Sunday, November 16, 2014

Nehru - Over Rated?

This year we celebrated the 125th birth anniversary of our first PM Pt. Nehru amidst widespread concerns over his legacy and a condescending look on his political career. It is being feared that Nehru’s position in Indian history will be reduced to being as a mere children’s icon – a day in November marked for his veneration owing to his love for children. Although, I do not have a vivid memory of my first Children’s Day celebration but I do remember that I felt happy to know that there was a day marked specially for us children just like there was a day earmarked for Father, Mother and even lovers. My school used to have a non-working day occupied with cultural activities culminating with distribution of sweet boxes. Alas, I no longer fit into days named after any of the human entities!

Keeping in mind the sweet memories I and many other adults (who in their time enjoyed the perks of that lovely day) have, it is troubling to see that how has there been a sudden shift in the public perception of Nehru. It is well evident that there is a conscious attempt to undermine Nehru. There seems to be a constant effort to associate Nehru with all the problems we have but history seems to suggest otherwise. Of course, history is open for all to interpret and I have my reasons for drawing a different understanding than many.

Nehru and Gandhi are the two most celebrated and criticized figures in Indian history. The two always invite opinions of various hues and color like some even suggesting that it would have been better if Nathuram Godse had shot Nehru!! [link] Such degree of hate for the man who laid the foundations of India we live in today is surprising. Time and again questions are raised over his handling of the Partition, Kashmir issue, China and his economic policy. Some of them feel legitimate but then it reminds us that Nehru was a mere mortal like us and I am sure a flawless political leader exists only in utopia.

There has been a growing disillusionment with Nehru perhaps because we Indians had decorated and deified him all these years and are now trying to get him out of our national conscience. It is very easy to criticize him sitting in the 21st century with 1.877 USD trillion GDP without realizing the mammoth task he had before him when he took the reins in 1947 inheriting a country with 17% literacy rate and a life expectancy of 32.5 years. To help put it into context, now we are a country with a life expectancy of 62.4 years - almost double.

A popular accusation against Nehru was his economic policy which had a dominant Socialism flavor in it. Nehru didn't have many economic models to choose from when India got independence. At that time, Soviet economy – a socialist economy was prospering and it strengthened further in the 1950s, 60s before disintegrating in 1989. The American economy had adopted a mixed model of Capitalism and Socialism after getting a huge setback by the Great Depression in 1930s. Rightly so, Nehru opted against Capitalist model as it was simply not viable and decided on an extensive involvement of the State in providing services in the social sector. Criticism against him that he didn't place agriculture in focus is unwarranted. Many forget that in the 50s, international bodies like IMF, WB were encouraging industrialization and were happy to provide funds for such activities. At the same time, they associated agriculture with backwardness and were not easily doling out money for it. India had almost no investible capital and had to depend on outside help. Besides, traditional methods of farming were being employed and to bring in the new, modern methods backed by enough power and water supply – Nehru felt that India better focus on Industrialization as it will address all needs – attract capital, improve the basic infrastructure and then divert the surplus to agriculture.

Also, many despise the State involvement in India’s formative years but they forget that laissez-faire style of economy was simply not feasible then as majority of people didn't have purchasing power and whatever few had would have led them to being paupers’ in a free economy. In fact Nehru’s decision was vindicated when World Bank in its report in 1999 titled Entering the 21st Century – out rightly rejected both Capitalist and State economy models, acknowledging the need for a mix of the two[link]. India was among a few countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and South Korea which adopted the mixed model of economy post Second World War.

Another allegation that is raked up against Nehru is that he didn't let Patel be the PM and even after assuming Prime Ministership didn't llaissez faireet him have a free hand in integrating India. Differences over issues between Patel and Nehru are well documented but having said that both shared such a degree of mutual respect which is simply unthinkable in today’s times – allowing each other space to disagree and still work together. I feel that in a government it is healthy to have disagreements and the way both Nehru and Patel worked together discussing their opinions and keeping their disagreements aside is a testament to their greatness.

