The Accidental Prime Minister by Sanjaya Baru

The memoirs of Sanjaya Baru, ‘The Accidental Prime Minister: The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh’ generated a lot of controversy. The PMO released a statement on the book, “It is an attempt to misuse a privileged position and access to high office to gain credibility and to apparently exploit it for commercial gain. The commentary smacks of fiction and coloured views of a former adviser.” Obviously the book flew off the stands in the first few days days of its release.

The Accidental Prime Minister

The Accidental Prime Minister

When we pick up a book, we often form a preconceived notion about the book and its characters, if it’s non-fiction. I too did the same. For the past ten years India has witnessed an unusual phenomenon on its political horizon. After its independence, India’s political scene has often been dominated by the Nehru-Gandhi family, directly or indirectly. But the last ten years India was governed by an almost non-existent Prime Minister. Those who keep a tab on political happenings, often find that our “nominated” Prime Minister is burdened with responsibilities, and power is enjoyed by someone else.

When I started reading this book, I too was filled with the preconceived notion about the Prime Minister being a meek, submissive, “bending backwards to please the Congress party president” type of a person. But reading Sanjaya Baru’s memoir told me a different tale. He was the media adviser to Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, since 2004 to 2008. It is an insider’s account of a rare happening in a complex political scenario. After staying out of power, the Congress was back, though not with a thumping majority. But it was in a position to form a coalition government. Sonia Gandhi, being an Italian born, couldn’t become India’s Prime Minister. Her son Rahul Gandhi was lurking somewhere on the horizon of the political sky but not at the center. Everyone was curious, that who will be India’s Prime Minister.

When, Manmohan Singh was ‘nominated’ as PM by Sonia Gandhi, the reaction was mixed. Because Singh, despite being a part of India’s political party, was still an apolitical person. He was a successful Finance Minister of India under Narasimha Rao. But he never created and nurtured a political base for himself. Singh was not a popular leader and never popular with masses. He was viewed as more of an academician than a politician. Earlier he was considered as a scholar Prime Minister.

But how life flows in the political corridors of Delhi is an entirely different scenario. Here nothing is black and white. Nothing is clear cut and falls in a well-defined category. According to Baru, when the Congress Party President showed her unwillingness to concede ‘do gaz zameen’ in Delhi to a dead ex-PM Narasimha Rao, it impacted the current PM, Manmohan Singh, deeply. Rao’s dead body had to be flown back to his native place. He somewhat took the cue whose lines he had to toe and what lies ahead of him. It was clear to him, how Congress Party President deals with those who have a mind of their own.

Here is how, Baru described the scenario in his book,

“Narasimha Rao’s children wanted the former PM to be cremated in Delhi, like other Congress prime ministers. Impressive memorials had been built for Nehru, Indira and Rajiv at the places where they had been cremated along the river Yamuna, adjacent to Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial. Even former prime minister Charan Singh, who had not belonged to the Congress, and Sanjay Gandhi, who was only an MP, had been cremated and memorialized in the vicinity. However, Patel wanted me to encourage Narasimha Rao’s sons, Ranga and Prabhakar, and his daughter, Vani, to take their father’s body to Hyderabad for cremation. Clearly, it seemed to me, Sonia did not want a memorial for Rao anywhere in Delhi.

Interestingly, in 2007, the Congress party tried a replay of this stratagem with the family of former prime minister Chandra Shekhar, persuading them to take the body of the former PM to his farm at Bhondsi in Haryana. However, Chandra Shekhar’s son insisted that the family would go to Delhi’s Lodi Crematorium if the former PM was not given a proper state funeral in Delhi. The government fell in line and Chandra Shekhar was cremated on the banks of the Yamuna at a spot designated Ekta Sthal.”

The book is an interesting journey of a Prime Minister who knew he had to remain in the shadows of the Gandhis and still he wanted to deliver. How difficult the task of a media manager would be under the given scenario? He couldn’t thrust the Prime Minister under the limelight and as a person who can deliver! If you can, read this book, you won’t be disappointed.

Image Source: wikipedia

Wedding Decorations and Dresses

This post was triggered by a TV program. I was surfing and just saw the last five minutes of it. Here people were sending wedding decor and dresses related queries. What the adviser said as a casual remark struck with me. She said, ‘when you get inspired with Business tycoon and Bollywood style weddings remember what they spend on their weddings is their 1 to 10% income, not their parents’ whole life savings or major savings of their parents.’ Later on she also added an afterthought: “WOh bhi aaj kal ki shaadiyan, jinka koi bharosa nahi ki kab tak tikengi! (That too today’s marriages about whom no one knows how long they are going to last)”

It really sets me thinking. Really Bollywood or Hollywood or Business Tycoons spend a minuscule part of their income on weddings. If you add up their total income and what they spend on their wedding it will open your eyes. While an average Indian father starts worrying about her daughter’s wedding quite early. Sometimes the day they are born. When we go for a lavish wedding or a dress that you will hardly going to wear in future, think for a while. You might think of a better use of the money.

