Monday, December 3, 2012

Devadasi system- The curse for being a woman

Womanhood is the most beautiful thing that can happen to any girl. It is a phase in which she blossoms into a mature and a confident individual. Womanhood turns a girl into a lady. It is the cruellest punishment for a girl to deny her womanhood and turn her into a sex slave by calling her the servant of God-the Devadasi. A young girl is picked out either through lineage or through her dancing skills or more blindly through her physical appearance to become a devadasi. In the absence of a perceivable God, the mighty men assume that stature. And that young girl becomes the servant of those few men. James Hastings and Clarke Edinburg in the Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, point out that the most heinous of slavery is the sexual slavery in guise of religious freedom. In the name of God, these women tend to brutal men and their desires, who twist the rules of the system at their will. Largely prevalent in the peninsular region of India, the system is a blot on Hinduism as it originated out of it. It stands as a perfect example of the misinterpretation of religion. The Karnataka state which had the highest number of devadasis in the 1980’s banned the system as a punishable offence in 1982.  The state of Andhra Pradesh followed in 1986. According to the latest National Commission for Women (NCW) report there are 22,944 Devadasis identified in Karnataka alone, even after 30 years of implementing the ban on the system. It was Mallamma Yalawar who stood against the system through her organisation Sabala (which means to empower), at an age when most of her peers preferred watching cinema or spending time in the park. She was 24 when she started.

The draconian system and its origin:

The earliest reference to Devadasi system is found in Kalidasa’s Meghadootam. Mainly associated with singing, dancing and maintaining the temple chores, the Devadasis came to be exploited after the Muslim invaders from the north western borders destroyed the temple culture. Down south, the Cholas encouraged the system of Devadasis. Over a period of time, it grew and the local village headman was in charge instead of the King. He utilised the system for his personal needs and the status quo stuck. The poor woman in the village who having been denied educational and financial independence since ages never really got to understand the change in stance. Traditionally men always enjoyed upper strata in society who denied women their due and nobody bothered about the imperfect system. But nature throws up people of grit, to fight and change things which are imperfect.

Fresh from her start of Sabala, Mallamma was looking for women’s causes that she can relate to and can give her best. There were many areas in which women were neglected and had to be empowered. The devadasi system was the cruellest and it got her immediate attention. She decided to work for it. The district of Bijapur in the northern part of Karnataka was identified to be one of the worst affected districts that had large uneducated women practising the illegal system. She chose Indi taluqa (Block headquarters). The women had psychologically accepted the practice and their destiny when she first met them. She did not have a big team, nor did she appear like a government officer. That made the women highly suspicious of her. It was 1988 and her first visit to a Devadasi home did not yield much result. But fighters don’t lose in the first round.

She went back to study the real problems that were affecting the devadasi women other than their physical abuse. She learnt that the case of physical abuse was not very strong because by now the devadasis had started charging money for sex, which made the rich men less guilty. A thorough study of the devadasis brought the real horrifying problem to the fore. The children of the devadasis most often get abandoned by their mothers mainly due to the guilt of not knowing who their father is. And due to the utter poverty that they lead their lives in, they could not afford a child to up-bring  These children most often have low self esteem, view the society as their enemy and take to anti social activities. This problem seemed larger than the original one. Mallamma was in need of a team who could help her in the execution of her plans. Not many people were willing to work for such a cause. Most of the women in the devadasi community were from the scheduled castes. This made other women to step back since it was viewed as a sin to talk or engage with a person below ones caste. Fortunately a lady from Ranebennur (a town in Haveri district of Karnataka), named Savita joined her and they decided to take the problem head on.

The brave work through fear and tread through difficulties

To gain initial acceptance, Mallamma and Savita first helped the women with money that they could use for medicines and their daily needs. They began making more field trips and convincing women that they deserve a better life and have a better future. That hardly convinced them since being a devadasi provided them a market to sell their bodies and earn money. That was the only means to life they knew and could understand. Sensing a dead end here, Mallamma and  Savita worked on integrating the devadasi children who were treated below par and were neglected. They engaged with the children aged 10-15. The girls went back to their mother’s profession either by choice or by force. The boys did menial jobs and got addicted to drugs and alcohol. On interacting with them, a startling truth, having gone ignored all these years was exposed. The children had to drop out of school for not having their father’s names clearly known. A child had to register its father’s name during admission. If there was no clarity on father’s name, most schools even the ones which were state run refused admission. Their mothers simply could not tell their children who their father is, with certainty.

