Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Great Election Tamasha





                In India, we celebrate Diwali, Uttarayan, Dussehra, Janmastmi, Navratri, Idd, New Year, Nowruz and a lot more but the ostentatious of them all is the General Election!!
                That’s right; elections in India are nothing short of a huge, magnificent, dynamic celebration. Celebration of boosting the local economy by bringing out all the black money that was collected over the past election and spending on gathering people for rallies and late night parties. It’s a celebration of making a mockery out of a common man. It’s a celebration of a coming out party of a candidate with shady background into the main stream public life. Oh! And yes, it is also a celebration of Democracy…or whatever we have it these days.
                In a developing democracy like India, different classes of people will have different expectations from their elected politicians (they are far from being a leader!!). The ‘haves’ will expect a leader who is willing to make deals. The ‘intellectuals’ will hope to have a leader who is a university graduate and who does everything ‘right’ and then there are ‘poor’s’ who make sure India remains democratic by coming in masses to vote and in turn our politicians make sure that they remain poor, so our grandeur history of being a democratic society continues.
                Come April and 814,591,184* registered voters in India will celebrate democracy by going to the polling stations and voting. Or watching/reading about the exit polls and complaining about the outcomes. Each and every election cycle brings with it the ‘new crop of politicians’ who think about changing the system. Alas, they become the part of the same system by the next general election. General election, we are told, is the celebration of the power of people. But in India it has become the celebration of the power of politics!!
                Although a true democracy fails to exist, religious and provincial issues continue to be used for political promotions and criminalization of politics has become the modus operandi, a Common man continues to believe that the upcoming elections will bring the Change they are hoping for.
to the Hope!! to the Change!! to Democracy!!

*NYT op-ed – ‘Old Fantasies are distorted in Indian elections’. Mar 5th, 2014

Friday, February 28, 2014

Baroda the Beautiful

 

                Flyovers and wide, flat streets have replaced the narrow pot holed filled roads of yesterday. Bare open spaces have been replaced by residential high-rises. The nightly groupings at paanwala’s have been shifted to Barista’s. An unorganized galli cricket has taken shape of an official league. School auto rickshaws have been replaced by vans. All night Garba’s are now restricted till midnight during Navratri.
                Life or should I say time, has changed Baroda. But has it really?

                The flyovers and broad boulevards have not stopped Barodians from going on the wrong direction instead of taking a long u turn!! Stray Cows and dogs still wander the streets and cause traffic jams. Even though there are long waits in Coffee shops, paanwalas’ also command the same popularity. Cricket, politics and movies are still the favorite topics of discussion. So what if roadside cricket is not as popular now a days, Sports academy’s and organized leagues are garnering the same level of interests. Cricket is still played with same passion. Rickshaws are not a common school vehicle now a days but just as in yester years, kids constant chattering is still responded by drivers bawling and more importantly there is always space for ‘one more kid’ in a packed school vehicle!! 12 am deadline during Navratri has failed to put a dent on Garba crazy Barodian’s enthusiasm.

                When I walk at midnight on VIP road, crossing the new flyover, I can’t help but wonder if it is the time that has changed or is it our perspective? The city, as I see, has been the same since I left. Traffic rules are still broken, cricket experts and international relations gurus still gather at the roadside paanwala’s, school vehicles are still flooded with kids and their backbreaking backpacks, the famous roadside food vendors are still packed till late night with food junkies. Navratri is still the best time of the year.
                Here’s to one of the best things that ever happened to me…I spent my school years in Baroda.

                To the city that gave me more than I bargained for, it gave me an identity…Thank you!!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Adieu 2013

 
And so one more year goes by…
                Adieu to the year that gave us the hope in Anna Hazare’s Andolan, Arvind Kejriwal’s triumphant win in New Delhi elections, timeless moment of watching the cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar for one last time, actor Aamir Khan’s quest to bring social issues in front of TV audiences with Satyamev Jayate, Business friendly Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi became the opposition candidate for next general elections in India, Anil Kapoor showed his golden touch on TV with his Indian version of 24 (you guys knew it was coming!), President Obama’s legacy defining Obamacare came into effect, Dow Jones and S&P 500 touched record highs (nothing makes a Gujarati feel better than a sky high stock market J), Main street America witnessed the upturn in the economy, Edward Snowden’s pursuit of privacy, Peyton Manning broke the single season touchdown record, President Putin reinvigorated the cold war era antics by granting asylum to Mr. Snowden, the world stopped to welcome the newest English royalty George Alexander Louis, Greece and other EU outliers survived one more year with Euro, the rise of Tesla & Space X founder - Elon Musk, the release of iphone 5S & 5C,  Samsung’s hastily release of Galaxy Gear Smart watch and a glimpse to the future of logistics with Amazon Prime Air.
                A year that was filled with promises, a year full of opportunities, a year that achieved the impossible, a year that gave rise to the new ideas, a year that also witnessed broken pledges, missed goals, shattered hearts and botched projects.
                Simply put, just as in all other years gone by, 2013 was a year filled with bliss top with sprinkle of woe!!
Happy New Year.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The last of Tendlya