Recalcitrance a novel based on India’s First War of Independence

Recalcitrance

Recalcitrance

Being a history student I was familiar with the India’s First War of Independence in 1857. Though in our history books I mostly read about this titled as, ‘Mutiny of 1857′ or ‘Uprising of 1857′ or ‘ The Rebellion of 1857′ but to be fair to the history and martyrs, it should be called as , ‘War of Independence.’ When I chanced upon the book, ‘Recalcitrance’ by Anurag Kumar, I was curious to know how someone can write a novel on an important event of our history. I hardly come across fiction of those times. Another thing was how was Lucknow during those times. Lucknow is a city I admire a lot. Every city has its own soul. Lucknow certainly posses a different soul. Though I was born and brought up in another city, but I kept on visiting this city frequently during my growing years and fell in love with it. The novel , ‘Recalcitrance’ is having both, history one of my favorite subject and , Lucknow, one of my favorite city.

First thing that struck me while reading the book was Anurag Kumar is a very good storyteller. He weaves a good story around a historical event and none of them seem to make a forced entry. The protagonist of the story, ‘Chote Bhaiya’ is an endearing character. He has all the human virtues and failings, our everyday character. But when he choses to rise to the occasion, that sets him apart from others. You will also find a cute love story silently sneaking into your heart and rest there for a while warmly.

The novel also discusses the general outlook of the society prevailing at that time and how they reacts to the India’s First War of Independence’ and what strikes a chord is we are more or less still the same. There are people, who will gladly give up all the comforts of life and contribute to the call of the motherland. One section will be indecisive and follow the wait and watch policy and one will try to make most of from the turmoil and misery of people. It seems nothing has changed much since 1857, except infrastructure and clothes.

The character which remained with me, is an unnamed ‘white turbaned man.’ He is the one who assesses the strength and weaknesses of the public almost accurately and in the end reacts in quite an unexpected manner. My heart goes out to him. The book also throws light on Hindu Muslim relationships. People make lifelong friendships with another religious community but still observe strict adherence to their rituals. You will find two friends Tek Chand, Karim Kahn being closer to each other than their own family members.

Writing fiction around truth is not an easy task. You can’t take too much liberty. People know what actually happened and why. But Anurag has struck a fine balance between fiction and history. In a nutshell, ‘The Recalcitrance’ makes an interesting read and you will get to know the soul of this fabulous city, Lucknow and its people. You won’t find the book boring or writer dragging the plot unnecessarily at any place. You can order the book from e-bay.

Missed My Blog

It has been ages since I have written anything here. I wish to revive this blog and try to write even if its just one para. I missed this blog. :-) For the time being just want to listen to this song in this rain.

A Teacher Affects Eternity

Joy of Giving

Joy of Giving


Last week Ritu posted another ‘Joy of Giving’ card. She told us to write a thank you note to a teacher who inspired us the most. I have hardly met any teacher during school days who seemed remotely inspiring. They were more like came into class, lectured us and went out. Their interaction with students were non existent.

I remember, if there was any cultural function or debate in the school, I had never seen a notice on board. It was never announced, It was assumed that those students who were participating since KG class will only be fit to participate. A girl came and whispered something into the teacher’s ear. Teacher would call out one or two names and quietly they went out of the class. Later on we would come to know that they were participating into some event. I resented those facts so much but too young to know what to do. Later on in my life, When I was teaching myself, I took special care not to be my school teachers who were cold, indifferent and distant.

During my post graduation and B. Ed days I met two teachers who were really teachers. We were no longer kids in post-graduation class. But Prof. L. B. Verma were so inspiring and motivating as a teacher. Prof Verma’s teaching subject was history, but one day he was effortlessly explaining us how our brain works! I have already written about Sharma Sir here : Merely A Teacher?

I don’t know where Prof. L.B. Verma is right now. But I will always be grateful to him for treating the subject history the way it should be treated. Whatever understanding I have of history, is solely due to his way of teaching.

I remember students of other branches also came to listen to his usual lectures. Ha! Ha! Ha! A student doesn’t listen to his own …. If there was no place to sit in the class, students preferred to stand at the back of the class and listened to him.

Its because of Prof. L. B. Verma that I have a bit of understanding of a common man’s fight against mighty empires. History is not about Emperors and their victories but History is about how mere common men defeated mighty emperors and all pervasive church priests. How common men had to make supreme sacrifice only then formidable emperors and churches had to give up their power to the common man in the form of democracy. Mankind didn’t get democracy on a platter at all. When Anna Hazare says a common man doesn’t know the power of his vote, it means our history teachers have failed miserably to teach us what is the power of our vote and how important it is for us.

Later on, when I was teaching history to my class, I hope I was able to arouse a bit of interest in history too to my students. I don’t know where Prof. L. B. Verma is today. But I know one fact, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” Its really true when I think about Verma sir.

Joy of Giving

Ritu has posted the following card for ‘Joy of Giving’ week. Ritu posts Joy of Giving cards every week and we have to follow the instructions on card.

Jy-of-giving-card

Joy of Giving

I don’t have enough oratory and writing skills to describe Ritu. She possesses a heart of Gold . But you can’t stereotype Ritu. You can’t place Ritu in a bracket. She writes about social issues, she brings the extraordinary battles of ordinary Indians into forefront. She inspires her daughter to celebrate her birthday in an orphanage. She took kids from orphanage to a multiplex where they enjoy movie with popcorn and cola. She is not your usual social worker. She lives her life on her own term and is a reservoir of strength.

I often used to make pot of tea for security guards. I even bought thermos flasks for such purpose only. I used to put thermos at an appropriate place from where the security guards can spot it easily. I remember my niece TP was barely a year old at that time. I used to balance TP and tea-pot when I went out to give tea to security guard.

