I am Anna today, what about tomorrow?

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Its been an incredible few days for India in the past couple of weeks. Mr. Anna Hazare, his team, and their brand of expressing dissatisfaction has created a huge uproar amongst the entire nation. Thousands have supported him and his methods and then there have been others who have criticized the entire episode, but eventually the spirit of a man, ready to undertake physical agony for his principles is commendable and deserves much appreciation. At the end of it, honestly, I was more keen on Mr. Hazare breaking his fast than any bill getting passed, and thats the kind of connection true leaders make with people.

I could spend hours and hours writing about how unsurprisingly incompetent our government has been in handling the entire situation, and how a few of those I considered future leaders of India have come out as nothing but absolute hypocrites, but then it would just be reiterating the obvious. I must though point out that that the Congress government needs to have a very close look at their PR folks; the current lot is downright terrible, has no clue of public sentiment, sounds arrogant, egotistic, and even idiotic most of the time. Its as if they sit on a self destruct button each time they open their mouths, and destruction is all they do. The government really does not need opposition parties or political enemies having been blessed by spokesmen of the quality of Mr. Manish Tewari and Mr. Kapil Sibal.

Now to come back to my thoughts on the entire campaign. It was undoubtedly heartening to see “young india” come out in thousands to support the cause of Mr. Hazare. For the past 30 years that i have existed, i haven’t seen such support at a national level for anything other than cricket, and cricket kind of became an aversion with the abysmal performance of our team in England. The campaign would not have been what it turned out to be and would not have made the impact that it has been able to, had it not received the massive public support that it totally deserved. Hunger strikes have happened in india in the past, civil activists have tried to fight for causes, but i have rarely seen anything garner as much support as this one did.

All this while, i had consciously tried to not be judgmental about the situation, one way or the other. There were a lot of things that i agreed with and a lot that i totally disagreed with, but then i guess thats what ‘free will’ in a democratic country is all about. (i would like to write some day on how much for granted we take our power of expressing free will) Now that everything seems to have taken a positive note, there are a few things to reflect upon:

1. The only way to make people support a cause or an individual is to be honest with them, both in actions and intentions. Anna Hazare stood ground no matter what the government tried to do, he took responsibility for what he believed in and saw it through. His actions and methods may have sounded like blackmail to a few (including me, at times), but his intentions were always there for everyone to see.

2. They say that “customer service” of a product is as important, if not more, than selling the product. You may think you have a great product, you may even be able to sell it using fancy marketing tricks, but  sustained business will only be achieved by providing continued customer service for the product. If you customer service sucks, or if you stop responding to customer complaints, your company and your product is likely to fade out of favor sooner than later. The same applies to elected government bodies of the country. Absolute majority in the parliament does not justify making decisions that are absurd. Also having absolute retards in important PR positions, is like making a nursery student answer customer care questions for Airtel(on another note, the nursery student may do a better job). Bottom line, if you don’t know your shit, you should either be quiet or be honest with people. Making up stupid excuses makes the people feel cheated and that is one emotion not easily reparable.

3. If we, the people are to bring any revolution in the country, we’ve got to start with ourselves. I know it sounds preachy, but there is no doubt to the fact that unless we undergo our own revolution, any bill, however good or bad it is, will be just another piece of paper that we never intend to read or follow. Corruption is something that cannot be discriminated against. If the commonwealth games scam is an example of corruption, then so is us bribing traffic cops to get away with small fines. If the 2G scam is corruption, then so is our crossing red lights, throwing waste on streets, caring a damn about road safety rules or using black money for purchasing properties. We cannot call some forms of corruption acceptable, just because it saves us time or money, and call other forms of corruption evil. Corruption is evil, in all its forms; period. Just as we ask the government to take a step forward and pass a historical bill, we, as responsible citizens of India, should also take a step forward and get rid of the corruption that exists in our lives. There is no excuse for us not to do this.

