Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ground 01

AAP’s impressive debut tells that people aren't willing to take ‘you get what you are’ any more. 
They demand better leaders.

Today, at the Central Delhi office of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Hanuman Road, the atmosphere was electrifying. Swarm of people, armed with brooms (the election symbol of AAP) and donning the trademark ‘aam-aadmi-cap’ were celebrating boisterously on the beats of dhol. Some were even smeared in pink and yellow gulal (colors) and some were burning firecrackers; celebrating Holi and Diwali on the same day.

But who are these people who were celebrating like there is no tomorrow? Zooming in on their faces, i realized that they were pretty ordinary faces, as they say - aam-aadmi. Sans their caps, brooms and location, they could have very well been a BJP or congress or ‘any-other-party’ supporter. As a matter of fact, before the inception of AAP on 26th Nov 2012, most of them were indeed voters & hence supporters of some or the other party.

So what happened in just one year that AAP swayed people away from their traditionally trusted parties in such a large number that it has now emerged as the 2nd largest party in Delhi winning 28 out of 70 seats. It boasts of a formidable vote share of 30%, which means around 37 Lakh people have voted for a greenhorn party based on a promise of offering an honest, and corruption free governance. Riding on this wave, Arvind Kejriwal, defeated Sheila Dikshit - Chief Minister of Delhi for the past 15 years - in her own constituency of 'New Delhi' by a margin of 25,864 votes.

The beauty of democracy is that a Leader emerges from amongst the people. Therefore when the people raise questions against his/her credentials, it is argued they are actually questioning themselves. As they say, “you get a leader as good (or bad) as you are.” The assumption here is if a politician is corrupt, it only reflects that majority of people are also corrupt and hence they shouldn't complain because they deserve the kind of man they have chosen.

In fact one of the biggest criticisms of the India Against Corruption (IAC) Movement - the progenitor of AAP – was this perceived hypocrisy. Critics said, and it’s a fair point, that these people who are thronging Jantar mantar or Ramlila Maidan shouting “sab-neta-chor-hain” and demanding Janlokpal bill are the same people who bribe officials to get their file cleared quickly or buy a railway ticket illegally via agents when can’t book it in time.

To clarify, I have not gone through the character certificates of any of the AAP candidates or the people who were celebrating in front of AAP's office. However, to believe that all these people were earlier corrupt and now have suddenly transformed would be too naive. They were as aspiring and vying for an honest government during the last elections as well as they are now. At the same time, they are as likely to engage in the aforesaid types of 'classic-corruption' activities even today as they were prone to during the last elections. The bottom-line is, they are still the same people.

And I have reasons to believe so. Just 50 meters away from the party office, there was a park where AAP volunteers were resting and soaking sun after months of tireless campaigning. However, as there were no public toilets anywhere on the road, some people were relieving themselves near the boundary wall of the park. One can argue, being a voter or at least supporter of AAP, doesn't one de facto signs a contract of being a responsible citizen?
Then how do you explain this behavior of the people? It’s simple. They just didn’t have any option. When it’s inevitable, they latched on to whatever is available.

Of course there would be some people who would take the trouble of going all the way to the nearest sulabh-toilet complex (after frantically searching for it) just as there would be people who would choose to travel 2nd class or go by bus or plane or not travel at all if they can’t get a confirmed train ticket. But such people will always be in extreme minority. Most human beings work on incentives and there are just not enough incentives to go that extra mile to earn a badge of honesty when you have an easy way out. 

But I am sure of one thing - most people will try to look out for options around them and if they do find a decent toilet, I have no doubt in my mind that they will prefer to be use it instead of wetting the wall of a park.

And those who do go the extra mile are indeed the leaders; they inspire. People want them to come forward and when they do, vote for them whole-heartedly. For people in general, a leader is not as good as they are, he ought to be better. At least that’s what they have tried to convey in this Delhi elections by voting en masse for AAP.

The role of a responsible government therefore is to not only govern honestly but also proactively create such systems which facilitate people to be honest, if they want to. Once it sets those systems in place, it also earns far more credibility and authority to be stern with the flouters.

While I am not exonerating the aam aadmi (no pun intended) from being dishonest, the responsibility to break this vicious cycle of corruption lies with the politicians. They have to lead the way; they have to be far more honest, pragmatic and visionary. They must set the precedence of high standards of conduct for the people to emulate rather than hiding behind the excuse – a leader is as good as the people.