One day, I was sitting and watching television when TP came towards me and said something to the tune of ‘Gawd’. I was pretty confused what she wanted from me. I asked her to repeat what she was trying to convey. Frustrated with my lack of understanding, Toddler TP forced me to abandon TV and she tried to drag me to my bedroom. There she pointed towards my jacket and told me again, ‘Gawd, cha’!!!! Then it struck to me, she wanted me to make tea, place her on my waist and have tea-pot in my other hand and hand it over to Guard!! How closely kids watch us is sometimes frightening.

Later on we shifted to another apartment. Here too, I used to make tea for security guards on and often. Even today, the guard came and handed me a fancy tea-pot for chai.

Sometimes they get spare milk from somewhere and ask me to make tea. Sometimes they get milk and sugar and ask for tea leaves only. These days, winter has set in suddenly and I try to give our security guards tea everyday.In fact we have 63 flats in our society. If residents of every flat provide guards with tea, their next turn will come after 2 months! But its too much to expect, I think.

I am not an altruistic person. When I do something like this, I have a very selfish reason. I want my surroundings to be pleasant and full of positive energy. Small acts like this fulfill my selfish purpose. Security guards always greet me cheerfully. They are more than happy to help me in our hour of need.

One day my nephew was returning from office. It was quite late, in fact 2:30 AM. Street dogs were getting quite ferocious with him. He phoned me, stating his plight. I assured him, that I will pick him up. But when I tried to start my car, it refused to come to life. I went to the security guard and told him about the problem. He immediately told me not to worry. He narrated the entire incident to another guard. Told him to be vigil as he was going out for few minutes. He took his danda to scare away the dogs and came back with my nephew in five minutes!

Actually Joy of Giving is not for others. Its for you and you only. The joy you get in return can’t be described in words but can be felt only.

Joy of Giving

This simple yet amazing exercise of spreading joy was started by Ritu. She asks her friends to complete a single task within a week. This week she has asked us to say no to showers and use bucket and mug for taking a bath. Read below what she is saying:

This week we have a card that is so easy to follow, any one can do it.

But first, a prelude:

Long ago, taking bath under a shower was considered a luxury. Not only because showers were considered an indulgence but because showers were considered an indulgence due to the amount of water they consumed. A bucket of water was considered enough for a clean, thorough and hygienic bath.

Somehow things changed. Homes with more advanced forms of plumbing became popular. Suddenly it was not enough to just take bath – we needed “rain shower heads” in our bathrooms to replicate the rain that poured naturally… Needless to say, water consumption increased and slowly but steadily through our patterns of water use we started depleting our natural water sources.

Did you know that a 10 minute shower can exhaust 120 liters of water from your tank (@ 12 liters per minute)? With an average of four members in a family, that is almost 500 liters of water everyday; 15000 liters of water a month; 1,82,500 liters per annum.

How can we cut down this massive water consumption without compromising on hygiene? (If I ask my kids they will gladly say “Bathe twice a week!”)

Use a bucket. That’s the card for this week:

To join the Joy of Giving just follow the cards. To know how it started, please click here.

Don’t Treat Your Kid as A Miniature Adult

If I were asked to give a message to parents, without hesitation I would say, ‘Please don’t treat your kid as a miniature adult. We should allow our kids to be kids.’ But we are falling in this trap without realizing that. A kid needs direction, leadership and clarity from parents, not same treatment as meted out to an adult. We can’t have a heart to heart talk with a kid and expect an adult like understanding in return. That doesn’t mean we should not explain things to kids or shun a culture of dialogue and debate. By all means, we should encourage kids to communicate with us on any topic but we should not expect adult like response from kid.

A kid doesn’t have so much experience, expertise and data to access a situation and take right decisions. Here the leadership role of parents become important. We should guide our kids, make them see things in perspective and help them solving a problem. But train your kids to be a leader too. Especially in fun activities. Let them guide you. Do what they told you to do. Let kids decide about their clothes, toys and other matters.

Most of the families have a single child. So a kid is thrown into adult company most of the times. No doubt a kid imbibes the adult behavior and way of talking. Sooner or later the kid start taking and behaving like an adult. You might consider your child smart but the reality is he/she is missing out on a lot of spontaneity, curiosity and creativeness, the hallmarks of childhood. We should allow our kids to make friends with other kids. They need other kids to feel like a kid. These days we don’t welcome other’s kids in our house. It seems as a great hassle. But imagine this, one day our kids are going to step out into the real world and deal with different types of people. Why not start this process early? We should allow our kids to indulge in different constructive activities with other kids. This way they will learn the rules of management first hand. They will learn interpersonal skills and how to manage the resources given to them.

If we keep on treating kids like adults and expect “desirable results” from kids they will start walking, talking, dressing up and behaving like adults. We won’t find big deal till it is confined to behavior. If we treat our kids as miniature adults, they will show the symptoms of anxiety, depression, panic, worries just like adults.

Its totally uncool to treat our kids as miniature adults. Try organizing something with neighborhood kids. My friends suggested that I can throw a dance party with no additional frills. My friends also suggested that I can throw cakes, sandwich or Diwali Cards making party. Kids will learn to make things and enjoy themselves.

I allow my kid to take bath in the balcony in her tub. Sometimes my kid makes sandcastle. Yesterday she made a road of sand, leading to a mall in the balcony. We get drenched in the rain and listen to songs while having lunch or dinner.

Sometimes I try to treat her as a miniature adult but its results were never to my likings. Its impact on my kids personality is not good too. So I try to check this habit of mine and try to follow the way our parents and grandparents raised us.