4. Finally, the lesson to learn from this entire episode is that one person can actually make a difference. If I really am Anna, then the most important thing for me is to not only talk about what is right for the country, but also enact upon the principles i preach. More often than not we complain of what we alone can achieve. That myth has been busted by the recent events, and we have a live example of how one man can change the thought process of an entire nation. Lets just not give into the frenzy of achieving a short term victory but use this as an opportunity to improve ourselves and subsequently our country for good.

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My weekly rant – The shoe that never hit its target…

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Shoe thrower

A few days ago, i was sitting at the departure terminal of the Hong Kong airport, trying to fly back to India on one of the most ridiculous itineraries ever. Apparently i never realized that my travel guy is another of those folks who needs to be pampered regularly, else he’ll make you suffer with bizarre travel itineraries.

Anyhoo, free internet on the airport is quite a perk, and as i was surfing away, killing time, i came across this news about  some random person who tried to hit General Pervez Musharaff with a shoe, and bloody missed it. As i read through the report, a few thoughts ran through my mind. When was the last time someone decided to hit a politician with a shoe and had success in this endeavor? At least i don’t remember hearing any such news, and believe me, i do watch a healthy dose of India TV, so would probably have not missed it.

Clearly the success rate here is so low that this issue needs some attention. And while the smarter minds of the world work on finding a cure for AIDS, i will contribute my two cents here and do a root cause analysis for the problem.

Here are the things that the prospective shoe throwers should look at before attempting to madly flung their footwear at the most esteemed, but much deserving VVIP politicians:

1. Selecting your shoe – Most important…Your weapon of choice is no doubt excellent, but the mere fact that it’s a shoe probably wont guarantee that it hits the intended target. Spend time in researching a variety which is shaped nicely and is just the right weight. Both these things will not only ensure precise execution of your task but also a smoother travel towards your target. Avoid using the heavy variants; they may not travel the distance. The goal should be to land the shoe somewhere on your target before people around grab hold and beat the crap out of you. On a commercial front, you may try to secure an endorsement from a shoe company. The flight time towards the target will give them enough air time for an advertisement, and will earn you some bucks as well.

2.Get the physics right – Newtonian research on motion physics and mechanics cannot be ignored. Brush up on your physics before you make your move. Get your concepts of momentum, velocity, acceleration and projectile motion right. You will need all these in order to make the perfect hit. It may also be useful to have an idea of the surroundings where you will be attempting this stunt. Things vary depending on the wind factor, the place where you will be seated and other distractions. If possible, replicate the exact circumstances and try the entire act with some of your supportive friends. Friends who are used to getting hit by shoes because of their inherent inquisitive nature should be preferred for such experiments.

3. Chose your target carefully – This brings me to another important factor. Choosing your target. It’s okay to loathe politicians. Most of us have not been able to help it, however hard we try. That obviously does not mean everyone can be made the target of the shoe hitting phenomenon. You need to target folks who are not too fast, else they will easily evade your projectile, and keep smiling. Of course all of them are fast when it comes to tricking the people who voted them to power, but not all will be fast enough to trick a precisely thrown shoe. If however, you do have to choose a fast one, place yourself somewhere they can’t see you. That way they wont have the time to move when you take the shot.

4. Ask for a tip or two from a girlfriend – Ah, possibly the most useful tip. Please do consult your female friends. They are well equipped in the art of getting their footwear out and hitting it precisely where they want to, in almost a flash. They have all the knowledge and a few secret tips from them might just be the ones that eventually get you the hit.

That is all i have for now. I will be looking through the news channels for some good news…Happy throwing!!

The state(s) of my country…and the situation in Swarg

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Swarg was feeling unusually bright today. Although there was never a problem with light in Swarg, but Surya devta was today trying hard to shine as much as possible, as if to prove a point to someone, as if he wanted something in return.

Swarg was also unusually chirpy today. Sardar Patel opened his eyes, reluctantly, as if wanting to go back to sleep. The unusual noise around him and the bright light was just not letting him stick to his bed. There were times when he thought to himself, whether there is even one corner in this area where he can sleep peacefully. Swarg, although the best place he had ever seen, was still a little too bright and shiny for him. The music in the air was peaceful, yet disturbing if you want to sleep.