Apple Inc. is famous for coming up with products before people even feel their need. Though its hard to copy Apple, our leaders should also aspire for something similar, ‘give people the kind of governance before they even feel its need’ rather than falling down to such an abyss that people start wondering why they gave him their vote in the first place or even worse, revolt.

And when people revolt, they come up with the defense, “hey! You are the one who chose me. I am as good as you.”
“Nope. That’s not why we chose you.”

Thursday, December 5, 2013

When AAP made History...

This day - 4th December - will go down in the history of Indian Democracy.

Witnessing how an year old party could unfurl the latent desire for change among Delhiites, compelling them to vote in swathes was a sheer delight. It's historic irrespective of the fact whether Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) 'sweeps' these elections or not. That, in any case, we'll come to know on 8th Dec.

I can recall what Ravish Kumar, of NDTV India, said few days back when he was covering one of the rallies of Arvind Kejriwal, "इतिहास बना देने और इतिहास बन जाने में सिर्फ एक मात्रा का फर्क होता है।" (there is a difference of only one syllable in creating history and becoming history)

Kejriwal did both; he created history and in the process, made this day historical. Never before Delhi had voted so hysterically as they did today; voting went on till as late as 9:30-10 PM. Never before youngsters participated so enthusiastically in a banal event like assembly elections; it appeared more like a Delhi University's Youth Nexus this time. Never before the posh and hence aloof islands, in an otherwise middle-class sea of Delhi, participated in this mainstream democratic ritual putting aside their ego and cynicism.

Glad I was, I updated 4-5 election related statuses on Facebook which got me 60-70 'likes' and the day went by in this merriment. But deep down inside I knew, it was just an attempt to fill a gaping void, a cover-up to a yearning which has been there in my heart for almost an year now but irked me the most today.

Or probably it was a safety-valve to the steam of frustration in my mind of being a mere SPECTATOR from being one of the founding-volunteers of a movement which subsequently wrote today's history. Of course, I did contribute with some ink (quite literally!) in writing this epic by casting my vote this morning, but there was so much more I wanted to do.

"Why wasn't I among those 'maverick-Davids' who took on, not just one but two, 'mighty-Goliaths' with effectively nil financial muscle, banking almost entirely on their agenda, refreshing ideas, strategy and celestial self-belief!"

It's ironic that a career choice - Journalism - which I largely owe to my involvement as a volunteer in the IAC or India Against Corruption Movement (which is the progenitor of AAP) would de-facto prohibit me from participating more actively in this battle.

Afterall, a journo is expected to maintain his objectivity which one may jeopardize, at least seemingly, with closeness to any one political party. And for a journo, losing objectivity is as good (or bad) as corruption.
A 'Catch 22' situation for me indeed.

Though awe-inspiring and unprecedented, what AAP fought today was only a battle; war is yet to be fought and won. Let's see how the things unfold in the future and where I find myself at that time - in the stands or in the field, kicking a**! Amen.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Why 'Kung-Fu Panda' gives me a déjà vu?

Movies have this tremendous power of engrossing their viewers. For those 120-150 odd minutes, we tend to forget ourselves and start living the life of the protagonist (or whoever we associate more with).

But Kung-fu panda goes far beyond this lose association. It's just too bizarrely similar to my journey so far as a reporter. So much so that the movie producers can easily accuse me of outright Plagiarism after reading this blog! At least for the first half (cuz my story is still somewhere there) I get a déjà vu, I feel as if it's not Po...it's ME !

I watched the movie on Sunday and the next day read this article in MINT. It was cathartic. As if a gay guy visited the central park in Connaught Place for the first time and suddenly came to know that there's a whole friggin community out there; he's not the only one. And being a writer/blogger comes handy because you can express your feelings boiling inside you rather than getting bogged down by them.

I do realize this is no ordinary blogpost, its a potential pink-slip. But journalists swear by 'freedom of expression' and expressing my personal experiences is the kind of journalism (if at all it is!) I think I am good at. There is no deliberate attempt to defame anyone here but if the worst-case-scenario still happens, it would be a 'poetic Justice' (of sorts) to get fired for the same reason you were probably hired in the first place.

So why does this movie gives me goosebumps and a déjà vu?
It's because...

1) It was (not) an accident -
Po went to the 'Dragon warrior' ceremony only to get a souvenir for himself, least did he know that he would be anointed one. He just appeared out of thin air (quite literally) at the instant when Oogway (the Tortoise) was about to nominate the 'Dragon Warrior'.

Wait a second, before we go any further, lemme clarify that I am in no way alluding that I am or gonna be "dragon warrior" or in this case "Dragon Journalist"!! I would be happy if I am able to justify the tag of a journalist first.