Being Happy: Learn to Remember

My Grandfather
My earliest memories with my grandfather was of doing Maths with him. He taught me tables, calculations etc. What was remarkable? He never raised his voice or hand on me while teaching. Though he belonged to the old school of teaching but he never believed in spare the rod and spoil the child type of things. Whenever I was unable to understand any problem, he tried to teach me adopting different methods or giving real life examples. Sometimes when he had to go somewhere, he remembered the sums from our Maths book and when he came back, he usually called me and told me how to do further sums. While traveling , he used to do all the calculations of my Maths chapter in his head. I still long for such a fantastic memory and brain!!!

I know my grandfather’s main subject was Sanskrit. He spoke this ancient and beautiful language fluently but he was comfortable with all the subjects. He taught me till tenth class. And his teaching method was excellent. You never feel afraid of asking questions., when he was teaching.

My grandfather had a hard childhood and adult life. He educated himself in the absence of his father. Only God knows how he was able to do that. Later on, most of his adult life; he shuffled between job and court appearances. His army of relatives had gifted him court cases. My grandfather was facing not one, two, three, ten , twenty but 67 court cases!! A lecturer of Sanskrit couldn’t afford Lawyers. He presented and argued his own cases in the court and won 64 out of 67 cases registered against him. When he used to narrate these incidences, his heart was not filled up with hatred for his relatives. He just told me these things as facts of life. I know he had nerves of steel but he didn’t transfer that quality to me. :-(

In the morning, we often used to fight over newspaper. Who will read it first. Of course, first my Baba used to read, then my father then…. Sometimes when Baba was reading newspaper I used to squat and scanned last page, the sports page. Whenever he spotted me doing that, he often gave the whole newspaper to me to read. My joy knew no bounds at such a grand favor.

Another thing I remember about my Babba is, he always encouraged me to ask questions and never admonished me if I went overboard sometimes. He inculcated in me the culture of debate and discussions and how to look at thing logically.

I often see old people struggling with boredom and isolation. But I have never seen my grandfather getting bored. He had something to read or he listened to the radio. We had vast space at our home. Due to my grandfather, we had most of the fruits and vegetables grown at our place. I remember mango, litchi, guava, peach, custard apple, jack-fruit, gooseberry, papaya, lemon, mulberry and amla trees in our compound. When everyone was taking a nap at afternoon, I used to sneak out and tried to climb each and every tree. If it was laden with fruits, then… :-) Due to my grandfather’s efforts, I had the opportunity of having freshest salads in this word. Just before lunch, we used to dig out radish and carrots and plucked tomatoes. During winter season, my grandfather grew potatoes, peanuts and green peas. Sometimes, when we were with friends, we dug out potatoes and made Tikkis. I can guarantee, nothing can beat the taste of those Tikkis. Until, I came to a metro city, I never realized how lucky I was growing up with all the comforts of a city but environment of a village!!! I wish my kid can experience the same joy and harmony with nature.

I remember, when my grandfather died at the age of 87, I was devastated, totally shattered. I was unable to deal with the reality that it was OK. I refused to see his dead body. I never said Goodbye to him. NEVER. But he never visited me in my dreams. That is very comforting for me. It means he went away as a satisfied soul having no unfulfilled desires at that time. Right now, wherever he is, he is quite peaceful and happy.

He was the only person in the world, who loved me unconditionally. NO matter what I did or thought, he was OK with it. Grandfather is the only person in the world who claimed, “Whenever I see your face, my lifespan increases!!!” When I remember these words, I feel like the most beautiful person surviving on this earth.

9/11

people-looking-out
When I had seen this image in my newspaper, I was deeply distrubed. Even till this date, whenever I remember the incident, everything just stop within me.

=================
Newspapers showing
Expectant faces,
Fearful faces,
Peeping out of windows.

As if asking,
Office hours had JUST begun
But how could life be over?
Suddenly, definitely, precisely
And clinically for everyone?

Expectant faces,
Fearful faces,
As if asking
We were just balancing
The morning coffee in one hand,
And files in another,
But how could life be over?

A man made lightening struck,
From the sky
To plunge everything
And everyone in darkness.

Expectant faces,
Fearful faces,
As if asking
Would we melt together
With concrete and mortar?

Expectant faces,
Fearful faces,
As if asking
Was it our destiny
To be one with steel girdles?
And not with mother earth?
What had we done
In our lives,
To not to deserve a few feet
Below the earth?
But to evaporate
With the vapor of morning coffee?

Being Happy: Never Let Others Decide for You

If you want to be happy, never let others decide for you. Only you know what is best for you. It is good to have friends and family and their positive influence on our lives. But if you want to be truly happy, don’t give others so much power that they start deciding for you. It is safe if you allow others to interfere in your matters so that when something goes wrong, you can blame them. But if you want to experience true happiness, take your own decisions and be ready to take the blame too if something goes wrong. How can anyone find happiness in such a situation?

Why we allow others to show us the ‘true’ path and ruin our happiness? The flaw lies with us. We want the love and affection of people that’s why we allow them to run our life. It is beyond our imagination that what will we do if we annoy certain people? The mere thought of rubbing some people the wrong way makes us extremely uncomfortable. But the other option also doesn’t grant us peace of mind. We resent ourselves for letting others dominate us, decide for us or practically run our lives for us. Happiness can never be achieved if we keep on expecting approval from others.

