(Dis)Re(garded)public of India. . .

What is a republic? We have heard this go around a lot, let’s hit the dictionary.

Wordweb tells me two things –

  1. A form of government whose head of state is not a monarch
  2. A political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them

Well, today is the 63rd anniversary when we technically “became” a republic. 63 years ago, on this day, we formally had a constitution in force. After all these years, I don’t understand why we need a holiday. It is attributed to the celebration that we are supposed to have for having becoming a republic. While I bask in my ‘freedom’ of speech that my friends in some countries may not have, it is imperative that we ponder upon the rising hypocrisy we are living with.

2012 has been an eventful year, as the ones previous to it were – Big fish got caught in scams. Ministers were caught watching offensive videos. Family politics ruled. We had our most successful Olympics so far, but more money was burnt playing a tournament of a pseudo national game. A terrorist was hanged. We had an exodus from the south to the east. A budding psychiatrist was gang raped causing international uproar. With all of these and more happening; is there actually a point in being busy priding ourselves of being a secular, socialist, democratic republic? I agree that things cannot change in a day, but if Republic day, Independence day, Gandhi Jayanthi, etc are to inculcate national pride and patriotism in us; I feel they do a shoddy job! If Gandhi were to be alive today, I think he would have wanted us to work all the more instead of watching a bunch of movies or going out on a fun trip.

Sad to see that we live in extremely hypocritical times – Goddesses are worshipped but women are raped. Criminals can plead innocent and walk free, but a person posting her opinion on Facebook would be arrested. We pride ourselves for our cultural heritage while today it is merely a fancy term which few of us truly understand. We ban realistic films quoting secularism; religion serves more as a dividing force rather than bringing people together. Bundhs are respected (feared) more than protests. Bureaucrats rule the roost while lay-men hunt for someone who can provide them with free rice or TV.

It is high time we focus on grass-root problems rather than live in the glorious past.

Every year should be seen in comparison with its previous year. An annual poll must be conducted and a specific number of issues need to be identified to be solved within the next year. An action plan is to be made and presented to the public within a timeline. By the next year, progress that has been made on these specific problems is to be documented and presented to the public on lines of the annual budget. I don’t see how progress can be achieved in the current setup where accountability is virtually absent.

An example run would be something like this –

Step IPolling results of issues at hand as on 26th Jan 2013

  1. Ensure safety of women in cities and villages alike.
  2. Mitigate religion oriented communal issues.
  3. Encourage education of children >5 years old.

Step II – Action plan presented at the Annual Action Plan Convention on 31st  March 2013

  1. Ensure safety of women in cities and villages alike.
  • Create a separate security wing specializing in human safety – rape, child abuse, domestic violence etc
  • Develop a task force and agenda to recruit police officers specifically for the security wing. Provide appropriate monetary benefits to encourage enrollment.
  • Develop a training program to effectively utilize the newly hired man power.
  • Chalk out a plan for having counseling sessions directed at parties responsible / affected due to the problems listed  – men, women, in-laws; with primary focus being on reaching out to the remote corners of India. [These sessions would help overcome male dominance / perversity which I would say is the root cause of the issues listed]

2.  Mitigate religion oriented communal issues.

  • Appoint a committee to select religious leaders from each religion to participate in a parliament of religions. Priority to select a candidate is to have understood his/her religion and interpreted its teachings correctly.
  • Convene a parliament of major religions practiced in India with participation from influential members of each religion. [This would allow healthy exchange of thoughts and open up people to the fact that no religion is superior to the other]
  • Develop an agenda to have religious discussions on a public platform across India with participation from these influential people from all religions. [This would help in reaching out to the masses to promote communal harmony]

3.  Encourage education of children >5 years old.

  • Estimate number of children who do not have access to primary education.
  • Develop a training program for teachers to be hired in government schools.
  • Recruit teachers as necessary with a student:teacher ratio being 30:1. Train them as per the new standards mentioned. Offer monetary / fringe benefits to encourage enrollment.
  • Deploy these trained teachers to identified government schools.