But the similarities, nonetheless are striking. My journalistic stint also started somewhat 'out of the blue'. You don't generally get hired in a seminar after-all.

When the house was thrown open for questions, the moderator of the seminar somehow spotted my hand waving in the air continually for the past 5 minutes for the last question. While two of the panelists gave an idealistic reply, my editor, who was one of the panelists, gave me his email address. few months later, I was hired.
so was it a fluke? was it an accident? maybe or maybe not. As Oogway said, "there are no accidents".

2) "you don't belong here,... -
...you are a disgrace to kung fu and if you have any respect for who we are and what we do, you will be gone by morning," said the Tigress to Po. Thankfully none of my colleagues has said something so explicit to me thus far but man I can't explain the vibes I get. I am such an outsider and so not welcome in their coterie...especially my neighbors'.

I really wonder if all my socializing skills simply vanish when I enter the office premises! Barring few exceptions with whom I am good at terms (but sadly they sit far away), the scale of my relationship with my colleagues starts at indifference and goes till hostility.

3) "you have to believe" - 
In one of those rare conversations between the two masters, Shifu says to Oogway that Po is not the dragon warrior. He was picked up by accident and a peach tree (referring to Po) can't defeat Ti Lung (the evil tiger) and Oogway replies, "May be it can. if you are willing to guide it, to nurture it, to believe in it."

I don't know if my two bosses will ever have such a conversation but let me say what I want to, to my 'master Shifu'.

There is a difference between spoon-feeding and guiding and I know it. In fact, I would voluntarily say no to spoon feeding (which one of my colleague tried to do once, by giving me a dictation of what to write in a story). What I seek is your guidance.

Please don't say that "it's between you and who picked you". Because he may have picked me but now you are my 'Master'.

Please don't say that "I will only be able to give attention if it's a page-1 story" cuz, if I am able to make it to page 1 (hopefully consistently), I would probably not need your mentoring then as much as I need it now.

May be I am not like the 'furious five' (I mean your favorite reporters, maybe less or more than five) but tell me, where's the fun in creating clones anyways? There are things at which I may suck, and I don't deny that. Probably they are the very reason behind the status quo but there may also be things which I am good at. 

Shifu figured out food works for Po. What works for me? Somethings i might know, somethings I might not. I would love to help you figure out if you want but certainly, apathy is not one of them.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Say what you need to SAY, without delay...

.....because your silence can become a matter of LIFE or DEATH for somebody.

while travelling in the metro today, I noticed a young GRASSHOPPER sitting quietly on the shoulder of the person standing next to me. I thought i shd tell him but then, I don't know why, I hesitated! 

I thought it would probably startle the guy, the young fellow wud cause unnecessary commotion in the metro by hopping around bla bla bla. and I retracted.

a second later, the man slung his backpack on his shoulder and the poor grass-hopper was eclipsed under the strap of his bag! I was shattered. My TACITURNITY resulted in the untimely death of a young chap who had yet to see the world!

It wasn't the 1st time. In fact, I don't even have a count of the number of times I have FROZEN to say a word to an amazing GIRL...only to watch her walk past me till she disappear in oblivion ...never to return.

but I never felt that bad in all these occasions as i did today. Before the guilt could overpower me, it just struck me that maybe its not too late yet. I finally spoke. thankfully the grasshopper was a resilient bad-ass. the moment the man lifted the strap, it hopped to life and freedom...teaching me a lesson for life in the process.

Don't wait, don't procrastinate, don't hesitate, cuz its gonna be too late by then...just say!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Why I like Yo Yo Honey Singh

But before I tell you that, checkout the lyrics of this song from the movie "Gangster" -

tu hi meri shab hai subha hai tu hi din hai mera
tu hi mera rab hai jahaan hai tu hi meri duniya
tu waqt mere liye main hoon tera lamha
kaise rahega bhala hoke tu mujhse judaa
kaise rahunga bhala hoke main tujhse judaa

I know, I know, "this is my favorite some", you will say. However, to me, he sounds like a bigtime needy WUSS. Someone who never got lucky with any girl except this one 'Lady' over which he is going 'Gaga'. He is obsessed. He is ready to suck-up to her at the drop of a hat, after all she is his god.

And what if his 'god' asks him to fu*k off (which is highly likely cuz he is a wuss!)? Would he be able to bear that shock? May be not. Maybe he'll either gonna hurt himself or the girl. In fact, this 'obsession' is the root-cause of a lot of crimes against women - Molestation, Acid Attack, Murder, Rape, Date-rape et al.

