30 Mar 2009

Beyond Words

A leaf-less, yet not life-less tree

The Parrot Leaves
An evening view from my balcony

Image Courtesy
Self-Photographed (edited)

19 Mar 2009

Going back to the masses

A new democratic experiment in U.K.

It was Mahatma Gandhi who realized the importance of masses and engaged them in the fight against discrimination in South Africa. On returning to his homeland, he successfully replicated the model on a much larger scale, which played a decisive role in helping India attain freedom. However, once the job was done, the masses chose to disengage with the politics and allow their representatives do the dirty work. It was quarter a century hence, when Jayaprakash Narayan decided to bring the masses back to the center stage from the wilderness. JP must have succeeded for that made those in power act irresponsibly and plunge the country into the darkest years of Indian democracy, the Emergency.
The politicians still need the masses to get into power but they have learnt all the tricks to deceive and exploit them for their own good. So while the poorer lot still oblige these men by attending their rallies and turning up at the polling booths to vote for them, the not-so-poorer lot prefer voting for reality shows and television surveys, rather than at the general, assembly or local elections.
A new model of engaging the masses has been developed in U.S. by Barack Obama. He made the best use of information technology and communication to form a decisive democratic force of masses which heralded him to the post of the most powerful man in the world.
Taking a cue from all this, a new democratic exercise is being experimented in U.K. I read about it just now in an article by Hasan Suroor in 'The Hindu' and I could not wait but share it with others. If you remember the recent 'Lead India' Campaign of Times of India, then this new experiment in U.K. is just taking such an initiative to its logical conclusion.
A campaign has been launched in the name of 'The Jury Team', which according to its website is a political movement created with the goal of making politics more accessible, politicians more accountable and political institutions more transparent. According to their mission statement, this campaign is against the current political parties that have turned the Government into an Oligarchic institution, a small and increasingly distant group.
This is how the campaign operates- Anyone interested in a political career can put themselves forward through The Jury Team’s website but they must agree not to support any policies that discriminate on the basis of race, colour, gender, sexual orientation, disability or religious or other belief. The general public will be able to vote for their favourite candidate by texting the code of that person to a “unique” text number. The selected candidates will then be fielded as Independents. Moreover, these candidates once elected, would be free of the party whip, i.e., they won't be obliged to follow the dictats of their party but will be independent to vote for the proposals for legislations as they wish to.
This campaign has been launched and funded by millionaire Sir Paul Judge, however as mentioned on their website, they rely on donations to keep running.
The question is for how long can such a non-party party, a term devised by Sir Paul, can remain a non-party. Isn't there every chance of egoism of such people coming in way of high principles set initially. On the first thought, such an experiment will have a chance to survive only if such an individual distants himself from it with time, to allow the masses take it forward, but on a second thought, wont this campaign just wither away if it doesnt get the support and direction of a strong personality.
Moreover, in a country like India which finds itself divided on the lines of religion, caste, region and ethnicity, where the so-called National Parties are being dictated terms by the regional ones, where still the majority doesnt vote for an ideology but for a bottle of country made liquor, where still only a small minority find access to modern technologies, can such an experiment even survive one election. These are the questions that spring once the reality dawns. However, they can be answered only when the experiment has been conducted.
As for the initiative, the best source seems the Indian media. They were so active post-Mumbai carnage, driving their individual campaigns against politicians. It will be interesting to see if they have it in them to do what they preach. As for the initial funding, the media houses can oblige their 'high class' chatterati to donate some bucks, who love to come on the discussion shows and spank the Indian politics and the politicians and then share a glass of wine with the same politicos at their evening parties.
Recently, in India new initiatives are being taken as we see a number of unconventional political parties springing up. There was a technocrats based Lok Paritran and recently an IIM-IIT graduates based political outfit. In a Punjab district recently, the members of the Market Association decided to field their own candidates as they felt, the political parties always forget them after taking donations for their election campaigns. However, rather than coming together to obtain a critical mass, such parties prefer to do it alone. Maybe, with time they realize the importance of united action.
India which has adopted the parliamentary democracy and many of its conventions from U.K. might also give a try to this latest experiment though its still to be seen if it makes any mark in the country of its origin itself being in nascent stages there too.