Why certain people keep on expecting approval from others? Why can’t you approve yourself with all the positives and negatives? If you keep on asking for certificates from others they will come with a price. The price will be your self respect and dignity. If you are willing to pay such a high price, go ahead and allow others to define you but never expect that happiness will knock at your door.

If you let others decide for yourself, you will never be happy but aways end up feeling like a victim. You will think something on the lines of, this horrible thing is happening to me because of so and so. You will never feel in control and in charge. You will always put blames on others for your misfortunes. A victim never feels responsible for the bad knocks of life. They always held others responsible hence never feel the need to take corrective measures themselves. Imagine, giving so much power to others will be a key to unhappiness.

If you want to be happy, never allow others to make crucial decisions for you. Commit your own mistakes and enrich your life. Once you start taking your own decisions you will come to know what works for you and what not. But if you keep on letting others decide for you, you will loose the chance to know what is best for you and what makes you tick. The greatest outcome of such decisions will be increase in your self confidence and you will have a positive self image.

In Pursuit of Happiness : Learning to Forgive Yourself

One thing I learn today, if I want to be happy I have learn how to forgive myself and move ahead. Right now it seems I have committed a Himalayan blunder and there is no escape. I have to suffer, self flagellate (something I am quite good at) and wait for some mighty weight to fall upon me and crush me forever. That will be so quick and easy. But how to get out of it and forgive myself and start feeling happy again? It is very easy to feel self loathing and feel depressed. The thought never even crossed my mind that I can forgive myself and feel happy again. Sometimes you have to learn the hard way.

Does forgiving yourself comes easy? I am trying and nowhere near it. But things can’t be the way they are. Wallowing in self guilt is one of the easiest thing on this earth. It makes you feel good. Look I have committed mistake and how miserably I am suffering. SO all others have to do is to cuddle me, console me and pamper me. I don’t have to do anything. Will it work and lead me to happiness? Never. If I have to forgive myself then I have to work hard and make life a satisfying and enriching experience.

Acceptance: I think if I have to learn to forgive myself, I will have to accept that I have erred and I have to take stock of situation and feel the damage I have done. I don’t want to do that gladly because I know I will feel guilty again but this time I will accept my behavior and try to access the damages I have done. That will prevent me from visiting that territory again, I don’t want to go through this acceptance of my wrongdoings again and again. I definitely want fewer such types of incidents in my life.

Ask for Forgiveness : This is the next thing I will do. I will ask for forgiveness from those who suffered due to my actions. I will try and listen to their point of views and how they felt due to my actions. I will be prepared to listen to others views, how they felt, what they expected of me and how I messed up. I think asking others to forgive me will also help me knowing that everything is not about I, ME, MYSELF.

Set Higher Standards for Self: Forgiving myself can be easy if I can raise the bar a bit higher. I can definitely do better next time, if I am cautious and aware. So what I did in the past, I can always learn from it and move ahead. Instead of blaming and cursing myself and in the process feeling depressed, I can try and improve my actions. Why carry wrongdoings of past as a burden around your neck? Why can’t I conduct myself in a better way in present and future and feel satisfied and happy?

Don’t Let Wrongdoings Define Me: I think I have committed mistakes, hurt people, been nasty but that is not the whole me. If I want to forgive myself I have to be self compassionate and look for my positive sides too. I don’t want to work upon my self worth too!

Making Amendments: If I want to forgive myself completely, I have to make amendments. That doesn’t mean I have to set the clock back but I have to be careful in future not to make same kind of mistakes. I have to learn my lessons. If I have learned my lessons completely and truly I will not commit same mistake again in future. So I think forgiving myself ends with making amendments. I will certainly mess up again till I am going to live. But I will not repeat the same mistake over and over again.

Anna and the pseudo-democRats

A thought provoking blogpost by G Sampath at DNA:

In our lives as empowered citizens of the world’s largest democracy, how many times have we whined about corruption? Five times? 15 times? As long as we can remember? And how many times have we done anything about it? Not too many, on the evidence of the cascading scams of the past year, and all the years before that.

And yet, when a 73-year-old man decides to do something about it, you have these amazing rodent-like creatures coming out of the woodwork, expressing deep concerns about ‘subversion of democracy’.There is a name for such creatures: pseudo-democRats. They also have another name: status quoists. These creatures are so comfortable with things as they are — no matter how rotten, or perhaps because they are so rotten — that they don’t want change. They are the ‘democRatic’ avatars of Mubarak and Gaddafi who wouldn’t want to exchange the joy of whining about corruption for a chance to fight corruption, in however limited a manner. Such as through an ombudsman as envisaged by the Jan Lokpal Bill.

It should be obvious even to a first standard kid that you cannot ask a robber to draft a law against robbery. But today, we have these worthies arguing that the only way to address corruption is through elected ‘least tainted’ representatives — all else is undemocratic.

The only kind of democracy they recognize is one that is exercised once in five years, through the formal, controllable channel of the ballot box. Grassroots democracy that brings people’s issues to the government — such as the Medha Patkar-led Narmada Bachao Andolan or the people’s movement against the nuclear plant in Jaitapur — are sought to be discredited as not representing the will of the people. So who are these protesters? Well, they need to be given a suitable label in order to be discredited and disposed of. Let’s see.

Can you call them terrorists? Not really — terrorists don’t do fast-unto-death (one eminent pseudo-democRat did suggest that Anna’s fast-unto-death was suicide bombing in slow motion). Can you call them Maoists? No, they were armed only with candles.