4.   Announce the budget for each of the points mentioned above.

Step III – Annual Review Presentation – 26th Jan 2014

  • Budget allotted: X
  • Amount spent: Y.
  • Deficit / Excess: X~Y. Quote reasons.
  • Mention specifics regarding progress made on each issue.
  • Present the action plan for next year

If an ordinary guy like me can think of options in an hour, I am sure people sitting high up in the ladder, people whose decisions move things through our sluggish system can think of better and more plausible options. The very sense of being a republic is lost in today’s times. In spite of all the rant, I am disappointed that I am not able to do anything to change things. I am just hoping something knocks some sense into at least some of those even remotely concerned!

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Nolan’s reckonings…

Christopher Nolan is a household name now, largely owing to his retrieval of the Batman franchise; breathing a new life into the characters than Frank Miller & Bob Kane created. There are many of us who have been fans of Christopher Nolan’s movies for a long time, and many more joining in post the success of the Batman trilogy. I first started off with The Dark Knight and then went back to watching all of his movies, right from Doodlebug, his first short. His movies are more than just a visual spectacle, having sharply etched characters that you take home with and ponder upon, way after the credits roll. There is much we can take out of Chris Nolan’s movies, the ones that he created and also those that he adapted to the big screen. These are some lessons that I realized, upon multiple viewings that his movies may not need, but truly deserve!

Note – There are no spoilers in this post.

1.    “Man’s reach exceeds his grasp? It’s a lie. Man’s grasp exceeds his nerve.” – Nikola Tesla, The Prestige.

In tough times, when failure shows its ugly head, most of us believe that we are limited by our abilities in performing that particular task that we failed in. We tend to believe that knowing something superficially is good enough and do not find a need to get into the details, or rather barely reaching the subject instead of grasping it. Through this quote, we are introduced to the idea that we are limited by our inability to explore new possibilities, thinking out of the box or taking risks; and not by our inability to do something. This quote is of an important consequence in the movie, and if taken in the right spirit can lead us to expanding our possibilities! The only lasting limits that are imposed are those imposed by ourselves!

2.    “Now you are looking for the secret, but you won’t find It because of course, you are not really looking” – Cutter, The Prestige.

This is a simple line with a lot of depth in it. Often, we come across problems that seem impossible to crack, or tasks that remain pending for a long time. What could be the reasons for this – we choose to conveniently or situationally ignore them, or we simply aren’t trying enough to solve them. It’s not just about wanting to solve an issue, it is about trying all at hand and all that is possible to achieve the desired result. How many of us actually put in our 100% in everything that we do? Point to ponder upon.

3.       “What is the most resilient parasite? An idea. Resilient, highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate.” – Dom Cobb, Inception

“True inspiration is hard to fake” – Arthur, Inception

We are what we see ourselves to be. Genuine inspiration that comes from within is what makes people succeed in what they do. No amount of coercing or cajoling would help in that regard.  What the mind can conceive and perceive, it can achieve!

4.    “Why do we fall Bruce? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up” – Thomas Wayne, Batman Begins

This is a simple line that goes a long way in shaping the character of a self-made individual. A friend once told me that situations and experiences are what make a person brave. To quote Nietzsche, “Something that doesn’t kill you simply makes you stronger”.  Failures are important in one’s life as it is in times of adversity that the true abilities of a person are tested.

5.    “If you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, you become legend Mr.Wayne” – Ducard, Batman Begins.

Ok, this is a dramatic dialogue at the first glance. However, it can be weaved into our life by visualizing ourselves as being symbolic to atleast one strong ideal or trait, and living by it completely. For example, Mother Teresa is a symbol of peace, Steve Jobs is a symbol of innovation, Bhagat Singh is one of the many symbols of the struggle for Indian independence. These are people whose names will live on for a long time after them, as they have been immortalized by their value systems, for living their lives by one ideal. If I devote myself to the pursuit of perfection, I can ensure that I perform all tasks to the best that can ever be. If I dedicate myself to the pursuit of happiness, I turn out to be an optimist in life.

6.    “People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy and I can’t do that as Bruce Wayne. As a man, I am flesh and blood I can be ignored and destroyed; but as a symbol I can be incorruptible and everlasting” – Bruce Wayne, Batman Begins.

Criminals thrive on the indulgence of society’s understanding” – Ducard, Batman Begins.