Mallamma was dumbstruck at the rule of law. The father's name shouldn't become an impediment in the child's education, she thought. To get the mother’s name included in the admission forms for schools, she did a massive state level campaign and approached a dozen other organisations working in the same field to get ideas. She took it up till the state secretariat (the Vidhana Soudha) in Karnataka. Finally after years of struggle she created a consortium of NGOs and submitted a memorandum to the then women and child development minister of Karnataka Smt. Leeladevi Prasad. The minister responded to the call quickly and got state cabinet approval for having to include the mother’s name in the school admission forms. That was a massive success for her efforts.

A group of Devadasi women at a SHG session
Picture courtesy: Google Images.

The introduction of the mother’s name in admission forms gave a huge boost in the enrolment of Devadasi children in elementary schools. Sabala encouraged the Devadasis to file their first customer’s name as the father’s name for their children. This awareness made them more potent in facing threats by the local muscle men who till now dictated terms. More children began to get associated with their mothers and talking to them about health and hygiene. They started to implement what was taught to them in their schools and made their often illiterate mothers know about their learning. In a way, for the devadasis their children became their teachers. That was their resurrection.

Self Help Groups (SHGs) and community centres were formed in order for local devadasi women to interact and talk to Sabala on a common platform. This made the village strong men to take notice and object to Mallamma's work. Every year the men in the village bring in a new girl and dedicate her to the system. Savita came to know of it and ventured there alone without informing Mallamma. They both had done ample amount of independent field trips by now. So Savita went there confidently and wanted to do some talking with the village headman who had masterminded the dedication ceremony. But she was in for a shock when she went to the village. The Sarpanch asked his men to take her away and lock her in a house until everything gets done. There were no ubiquitous mobile phones, no means to communicate. She had to stay locked up for 1 whole day. She was released after the innocent girl was taken away as a devadasi. She returned and narrated the entire story to Mallamma. The next thing she knew- Mallamma was in the office of the Superintendent of Police, Bijapur. She gave a complaint and asked for police cover to her employees. That made her popular in the local media. The police promptly did its job and arrested the village Sarpach. This made her and the organisation to be feared by the local goondas and to be respected by the helpless Devadasis.

Dealing with the HIV AIDS monster

In the early 1990’s, the dreaded HIV AIDS was at its peak in India. Mainly due to lack of awareness and unsafe sexual practices, it was estimated that by the end of the century there will be 10 crore AIDS patients in India. Karnataka was at a focal point because the state had reported highest number of cases in the country. Juvenile HIV AIDS was among the rise. The children were being abandoned by the society due to the fear associated with the disease. People were under an impression that it was an air borne disease. Lot of misconceptions surrounded the general public. Sabala was at the forefront again fighting, lending its complete support to the state government in creating awareness among the public. The cause was attributed to the Devadasis in the region who mostly followed unhealthy sexual practices, often under the influence of alcohol. Sabala worked for the cause and created awareness. They spoke about their future, the future for their own children and planted a seed of hope in those women who had lived in a drought of faith.

The objective of an NGO is to fill the gap between the government and the people and to see to it that the government’s welfare schemes reach the right audience. In an era where negativity has filled all our prime time news and despair our morning newspapers, I thought remembering the work of Sabala on AIDS day would prove to be the right refresher for all of us. If we as a country have made December 1 to be less scary, the tribute goes to organisations like Sabala who went out there and played their part to perfection.

For all of us eating pop corn on the couch- Happy AIDS Day!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Elitism, Education and the Crass

The Supreme Court in its historic judgement 3 days ago upheld the Right to Education (RTE) act. By doing so it has ordered all schools in the country to admit 25% students from the poorer sections of the society. This has led to a twitter storm, innumerable television debates fuelling the minds of the people with crass that is irreparable on their psyche. The educational system of any country should empower the masses irrespective of their race, religion or colour but not create islands of intelligentsia. Education should act as an enabler of dignified life but not kill the instinct half way. This sadly is misinterpreted and misunderstood. I make an attempt here to offer my understanding of the RTE and more particularly of the spoilt Indian psyche.