Image Courtesy
http://www.trekearth.com by Ramesh Lalwani (edited)

11 Mar 2009

The Hamilton Holi

and a note on Pakistan politics

As we celebrated Holi in India, the Men in (the new shade of) Blue had their own plans for celebrations in Hamilton. While the Rain Gods in New Zealand continued to play Holi on and off, the Delhi-Daredevils drenched the Kiwis with the shower of fours and sixes.
Earlier the Indian bowlers did a good job in restricting the Kiwis just under run a ball but the way Sehwag-Gambhir duo approached the target, it seemed any score would have been indefensible for the black-caps.
Man of the moment, Sehwag's blitzkrieg earned India its first ODI series win in New Zeland and for him in person, the record of the fastest century by any Indian in ODI's. His partner supported him well throughout the innings.
Gautam Gambhir had a humble beginning in the international arena. I remember my cousin from Noida, who had played Inter-College tournaments against his team, telling me about Gambhir's exotic strokeplay and shear power. My cousin, himself a wicket-keeper used to watch Gambhir in awe as he sent the balls hurling out of the stadium. However, having seen his earlier international performances this was difficult to comprehend. But then came IPL. And so came IPL for his opening partner Sehwag, in dire need to resurrect his career. After the tournament there was no looking back. Be it Tests, ODI's, T20's, IPL or Domestic cricket, the two are made for each other.
With due respect to the master-blaster, I believe its time that he recedes to a lower slot in ODI's to allow this dynamic duo play more and more cricket together at the top. It is in the best interest of the Indian cricket team.

We've heard that history repeats itself but when it comes to Pakistan, it seems to repeat just too frequently. The scenes which were a common place just a year ago are back to haunt democracy in Pakistan.

This cartoon by Keshav in 'The Hindu' portrays it aptly. Ironically, the situation in our neighboring country acts as a balm to heal our woes against our domestic politics. The treacherous credentials of our politicians pale in front of those from Pakistan. It makes us realise how despite its shortcomings, the Indian polity has allowed democracy to survive despite some hiccups in mid-70's.
As for Pakistan, in the words of Nawaz Sharif, within a year, the ghost of Musharraf has resurrected itself in the form of Zardari. Today speaking at a rally, Sharif, in a bid to underscore his concern for constitutional reforms to restore the balance of power back in the favour of Prime Minister as in pre-Musharraf times, did not indulge in any mud-slinging against the present PM Yousuf Raza Gilani, rather supported him, keeping his own political ambitions at bay as of now. As noted by 'Times Now', Prime Minister Gilani too looked defiant later in the evening as he spoke of democracy, 1973 Constitution and early withdrawal of President's rule from Punjab, not in sync with President Zardari's assertions. However, it will be interesting to see if it indeed is defiance to Zardari or just a 'good cop/bad cop' ploy of PPP to soothe the increasing unrest among the masses ignited by PML(N).
My heart goes out to the common man in Pakistan who so emphatically voted for change and democracy last year but got nothing but dirty politics in return. However, in the present context too, I believe, as noted in my previous post, that the polity of any nation is just a reflection of its society. Its high time that Asif Ali 'Bhutto' Zardari backtracks and yields, or his future too seems to be going the same way as that of Musharraf.

Images Courtesy
Cricket- http://im.rediff.com (original)
Cartoon- http://www.hinduonnet.com by Keshav (original)

5 Mar 2009

Upon each shoulder lies the weight!

It can't be shirked, it can't be swayed..

