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That Sinking Feeling .....

Haven’t blogged in a while … well actually haven’t felt the need to … there were a hundred issues on which I wanted to express myself but never in more than a status update on FB or a tweet on twitter … but then yesterday’s turn of events at Jantar Mantar certainly evoked feelings that couldn’t be expressed in 140 characters that twitter offers or the slightly greater luxury that FB allows …. Hence this rant !

I have never interacted with a person who is FOR corruption.  So to even ponder if anti corruption movement is a worthy one or not, is a no brainer! But then have I met a person who has not been involved in an act of corruption? Hmmm that is an interesting question and what would be even more interesting are the answers to that question!

But hey! I am against corruption isn’t that good enough? I might bribe a traffic cop, produce a fake medical certificate, buy railway tickets on tatkal through agents, watch pirated movies or download cracked software … is there a dichotomy? A conflict…? Well actually no, because thanks to our leaders, in India that I live any fooling around which is less than a few hundred crores is not a scam nor considered worthy of being called corruption. In any case, I am corrupt because I have no choice, given a chance I would not have been … after everyone else stops being corrupt around me, I too shall follow suit.

But that is not what this rant is about! I was and am a staunch supporter of India Against Corruption, as corrupt as I may be. I have great admiration for people like Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi, Prashant Bhushan and the rest who are spearheading this movement. I admire the fact that most of them could have been elsewhere, in the comforts of their home and family instead of fighting it out for the rest of their countrymen and playing with their own health, safety and security! But then, I have a feeling that their latest decision is not a very sound one...

There are people around me suggesting that this is what it was all about from the time they started, that they had political ambitions all through. And then there are people who suggest that this was something they never wanted, but then they were left with no choice as the government of the day turned blind and deaf to their agitation and time was running out for those who were fasting. As a result, announcement of entering politics was a graceful exit strategy! The truth in my opinion maybe somewhere between these two hugely divergent theories… and I am not worried about this aspect as well. 

In a democracy anyone can have political ambitions. So even if IAC was originally constituted to form a political party somewhere down the line so be it. Also I would not want to see anyone, let alone a prominent public figure like Kejriwal lose his health or god forbid his life, in the quest of giving this country an idealistic anti corruption establishment. So what am I worried about? Well a few things actually …

Firstly electoral politics is different kind of a beast. It is one thing to whip up frenzy across the so called urban middle class; it is completely another game to be able to translate that to electoral victories. A huge majority of this Urban Middle Class that I also belong to, believes that patriotism means updating their facebook status on National Days, Sharing and Liking images and poems that reinforce inanities like “Vande Mataram” is the best National Song and most doctors in US are Indians …. Oh Yes! Our patriotism also extends to eulogizing our sporting heroes as and when they excel in their area of expertise and vilifying them when they don’t … nothing more nothing less!
Heard of Lok Paritran a party created by ex IIT’ans? With lots of seemingly genuine claims about changing the Indian political scene?  The party split soon after its first electoral outing (where it won.... surprise! surprise!!! ZERO seats) and the rebels formed a new outfit Bharat Punarnirman Dal … with nothing much to write home about? The once celebrated website is in itself today a hacked site offering information about some furniture … what a shame … the fate is no different for Professionals Party Of India, with nothing much to write home about when it comes to electoral wins … 

What about the much publicized entry of Ms. Meera Sanyal into South Mumbai’s electoral ring? Mumbai that was seething with its anger against corrupt and ineffective ruling party (charged with failure to prevent the Mumbai attacks amongst others), voted in the same party’s candidate with couple of lakhs of vote as against Meera’ s ten thousand odd votes. So much for the claims that we do not vote, because all are thieves and there is no good candidate to vote for!!! 

In a country where the vast majority vote their castes rather than cast their vote, a packet of biryani and quart of liquor decides on which symbol I will stick my vote, I do not see much of electoral victories for IAC. Winning elections needs huge amounts of money and organizational capacity. IAC lacks that at this point in time. When money and muscle power pushes them to electoral defeats the so called victors will get on all the stages available to them and declare that the people of this country have rejected the IAC and therefore they have no moral right to fight on behalf of those people. 
Secondly, it is impossible to get into electoral politics with a single point agenda. So what is your party’s agenda? “Oh we are against corruption and for a strong Jan Lok Pal” Ok what are your views about FDI in Retail? On disinvestment? On Uniform Civil Code? On dealing with Pakistan? On India’s foreign policy? On Affirmative Action, Communalism, Education, Police Reforms, Power Sector Reforms, illegal migrants …. The list is long … and the fact is there are as many views within IAC on these issues, as there are members who address the television on behalf of the IAC. So how does this political entity stay united? 