I wish our politicians see this quote and live by it! The recent molestation incident at Guwahati is a clear indication of the apathy that exists within us. It is disgusting enough to realize that we live in a country where a girl is molested in public, what makes it worse is that it wasn’t one or two individuals, but close to 30 people violating all laws of humanity by indulging in this act. This incident is spoken about for a few days or maybe weeks in the media, and finally one fine day the accused will walk free, all ready to molest his next victim.

Would a public trial of the accused and meting out life terms for such people be dramatic enough? I cannot say! The judiciary needs to be the symbol of hope that the citizens perceive to be incorruptible. Happens only in Utopia, many might reckon, and I don’t disagree!

7.    “Men fear most what they cannot see. What you really fear is inside yourself” – Ducard, Batman Begins.

The whole of Batman Begins talks about fear and its ramifications on the lives of the characters. It is primary to identify the fear within oneself in order to overcome it. As shown in this movie, it is imperative to first embrace the fear and then confront it. I used to be acrophobic, having a fear of heights. It took me one jump off 2000m to get me out of it. That incident of paragliding reduced my fear to look down from a height by a great deal! Though this is a shallow example considering the intensity of this statement, I think it pretty much conveys the point.

8.    “It’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you” – Rachel, Batman Begins.

Many of us plan many things that we intend to do, but never end up finishing them. People are recognized by what they’ve done and not what they intended to do. MK Gandhi is remembered for using non-violent methods for leading a nation to freedom, in spite of all the stuff that is written about him in recent books. He defines nonviolence.  Adolf Hitler was a perfectionist who was obsessed about perfection in all that he did. But he is remembered for the Holocaust which led to the unfortunate deaths of millions. Actions definitely do speak louder than words!

9.    “People are only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll show you. When the chips are down, these civilized people, they’ll eat each other.” – The Joker, The Dark Knight.

Most people might have missed the genius in this dialogue. It talks about how opportunistic people can get when it comes to survival. When pushed to their limits, or even otherwise, there are few of us who actually stick to our value systems all along, and take the tough path to success.

10.   There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us” – Selina Kyle, The Dark Knight Rises

Though this dialogue has an important consequence in the plot of TDKR, I couldn’t help but notice how it talks about the economic disparity in society today. Some of us are fortunate enough to have a comfortable life. How many of us are doing our bit to give back to the society, and bettering the lives of our lesser fortunate countrymen.

11.   “Victory has defeated you” – Bane, The Dark Knight Rises

Bane means this in a different light when he says this, but I am not getting into the plot of TDKR. The way I see it is this. We sometimes tend to get complacent with success and might reduce on the quality of work that we do, not intentionally, more involuntarily. And this, when done, leads to one’s downfall. Complacency brings in a false level of satisfaction that leads us to lower our standards.

12.   “You do not fear death. You think this makes you strong. It makes you weak. How can you move faster than possible, fight longer than possible without the most powerful impulse of the spirit: the fear of death?” – Prisoner, The Dark Knight Rises.

The best part about the trilogy is that all along, fear is acknowledged, not run away from. I feel this is very relevant in life. The fear of failure brings in a drive that pushes us way beyond our established boundaries, enabling us to do things that we once thought were impossible.

13.   “A hero can be anyone” – Batman, The Dark Knight Rises

I liked the way this is put in the movie – casually quoting that anyone who wishes well and does their bit to help others can be a hero. A small deed can make a huge difference in the lives of many people. It’s all relative!

I acknowledge that this post has rushes from this blog on Forbes. I have added content that I observed from his movies and those I suppose Nolan intended the audience to know. There are many other movies that have things to learn from, but there has been a consistency in Nolan’s heartfelt storytelling that I find some details hard to miss! I am sure there are other details I might have left out. As with any viewer, perspectives and opinions differ.

This post is written out of reverence to the content that needs to be told, and not out of my misplaced sense of self righteousness 🙂

Police Story..

I recently had the ‘privilege‘ of accompanying my cousin to the police station to get his identity verification done for his passport issuance. I am deeply troubled by the attitudes of those employed in government offices. The people who are supposed to get our prime jobs done are so narrow minded that, at times, they do more harm than good, knowingly or unknowingly. I mostly think it is the former! Outlined below is my experience and views on the process.