So how about calling them ‘activists’? They are obviously not people, and since they haven’t won an election, they’re not qualified to speak for the people — whatever that means. Is it possible for any ‘member’ of the people to speak at all — as one of the people — without seeming to ‘speak for’ the people? No.

So who can speak for the people? Well, according to the pseudo-democRat, that is a privilege reserved solely for elected representatives such as Sharad Pawar, Suresh Kalmadi, A Raja and BS Yeddyurappa. It doesn’t matter whether two thousand people join a protest movement or two hundred thousand, protesters will always be ‘activists’ and therefore non-people. Even if a billion Indians speak with one united voice, unless they’re expressing their preference for one crook over another inside a polling booth, they will be deemed as speaking for the remaining 0.21 billion people and therefore subverting democracy.

In their scheme of things, ‘the people’ (who nobody but the elected representative can legitimately represent) come into existence when there is an election, and once the elections are over, conveniently melt away into nothingness. If they make the mistake of materialising anytime, anywhere other than during an election — say, to tell their elected representatives that they don’t want this steel plant in Orissa, or plead against an SEZ on their farmland, or a mine in their mountain — they are immediately relieved oftheir status as people. In short, they become a threat to democracy. Reflecting faithfully the concerns of the state, the pseudo-democRat has taken to heart Brecht’s sarcastic suggestion on what to do when people lose faith in their elected government: dissolve the people and elect another.

In fact, the primary purpose achieved by elections in India is to lend an aura of legitimacy to the oligarchy that has our elected representatives in its pocket. This voter-generated legitimacy is what enables the government to pass anti-people legislations in the name of the people — subversion of democracy in the non-laughable sense of the term.

Whatthe pseudo-democRat is anxious to cover up is the plain fact that elected representatives can consistently act against the interests of those they represent — and there is NOTHING that a citizen, acting only as a voter, can do to stop them. It is this belated realisation that drove the less cynical sections of the middle class to rally around Anna.

An election is only one of many kinds of democratic processes. But the pseudo-democRat loves it to the exclusion of every other democratic mechanism Why? Because an election is a process that the state can control from start to finish. True democracy — something those who accuse Anna of blackmail really fear — is about sharing power, sharing control, and holding the powerful accountable for their power, and not only through means that have the prior approval of the state.

For all its flaws, and the flaws of its leaders, the Lokpal movement is an encouraging example of participatory democracy — a process that is open to anyone who cares enough about an issue to want to join in — as many middle class Indians did.

Democracy is a lived reality — not some codified entity that will be interpreted (for the people?) by self-appointed constitutional experts and newspaper columnists. If the Lokpal turns out to be a ‘Frankenstein monster’ (am I to believe that no ‘monster’ has ever won an election?), then it will not survive. The very people who supported Anna Hazare will fight it and throw it out.

To be sure, the Lokpal Bill, in whatever form, is unlikely to eradicate corruption, for the simple reason that corruption is only a symptom of a structural rot in our casteist society and fractured polity where, even as lip service is paid to political equality, almost every aspect of policy is geared to increase economic inequality. Unless there are many political mass movements — as opposed to one ‘civil society initiative’ — for policies and laws aimed at a more equitable society, corruption won’t go away, no matter how powerful the Lokpal is.

But does this mean that we’d rather not have had the Hazare-inspired campaign? No. The value of the candle-wallas rallying around Anna is to prove — to ourselves — that it is possible for the apathetic, solipsistic Indian middle class to shake off its cynicism and mobilise for a cause. This would be an invaluable lesson, and much-needed inspiration, as things get worse in the future.

Blame it On Anna Hazare

Anna-Hazare

Anna Hazare, our Gandhi


Image Source and Poem: Shivam Gupta
I am guilty of meddling with the title of the movie, ‘Blame It On Rio’ and giving the title Blame it On Anna Hazare, but my sentiments and feelings are quite pure, not muddled. I was trying to write a post every day and narrate here what I did to feel happy. But a series of Birthdays prevented me from writing anything here. When all the birthdays of March and April were over, and I was about to breathe easy, Anna Hazare happened. What A man Anna Hazare is.

When Anna Hazare started his movement against corruption, I was quite sure that I will resume writing my blog posts again. But when Anna Hazare’s movement against corruption started, I never thought that I will ignore everything, my home, my husband, my kid, myself and get involved in this movement on daily basis. But of course,that is Anna Hazare’s effect. And whole nation witnessed it.

Anna Hazare has refreshed the forgotten history, civics and politics lessons of school. We were taught about democracy in schools. We were also taught about the duties of a citizen in school books. But after leaving school, we never applied those duties in our lives. We thought REAL world is different, But Anna Hazare helped us turning into a awakened citizen. Anna Hazare taught us, democracy is not about exercising your power to vote, He taught us the forgotten lesson of being a watchdog to government’s actions. After casting your valuable votes, our duties don’t stop there. We have to be vigilant. We have to observe whether our elected representatives are performing their duties as expected. We need a Anna Hazare to revisit that civics lesson.

Anna Hazare taught us that demonstrations, protests marches, rallies, writing articles, formation of organizations are legitimate means to show your displeasure to the government. And we rose to the occasion. My nephew, my husband prepared posters for Anna Hazare’s movement. I distributed those posters at various public places and put on the notice boards of our society. We tried to do our bit for Anna Hazare’s campaign.