If we had to talk about only one achievement of Nehru – it was to establish an India which was secular and not a theological state as a mirror image of Pakistan. This single act of Nehru eclipses all his shortcomings/failures in my opinion. During partition, communal feelings were high as never before with neighbors killing each other in the name of religion and Nehru did well to curb the rising vengeful feelings to be a “Hindu Pakistan”. He felt religion had no place in nation building and in a letter to all Chief Ministers in 1952 he said – 
the nation must not be allowed to 'go astray in the crooked paths of provincialism, communalism, casteism and all other disruptive and disintegrating tendencies'
However, he very well recognized the need for inculcating scientific temper amongst a population comprising majorly of - in the true sense -snake charmers and superstition believers. He laid foundations for the premier educational institutions IITs and space exploration programme. Here too he perhaps missed a trick by not focusing on basic primary education but maybe we should realize that it is easy to list all these improvements in hindsight as if writing an essay on “If I was a Prime Minister …”. He didn't have such a benefit and was actually fighting his way through problems and enabling the feeble nation to gain strength.

On foreign policy front, his decision to keep India equidistant from the two polar powers of that time via Non Aligned Movement has now been proven to be a masterstroke. He understood correctly much earlier that for a fledgling nation it was not reasonable to flirt with either of the super powers without the risk of antagonizing the other. He managed to generate a fair amount of support in Asian and African countries actively working alongside Indonesian President Sukarno and Egyptian President Abdul Nasser for this cause. Also, his handling of the Suez crisis was deft earning respect and plaudits for a newly born nation holding its own amongst the big boys. Inspite of these brilliant achievements, Nehru’s foreign policy can be called a mixed bag. His involvement of the UN on Kashmir issue promising plebiscite and then later as India had to go back on it leaves a small blot on his legacy. His constant on-off relationship with Sheikh Abdullah also did no good in finding a quick solution to the Kashmir problem. Also, he failed to judge the intentions of China – even backing China for a permanent place in the UN Security Council! He was broken after the backstabbing of China in 1962 and it rapidly deteriorated his already failing health.

In recent years, there have been a few books which have targeted his personal space – particularly his relationship with Lady Mountbatten. Although no one knows the truth what they attempt to do is actually muddy the water about Nehru. To me it should be of no relevance how a leader leads his personal life, they are rated on the work they do/fail to do in public. But again it very well depends on the person who is looking back at history as to what does his principles allow him to concede.

To sum up my opinion on Nehru I would say that as a child we look up to our parents, teachers, and idols as simply impeccable with no blemishes whatsoever. It is only when we grow up we realize that the ones we were looking up to are not as clean as we thought. It is akin to gazing at a painting from a distance and finding out a few blotches on it as we go nearer. Of course, Nehru had his own share of blots but if we look at a broader picture we will realize that his contributions are bigger than the sum total of his imperfections. Inspite of the attempts to undermine and imitate him, his legacy is unparalleled and he will hold his own special place in history. His “Tryst with Destiny” speech on the midnight of 14th-15th Aug, 1947 still fills me with hope that we as a nation have a bright future.

P.S - I stumbled upon a letter by Nehru to children where he hopes that they take a long time to grow up – perhaps to become smart enough to put the blots in context. :-) 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Reader's Block

We all have heard of the phenomenon of Writer’s block – where the writer suddenly goes bereft of ideas and is not able to put pen to paper to vent out his creative feelings.  I am not sure if there one exists for the readers as well – something like a Reader’s block where an avid reader is suddenly not inclined to read anymore which is quite uncharacteristic of him.

Well for me I feel the above term would be apt to describe my spell of last 2-3 months where I didn’t read a single book. I don’t know I didn’t feel like picking up a book and reading one. Not that I am saying I am a very avid reader but yes off late I have made it a point to read. I do maintain a list of books I will like to read next and this always keeps me going ahead. But for some reason I didn’t feel like reading.