Now in comparison, check out this lyrics from the song "Break-up Party" -

Tujhe bithake rakha tha maine raani palko pe
Tune maari thokar samjhi aa jaunga sadko pe
Na aisa na tu soch ri chori
Everyday my new love story
Pehle toh meri baat na gauri
Ab boli baby I'm sorry
Chal ri chal ab side me hoja
Dhundh le apna aashiq duja

it gets even dirtier after this but I guess this much should be enough to drive home a point.
I know, I know.... "how misogynistic he is", you will say. However, what you should filter out from these lines is the attitude.... the attitude of ABUNDANCE. which is the key. This attitude pulls you out from the abyss of wussiness to the world where you neither give nor take any sh*t from anybody.

You don't pedestalize the women no matter how smart, beautiful, intelligent, hot, rich (or all of the above) she may be. And by the way, there is a difference between not pedestalizing a woman and ill-treating her.

And when the things don't work out between the two for whatever reasons, you simply move on. No sulking, no whining, no sucking up to her, no obsession and its fallouts.

For conveying this attitude amidst all the wussiness, I like Honey singh.... Yo man. :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

India Post – Custodian of India’s Image PARexCELance

I must start from the day when I first went to the Post office, Dwarka, Sector 6, to know the price and procedure to send a Parcel to Germany. A sophisticated looking lady in her late-twenties ‘prudently’ searched through her system and confusedly replied, “There is no Germany in the list. Is that a country?”

I was stunned to hear that. I might have collapsed if I had a weak heart. On recovering and after getting a sneak-peek of her system’s screen, I politely submitted, “Ma’am Germany starts with a ‘G’.”

Without feeling embarrassment of any kind, she told me with a straight face that it would cost me around 4200 and post office won’t be responsible for any damage to the contents. She also told me to get the stuff ‘packed in a cloth and stitched nicely’. And that was the toughest part.

But after enough procrastination, finally the day came when I bought a needle and a thread, pulled out an old bed-sheet  wrapped it around the bag containing the Tablas, and packed it with immaculate precision!

You know one of the reasons I procrastinate is that in the back of my mind I know I am a perfectionist! No matter how naïve I am at the job, I want it to be perfect. It’s tiring and consuming and the easiest way to save time and energy is simply avoid the job!

Carrying that 14 Kg shipment on the shoulders wasn't an easy task either. Because after wrapping it up, wheels and straps were history. But a Rickshaw-walla is always there to alleviate your pain. For 40 bucks he dropped me to the post office.

It was 10:30 AM and my calculations were hinting towards a smooth exit, latest by 11. By the end of it, I had conclusive evidence that I suck at Mathematics!

The moment the postmaster saw the bag, he declined to send it within the country let alone Germany. He said, “I won’t send this parcel to Germany at any cost.” Apart from the various technical reasons he enumerated, one aesthetical reason stood out.

He said, “Look man, this parcel is going to Germany, with such a shoddy packaging you are going to ruin the IMAGE OF MY COUNTRY”. I was so dumbfounded by his statement that I couldn't come up with any counter-argument for a while.

I was like, “wow, finally a man who is concerned about the image of the country notwithstanding the Gandhis, Pawars and Kalmadis.” I even forgave him for calling my meticulous sewing work shoddy.

I told him, “Dude, I am more concerned with sending this Parcel to Germany than the ‘Image' of India and since when India Post became so concerned about it? What Image does your organization have in the first place?”

“If we had no reputation, you wouldn't have come here nor my office would have been crowded by so many people,” he replied.

Must say the guy was smart. I was about to say, “Dude, you are the cheapest, that’s it. Plus, no other company agreed to courier Tablas,” but I settled for “with 1.2 billion population, any sarkari office with even nil reputation can claim to be crowded.”

“Whatever, I won’t send it.” Get it wrapped in a white cloth (preferably washed with Tide!), sew it nicely with very little gap between the stitches and then we will talk.”

Now apparently, as I mentioned at the beginning, I did ask them the procedure to send the parcel and all they told me was “get the bag packed nicely in a cloth”! They never mentioned that the cloth needs to be white or what quality of seam is considered nice.

“Why I was not told these specifications when I came here to inquire?”
“You must not have asked me. Now that you know, please get it done as we specify.”

“Look sir, whatever happened has happened. We gotta get over it. I have never held a needle in my entire life but have invested 2 hours in stitching this cloth around this bag. Don’t tell me to rip it apart. Instead of telling me to start from scratch, you need to tell me a way out.” I thought that some sentimental stuff might work on him.

