Monday, September 26, 2016

Kashmir Conundrum

         It’s been almost ten days since the Uri attack. I wanted to wait so I can get over my impromptu patriotic emotion. Needless to say, first thing that crosses mind after repeated attacks is to enter Pakistan, guns blazing. But that won’t bring an end to this decades old crisis. Pakistan is almost a failed state and I won’t be surprised that these attacks are the brainchild of fundamentalist groups that don’t align with Islamabad. But just as during the partition, India needs to act like a responsible, elder brother. We are at the cusp of becoming an economic & political powerhouse and we shouldn’t let this issue derail our hard earned progress.

So what needs to be done? We can’t just be sitting ducks for the next attack.

To tell you the truth, I am not sure. But I know this…
      * We need to accept the fact that Kashmir is a ‘problem’. We can’t just keep stashing the social, economic & political issues under the article 370 blanket. Kashmir is not like other 28 states.
·       * We need to recognize that India is still one of the poorest countries in the world, we still struggle to provide adequate food, decent shelter, basic healthcare and enough clothes to almost one third of our population and we are spending an enormous portion of our meager resources on military confrontation.
      And so, on behalf of frustrated Indians, Pakistanis & unlucky Kashmiris, this is my appeal to all the ‘so-called’ foreign policy experts, local & foreign, figure out something before it’s too late.

Enough blood has been shed to shame the human race!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Once upon a Cricket!!

              I think it was George Bernard Shaw who once alleged, ‘Cricket is game played by 11 fools and watched by 11000 fools’. Well, that 11,000 has grown to hundreds of millions. Simply put if its soccer which makes one half of the world go crazy, then the other half is full of cricket fanatics.
               I have matured enough to acknowledge it now, it’s sad but as a kid growing up in 90’s India, mediocrity was synonymous with Indian cricket team. Team as a whole was feeble, but individuals were sound. Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly and brilliance of many others, on a given day, would often be undone by a serious lack of support from rest of team India. India’s home record was decent but away record was a pity. In case of Test matches we would pray for the game to be drawn. Nonetheless Cricket gave us all something to look forward to.
              In the land of multiple religions & cultures and hundreds of languages & dialects, if there’s anything that rises above the differences, it’s Cricket. It’s a bit funny but the best foreign policy tool to gauge India-Pakistan relationship is cricket - if they play together, all is well; if they don’t, there’s obviously a crisis!
               For most of us, one of the fondest memories of growing up in India is being part of the India – Pakistan cricket frenzy. It had always been such a huge event. Who can possibly forget being together with the entire family and neighbors, frightening the sh!# out of the street dogs and cows, with the loudest screams at the fall of every Pakistani wicket.

            Times have changed and so has cricket. The advent of IPL has placed India on the world’s professional sports map. Tremendous amount of wealth has been unlocked because of the IPL. Cricket has finally become a game that is played, just for entertainment!! 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Is “Patriotic Non-Resident Indian” an Oxymoron?

                 Over the weekend I was catching up with an old acquaintance of mine who is based out of India. We were talking about how things have changed with time in India and how much potential India has. During our casual conversation he briefly raised a sensitive topic of patriotism of people who have left their motherland. Our conversation ended but his ‘almost’ questioning the patriotism of immigrants made me think, is “Patriotic non-resident Indian” an oxymoron? Just like “Dancer Sunny Deol” or an “honest Indian politician”?
                We go crazy cheering for India in Cricket, in-fact we become more Indian than the 1.25 billion resident Indians when we beat Pakistan. We become angry on hearing multi-billion dollars scams, and feel proud with ISRO’s successful launches. We feel sad when India performs poorly in sports on world stage (ex-Cricket) and hate how sometimes India is portrayed as a snake charmer country. We absolutely disgust communal violence.
                We celebrate all the festivals with the same zest and passion as resident Indians. We organize Garba’s in football stadiums and basketball courts and play our hearts out during the weekends. We as a community take special permission from local authorities to celebrate Diwali with fire crackers. We have successfully exported the festival of colors - Holi to be part of the American culture (color runs). We build ‘Little India’ in foreign land to resurrect the feeling of our Galli’s. And yes, we do feel proud when an Indian is in a C suite, in our company J
                We felt proud when Nina Davuluri won Miss America and became furious of the backlash that followed. We boast of the record that Indians have created in the US Spelling Bee - winning since last nine years. We might be na├»ve but we love to think that we are an expert on Indian Politics. Most of the weekend parties end with potential solutions for India’s corruption problems.
                Lack of opportunity might be one of the reasons why some of us left the homeland, but it never meant that we are less patriotic towards India. Today we might be speaking with an accent, celebrate other festivals, sing different anthem but our love towards India has not changed. So call us NRIs, PIOs, or the most recent label, OCI - Overseas Citizens of India, we have one thing in common with resident Indians, we still shed a tear or two when we listen to “Sare Jahan Se Aacha…”

