GETTING TO THE ROOT OF THINGS

There is something about face value that attracts human responses when encountered. A sense of energy flows that resists patience and is in frenzy state to react, respond with what we feel is the right thing. Some have the ability to put it aside at the last minute, while others succumb to the seductive power of ‘hungama‘. This happened in Delhi recently and it was sensationalised as though it was a national issue – when in reality, it was meant to be dealt in a small way.

Why do we allow such incidents to become headlines? How does this issue matter to the rest of India, apart from providing fodder to unnecessary errands on social media and among friends and family.

Headlines, half-baked news, prejudices and one’s set of beliefs all play their part in that moment of expressing one’s opinion. And these days, social media offers a camouflage which gives a false sense of power.

A bunch of students decided to protest in a very immature fashion which provoked some of the fellow students who didn’t like the proceedings. The student leader steps in to diffuse the situation. He was made the prime target and even accused of not stopping the protests which didn’t have permission in the first place. At least he tried instead of keeping silent.

With regards to the protest. What has expressing opinions come down to? Aren’t there debates, forums to express views and other disagreements instead of plain sloganeering and attract attention. How do you define anti-nationalism and in this regard – a minority group of students displayed and chanted anti-India slogans. Would you isolate this group alone or take everyone who was present?

And for many, it is still not clear as to why one would start such protests in the first place? Because, majority of the Indians don’t care or are too busy caught up in daily chores. And you cannot blame them for that.

Equally puzzling and unsurprising was the reaction. First a group of student protestors, then the Delhi police, the central Government, the media, the politicians from the ruling party and to make things worse, the opposition jumping in to make this a political, privilege and a religious issue. Later, the journalists were roughed up along with other JNU students at the Patiala Court House.

Was this a great advert for the ongoing Make in India?

Humans are more prone to negativity. Try this self-exercise, you will be amazed at how we are drawn towards the dark side views over the lighter side of things.

You know it, but wait, you do not want to admit it? I get it!

How do you solve this kind of issue? At the moment, any argument against the Government or the Prime Minister is a direct way to label yourself as an anti-national? In such an environment, one loses the sense of logic or even clarity as you are dragged into the mud wrestling full of verbal duels which can get physical at times.

Violence met with violence especially when it involves youth, students – you never win!

The question that I ask myself – why are these protests in the first place? Should we ignore them as a ruling party? or should it be tackled at the foundation level?

Who would like to get to the root of things? I have a candidate, however going by the previous incidents, it would be welcome change to let go of his past silence and address students, the nation and also so called anti-nationals present in our country.

There are more positives to our Prime Minister than many of our predecessors – however, he is a human and this element is not acceptable to many. His silence over these matters is puzzling as I believe he is one person who can influence the much needed change this country needs – the ability to analyse, study both views before jumping into conclusions. The audacity to crisis communicate. Even though the rest of India is fine, the people of Delhi needs to hear those words. The students, should they continue studying?

This is an opportunity for our Prime Minister to initiate a change which many of our top leaders fail to recognise – the ability to connect with the youth. No, it is not just on social media. It is face-to-face or even through online live chats. He is an influencer and who knows, he might provide an insight that’s much needed from the top.

Our Government is taking many steps to convince countries to invest in India and one of the many things that often do not get highlighted is the fact, India is still a wonderful country despite such protests. The tussle with the Government always existed but it is more multi-folded due to social media outreach.

We need our Prime Minister to lead the nation by educating the youth consistently as it is the people that would determine the course India takes. Majority might get the votes, but they need not be always right.

In India even exceptions run into millions – so there is an option to let these protests to be ignored. But, at what cost?  

Why not we initiate a ‘getting to the roots’ programme spearheaded by our Prime Minister? Surely, there can be arrangements made to reach out to people who are in need of clarity even though they do not know it. Start with the capital.

One isn’t sure about the results. Can we not try?

P.S – How would a parent react if their son/daughter accuses them of being anti-family, make statements like ‘I prefer you weren’t alive’, talk and argue in an matured manner, doesn’t have a clue to articulate and put things in perspective, protests your decisions, so on and so forth.

How should a parent react? Will they let them rot? Will they make it worse by force and threat? Is beating them up an option? or will they try to put sense in the whole issue and inspire a change in the child?

Forget about changing the entire India – How about changing our immediate surroundings??

Every day when I walk from our ‘new’ home to catch a train or a bus, my mind doesn’t stop but notice the little things around it. Be it the walking zones, restricted parking lots, pedestrian walk ways on busy roads, free drinking water fountains, sheltered bus stops with time table, multi-purpose shops, post office, banks, ATMs, parks, primary school, high school, kindergarten, play home, play grounds, restaurants, cafes, fitness centre, sports complex, dedicated garbage and recycle bins and their respective locations, trees planted, florist garden, town hall, places of worship  and a Gemeinde, in simple terms it is a municipality or a corporation office. Mind you, this is a ‘dorf’- German translation for a village and not the main city itself.