How important reading is a fact I don’t need to stress upon much. We need to feed our mind with ideas especially good ones and books are the rich source of them. Of course, quality of the material you read is very important. Now a days we have so much junk floating around in newspapers (which have started to resemble more like tabloids), on social media, on television and cinemas. Sometimes, I feel that people who read are really in a minority. People’s habits seems to have undergone a sea-change as there are now so many ways to occupy (or kill) your time.

Inspite of knowing the benefits of reading I couldn’t complete a single book in the last three months. L

You can’t blame me for not trying though. I picked up Raghuram Rajan’s Fault Lines where he comments on the global financial crisis in 2008 but left it midway as it contains lots of financial jargon and I have to keep looking them up on the internet. It is an interesting subject but a tough book. I have now twice picked up this book, started reading it and abandoned it midway. Quite a shame! I will definitely go for it in future. Another book which I took up is widely praised George Orwell’s 1984. Its genre is fiction and it talks about how a Big Brother will be watching us all the time. In popular culture, Google is being suspected to turn into such a Big Brother. Another trivia associated with it – Apple computers launched their advertisement campaign in 1984 inspired by this book. I picked up 1984, struggled with it for a few weeks and left it. Around the same time I had read somewhere that if you don’t like a book, leave it as it is taking up your precious time. It seems to have stuck in the back of my mind and it prompted me to abandon midway the above two mentioned gems. Only now I realize that it seems like a foolish suggestion. I should not be doing that - giving up on trivial things like tough jargon or a non-interesting genre.

So when this realization dawned upon me, I walked into a library eager to put this reading-and-abandoning-books-midway streak of mine to bed. I shortlisted two – Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, about psychology and Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman, a brief account of some instances in the life of Nobel Prize Winner in Physics Richard Feynman. I decided to go easy on myself and chose the later. Although, I didn’t like the font type in the book. It was too small and looked dull but I went along with it somehow.

Apprehensive about the outcome I started reading it and felt engaged and I warmed up to the theme of the book quickly. As the title suggests it has humour and I did burst out laughing quite a few times reading it. And I am happy to share that I completed it in over a weekend i.e 350 odd pages covered in 48 hours. Not that I did so to prove something but I liked the book, the narration so much that I went on. I really liked reading it and thanks to it got to know about one of the greatest physicists we have ever had. Later I tried to read more about Richard Feynman on the internet and even watched a nice TedTalk by one of his colleagues, Prof. Leonard Susskind in Stanford University.  Now that I am interested to know more about Feynman, I am planning to read another of his semi-autobiographical book – What Do You Care What Other People Think? I’ll post something on here if I happen to read it. 

But overall it feels good to be reading again!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Why are you a Teetotaler?

I never realized that there can be so many roadblocks in practicing a way of life or there can be so many questions posed on while adopting a certain lifestyle choice – until I decided that boozing/having alcoholic drinks was not for me. And it is more than often I get asked the cliched question of “Do you drink” and the answer to it (which is a certain NO) is usually followed up by another question of “Why?!”. It is very rare that the person in front gracefully accepts NO. Usually the tendency is to snark or to persuade you like it is done to lure a small kid by offering him his favorite candy.

Here I am talking in the context of India. Not sure how is it in other cultures but I assume the coercion; the persuasion by friends would be common. However, I confidently feel that liquor consumption or liquor culture (my own term) has grown in India in the last decade or so. And the thing that makes Indian society standout when it comes to this phenomenon is the increase in spending power (don’t get me wrong - which is a very good thing), more exposure to the Western Cultures (Again I am not against it. To give an example I can easily recall that not many sitcoms were broadcasted in India when I was a kid) and a misplaced understanding of “urban/modern” (more on this later).