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Happy 25th, Liberalization !!

           It was the summer of 1991 and before the Choli and the Chunari conquered the Indian cinemas, the Chumma, with Amitabh Bacchan (doing his pelvic thrusts) and Kimi Katkar (her seductive allure) was the craze of the nation - The nation that financially & economically was going through its toughest phase since independence. India was on a brink of default and there was a sudden need of bail out. Reserves were down to 30 days of import and government had started transferring part of its gold reserves as a guarantee to IMF. This dire state of affairs led to what we all know now as the Big Bang reform of India’s economy, by the then finance minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. (Back then he was actually walking his talk…yes, he was talking then!!)
            This summer is the silver jubilee (25 years) of the Big Bang reform. The calamity of 1991 led to liberalizing reforms that ended decades of stagnation and allowed a spurt of fast growth. India has changed in ways unimaginable in the last 25-years and the momentum favored economic reformism. For those who have lived long enough under the oppressive license/permit/quota raj, it would be ludicrous to even compare the pre-1991 India. I just hope that we don’t wait for another catastrophe to trigger reformist policies. I like how Anand Mahendra puts it, India has been pregnant with potential since the Big bang reform, but we are still waiting for the potential to enter the real India.  
           The present Indian government won a historic mandate two years back. Expectations were very high and all of them might not have been converted into reality as yet, but it’s safe to say from what we have witnessed…Aache din  are ‘almost’ here!!

If you want to learn more about what life was like before 1991, please visit

Friday, May 2, 2014

What you wish for...

                Its May 2nd today, two weeks before the results are announced in India’s elections. People are excited, both the ones who have already exercised their right and the ones who are still waiting (voting goes on till May 12th). ‘Excited’ might not do justice to describe what Indians are feeling. It’s not only the 100 million new voters who will be voting for the first time these elections. It’s Shyam Saran Negi, India’s first voter, it’s the daily wage earner, it’s the corporate honcho, it’s the recent graduate, it’s the housewife, and it’s the elders in the family. All are spirited.
                On the other end of the planet, Brazil is getting ready for hosting the World cup of soccer next month. Not too long ago on October 30th 2007 FIFA officially confirmed that Brazil would host the 2014 event. Brazilians who are famous for partying got one more reason to drink and dance. The world famous Copacabana beach which was hosting the ‘watch party’ to witness FIFA’s decision live became the largest party venue. Brazilians were living there dream.
                Well, it didn’t take long for the dream to become a nightmare. World cup is only a few weeks away and preparations are still going on. Stadium’s and hotels are behind schedule and protests are growing at the amount of public money spent. Public protest in Rio and Sao Paolo became a weekly thing. Army had to be called in many instance to control the violent protests in the favela’s (slums).
                I am not comparing the two situations, but am trying to capture the public sentiment. I am just a little nervous with all the excitement and bullishness in people’s tones when they talk about elections. I understand stakes are high but…I guess it’s my wariness about very optimistic outlooks.
                I guess we will find out soon.
                In the meantime, I wish all the best to Brazilians for successfully hosting the world cup and then the Olympics. And to India, keep your hopes alive…Ummed par hi Duniya Kayam hai!!  

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!!