Rubbing his eyes, he got up and peeked out of his window. There was quite a bit of activity happening around. He had not seen such a buzz before. In fact Chitragupt was seen running around, with a definite look of concern on his face. Sardar Patel wondered what the issue could be. Chitragupt was usually very balanced and not even the harshest of circumstances could make him flutter. Sardar Patel remembered, how professionally Chitragupt had handled the situation some years back when Hitler had launched a campaign, demanding an entry into Swarg on the grounds that people who have spent more than 20 years outside Swarg should be allowed a preferential entry. In-spite of the escalating situation around him, Chitragupt was able to diffuse it, and convince Hitler to return back.

What then could have made Chitragupt look so worried, Sardar Patel wondered. Having woken up completely, Sardar Patel switched his laptop on, wanting to check his Facebook page. The first thing he noticed was obviously a sad smiley on Chitragupt’s profile..”he must really be worried”. Moving down his profile, he noticed a few very suprising status updates. There were at least 9 to 10 status updates from various “devtaas” and “rakshasas” about demanding their own share of land in “Swarg” and “Nark”. “Where is all this coming from”, Sardar Patel thought to himself. Some of them had even resorted to fasting or “Aamaran anshan” as it reflected in their facebook statuses. A few of the “Rakshasas” has warned of grave consequences if they don’t get their share of “NarkLand”. Sardar Patel had never seen such an up surge in Facebook messages for a very long time. The last time it happened was when a poor old soul from the state of Uttar Pradesh was beaten up badly as he tried to enter a particular “un named”  zone in “Swarg Land”.

This was different though. People had been living in “Swarg Land” for millions of years, with peace and calm, and the “Swarg Land” administration had spent a considerable amount of time and effort in keeping it that way. This was new for them.

Sardar Patel saw Chitragupt approach him slowly; the worried look on his face was concerning. He came inside and sat beside the iron man. Chitragupt said “Sir, we need your help. You have been recommended as a consultant to handle this issue of separate lands because of your previous experience in uniting states into a solid, robust nation.” Sardal Patel looked amused, yet the pride in his eyes at the mention of a united India was evident. Years ago, he, along with some very capable administrators had been able to unite a fragmented country into one of the largest democracies on earth, and he was very proud of this.

CG: “Sir, would you be kind enough to help us through this…you must have seen the problem…on facebook”
SP: “Yes ofcourse..but i don’t fully understand..you will have to explain”
CG: ” Well sir, it all started with the great state of Andhra Pradesh…”
SP: “What…this started from India???”, he said…visibility dissapointed now.
CG: “Yes sir…unfortunately yes…”

Sardar Patel listened patiently as Chitragupt explained how some people in AP had created a lot of fuss about a separate state, and resorted to fasting and other means so that the government of India gives into their demands. Unfortunately for him, the government had eventually decided to look into the matter and this was enough incentive for everyone in Swarg and Nark to demand their own pieces of land.

Just as they started discussing the possible solutions to this issue, there was some activity on Chitragupt’s Facebook page. They noticed a wall to wall conversation between the prime minister of India and the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.
CM: Are bhai sahab, sasriakal…humen bhi batwaara chahiye
PM: Hain behen ji…kya matlab?
CM: kam se kam 3 to honi chahiye…itna bada pradesh…nahi sambhalta
PM: wo to sabko pata hai…
CM: oye kya bola??
PM: nahi nahi behen ji….aise kaise…abhi ek problem to solve kar lein
CM: nonsense….yahan vote bank khatam ho raha hai…mera haathi delhi kaise pahunchega..jaldi kariye
PM: (sad smiley) dekhte hain behen ji…

This conversation got CG and SP extremely worried. The demand for separate states was spreading faster than H1N1…Sardar Patel was worried that his beloved country that was so beautifully united would be divided based on whimsical attitudes of a few people..while CG was worried about the consequences of not being able to satisfy everyone…he, afterall was considered the perfect administrator around this area.