The RTE and the concept of Elitism:

The RTE was passed by the Indian parliament in August 2009 and enacted into a law in April 2010. Hailed as one of the greatest achievements of the UPA-II government it received widespread accolades both locally and internationally. By making education a fundamental right, India entered a league of select countries in the world where every child gets free and compulsory education up to a certain age. In India it is up to the age of 14. The constitution of India has put education under the purview of the states. Thus the act makes the states and the management of educational institutions accountable for its implementation. This is but obvious. The central government cannot monitor the implementation in far away Kutch or Kanyakumari sitting in Delhi. The states passed on the buck to private school managements without a framework to which they revolted against. In India any responsibility is considered everyone’s responsibility and thereby making it nobody’s responsibility. This is what that has happened to the RTE now. The central government says elementary education is not under their supervision, the states say they have given autonomy to private managements and the private managements in turn say the act itself is unconstitutional. Bravo! We of course are world champions in passing the buck.

Down the decades it was we who pampered the private schools and made them into demigods of education. It was we who certified private schools as schools for the privileged and the elite. And that has become their war cry now. You can’t challenge a system with hypothecated beliefs. It is understandable when the management of the private schools say they will fall short of funds if they admit 25% of their students for free. The constitution clearly says running an educational institution should be out of charity. All education in the country is not for profit. But who cares!? Baba Saheb is long dead, right? But the self bracketed ‘elite’ in our country feel if their child studies along with their bai’s (maid’s) child, it will push their child to mediocrity! I read a tweet that has gone viral and has been re-tweeted by thousands of people- “RTE may be well-intentioned, but it will effectively drown #India’s few islands of private excellence in a sea of mediocrity.”  By assuming that diversifying a classroom will lead it to mediocrity; you are branding yourself a paranoid! I would offer the same argument for assuming that the poor child cannot pick up studies in a rich school. If we accept and design the system in a conducive manner, nothing will stop us from achieving a 100% literate and an intellectually mature nation. But as always the bad things flow out faster and reach to more number of people. Now the parents too have joined the anti-RTE brigade without giving a hoot about what it does to the overall education of the country. They want their bai to clean their toilet but not her child to study along with their child.

Education: The True Enabler

The RTE is just not about free and fair education. It’s about bringing the poor to the mainstream society through the means of their children. It’s about enabling the country’s education system where even the government schools become accountable to what they do. From a tender age the kids learn to get along with each other without the society planting notions into their head. This I see leads only to an India which is more tolerant, dignified and where every man has his respect sanctioned and quantified. But sadly, this hardly is visualised and noticed. The managements are behind the money and the parents in their cocooned feudal mindset. Nelson Mandela in his presidential address to South Africa said- “Education is the only force through which you can change the country”. And change, they brought. Today South Africa is one of the fastest growing nations in the world. Coming out of Apartheid and the civil war, they have built a great country out of their own ruins. While India was feudal even before the British came. Even today we are the same. The only difference being the British made us intellectual slaves of the west.

Losing our individuality is another case altogether but do we really need to oppose educational reforms in the name of elitism and money? Who is elite in India? HD Devegowda was once a sweeper and now he owns half of Bangalore! Will we forever be each other’s obstacles? I hope we will join hands one day or the other. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

News and the Business of selling it.

The 24X7 media has added ‘journalism’ such variety that most old school journalists would envy themselves of being born 30 years earlier. With just DD news before liberalisation; we now have news channels with all combinations of the English alphabets. Post liberalisation, with the advent of capitalism, there arose an instant hunger for making money in every one. With news channels focussing more on market share and less on news, the hapless viewer was left in the lurch. Switch on tv and you hardly get any news. All you get is opinions. I remember the famous writing on the Star of Mysore evening daily, of which I was a regular reader- “We believe opinions are free but facts are sacred.” Today, all that is shown and shoved down the minds of the uninformed viewer are opinions and analysis. Where is the real news? Where can I find unbiased news?