To put into context the change Indian society has gone through in my opinion, I would share my childhood upbringing, the environment around me. I was brought up in a small town – a Tier 2 city and perhaps this maybe the reason I was not exposed to the “intoxicating culture” as I was never in a metropolitan city. It is safe to say that in the 1990s the four Metropolitan cities were the more advanced, economically prosperous than the other small towns and this fact is perhaps true even today. The modern technology and along with it the modern vices stepped into India via those metropolitan cities only. Thus, those Metropolitans were having more bars/pubs and more social acceptance towards folks frequenting them. However, the public opinion in other small towns was not that liberal and it has only started to change now. Also the sale of liquor was not as organized as it was in the big cities. It was mainly present in form of spurious liquor and usually the labor class indulged in it. Also, I am in no way accusing Metropolitan residents of propagating the drinking culture  just noting a fact.

Liquor Consumption in India via The Hindu

When I was 15 there was a news going rounds in our class that one of the boys used to drink along with his dad. It might sound trivial now but at that time it was THE NEWS and most of the kids used to look at that boy with such disdain and felt he was wayward. Even more it was not until I joined college when we had such easy access to alcoholic beverages. As is the case with most, in college you are free from the shackles and all sorts of limitations – many of the hostelers tried to have a drink the very first time in their lives. The excitement in them was palpable; for some the experience was good while for some their excitement got the better of them and they ended up vomiting. However, in the proverbial sense “they had tasted blood” – most were hooked to it and by the last year only 1 or 2 of us (including me) in the hostel were the only ones last standing up to the temptation. Another significant change that I observed is that when I returned from the metropolitan city I was studying in to my lovely town I saw a theka at a prominent crossing at the heart of the city. I do not remember ever seeing a theka in such a major place during my stay of 15 years there. Usually, they were confined to the dark and sleepy areas of the town but this was a slick, flashy looking glass-walled shop with hoardings of brands. I think the government had realized that the revenues it was warning from the liquor sales was too small to be ignored and had relaxed its policies by allowing sellers to set up shops in the center of the city. My information about the excise policy of the government can be wrong (do correct me if it is) but my understanding of why the government laxed its policy is because there has been a growing sense of entitlement to services provided by the State amongst the public and this has prompted the State to allow shops in the city to garner more revenue. Just read the arguments against the public ban imposed by Kerala govt. against liquor shops and you will find loss of the vast amount of revenues generated by them as a key point – so I feel I am right on this. Coming back to my observation, that liquor shop was right in the middle of the city which is a posh area with swanky multi-storey flats and showrooms. Interestingly, I also heard loudspeakers blaring out RWA (Resident Welfare Associations) protests against the opening of the theka. I could only catch a few words where a woman was voicing her fears over the ill effects it will have over children as it was a prominent area with many residential societies and schools. Critics might smile and call it the coming of the small town mentality to the fore. ;-)

But more than the urban-rural divide, it is the religion which ideally should be behind the calls for shutting down of shops. India is a country where you see people displaying their religious beliefs in public and many faiths prohibit intake of alcoholic drinks. Thus it might be worth a thought that a country having such a strong religious identity doesn't find it to be at the center of the lifestyle.

My opinion on this is that as we have progressed as a country – the stranglehold of religion over us as a society has loosened.  People are better off economically on an average and before any pessimists lash out at me I would point out the per capita annual income - a well acknowledged indicator of a society’s prosperity. However, I do concede that still there are areas and people who haven’t benefited from the progress. But overall, definitely we have moved ahead as a nation. The last 10-15 years are an unprecedented time-period in our history where there are abundant opportunities to rise. If you’re talented and merited there are chances now that you can rise up. IT industry has had a deep impact on the society. No other industry has allowed so many youngsters with a career choice which gives them two square meals a day for sure and save enough to spend on other needs too. What I am trying to arrive at is that there is increased spending power and with due respect to all– more easy money. Not that I think it is wrong or unethical. The thing is with more money to spend people focus on recreation in which boozing/drinking finds a place more often than not. Mainstream cinema has also done its bit to nudge people towards intoxication. Check the lyrics of popular songs these days and you would have a field day finding “daaru/vodka/party” in them. Some urge people to throw consideration about neighbors’ convenience to the wind by gulping down 4 bottles of a Russian drink generally made from potatoes and dance to music all night. Well before you start accusing me of a rant or me taking a high moral ground - it is not. I am just listing the reasons why I feel drinking is now a cool thing.