Before reading this post, please read the previous, 'Aren't you just one of them?' because this is just an extension to what I 'penned' last time.
There was a reason why I asked you to introspect. The day I wrote this poem, I was having a discussion with a cousin. The topic was a common one; the falling standards of Indian polity and administration. On a fault-finding spree, he kept rattling one example after the other, all the time cursing the netas and the babus. Once he was done or rather when I was done(listening), I just asked him some simple questions. These (and some others) are the ones which I included in my poem later in the day.
Its very convenient for us to find scapegoats. Our polity and administration are the easiest ones, for the simple reason that they have hand in everything and that they deserve the backlash for anything going wrong. Just see how even I've turned critical. Its true that as citizens, we have the right to demand sincerity from our elected representatives and their executives. However, we should not forget that our polity and administration is just a reflection of our society and 'we' are the society.
When the 'Mumbai carnage' happened, we all were up against the polity. We were frustrated, we were agitated and we wanted accountability. The 'system' again failed us. Those who had been sent to represent us, again let us down.
We want tighter security. We want all the pores to be sealed but are we ready for it. Remember the last time you visited a multiplex and were frisked at the gate With time running out for the movie, how you asked the guard, "C'mon bhaiya! Do I look like a terrorist to you?" This is the very attitude of 'chalta hai' that we see so often in our bureaucracy. So you see from where it comes.
This may sound cliche, but who is being corrupt when on breaking a traffic rule, you prefer giving 50 bucks to the traffic hawaldar than accepting your mistake, letting him cut your challan and paying the due amount to the concerned authority.
I realize how easy it is for us to approach turpitude from virtuousness than the other way round. In New Delhi, where I stayed for half an year or so, I had to travel daily in the metro. Initially, I was in a habit of offering my seat to the aged and the ladies standing in the aisle. However, as time passed and I saw the depravity of my fellow passengers, I started hesitating in doing so. Though, I still had the courtesy to stand up for say, a pregnant lady or a frail looking elderly; but for each time doing so, I had to run a program in my mind to assess if the person fulfilled all the criteria to be showered with my chivalry. So from being a 'good boy', I became 'not so good boy'.
We have to learn to hold on to our virtues to ask others to do so. Here, I remember a story, one of my teacher in primary school told us. I am not sure if its true or not but definitely its quite effective. It goes something like this.
Once a person brought his son to Mahatma Gandhi and complained that he eats a lot of sugar. However, as he has a lot of regard for Mahatma, he might start resisting his temptation if Mahatma asks him to do so. However, Gandhiji asked them to come back after a couple of days. Even the next time they were returned to come back later. On the next visit, Gandhiji apologized to the person saying that he can't fulfill his simple wish as he himself has a sweet tooth. All these days he had been trying to resist but failed. So he has no moral right to ask the young one to do so.
So do we have the right to ask for accountability from our elected representatives? Yes, we do have the constitutional and legal right. However, we lose our moral right to do so by a fraction, every time we indulge in depravity and corruption. My questionnaire in the previous post must have helped you to gauge where you stand in this respect.
'Slumdog millionaire' might have disturbed us by showcasing our dirt and filth but remember we all have made a 'worthy' contribution in keeping our cities unclean. So only Government cannot be blamed for not providing enough safai-karamcharis, we all have to take the blame for it.
So next time you throw an empty wrapper out of the car window, you are also throwing a fraction of your moral right out with it. I have thrown out such fractions so many times that I've lost the count.
Moreover, now with the elections just round the corner, if you decide not to visit the polling booth, then you'll also be foregoing a big chunk of your constitutional and legal right.
So rather than being this monkey pointing fingers at others, it's better to be wholesome in ourselves. An effort can be made for sure.
These parting lines might strike a chord or two.

Upon each shoulder lies the weight!
It can’t be shirked, it can’t be swayed.
You’ll try that someone else falls prey,
For yourself, you'll search an easy way.
Today you might shut your eyes and say,
“Hey, let’s keep it for some other day!”
But how long will you keep it at bay?
For upon each shoulder lies the weight!
Those who realize it well in time,
Won't lose a penny or a single dime.
They’ll do it while others pretend and mime.
With shoulders feeling light and sublime,
They’ll hear the eternal satisfaction chime.
Don’t bother that next line doesn’t rhyme ;)
For upon each shoulder lies the weight!

Image Courtesy