Before CG could say a word, Sardar Patel got up and sought an immediate appointment with Lord Vishnu. “Chitragupt Ji”, Sardar Patel said, “I am sorry i wont be able to help you in this matter right now. I have to submit an application for re-birth. I have to go back and resolve this situation. They are going to divide my country back into small pieces. All the work that I and my team had put in would be wasted. I can’t see this mess. I have to go. I will come back and help you out.”

In the blink of an eye, Sardar Patel was in front of Lord Vishnu’s gates. To his immense surpise the queue out there was bigger than what he had expected. Apparently, people who were demanding their own pieces of land were already there, submitting applications at the rate of lightning. Lord Vishnu’s secretary gave him the re-birth application form and a token number. Looking at the token number, Sardar Patel realized that it would take quite a bit of time before he can get back to his country and resolve the situation…also there was no way he could leave the queue and go back to help Chitragupt in resolving his issue.  So he decided to stand there, in the queue, waiting to be re-born and to re-unite the country where every one seemed to want their own share of land…

While he stands, awaiting his turn, India will also have to wait…it will have to wait for someone who can push the concept of unification rather than of dis-oriented splitting of states. I can only hope that the day is not too far off, because if it is, the scenario is not a pretty one. Afterall, it does not take too much time for “Swarg” to turn into “Nark”…

Visiting Zombai – 2020

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Disclaimer – Before someone gets offended, I would like to clarify that this article is a complete fabrication of my mind. There are times when I am unable to control the crap my mind doles out and thus I use this medium to clear my head. I would like to believe that all I have written here is fiction, and hope that it never comes true. I don’t even know what triggered these thoughts in the first place.

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I hate waking up early…even though my daily duties have forced me to abandon my beloved bed early in the morning, I still hate it. Today was one of those days when I had to wake up early, not to go to my office but to catch a 5:45 AM flight to Zombai; I had spent quite a bit of time and energy preparing for this trip so I got up reluctantly and started to make my last-minute preparations for the trip.

Traveling to Zombai these days is not as easy an affair as it was 15 years back. Things have changed dramatically (literally…there was a lot of drama). Before calling up the taxi to the airport, I made a final scan of all things in my travel bag:

  • A 2-day visa to Zombai
  • An address proof confirming that I have been living in Delhi for more than 10 years
  • Few packets of Maggi which were made in Megarashtra (had to ask my sisters who live in Zombai to courier me some)
  • A pair of shirts and 2 trousers both of which I had ordered from an online store in Zombai
  • My English to local language handbook.
  • Receipts of all of the above indicating that all items were indeed from Megarashtra, including the suitcase.

If the inventory above sounds confusing, you probably need some education. I dont want you to get into trouble when its your turn to visit Zombai.

Some 8 years back there were a few changes made to the constitution of India to include a few restrictions while traveling to Zombai and all cities of Megarashtra. These included:

  • A visa is needed to travel to any part of Megarashtra.
  • Only short-term visas (2-7 days) would be given to people from outside states to avoid them from settling down in the great state of Megarashtra
  • No one from UP or Bihar would be allowed in Megarashtra unless they have a valid proof indicating that they have been living in another state for   more than 10 years. (I am from UP, hence the certificate)
  • All entrants into the state must address the local people in the local language. Not doing so may attract a series of slapping exercises, which would involve a local hand and the entrant’s cheeks.
  • All items used while traveling to Megarashtra should be at least purchased in the state itself, if not manufactured there.

So as you can clearly see, I had to work pretty hard procuring things for my short trip to Zombai. Damn these business visits.