                Many, many words have been written about the great Sachin Tendulkar, especially since he announced his retirement from International cricket. There is no more a naïve dude like me can add. But then there is always something to magnify!!
                Just like Mr. Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar has always been a phenomenon for India and Indians. Both of them have achieved a legendary status which is above and beyond their cricket and box office records.
                Coming back to Tendulkar, I feel that he was a true representative of India, both literally and emblematically. He was a young, immature but talented player when he first started in 1989, same as India- fledgling, capable but adolescent economy. Tendulkar was intimidated by his opposition. He was hit, he was bruised, he was hurt, he went down…but then he stood up and he scored and boy did he scored!! India of late 80’s was scared, non-confident, hassled by her neighbors and world community. India was badly hurt because of the political chaos and financial collapse, but then she also got back on her feet and challenged the status quo. Today Tendulkar is proved over and over again that he is once in a generation marvel. He achieved this thru all the adversities a player could face. Today’s India too has achieved what many believed to be impossible. From economic bedlam to economic miracle- India grew at almost a double digit rate for over a decade ridiculing the Hindu rate of growth. Today’s India has achieved the rightful place on the world stage.
                Tomorrow might be the last time we see Tendulkar on the pitch before he walks into the sunset. But future of cricket is in good hands. And India? Well it’s all upon us (next general elections), do we want India to walk into the sunset or towards a new dawn.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Lets 'Hope' a little...


                Let’s celebrate India’s Independence Day, let’s cheer, let’s feel proud, let’s rejoice, let’s forget our Troubled Today and let’s Hope…
                …that Tomorrow will be splendid than today, that Politicians will someday actually serve the nation, that Mr. Dhoni will win the world cup again and Sachin will be part of the team, that BSE Sensex will hit 30,000, that It rains enough to curtail summer heat, that There is no flooding during monsoon,  that Antilia, the Ambani residence (more specifically, Mukesh Ambani) is open for visitors, that Urban nightlife is not restricted by the authorities, that All the terrorists in Kashmir are caught and Kashmir becomes an integral part of India, that Women roam the city streets any time of the day or night without any fear, that Naxalites and respective state governments sign a peace accord, that Rest of India knows the names of the North-eastern states, that China’s economic progress implodes because of domestic issues, that The Group of two, G2 comprises of US & India, that Wireless broadband services is offered all across India, that Pakistan becomes a responsible nation and starts long term peace conversation, that India’s hockey team wins the Olympic gold, that India’s soccer team makes it to the final round of the South Asian Federation games (competing with the likes of Maldives & Bhutan), that Shri Narendra Modi becomes the prime minister and Mr. Manmohan Singh  the Finance minister, that the rights of the religious minorities are respected and they play a constructive role in our democracy, that Rahul Gandhi enrolls in an undergraduate program at Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), that A six lane ring road is constructed circling the length and breadth of India (including the North-East), that Steven Spielberg directs a Hollywood blockbuster staring top Indian actors (Anil Kapoor, definitely being one of them!!), that Baba Ramdev’s weight loss medicine works and results are visible to others within a month, that All the politicians who are involved in corruption are sentenced to rigorous imprisonment, with financial penalties and their family members forbidden from participating in any democratic process, that there is an un-interrupted flow of electricity and clean water, that India at last emerges out of the Emerging market category and becomes a developed nation, that ‘the somebody’, ‘the nobody’, ‘the somewhere in between’, 'the common man', 'the lowest denominator of our social class'- the peasant and the poor, have equal say in our great democratic society. Amen.
                Aristotle once said…Hope is the dream of a waking man. Well Mr. Aristotle, I am a dreamer, for when today is – 10% inflation; pitiful politicians; murdered soldiers; insecure women; unprotected school children’s, ‘Hope’ is the only light that guides me to a thriving tomorrow.
 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Royal Bengal Tiger

            Since winning the ICC Champions trophy, media and social networks are abuzz with MS Dhoni’s lasting cricketing legacy. When it comes to the captain, who changed the face of the Indian cricket there is no doubt that MS Dhoni is at the top and his trophies prove that. India’s 2013 ICC Champions Trophy is the third ICC trophy earned by Dhoni after the 2011 World Cup and 2007 20-20 World cup. He is the only captain to have won all 3 major ICC titles. His glorifying triumph doesn’t stop there, he has also won a Champions League 20-20 and 2 IPL trophies thus consolidated himself as India’s most successful captain. Koi Shak (Any doubts!!)