Accepting they still manage to do so and imagining that notwithstanding whatever has been said until now, this party wins the next elections by a substantial margin and then enacts the Lokpal Bill, what next? Will the party dissolve itself as its purpose of creation has been achieved? Or say just before the 2014 elections all the current political parties realize that IAC is a threat and enact the Lok Pal bill, will the party be disbanded? 

But then those are rather unimaginable scenarios right? In fact as unimaginable as a bunch of villagers from a remote village of India, taking on the British in their own game (Cricket, which the villagers have never ever played before) and defeating them as well, to ensure that they get a favorable taxation laws… possible when it happens on the movie screen and we have a Indian film crew producing it … for that to happen in real life … hmmm there lies the problem! When I have a bad feeling that Indian team will lose this match, it does not make me a India hater, nor does that suggest that I want India to lose… it is just that when I see certain score lines and think about the practicalities … I get that sinking feeling …. :(

Goodbye ... After 20 Long Years!

Goodbyes are never really easy, especially if they come after a long term association ... so this was and is tough... After a little more than 20 years I am saying good bye to a friend (?)... Yes; we have broken up a few times in the past and they did not last too long though, you always found a way to befriend me or rather let me know how incomplete I was without you... but then this time I know it’s for real ... So mate it was good while it lasted ... but now it’s time part ways... Will miss you ... as a matter of fact, am desperately missing you, as I am typing this ... but I will get over it ... I won’t reach out for you ...

We got close when I was in my first year at college ... I had seen you around for a long time, but was never too sure if I should come forward and get acquainted ... I still remember how it was on the train journey to Ooty, that I first interacted with you and felt your irresistible charm, it was not a smooth association, we did have our adjustment problems, I even remember feeling, how could anyone ever be friends with someone as rough as you.... But then smothering your harshness or taming it, especially in the chilly environs of Ooty gave me a sense of being masculine.... it sort of established who was in control....soon, the warmth and cheer that you spread, the acceptability that you lent me, when I was with you, made me engage with you, again and again!

Back in Chennai, we had a short period where, I tried to ignore you ... but you are not the one to tolerate that, are you... you came back being your seductive best.... I had nothing else to do, but to let you back in to my life ... how could I not do that ... you were the thread that connected me to some of my other newly found friends... you were the one that livened up my dullest moments ... you were as effective when I was at a party having a good time or when I was all alone sulking and struggling or cope up with the demands of life.... You went with me, where ever I went, more than any other friend had ever gone.... I knew you could burn yourself to keep me comforted!!!

I had always known this... this was never meant to be a relationship of equality ... in fact I was always knew that I was manipulating you, for my needs ... that thought often made me feel guilty as well ... like I mentioned earlier, it was my sense of control over you that had laid the foundation for this relationship ... I felt powerful, I felt supreme ... I did wonder if I was abusing you... some even cautioned me about that ... but then you never complained did you? You were this meek, self depreciating, confidante who seemed to only care about what I wanted and never once grumbled!

Unequal as it was, it took me some more time to realise that I was not getting the full picture... It took me quite of bit thinking to realise that what I thought of this relationship was just that - my thoughts, the reality was far removed from it... Yes! This was a relationship about control ... but not my control over you but yours over me ... I was not the manipulator but actually I was the manipulated! Was I abusing you or was it me who was getting abused?? Who was the weaker partner in this arrangement ... like some of those intriguing deductions in the last few pages of the mystery novels, the masks were peeling off, the truth was emerging... statuses were being re-established... You were the one pulling the strings ... I was merely a puppet!!!

I did not want to break away from you just because you are manipulative or I am being manipulated... that would make me a hypocrite wouldn’t it... I would not even blame you for it, for I enjoyed every bit of it.... Like I said, you made me feel much bigger than I am ... you gave me confidence at times when I felt low ... you helped me focus, when I was confused, you help me stay up, when I felt sleepy, you made me feel like an intellectual when I was really being foolish, you were a perfect icebreaker in parties where I did not know anyone, you helped appreciate food and liquor more than I had ever done before.... maybe these were merely my perceptions, my hallucinations... but the fact is, this exactly what I always felt ... I cannot blame you for my perceptions ... for you never ever claimed credit for any of these... I enjoyed your company ... no doubts about that ....I had happily conferred these magical qualities to you!