While traveling in the taxi to the airport the driver casually asked me where I was flying to. The concern on his face when I told him that I was traveling to Zombai was not too comforting. In fact, it reminded me of the time some 15 years back, when I was traveling to Australia amidst some cases of racial attacks on Indians. Not the best of the feelings anyways…

After getting to airport, one thing that I could clearly notice was the fact that all announcements for flights to any of the cities of Megarashtra were being made in their local language. Although I had a handbook with me, it was tough figuring out the gate to my flight and the boarding time. After struggling to find that piece of information and going through the security check in, I noticed some instructions in the local language, but I was in a hurry to board the flight and hence I ignored them.

The inside experience in the flight was a riddle in itself…all the instructions, the written ones and the ones being enacted by the air hostesses were in the local language only. I chose to sleep through most of it; I would have anyway not understood a thing.

There were a few more surprises for me as I moved out of the airport after landing in Zombai. Right outside the airport I saw a few people distributing sarees to all the ladies who were wearing western clothes. I asked someone casually why this was being done and they said that the flight instructions (the ones I chose to ignore) had clearly specified the kind of clothing that’s compulsory in Zombai…

Moving further ahead to the taxi stand I heard people discussing whether they should have been bold enough to protest the continuous ranting from one of the political parties about Sachin Tendulkar not being a true local. Sadly, even after more than 8 years of his retirement from cricket, people seem undecided on this topic. As I leant into the conversation hoping to provide a few inputs, I heard a roar from behind. Some people were moving towards me, in fact running towards me shouting something in the local language…I could only understand “UP…UP…” in all the commotion, but it was enough for me to start running the other way round…just a few steps ahead I hit an electricity pole hard and fell down…

As I got up rubbing my eyes, wondering whether these people were actually running after me, and also wondering if there was some special scanning system to identify people from UP, I realized that I was not on the street…I was in fact in my bed, dreaming…thank god.

Feeling a bit more relaxed and safe to be back in 2009, I turned on the television and started flipping through the news channels…as I continued, I immediately realized why I was dreaming the dream I had…it was still not funny though…not even a bit.

The Dance of Indian Democracy

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I have wanted to write this blog for a long time now, not only because I
haven’t written anything for almost half a year now, but also because it is
the ‘in thing’ right now…General Elections of the greatest democracy in the
world.

So is this going to be a multi part blog entry which lasts through the
length of the current elections…hmm..maybe yes…that’s what I’ll try, but I
haven’t been very successful in such endeavors earlier, so I wont bank on
it.

How did it all start for me? Well, it all began with these ad campaigns
that almost all tv and radio channels are carrying these days. With a
special reference to an imaginary ‘Mr. Pappu’, these advertisements have
had a huge impact, not only on me but on a whole lot of other folks who
like me would have never felt the need to go out and exercise their right
to vote. The impact was very much visible when I went to the mini
secretariat of Gurgaon to get my name registered for voting. Loads of
people had turned up that day to get their names in the electoral roll
(half of them must have been lazy bums like me, coz it was the last day of
registration). There were disappointments though, mostly because the “babu
log” operating the mini secretariat had close to “no” arrangements for the
increasing number of people eager to register themselves. They were doing
their jobs of course, but it looked as if they had never anticipated the
power of internet and TV campaigns; and they looked horribly under prepared
that day.

After struggling through an uncontrollable queue of enthusiastic first time
voters I was able to get to the front, only to realize that the dude
collecting the papers did not like my proof of address document. Well this
is how that lovely conversation went:

Dude: This is all you have as your address proof
Me: Yes, it was listed as a proof on the “Internet”(all this while
thinking, no I have my bloody house as well, come see for yourself)
Dude: Na, na…ye nahi chalega
Me: Kyoon boss, kya problem hai, “Internet” par to yahi likha tha
Dude: (totally bugged by me using “internet” twice within 2 minutes) Ye
internet wale kuch bhi likh dete hain; are Sharma ji..dekhiye ye chalega
kya…
Sharma Ji: Na, na…kuch aur ho to lao
Me: Abhi aapne meri wife ka yahi document accept kiya hai
Dude: Achha…kar liya kya…oho…chalo de do..par naam aayega nahi..humen kya
Me: Theek hai boss (What a relief)

Two things that I noticed from this sweet conversation above:
1. The dude was not happy with “Internet”, either because the sudden
surge of people trying to get themselves registered for voting
created extra work for him, or maybe because I had put “Internet’s”
word before his, and how can he be wrong.
2. The campaigns played an important part in making the people realize
the importance of voting, but for obvious reasons, they had absolutely no
control over how government machinery works.