Why is it that friends prefer to meet and bond over weekends only over drinks? Why that “chilling out” is associated with chilled beer and not with a cold coffee? Yes it is an individual choice but it no longer remains so when you find it wherever you look around and realize that it is the IN thing. The other reason I mentioned was over exposure to Western culture. More and more Hollywood movies and television series are now available and they portray characters set in other cultures. I am sure no one would fault an Icelander trying to warm himself up with a few drinks as he combats below zero degree temperatures. But many impressionable minds ape them mindlessly forgetting that we are a tropically wet and dry country with no natural need to warm ourselves with drinks.

Comedy serials meant for family viewing portray a “daadi” (grandma) in a Punjabi family tottering over always in a hangover. Yes Punjabis traditionally drink but not to the extent that the beejee of the family will always be found recovering from hangover. I think I might be harsh here but this is what I sometimes feel. Too much insistence on it in the mainstream media.

Another thing which I find amusing is that the supposed perception of being unable to bond with people sober. I have been offered many reasons to drink – it relaxes you/you need to loosen up/it helps you open up with people/you get to make more friends/what if your wife is a drinker(the most hilarious one). Alas, none of them are convincing enough. I believe one should drink only because he wants to or he likes to – not to be socially acceptable or be under peer pressure. Many of my friends have confessed to me that their parents will throw them out of the house if they came to know that their son/daughter has been drinking.  So much so for the peer pressure! To me the idea to drink only to shed inhibitions and do silly things is not appealing. I feel I am able to converse freely without any influence and I do not need a drink to do so. Although I do understand that some might need to have a drink or two to do away with the mask they wear in public. Also, before anyone misinterprets my feelings against those who drink - I would like to clearly state that I do not believe that not drinking makes us any better than those who do, or for that matter it does not give a religious high-ground or make us immortals. However, there are some studies which do say that drinking makes you a little more mortal but here I would give the freedom of choice to the reader to accept or discard such theories as per his/her convenience. :-) 

What I would like to see is more open acceptance of the fact there are people who do not drink even in this “modern” age and they be spared of the volley of questions to figure out the reason they do not. Of course, if you adopt a stand that is contrary to the majority you should be having a strong mind but here the majority would do the minority a favor by abandoning attempts coaxing to join them.

For those unaware:
Teetotaler – Person who practices complete abstinence from alcoholic beverages.

(with a coffee ;-))

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Dissatisfied with Indian Democracy?

I would like to start by recalling a couple of instances –
  •  I was present at a meeting where 2012 pass-outs from the premier educational institutions were present. It was a sort of formal session where “whether India should continue to be a democracy” happened to be discussed.
    A nerdy guy stood up and started to speak of the injustice caused by reservations. (Disclaimer – I am no beneficiary of the quota system and initially wanted to use the word crib here such was the nature of his 5 minute talk). He went on and on claiming the good that will happen if we were ruled by a single person (a polite substitution for Dictator).
  •  In one such casual discussion in office with someone who had returned from abroad, the nature of Indian people was immediately called into question. The person claimed that people overseas were extremely honest and even taxi-drivers were reliable and trustworthy. He expressed his secret wish that we turned away from democracy which would accelerate our rate of development. The place he was drawing his inspiration from was China.
The above are a few of the many such conversations I have been party to and the participants can be easily clubbed into the top 10-15% of our population educationally and perhaps even financially.

It surprises me no end to see people advocating against democracy. That too, when we have had the momentous Arab Spring and Jasmine Revolution in the near past. We have had in our neighborhood (Myanmar), Aung San Suu Kyi be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize – for her tireless efforts in freeing Myanmar from the military rule and bringing back the democracy. Alas, her praise-worthy efforts failed to rub on some of the souls here.