We got a call at about 10 AM from the police station that we need to be present at the police station at 12pm, with some documents that need to be produced. I understand that the purpose of this procedure is to verify that the passport is issued to an authentic person and that it is not a fraudulent individual. We were present at the police station at 12 noon and were told to wait for a while till the supposed person is to arrive.

A girl in her late teens / early twenties enters the hall with the required set of documents for the same process, and she too is asked to wait like the rest of us. I shall term her as Ms.G for simplicity. She received a call on her phone and was engaged for the next 15-20 minutes. She kept her voice low and made sure that she wasn’t disturbing anyone in the waiting hall. One of the older, pot-bellied staff in the police station, whom I shall term as X, did not like the sight of her speaking over the cellphone in a police station. He rudely asked her to cut the call or asked her to get out and do the talking. This was strike one. Ms.G ended the call she was on and sat waiting there for the verification staff to come in.

A few minutes later, Ms.G got another call, which she received outside the police station. She wound it up in less than 5 min and came back in to the waiting hall, sitting with her legs crossed, one on top of the other. At this moment, a jeep rushed outside the police station, which made X and the other staff in the police station stand up. I also observed that he hurriedly wore his hat, which is a part of his uniform. A few other people who were waiting stood up looking at the others. X observed that Ms.G and I did not stand up in response to his act and shot us a glare. He also gestured Ms.G to uncross her legs. Strike two. A lady sitting comfortably in a government office when an officer walks in is supposedly disrespectful! She was as confused as I was and we didn’t understand what he was trying to say. A lady sub inspector walked in to many people standing up and saluting her. I neither stood up not saluted her as I didn’t find the need to do so.  She went into her chamber and was not seen thereafter.

The guy who verified the identities of all these people was a youngster, in his mid 20s. I was pleasantly surprised to find him being extremely courteous and polite to all the people whom he was interacting with. The verification process started at about 1230, and went on for half hour. I noticed that X was shooing away people waiting outside the police station. Where are they supposed to go!!

The waiting area had 3 vacant seats at the time as most people were in the relevant rooms where their respective queries were catered to. Meanwhile, X did not find anyone to bully or boss over for the next few minutes. He glanced at me, and concluded that I must be his next unfortunate victim. He approached me and asked in Kannada if I had any work to be done at the police station. I responded that I had just accompanied my cousin who is getting his identity verification done. He promptly asked me to get out, as I was supposedly crowding up the area and taking up unnecessary space! Strike three.

I was shocked for while about the audacity and rudeness of X. All people present there were seated, and I would have gladly offered my seat to anyone who would have come. It’s not the seat that I am bothered about. X’s attitude and apathy towards fellow humans disturbed me. I got up and left the place giving X a cold stare, not once looking back.

As I stood waiting outside, my mind was seeking answers to many questions –

  1. Why is apathy shrouded in most government servants? Are they doing us a favour by doing their jobs?
  2. Why is there not enough respect for women even in today’s times? I cannot understand why making oneself comfortable is a matter of concern.
  3. Why do these people demand respect, instead of commanding it through their actions?

This incident has left me with serious doubts regarding the senior or older government servants. They need to set examples to the younger generation, and if this is the mentality of the vast majority of the work force, the future doesn’t look bright.

As Christopher Nolan puts it in “Batman Begins”, I would say that “people need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy”. I would suggest that a special commission be set up to monitor the behavior of people in government offices, and their attitudes towards the general public. Their pay needs to be proportional to the quality of their service. It is because these people get their salaries irrespective of them doing or not doing their jobs, that they are so apathetic to others’ needs. The rudeness exhibited by X demands a dismissal from all kinds of service if you ask me! A guy who thinks he is above the general public just because he is wearing the police uniform, which earns their respect , is a disgrace to the whole police community.

I just hope youngsters do not follow in the footsteps of the likes of X…

 

The Indefatigable Enthusiast…

It was a typical busy morning in the bustling city of Mumbai. People focussed on grabbing a transport – trains, buses, autos or cars; to get to their destination and start their daily chores, mundane or otherwise; vehicles running helter-skelter shipping them; the various street food vendors trying to appease the burgeoning crowds; and a set of people showcasing their graffiti skills with their paan [betel leaves] stuffed mouths!

