Saturday, September 16, 2017

Time for India to Bite the Bullet!!

Japanese PM was visiting India to lay the foundation stone for India’s first High Speed Rail (HSR) or Bullet train project. Does a country that can’t even maintain its 150 year old railway infrastructure, need an ultra-luxury, super-fast train?

I was struggling to find a justification for this project and then I read about a comment made by Chairman of Railway board in 1969 – “India does not need a Rajdhani Express. In a poor country such air conditioned trains are luxuries, best avoided”. Have Time brought us back to the same crossroads where a nation has to decide on a path breaking project to lead the way for the following decades? Thankfully the Chairman was overruled, and today we have Rajdhanis, Shatabdis, Durontos, Gatimaans and many other AC express trains.

That was not an isolated incident, Delhi Metro project was criticised for being very expensive and elitist. But today ridership of Delhi Metro is at a record level and it is world’s fourth largest network. It will jump to second, after completion of Phase IV. Advent of Metro has expanded the reach of Delhi by creating jobs and development of the whole NCR (National Capital Region). Even the Maruti Suzuki project and the Bombay-Pune Express highway was seen as an elitist project during the inception. But today both those projects are seen as a turning point in their respective sectors.

Expectation from Bullet Train project is to see an entire ecosystem come up around manufacturing of bullet trains, creation of value-chain, with thousands of suppliers. Most significantly we will be able to climb the value chain for infrastructure projects and in future might export the same knowledge to other developing countries.

Just as an Aam Admi is riding on a Delhi Metro for a daily commute and travels cross country on one of the AC trains, in a few decades, we hope they will be riding one of many high speed trains crisscrossing the nation.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Business of Faith

In Hinduism, Heart is declared as the resting ground for Faith. Faith, has a great significance in Hindu culture. Faith, also known as Shraddha in Sanskrit is the central pillar to spiritual practice. Faith depends upon neither proof nor reason but belief in something that you feel is true. May be this aspect of faith or blind faith creates an enduring fascination for hordes of people in India towards Godmen and their miracles.
Blind faith, as proven many a times in India, knows no religion or class. Pop up dargahs under trees, a saffron cloth tied to an idol in the middle of nowhere are the symbols of flourishing business of superstitions in India. Even India’s upper class are obsessive followers of Godmen, as if they need constant re-assurances of their wellbeing - fingers full of rings, adding vowels to their name and dropping them at an astrologers scare.
India’s politicians are again at fault here. They are the ones who legitimize this Godmen by bringing them in the public domain by taking their blessings and attending there extravagant shows. Politicians have right to follow their faith but it should be kept private. The moment it becomes public, the faith turns into superstition, the followers become vote banks and devotion becomes a lucrative business.
I don’t feel bad for the elite class who spend their fortune at a jeweller or donate it to a Godmen, but it hurts when poor become victim of this heinous crime. It feels even worst when women and underage girls are raped in the name of religion. It’s a pity that modern, globalized, educated, cultured India is still obsessed with a fellow human being, who portrays him/her selves as a supreme being by doing outlandish things.
We are a nation that prides in its culture, heritage and education but all of this comes with a caveat…we are ridiculously superstitious!! It’s high time we find faith within over selves instead of immature spirituality based on superstitions and rituals offered by Godmen.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

What is America?

I am sure this question have been asked many a times since the most recent Presidential elections ended. Answer to this question was lot easier to explain before the current administration came to the power. Now, answering this question in the midst of nationalist chants is understandably, very difficult.
For me America is not only a country, it’s an idea. An idea of freedom, an idea of achieving the impossible, an idea of giving opportunity to all, an idea of no one is above the law. One does not need to have grown up in America in order to appreciate what America is. Unfortunately, the greatness of this idea has lately been tarnished to achieve small time political gains. America is too often criticized for its actual and perceived shortcomings. But critics seem incapable of appreciating America’s exceptionalism including its multiculturalism. This was the brilliance of the founding fathers of this great nation. They understood very well that freedom, (both political and economic) was the fundamental element of a successful nation. They gave us a Constitution that would allow the American people to pursue and achieve happiness, irrespective of their background, and in the process build a nation that would flourish to become a beacon of hope throughout the world.
Seems like the events of the last couple of months have made America a prisoner of its past. But whether you are from southern states or western, whether you like country music or hip hop, America is more than anything a place where people believe in freedom. They feel like they have the power to make their lives better and impact the world around them. That’s real freedom… the ability to decide what you want to make of your life and the opportunity to go out and do it.
As the summer ends and political elite is busy igniting another crisis, we should remember and be thankful for the freedom which we so often take for granted.