Hearing my lament, a staff member came and told considerately, “You gotta do something like this” while showing a parcel with sealed seams. I said, “Perfect, I’ll do that” and asked, “Does that make it fine?” while looking for the postmaster’s nod. He declined.
“ OK fine, lemme put a white piece of cloth on one side so that address is clearly visible. Makes sense?”

Like in the dream sequence of Kung-fu Panda, I felt like saying “enough talk, let’s fight”. But neither it was a dream nor I knew Kung-fu! Instead I said -
 “Enough. Show me the rules or guidelines which categorically mention that no other cloth can be used except white and specify the maximum permissible distance between the stitches. If you can, I’ll tear this packing right here.”

“No, I can’t show it to you. And I won’t book your parcel either. You can go now.”
“Sorry. I ain’t going any where. And you have to book my parcel as it is.”

I was loud when I said that. In a government office you can’t really afford that. Almost all the employees pounced on me at that and with my deft fingers ……. I dialed 100!

15 minutes passed and no police arrived. Mortification was now just a matter of time now when I will have to depart ingloriously with the burden of that bag and humiliation on my shoulders.
I tried to mellow down the things by asking, “Does one have to fill a declaration form?”
“Yes”, he said, “but lemme first talk with the one whom you have called.” This nationalist was certainly a tough nut to crack.

Finally the cop arrived. I was so relieved. Even if I couldn't send the parcel, I would be able to save my face!
The cop asked the status quo. I explained.
Honestly, he was a bit surprised at my audacity. He said, “Bro, you gotta do whatever he says. Nothing doing.”

I was laughing in my mind at the mess that I had created. But with a solemn face I told the cop, “sir, they don’t have any rules to substantiate their argument and if they were so particular about it, they should have told me when I came to ask for it.”

Now interestingly  instead of arguing on facts, the postmaster chose to argue on emotions and pride. Turning towards the police constable he said, “Sir, I don’t care what the politicians are doing but I make sure that my work doesn't sully the name of my country. What will the Germans think about India when they receive this bag? I told this guy that this will spoil the image of the country and do you know what he replied? He said that he doesn't care about the image of the country.”
The postmaster turned towards me with wrinkles on his forehead and repeated, “ Didn't you say that?”

The cop was amused too! With a smirk on his face, he turned towards me and said, “He has got a point. It should have been packed as he says. But then you are right too that you were never told despite asking.”
Then came the patented dialogue of any policeman – aapas main kar lo yaar – which means, solve the problem mutually.

I placed my version of the middle path – seal the stitches and put a white patch of cloth to write address on.
The cop was in any case wanted to run out of the place at the drop of a hat and he latched on to my middle path. He asked the post-master, “is that OK?”
Very reluctantly, shaking his head in negation, he said “OK”! BINGO !!!

The cop asked me to write an application mentioning the truce which was signed by me and the postmaster. However, he declined to give me a copy of that application. Don’t know why.

I quickly went down, bought a stick of Lac which I would melt and apply on the stitches to seal them and got the white cloth patch-work on the bag with the help of a tailor. In fact he helped me to seal the stitches as well. All in all, 50 rupees. Bought a marker, wrote the address, filled the declaration form and finally, at 1:30 PM, just before they break for lunch, got the receipt!

Before leaving, I shook hands with the Post-master and thanked him for all his 'help'. To tell you the truth, despite the fact he torched me for three hours, I don’t feel any resentment against him because he seemed an honest man who really cared about the Image of the Country!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Don't let me TALK but let me CALL!

You can't TALK if you don't have balance in your phone... agreed !

But why can't I make a CALL despite ZERO Balance??? DON'T let me talk but at least let me ring that number so that he/she might call back!!!

Not every emergency means dial 100! (and u know how responsive they are)

They say, Misfortune never comes alone and 'Murphy's law' says that you run out of balance just before you run into some trouble or have to make an urgent call.

It would be a boon to girls and in the wake of Delhi Gang Rape when the govt is setting up a dedicated helpline 181, I guess "calling without balance" is the least state can do for its citizen, women in particular.

I don't know about the technological details of how it can be done but I know IT CAN BE DONE!

And the economics of this facility is quite lucrative too. cuz eventually, a call is being made from the other end which means revenue. I agree that it directly doesn't benefit "Service provider 1" (cuz the call-back is being made from Service provider 2) but eventually it will all even out in the long run.

Damn, I ran out of balance but I still made a 'call', would you like to "call back" Mr Sibal?