It is understandable that everyone wants growth, development but very few think about at what cost? It seems like the meaning and ethos of terms like “Inclusive Growth” or “सबका साथ सबका विकास still hasn't settled upon many. People fail to realize that any other form of government system (apart from democracy) has a lot of risks – primarily being that a particular section of people will be kept away from the benefits  by the person in power. Moreover, there will be no possibility of change and no one can be held accountable for their mistakes like we presently to do in our general/assembly elections.
[All this happens to be present in the IXth standard Social Science book with lucid examples. J]

Even more so, George Bernard Shaw said –
Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.

And if we happen to believe that our leaders are corrupt, selfish, power-sucking human beings – then we ought to look nowhere but ourselves as those great souls have come from amongst us only. It means that our society has such creatures in such abundance.

In a country like ours with a broken administrative system, I am sure that almost everyone would have been deprived some time or the other of the services which were to be provided by the State. But this sense of wrongness shouldn't sway us into under-estimating the importance of Democracy. The fact that I am able to write this freely and you’re able to read it and can even criticize it if you want – is the beauty of democracy. So value it!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Belgium - Dark Horses of FIFA WC 2014

As we inch closer towards the kick-off of the FIFA 2014 WC in Brazil, all football pundits and fans have begun assessing teams’ strengths and weaknesses. In this piece we will take a look at a team which seems to have an outside chance of laying their hands on the coveted trophy. Belgium are the proverbial dark-horses going into this tournament.

Normally, Belgium is associated with mouth-watering chocolates and jaw dropping diamonds. But this time their squad looks strong enough to go the distance in the month-long tournament.

Squad –

v Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois (Atletico Madrid, on loan from Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Koen Casteels (Hoffenheim), Silvio Proto (Anderlecht).

v Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Atletico Madrid), Laurent Ciman (Standard Liege), Nicolas Lombaerts (Zenit St Petersburg), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Daniel Van Buyten (Bayern Munich), Anthony Vanden Borre (Anderlecht), Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham).

v Midfielders: Nacer Chadli, Mousa Dembele (both Tottenham), Steven Defour (Porto), Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg), Marouane Fellaini, Adnan Januzaj (both Manchester United), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Kevin Mirallas (Everton), Divock Origi (Lille), Axel Witsel (Zenit St Petersburg).

v Forwards: Romelu Lukaku (Everton, on loan from Chelsea), Dries Mertens (Napoli).

Most of the squad’s players are plying their trade in the top football leagues in Europe. Some of them have been brilliant for their respective club teams this season – notably, Vincent Kompany, Thibaut Courtois, Eden Hazard, Adnan Januzaj, Kevin Mirallas, and Romelu Lukaku.

Moreover, they seem to have a favorable draw being grouped alongside Algeria, Russia and Korea Republic. Betting site Paddy Power has given them 20/1 odds of winning the WC. Interestingly, traditional footballing powerhouses England, Italy and France have higher odds than Belgium!

The main challenge for Belgium would be to ensure that the squad is able to adapt quickly to themselves. Performing brilliantly for a club team is a bit easier as the whole team plays and knows each other for 6-8 months. But while on national duty the time to understand and get along is comparatively less.

Anyone who has been following football will agree that this squad has some serious talent and provided they click well, they can be a handful opposition for any team. Belgium’s best performance in the World Cup was a 4th place finish in 1986 Mexico WC. Let us see if they can better or even match it with some attacking football!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Will the new Lok Sabha deliver?

This was published on also. 

As India undergoes the 16th Lok Sabha elections with various leaders claiming to change the fortunes of the country, let us not forget that for that to happen the Parliament needs to function efficiently too. And it cannot happen unless there is a collective political will across all parties.

The Anger

These elections are being fought in the backdrop of growing disenchantment with the system. It resembles the feelings of a young kid, now grown up to be a man, who had been living with his overly strict parents who had placed many checks on him during his formative years. And now he is so restless and eager to fly away in order to fulfill his wishes/aspirations. I can’t help but see a similar story being played out in India.