This serenevillage is close to the main city of Zurich. This locality reminds me of my layout, as it is termed in Bangalore. My locality in Bangalore has almost everything this village has, just that it is more chaotic and that chaos is down to lack of simple practices being adopted with time. Though there are zones of calmness, you are never away from the disorderliness. Not an intolerable situation, it just requires a degree of attention and sustained maintenance to make the change from the chaotic state. The idea is to reduce the chaos and not eliminate it.

The point that amazed me ever since I got a taste of Switzerland (since 2009) is its policy of dividing the small country into smaller Cantons (states) and each state into petite zones (Gemeinde). Each Canton has a different set of rules and four languages are spread out in these 26 Cantons; English being not one of these four languages (German, French, Italian and Romansch). On a larger scale, India resembles this system.
Depending on the region you come from, the primary language dominates the area. English is slowly making its way into the Swiss culture, though it is not compulsory to know it.

In this little country of approximately 41,000 m2, there are close to 2,500 municipalities. India too has a similar mechanism. We have Union Government, states, divisions, districts, taluka (Tehsil or Mandal) which in turn is divided into Municipal Corporations, City Municipal Council, Town Municipal Council, City Panchayat or Gram Panchayat.

Any geographical location (with the best of my knowledge) in India can be traced to one of the aforementioned administrative structure of India.

Having established the basics facts and figures, the key aspect to development comes in the model of ‘drop management’. I guess I am coining this term with respect to citizens or residents becoming responsible for their nearby surroundings as a means to community development. Just like that tiny drop in an ocean. India is nothing but an ocean of people and we are all but a drop.

For starters – How many of us have to compulsorily register in the local ward before living in a particular locality? Do we have such a rule? If yes, I have not seen it being enforced and if not, why don’t we appeal to respective local wards to have such a register, which maintains the record of all the individuals that lives in that particular locality?

It is a simple process. Land-lord or a builder of a newly constructed apartment must have a clause to have a future resident/owner in the local ward office as a part of the process. It starts with this, and in the longer run, helps many residents in getting their voter ids or having to show their proof of residence and what not. A simple letter of authorisation or a local ID card is good enough. The newly built apartment complexes have such security measures to keep a check on their residents. But such issues are privately managed and lack authenticity as a proof of residence. This will also eliminate the hassles of running around houses to collect data for census or to enrol for the Aadhar card.

I have not voted when I had the only opportunity back in 2008. Since then, I have never been in my home town during the elections. And like me there are plenty of them, who were muffled by not having their names in the Voter’s list. Such confusion could have been avoided, if there were to be a simple registering process when any new occupant moves in to a new place. And when there is a need of shifting to another place or a different ward, de-registration is a process through which one can register in another municipality or ward by simply showing the deregistration letter. Similar registrations must be encouraged for private and other business establishments.

I believe this process will atleast streamline the residents * with proper housing. I know there are a lot of private associations that does this work. But, however it is, unless government is involved even at a local level, the changes and its impact will fade away. Just make it a rule, and enforce it and soon it becomes a habit.
   
Let the municipality or a ward collect a small tax from the residents if required and improvements can be seen within the ward. It would also be encouraging, if provisions are made for individuals to volunteer in their free time in getting few things done for the local area.

Secondly – To sort the parking mess, have zones marked with clear lines to highlight parking. Else collect fines, which can only be used to improve the area. Free parking, dedicated parking and public parking with a nominal fee can be allotted in each of the areas. Yes, this means you cannot always get a slot right in front of the place of interest. Well, aren’t we experiencing this already?

Thirdly – Garbage disposal is also an issue to deal with. Somewhere things have to change on this front. Throwing whatever comes to the dustbin will not help the slowly evolving recycling industries in India. There are glass, plastic bottles, cartons, papers, organic waste and other miscellaneous waste. Have a proper time table for collecting each of such wastes or alternatively provide few stations where resident and commercial establishments can come and dispose plastic wastes, glass wastes, cartons, papers and organic wastes respectively. It might be difficult initially, but with such provisions, you can expect cleaner surroundings.

Lastly – Most of the residents have dogs and pets. It is important they take care of the dump while they are on a stroll. A provision for disposal pet covers can be provided to ensure, the pet owner does this job of clean up act on public roads. Why would you expect government to clean for your pet’s mess?
And street dogs – It is the ward’s responsibility to ensure they find a proper shelter. Well, someone has to care right. It is in the neighbourhood looking for a shelter.

The point I have mentioned may not be the first time people would have thought this way. To me, developing India as a whole is impossible and hence I won’t even think about it. I would not want to waste the time and resources which cannot be entirely monitored unless a larger group is involved across India. So why don’t we take a good look at our surroundings, understand it better and deal with it in a best possible way? Idealistic – Yes, that’s how it looks like and that is how ideas come to reality.
This is not an instant process but not an impossible task either. With generations getting exposed to global best practices in keeping the surroundings and neighbourhood cleaner, I am confident it is a matter of initiation and acting locally while thinking globally. This way, drop by drop each ward can take care of itself and when looked as a whole, the district, the state and country appears better. Just give it a little effort and time; results will be there to be seen.

