the fact is that these may be good trends which might gain momentum in the years to come.