It was yet another day in office for the IT employee in me, up at 9am, took to the street at 945am after having my usual share of vada pavs. Then came along a bus that would unexpectedly teach me something that I would try to emulate for long. It was horrendously crowded with people hanging on the foot-boards as with any bus at that time of the day. I managed to wriggle into it somehow and hang on for dear life. As I saw the conductor at a distance, I observed that he was murmuring something that I could not quite hear. I also saw that some people were smiling at him and some others were giving him a puzzled look.

Battling the crowd and dispensing tickets; as he approached me, he said with a smile – “Shuboday, kahan?”, meaning “Good morning, where (do you want to go)?” I returned a smile and said “Shuboday, Vikhroli” and thanked him after he gave me a ticket for 10 rupees.

The attitude of this conductor made me think. I crib about commuting in a crowded bus everyday. Here is this person whose job is to move in the worst of crowds and ensure that everyone buys a ticket from him, so that the government doesn’t lose its revenue. Not only is he doing his job well, but he is also making sure that people get a good start to their day; by doing whatever little he can – a simple good morning with a smile on his face, in all its genuinety.

Irrespective of whether we like our jobs or not, we need to do it right and make sure that we contribute a little something to make our peers’ day better. The energy levels and the enthusiasm of that conductor has elevated him to a status more than that of any ordinary professional in my perception.

Category Intro

This page is dedicated to all the small events that made a huge difference in my life; by people known and unknown. I owe a lot to them for shaping my thinking. Some realizations have been late, but there is never an end to learning, is there? 🙂

It’s surprising to know that there is something to learn from every person we meet, provided we have a receptive attitude and an open mind. 🙂

My gratitude goes out to all the simple men and women who’ve helped me make myself a better person.

Bang(allure)d!

Bangalore is my home. I am one of the many obsessive Bangaloreans who has had many a debate about the city that it is.
It wasn’t until I actually set foot in Bangalore again, that I realized how much I had missed it. The cool breeze that ruffles my hair, the various fast food restaurants that tickle the senses with their aroma, the street food that challenges my appetite, the BMTC Volvo buses that roam around with their yellow boards, the corporation parks where you can see the young and old keeping fit; are all trademark Bangalore traits!

My view of Bangalore is clouded by optimism. All I can relate to is all that is left. There have been so many changes lately that have given Bangalore a new identity, a mask I would say, that has buried the essence that Bangalore once stood for. I am not talking about the traffic or the pollution – those are common problems that are present in any city. Commuting continues to be a matter of concern, either due to the non-availability of transport or due to its sheer cost. Long gone are the days of a polite autorickshaw driver, this issue has been around for quite a while; but since I am more dependent on other means of transport, sans my bike, I have begun to feel it more. Auto drivers behave as if they own Rolls Royces. The docile ones that do oblige a ride in their British steed charge you a whopping amount for it, taking you for a ride, literally and figuratively!
. It was about 4 years ago that I wrote a post on how weird autos were at Chennai, and now, ironically, the same epidemic hits Bangalore.

As I sit in the dark and type out this post, the Bangalore lover in me says that it is one of the few cities in India where I could be fairly comfortable without having a fan running at any time of the day! However, the analyst in me says that this is a seething power situation that plagues the drive of this city. Power cuts of 3-4 hours in a city housing about 90 lakh people, at the onset of monsoons, is simply not acceptable.

Coming to recreation – why is the cost of a movie ticket Rs.250-350, when the same provider, like Inox, PVR etc can sell tickets at Rs.120-150 in Chennai, Hyderabad or Mumbai! These are the rates for Kannada movies as well, which were exempted from tax. [Not sure about the status now though] Be it autos, movies, fuel or real estate; price increase pokes its nose into every aspect! As far as I can see, prices increase here because people are arrogant enough to pay what it takes [I will not drag the IT debate here as it has been discussed many times over on different platforms.]

Bangalore to me is figurative of nostalgia – the climate, the greenery, the eateries and all the roaming around that I have done here are all now just that, a memory. Many changes have come along – good or bad, only time will tell; but as a person who has spent 20 odd years in Bangalore, I am left feeling as an outsider in my own city!