            But I think Sourav “the Royal Bengal Tiger” Ganguly shouldn’t be forgotten for his contribution. He was the one who planted the seeds of revolution in Indian cricket. He didn’t garner the silverwares but he did inject a sense of a self-confidence inside the team, a never say die-attitude, under him the team never gave up.

            Late 90’s was described as Indian cricket’s darkest hour, the reason being the match fixing scandal involving prominent Indian cricketers and Sachin Tendulkar’s disastrous performance as captain. Enters Sourav Ganguly- He constructed Team India into a fighting unit- a force to reckon with. He created a passionate environment and a killer instinct to fight till the finish. A desire that today’s generation has taken to an entirely new level. He infused the previously lacking aggressiveness in the team.

            In the classic Natwest series of 2003 Ganguly behaved in a way which was symbolic of a new mood in India. Until Ganguly, India was a great talking nation, but when he took off his shirt in the Lord’s balcony, cricketing world finally knew that India and Indians can walk the talk. Ganguly took over a side that was reeling under the cloud of the match-fixing controversy and turned it into a team that fought till the very last ball.

            It might sound cliché but this was a man who by his action said I was an Indian and I am as good as anybody else. His actions were very liberating for Indian cricket fans. He made us all believers again. As his arch nemesis, Steven Waugh once famously said that he saw in Sourav a committed individual who wanted to inject some toughness and combativeness into a side that had often tended in the past to roll over and expose a soft underbelly.*

 
            Since he belongs to the Tendulkar era, his statistical records might be diminished (and this goes for all the other great players during the T-era), but in terms of bringing change to the underlying values and attitude of a cricket team plagued by low self-esteem, he  will perhaps be the greatest.
*www.scganguly.com

Friday, June 28, 2013

Uttarakhand Floods- People’s Tragedy, Politician’s Opportunity

                 A country like India which is seventh largest in terms of land mass and is home to over 1.2 billion Indians, is bound to face tragedies in one or more parts at any given time, especially when both the geography and the culture are so diverse. But what is also expected is that the lessons are learned from the prior disasters by government agencies. Alas, that seldom happens. Uttarakhand tragedy is the most recent example.
                We can’t stop natural calamities from occurring (well, according to environmentalist and geologist we can but that’s still debatable), but we can improve our response time, our coordination efforts and especially our communication systems. Consider the Uttarakhand tragedy, it’s been over a week since cloudbursts and flash-floods have left so many people dead and many more stranded, but none of the agencies have any clue as to how many people are dead or are stranded. Estimates range from one thousand to twenty thousand. It’s always the army that has to come to the rescue for domestic operations and coordinate the efforts.
                A calamity for the affected people is always life threating but for our political leaders it can be (political) life changing, for they are attracted to the calamities like bees to honey. Even though it may cut short their quarterly European retreats, the photo opportunity in local and national media outlets is too imperative to miss. This is always the case with India and its rotten political class. But there are exceptions. Some might see Gujarat chief minister’s presence in Dehradun as a political move but his actions to bring home stranded Guajarati’s in Uttarakhand was a sign of a true leader.
                Not surprisingly the chief minister of Uttarakhand in one of his rare press conferences post calamity announced a creation of an agency to see that this kind of tragedy doesn’t reprise. This has become a typical move by a political leader. This disaster might become one of the deadliest in India’s long list of disasters. But rest assured, natural or manmade, tragedy will repeat, bridges will be destroyed, buildings will collapse, people will be trapped for days, lives will be lost, children’s will become orphans, political blame game will start, aerial tours for politicians will begin, charity events will be organized, center will allocate funds of which pennies will reach the affected, and lastly the creation of a new agency will be announced!!
                A news article in one of the western dailies describing the Uttarakhand tragedy said, “Waking up when it's too late is a defining feature as far as Indians as a people are concerned”*. I was a little taken aback, but it seems so true.

* Daily Mail of UK