I can declare proudly and in all humility that Anna Hazare made me eat my words. And I am proud to eat my words. I often used to say and write that our people won’t come out of their houses to protest. I used to feel disappointed with youngsters. But Anna Hazare has done the impossible. He fired the imagination of youths and in large number they came out on the streets to protests. Even schoolchildren were out on the streets to protest against corruption. It is very difficult to bring Indian youths on the street to protest, but Gandhian follower Anna Hazare almost did the impossible.

How Anna Hazare proved me wrong. I wrote this post: Libyan Crisis, People in Pursuit of Happiness At the end of the post I was ruing that Indians won’t leave the confines of their homes to come out on the street and protest.But Anna Hazare has achieved the impossible. In the last para I have written, we don’t have a Gandhi to draw us out of our homes. But I was wrong. We too have our Gandhi, Anna Hazare, and WE REALLY ARE THE GRANDCHILDREN of Gandhi, whenever he calls, we leave everything and pay heed to that call. Thank you Anna Hazare for giving us a call.

In Pursuit of Happiness : Knowing People

Chhavi-Rajawat

Chhavi Rajawat, India's First MBA Village Sarpanch


Few days ago, when I opened the newspaper, I saw a girl’s photograph and I said to myself, lo here is another model or bollywood wanna-be. I was about to turn the page but before doing that I glanced at the heading. This girl was Chhavi Rajawat at a UN Conference. Models or Bollywood actresses hardly attend UN conferences.

Chhavi Rajawat pleasantly surprised the other delegates at the 11th Info-Poverty World Conference held at the UN. The two-day panel discussion was held at the UN held on March 24 and 25, 2011. People could hardly believe that Chhavi Rajawat is the village surpanch of Soda village, Rajasthan.

Chhavi Rajawat has studied at Rishi Valley, Bangalore and Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi, Going by norms, she should be at the helm of some multinational company or owning her own export business or working at some high-profile media house. People hardly expect a LSR student to be a village surpanch. But Chhavi Rajawat is an exception.

I am always fascinated by people and their behavior. I don’t know why I have not studied Psychology. I always like to read and know about people who behave differently. Knowing about those people who swim against the tide always give me happiness and hope. I love people who flout so called “norms” and do something different. Chhavi Rajawat is one of them. She don’t believe in right looks of a mahila sarpanch. She attends all the village panchyat meeting in her jeans. Not like some high profile politicians who wears designer wear among their own and always put a sham among villagers by wearing cotton sarees.

Chhavi Rajawat said at UN meet, “If India continues to make progress at the same pace as it has for the past 65 years since Independence, it just won’t be good enough. We will be failing people who dream of having water, electricity, toilets, schools and jobs. I am convinced we can do it differently and do it faster,” Chhavi Rajawat is the only female surpanch of a village who possesses an MBA degree.
Chhavi Rajawat said at the UN Meet, “In the past year alone in Soda, the villagers and I have brought about a radical change in the village purely through our own efforts. We have no outside support no NGO help, no public or private sector help.”

Chhavi Rajawat added later, “In three years, I will transform my village. I don’t want money. I want people and organisations to adopt projects in my village as often projects fail owing to lack of a local connect and that is what I am here to provide a bridge in that gap.” Amen to that.

Image Source: Dainik Jagran

In Pursuit of Happiness : Don’t Compare

Dont-Compare-yourself-to-others
If we keep on comparing ourselves with others that will take away our peace of mind and happiness. Comparing ourselves with others seems like a disease that spread over our soul. People who keep on measuring their cars, houses, bank balance, holidays, jewelery, shoes and dresses with others actually suffer from inferiority complex. If you want to remain happy don’t torture yourself with comparison.

Comparing oneself to others is more prevalent in female species. You have dressed fine to go out and enjoy with friends but someone has dressed up cooler than you is enough to destroy mood. You keep on eying your friend’s dress and accessories on and often. Was it a dress out to kill outing or were you out to enjoy? I often see many females to compare so much that it becomes annoying after a while. They don’t even realize how unhappy they feel if they keep on comparing themselves with others.

There is something about myself that keeps me happy. I don’t know why and how but I have never lost peace of mind over some dress, make-up, shoes, accessories or jewelery that someone else is having. Concentrating or focusing on yourself is the key to happiness.

I am blessed with the presence of some persons in my life whose self worth or self confidence is not proportional to the dress or hairstyle they wear. They never bothered about what is in trend, what is in and what is out. They wear whatever catch their fancy but they never forget to wear their self-confidence. They seem content and happy in whatever they have. And that doesn’t mean they are unambitious. But they chose to excel in their respective fields instead of your dress vs mine. They tend to acquire what they want, not what is trending recently.

I just want to transfer this quality in my kid too. To an extent she is like me. I have never heard her saying, I want that toy or I want that dress which XYZ is wearing. I will try to make sure that my young one remains so in near future too and doesn’t get involved in this fruitless comparing exercise.

If you sit down and see the results of comparing yourself with others, you will be disinclined to indulge in this game. We lose peace of mind, we lose friends and their trust, we get distracted from our goals, we set out to do something for which we are not cut out, we waste our energy in chasing something that keep on setting new standards, we lose self worth and self respect. Why not get rid of all the negative energy and be happy instead? Its so easy to say to your friend if her dress is cooler than you, ‘wow! what a nice dress!’ It will make her day as well as yours when you get a genuine smile that reaches to her eyes, in return.