To realize why this parallel fits on our country we just need to take a look on the monolith our system has become. It has become increasingly inefficient with only a privileged few reaping the benefits. This ever-rigid, inflexible, insensitive behemoth has failed to keep up with the rising expectations of the populace. And hence the simmering anger and rebellion streaks all around.

We don’t have to go too far behind while looking for examples. The present 15th Lok Sabha is probably the most dysfunctional in the history. The stats and figures will vouch for that.

How sure are we that the new Lok Sabha will conduct its affairs in an orderly manner? The irony is outside the Parliament all the “manyavars” will talk about development, kindling our hopes but inside the Parliament they will be at their lazy best.

The fundamental question is who is to be held accountable for it – the ruling party, opposition or all of the 545 representatives. In a positive sign, our political discourse is starting to get interspersed with words like “accountability” and “transparency”. It will be a solid step if some measures are taken to account for lackadaisical Parliament proceedings. All this talk of development, electoral promises will come to nothing if the new Lok Sabha continues the trend of low productivity.

As they say, “Charity begins at home” – the manyavars should first ensure that they are held accountable.

Possible Ways

A single step to give more teeth to the Speaker so as to punish unruly members will go a long way. However, this will require the 2/3rd of the House to arrive at a consensus to make an amendment– which can be achieved by mere political will. And this will happen only if WE, the voters ask them tough questions about their performance inside the House 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Status Quo

Recently I picked up Mark Tully and Satish Jacobs’s Mrs. Gandhi’s Last Battle: Amritsar.

And as soon as I finished reading the Preface I had a doubt over when was it written. The footnote said November 1985 but the narrative and the theme sounded so familiar. It talked about the maladies of our administrative service modelled on the lines of the Raj’s ICS and called out the flaws in Indian Police Service. The rampant corruption and the loopholes in the system allowed the wealthy and influential to let the culprits get away. The snail pace of the judicial system did not help either in restoring the faith among the common public that the culprits will be brought to justice.

The bureaucracy and the oldest political party consisted of time-servers who were ever ready to please their political bosses in lieu of future rewards. The institutions called for reform if we had to be modern and step into the 21st century. This is how the authors describe the country’s scenario in 1985.

Fast-forward it to 2014, amidst the brouhaha surrounding the General Elections later this year and we find the above issues repeated again and again in the speeches of our political leaders. Everyone is claiming that he/his party will do all that is right.

30 years have passed since then and we have had 8 prime ministers with both national parties having a chance to rule and still we are stuck in the same old mire, trying to find a way out. All this chest beating in the name of the next big Superpower can for a moment take the focus of the current problems. But in reality, we still haven’t made a sincere effort to move forward. All the while we have been passing the buck.

I might be accused of giving a melancholy perspective. But I believe it is essential to look both at the good and the bad to take a correct stock of things. Transparency (RTI) and the growing awareness amongst the public are two great positives which might help us buck the trend and move ahead.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Long Time, No Read ?

It has been a long time since I wrote something sensible – so many days have passed since I posted on something here. Not sure if I am getting lazy or slow. Started to get remarks about being a slow eater :-)  Took a long time to finish this last book I got my hands on – Daughter of the East, Benazir Bhutto. Slow Reader, eh.

The book turned out to be decent, though I found it biased against India at places. Still, you have to admire the resilience and persona of the lady who went to become the first woman to head a Muslim state. Great achievement! The significance increases manifold if you take into account the amount of sacrifices her ultimate family had to make at the altar of politics.

Anyways, it was good reading the thoughts and life of someone significant from across the border. Now, looking for some another interesting stuff.

Current To Read List –
  •          The Hitchhiker's guide to Galaxy - Douglas Adams
  •          The story of integration of Indian states – V.P Menon
  •          AMRITSAR : Mrs Gandhi's Last Battle - Mark Tully
  •          Battles Half Won : India's Improbable Democracy - Ashutosh Varshney