*Note: There are issues about illegal housing. A process of registration helps new residents to identify houses that are legal vs. Illegal establishments. It is not that citizens are not smart or in-disciplined, what we all lack is awareness.

My short Independence Day Speech

You know whenever I read about our Constitution; it makes me wonder, as to what is independence? Was it just a day? Or was it a starting point of something significant? What has happened to India isn’t just the result of India but also a combination of the inconsistencies across the globe and co-incidences?

Irrespective of how we have come along these 64 years, I still can say, India is its own competitor and one needs to look in before looking out. I never realized much about being an Indian when I was in India, because I didn’t quite realize what it feels and over the last few years, whenever I am outside of country, my passport (which is the defining factor mostly) speaks a lot and then we meet people. Many are informed about India through different opinions and all I add is another opinion from a Indian perspective. Believe me, there are several perspectives to a particular thing just like we have several Gods and Goddess in our mythology. We fight to prove our perspectives are right, but I guess I realized that’s the beauty of the country I was born.

“All differences in this world are of degree, and not of kind, because oneness is the secret of everything.” – Swami Vivekananda

India over the years has made people give their opinions and that I feel is a freedom of speech. So in that sense I am independent to give out my opinions. That’s fine until now. I sense we need to move ahead and take a step forward with conviction that action speaks louder than opinions. I believe we are seeking to be independent more than ever before, at least in my generation of living. We the people haven’t realized the power of the government that is made by people alone. We need to understand the importance of being a drop and its contribution to the ocean. I seek our country to be more self aware and for that each individual to be self-aware before going out and condemning things.

Like Swami Vivekananda said – “The goal of mankind is knowledge… now this knowledge is inherent in man. No knowledge comes from outside: it is all inside. What we say a man ‘knows’, should, in strict psychological language, be what he ‘discovers’ or ‘unveils’; what man ‘learns’ is really what he discovers by taking the cover off his own soul, which is a mine of infinite knowledge.”

India is merely a geographical land if we remove the masses from it. So in that sense I have to think of the power we people hold. We can accept, we can change and at times we can hope for the better.

“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things and no good thing ever dies” – Shawshank Redemption

Gunga Din

Inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s poem, the movie is set in mid 1800’s when British regiment had made a settlement in India. With resistance coming from all quarters; there were quite a few rebellious groups formed in order to eliminate the British rule. This movie had one such group who revered Goddess Kali (an important deity in Hindu mythology, Goddess of Blood) dedicated their lives to destroy the British army.
The movie is about a Hindu water carrier called ‘Gunga Din’. Since childhood he always wanted to be in the army. He was not allowed and this fact never bothered as he learnt the tricks of army by observing the soldiers carefully. He gets friendly with Sgt Cutter and also tells him about the gold which can be taken back from a Kali temple. Parallely, there is an uprising of a religious group under the leadership of Swami, played by Eduardo Ciannelli.
The group had previously attacked many such regiments at different villages and now they had made arrangements to eliminate the British army in that area.

I am not comfortable to use the technical word for such groups. Although, in English and in the movie they are referred to as ‘Thuggees’, I am not going to use the word. Its a perception and since it was during the British rule, often such groups were branded as enemies and not seen as patriots.
From a movie’s point of view, I can only talk about performances on screen. The movie talks about three army sergeants and the rapport they shared working together. Sgt Archibald Cutter (Cary Grant), Sgt Mac Chesney (Victor Mc Laglen) and Sgt Ballantine (Douglas Fairbank Jr) are fun loving army personnel who love going on adventures together. All was fine until one of them decides to leave the service in order to get married. In what is called as a final mission, the two trick the soon to be groom to be a part of the troop.
In search of gold, Sgt Cutter and Gunga Din get trapped in a huge gathering of the religious group. As a part of the plan, Sgt Cutter surrenders to the group while instructing Gunga Din to inform his army troop about the place and situation. Call it mis-communication; the two friends along with Gunga Din turn up at the temple. All are caught and Gunga Din is branded as a traitor for helping the British. While in temple, the three musketeers get to know the master plan of the rebellion to eliminate the entire British army. The last part of the movie talks about the gallantry of Gunga Din who risks his life in order to warn the British troops and manages to convey the message of the traps set by the rebellion. On the other hand, it talks about the patriotism of Swami and his men, who are fighting for their freedom, for their country. Although, the methods employed are violent, it wasn’t for fun. They had a purpose and they went about in their own way.

George Stevens in a periodic movie to some extent displays his taste for humour showcases army staff enjoying a good laugh as they went about waging wars. Joan Fontaine plays the sole female in few scenes and fails to capture the audience in a bland role. Sam Jaffe in the title role impresses with his tailor made acting of a Hindu water carrier.
“Tho’ I’ve belted you and flayed you, by the livin’ Gawd that made you, you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!” – Rudyard Kipling, last line of his highly acclaimed poem of the same name.
Released in 1939, RKO productions made this movie which was the costliest at that time. Considering the war scenes and sets resembling rural India the movie was aptly nominated for and Oscar in the Best Cinematography Black and White category.