I am still not sure whether my name would be there in the new voters list, partly because the dude at the secretariat did not ooze confidence about my chances, but also because the new list hasn’t been released as yet. Either ways, i think i did my best to vote this time around…if the system takes its course i should be voting pretty soon…and i’ll definitely cover that experience in the blog…

A lost soul!!

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I had been trying to find a good topic to write something on my blog for quite some time now. I had been thinking something on the lines of the India/England cricket series and the great cricket, India has been playing lately. I was in fact watching the fifth game on Wednesday, and did not bother to switch onto any other channel until India scored another victory over England. When i did switch over though, my heart sank. For the next 3 days i watched in shock and horror as a group of insane men held Mumbai hostage and threatened to blow up India’s heart, piece by piece.

Watching the events unfold on television was like watching a reality show, the only difference was that you already knew that there will be no winner at the end of it. I waited with bated breath, hour after hour hoping that the ordeal would end, but it just kept going on. I slept in the night thinking that the morning would bring some good news, but it never did. It was like a never ending 3 day period. It was horrible, something that took all the life i had in me and made me feel helpless, unsafe, sad and betrayed. I felt betrayed by our system, betrayed by our netas, betrayed by the representatives that we elect just so that we can go around doing our daily insignificant tasks.

The only thing that gave me a confidence during these dreadful hours was the dedication with which our defense forces kept going on and on trying to exterminate those cockroaches from their hideouts. At the end of it all, our forces were successful in regaining Mumbai and ending the siege, but the cost was too big. Even though i waited for the operation to end, i had always known at the back of my mind that the aftermath would be even more depressing than the actual events. And it was…the never ending death count, the horror stories of innocent people stuck with sick men who only wanted to kill them, and finally the rodents of our political system , who only aimed at gaining political mileage out of the situation.

The fact is that yet another siege has ended, and that India has been hurt like it has never before. This is not the first time we have lost innocent lives and brave soldiers and quite likely it wont be the last. I have had the courage of standing up each time , thinking that i should trust my government, that they would so something to make a difference, but this time around its a different story. I have never felt so unsafe in my country as i do now, not only for me but for everyone else as well. These kind of attacks not only result in lost lives and grieved families, but also in denting the psyche of any individual. I am afraid that this is what has happened to me.

It would be a difficult task for people who have been affected directly in this insane act, to recuperate and rebuild, whether it is the families who lost their loved ones, or the hotel owners whose buildings were completely destroyed, but the most difficult task would be to repair the dented psyche of an individual who has seen or felt this atrocious act of terror. This is where our system has miserably failed earlier and i hope against hope that this is what does not happen again.

I am angry and my anger is justified, and it is not directed against any individual. I want to feel safe and i have every right to do so. I never want to be in a situation where i feel that a bomb blast is probably better than what happened in Mumbai, just because everything at least ends in a matter of minutes. It will take some time before things get back to normal and probably they never will, but we do have to move on.

The compulsion of life is such that it forces you to move on, but to forget would be as good as putting a gun on your own head and pulling the trigger. I hope that people remember what happened, i hope our government and politicians have the will to improve the situation and not make it a political buck, i hope that our media, newspapers and television channels keep this topic alive and not close the chapter after a few days just like they do for everything else, i hope that the people who lost their dear ones get enough strength to cope up with the situation, i hope things get better in the coming days and finally i hope that i regain my lost soul, the soul which was punctured, hurt and damaged while the ghastly events were taking place in Mumbai. Until that happens i would keep looking for something which can repair my soul..a soul lost to terror.

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