Our Heroes : Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Sukhdev

Bhagat-Singh-Sukhdev-Rajguru

Bhagat-Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru


“Lovers, Lunatics and poets are made of same stuff.”
— Bhagat Singh

Today, March 23rd is the Martyrdom of Sardar Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. When I read the above quote by Bhagat Singh, I thought he himself was made of that same stuff that’s why he was able to make supreme sacrifice for his motherland at the age of 24. If he was rational thinking he must have marketed “sacrifices done by his family” and ensured dynastic rule in the guise of democracy.

I was wondering if they come back in today’s India what would they think of us? What would be their views on today’s politicians and bureaucrats? What would he think about today’s youth? What will Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru think about their ultimate sacrifice?

Would BHagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev feel ashamed that we had given supreme sacrifice so that A. Raja can flourish, Klmadi can make us the laughing stock in front of the world? Not a single flat was allotted to the martyrs in Adarsh Housing Socity? Would Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev feel that their martyrdom has gone in vein? Now instead of Britishers, we are humiliated, looted and raped by our own politicians? Had they dreamed about today’s India?
What was in Bhagat Singh’s mind when he willing went to gallows for us? We can see a glimpse here:
“The aim of life is no more to control the mind, but to develop it harmoniously; not to achieve salvation here after, but to make the best use of it here below; and not to realise truth, beauty and good only in contemplation, but also in the actual experience of daily life; social progress depends not upon the ennoblement of the few but on the enrichment of democracy; universal brotherhood can be achieved only when there is an equality of opportunity – of opportunity in the social, political and individual life.— from Bhagat Singh’s prison diary, p. 124″

After reading this, I know what our martyrs Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and SUkhdev will think. They will get up to fight again, this time the enemy is in our own house, no outsiders.
Image Source: MIDHUN MAATALU

Being Happy : Enjoying Holi with Family and Friends

Holi

Holi Enjoyed By All Age Groups


Last few days were quite eventful. We went out a lot and did a bit of shopping for Holi.

It was a pleasure to purchase pichkaaris and colors for my young one. She was so excited to celebrate Holi. Holi was on Sunday and Since Monday she kept on aksing me without fail, how many days NOW?

I like this festival very much. First we can say goodbye to winter, woolens and heavy blankets. The sky seems SO blue everyday without fail. The air seems so refreshing and oh so springy. I like that mezzanine zone when winter has not yet bid goodbye and summer has not set in yet. You can enjoy the best of both.

Apart from lovely weather I love the Holi festival due to economic reasons too. People from every strata of society can enjoy Holi, no matter what their economic status is. Everyone can afford to buy few packets of color. Its not like Deepawali where only the rich and well heeled can show off.

We enjoyed Holi a lot. My kid was out of house since morning and came back only late in the afternoon. :-) A total stranger decided to drench me with colored water. For the first time in my life I have witnessed balloon missile (filled with colored water) fights between two households. For a while I could spot nothing else but water filled balloon missiles in the air.

Few balloon missiles landed near me and in our house too. But I was not hit by one. Though I was told that it doesn’t heart but I was skeptical. Last year I used mostly organic ‘colors’ to drench my near and dear ones. Nature has given me those free of cost. I used mud from our garden in ample amount. What can be more organic than that? :-) I dragged my young one in mud puddle too. She was not complaining. :-)

I enjoy Holi a lot. It gives us an opportunity to come out of our shells and be a child again. Holi frees us from our daily sophisticated masks we so painstakingly love to don. This festival unleashes the child in us and provides pure happiness if you don’t try to be a jerk and spoil the spirit of this festival.

In Pursuit of Happiness : Declutter

My pursuit of happiness sets me thinking about decluttering. I want to declutter so many areas of my life. I want to declutter my living room, my dining room, my kitchen, my closets, my book shelf, my mind, my emotions and my mind.

Having more things means more responsibilities. If I keep on stuffing my home with more and more things that increases my responsibility in the direct proportion with the goods we possess. Who in his or her right mind would like to shoulder more and more obligations/duties/liabilities? Having less commodities or articles sets you free from many things and in return brings joy and happiness.

The first thing that we decided to declutter was our credit card balance. No, we didn’t get rid of credit cards but decided to keep them for rarest of the rare cases. We also made a pact that we will do our shopping using cash only. We won’t clutter our credit card sheets with more numbers. It is such a huge relief to know that now we have to make almost zero payments to credit card companies. I think everyone deserves to feel such contentment and happiness.

I want to declutter my home. The way my home looks, I don’t like it. I don’t know why we stash away things for future use which we probably won’t even remember to take out and have a look. I too have heaps of such things. Something tumbles out of one corner or another.
So I have started decluttering. I am doing it everyday. I just want to start small and continue doing it for 365 days a year.

I have kept an unused bucket. Before going to sleep I keep it in any room and start from a small corner. I go through things in that corner quickly and throw it it the bucket. In the morning I give it to our garbage collector.

Decluttering

Decluttering


Its summer now, so I am going to wash all the winter clothes and then store it in two places. Place number one warm clothes will go charity next year and place number two warm clothes will remain with us for our own use. I am unpacking summer clothes too. One set of clothes will go to some orphanage and another will remain with us. I know I will not get rid of clothes only but some of the guilt associated with it.

Decluttering is a great stress buster too. You let o of the emotional baggage associated with it and you feel free and light. I don’t stash away things for emotional reasons. I have given away my little ones expensive toys and clothes to other kids. Its time for others to enjoy those toys and look pretty in those clothes.

Now my younger one is growing up a bit so I will not take one sided decision but sit with her before decluttering her things. Decluttering should be a democratic process and one should not overstep in others shoes.