But ever since I have realised that this is a perception and not reality, I have been trying to part ways with you... not merely because I feel manipulated, but because I want to feel strong ... not out of hatred for you but of love for some others who mean a lot more to me .... No; I am not making a sacrifice for the sake of people that I love ... I am just being nice to myself... I know it’s never worked in the past... I have tried several alternatives, but then you find a way to get back with me... the more I run away the more you haunt me ... the more I try and fail, the more you make me understand my frailty.... but not anymore ... or at least that’s what I have decided ... while we had some of the best times together ... it’s time to say good bye.... I know we will meet soon, I am determined not to let you charm me back, like I have let you to do in the past... When we meet next time around, if I act as if I have never known you ... you know the reason; don’t you... Good Bye Nicotiana Tabacum a.k.a Nicotine ... it was indeed a fantastic ride together...!!!

The Train Ride That Ran Over a Few Tigers

I have travelled by train more than a thousand times, including the Mumbai local, but it’s never been a front page news ... I would not want it be either as only chance for my train travel becoming a news is, if there was something untoward like an accident or bomb blast .... That said, the train ride that was making news or rather breaking news in India a couple of days ago was the one that Rahul Gandhi (RG) made ... you may call it a political statement, but I for one feel that it was a political gimmick that does not add up!

The implied purpose of the ride was to get a feel of the Mumbai local and connect with the average Mumbaiker and the undisclosed agenda seems to have been to send a message to one of the sole proprietary owners (yes there are two firms dealing with this, as on date) of Marathi Asmita! Again not sure if either of them worked. Travelling in a sanitised (security wise ... Yes some commentators have described the move as security unwise though) first class coach of a Mumbai local with more SPG members than travelling public is not the best way to get the real feel of the Mumbai local or connect with the Mumbaiker, so the stated purpose is for sure defeated ... and this train ride in no way is going to change the way the Sena goes through with its brand of politics.

The interesting aside to this train ride was that the Maharashtra government had deployed 10000 policemen for RG’s protection during his visit. Now, that’s pretty skewed ratio ... I mean in a country where the Home Minister at the central government is talking about the police department being understaffed, having 10000 men for the protection of 1 citizen (irrespective of the face value or place value of that citizen) is a huge commitment. What that also means is that if the Maharashtra government feels the need it, can muster up the numbers to ensure law and order. Can this meaning be further extended to mean that the vandalism, chaos and looting that is let loose by the so called MNS and SS workers is something that the state government chooses to ignore or (even more sinister) sponsors as a silent supporter?

You might have guessed by now that I am not the most avid congress supporter, but then I am at times in awe of RG and his efforts to rejuvenate the party. By the look of things he seems to wield the power to overrule not just the Congress party’s “democratically” arrived at decisions, but also his own security advisors at the SPG. But is he using these powers to the best possible end results? The last thing that one expects from the to-be Prime Minister of India and the harbinger of the next generation in Indian politics is to be scoring political brownie points... Let’s look at a couple issues that the country is grappling in the International arena as on date...

Bringing the perpetrators of 26/11 to justice ... we have as in the past, blamed the Pakistani government’s inability to reign in the terror elements in its own soil. We accuse the Pakistani government to be unwilling, incapable, covertly supporting and so on and so forth when it comes to tackling elements that use Pakistani soil to spread terror in India. So much so, that we almost stopped short of waging a war against that country.... but more rationally cut of the dialogue process that existed between the two countries. So what does the central government have to say to the government of Maharashtra? What about the state government going soft on those spreading terror amongst fellow Indians? Is the tough posturing, warning of serious consequences etc applicable only to neighbouring countries and not to Indian States? Why do we doubt Pakistani government when it says it’s doing everything it can and accept the same as genuine statement from Maharashtra government when the results in both cases are identical? Why don’t we sympathise with Pakistani Government, when we know that little monsters that we grow in our backyard, can one day, loom so large that, we end up losing control over it, as that is exactly what the Government in Maharashtra is finding out!!!

Another issue is of racial discrimination against Indians in Australia.... with what standing will the External Affairs Minister of India (who is a member of the same party as RG and the party that rules Maharashtra and Goa) ask the Australian authorities to act against those who attack Indians in their country, when there is not much action being taken against Indians who attack fellow Indians in Mumbai and the Russians who get raped in Goa? Or is it okay if Indians attack Indians or for that matter Indians rape Russians??

Riding a Local Train in Mumbai is according to me not a solution for these issues. An influential leader whose diktat is the gospel truth for his party should rather come down heavily on these governments who are turning inaction into an art by itself. To me lawlessness is a commentary on poor governance than a function of powerful goons ... for proper governance ensures that goons will never have the power... As a leader whom a lot of the younger generation looks up to with expectations, I hope RG will take tougher decisions and more meaningful decisions than this train travel in the times to come ... or will I be wrong and will have read the news which goes ... “RG drives a Taxi in Melbourne and snubs some Kangaroos???”