Of all the things in the world, the News is the most effective tool to fool people. The principle is so artistically adapted into the present day media, that it always bypasses the onlookers and the information hungry people. There are close to 150 news reporting channels in the country catering to a variety of news receiving audience. If you add in page 3 gossip and cinema reporting channels it would come close to a mind numbing 200 plus! The basic link in understanding the media environment goes missing here. One event and 10 dozen reports creating a varied perception. Today’s media is driven by perception and not news. They call it popular perception. Prefixing the tag of ‘popular’ makes everything real!  Capitalism is a good looking monster. Today economic growth has turned out to be the other name of capitalism. Everybody thinks that making money at the cost of others is bad but capitalism is good. The media capitalises on the opportunity of ill-informed people who are ready to grab everything that is thrown at them.

This brings me to another interesting rule. Of all the things in the world fooling people is the most effective way to make money. Be it stock markets, be it sales or marketing this is so evident everywhere. And everyone prefers to turn a blissful blind eye to it. Everybody wants to make money at the expense of others but nobody wants to be fooled. The media wants to sell the news to intelligent audience without divulging the tricks. The audience wants to grab just the rumours, false news, gossip but mind you only by being made to be perceived as “well-informed” citizens. Around the world, news has become a tradable commodity. Lesser the probability of the news event occurring higher is its monetary value. A wardrobe malfunction clip of Sarah Palin would earn 100 times the more money compared to a similar clip of Rakhi Sawant! Even if the so- called intelligent viewer doesn’t know who Sarah Palin is, he is made to enjoy the clip! The media in this case get’s its money, conveys information about Sarah Palin to the viewer, and the viewer enjoys his time on the TV without having to switch channels. Popular Urdu saying goes- “Jab miya biwi razi, to kya karega kazi”. Roughly translated it would mean, when there is a consensus among the two parties there is no need for advocacy. When the media is happy fooling people and making money and the people are happy being made intelligent fools.

Why am I sticking my nose in?

I write this, with deep concern, facing a personal conflict watching news channels every day. I am sure there are many out there who share my concern. I want to convey to the media bosses that all I need is news but not “your” analysis of the news. All major political parties and leaders have their affiliated news channels. In Andhra Pradesh, the insanely corrupt Jagan Mohan Reddy convinces people that his father was God incarnate, through his news channel ‘Sakshi Tv’. In Karnataka, we have Reddy brothers impersonating their minds on the people through their channel ‘Janashree Tv’. In Tamil Nadu both Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi fight elections through their respective channels ‘Jaya Tv’ and ‘Kalaignar Tv’. On a national level too, it’s an open secret that NDTV [ New Delhi Television] boot licks the Congress party. Remember our news heroes Prannoy Roy and Barkha Dutt lobbying along with Neera Radia in the 2G scam? We have acclaimed journalists like Sagaraika Ghose who think being a Hindu is being communal. They use their fame and sleeve less blouses on screen to convince people of their ideology. I can write a whole new piece on the communal clashes in the country. But, let me keep it aside and stick to the subject of selling news.

The Recent Developments:

Right from the time shoe throwing was made a ‘pious’ act of disagreement by the infamous Iraqi journalist Muntazer Al Zaidi, the media has been successful in convincing people that it is the way for all protestors. And we the countrymen have imitation in our blood. We threw our shoes on relevant issues and on irrelevant people. The media got its pie. The other day, a senior illustrated lawyer of the Supreme court and a member of the Lokpal drafting committee, Prashant Bhushan was brutally attacked by Goons who looked like villains in a Sunny Deol film. Times Now was interviewing him, while the attack took place inside his office at the Supreme Court. I am stunned on watching the most “intelligent” questioner in the country Arnab Goswami proclaim- “We have the live visuals of Prashant Bhushan being beaten up, tune in at 10PM”. The news channel wants to make money at the cost of a famous lawyer being beaten up. The person who was interviewing him along with the crew while the attack happened did not bother to help, but wanted the show to go on thereby wanting to impress their bosses! We have “news” channels only to talk about what happens in the house of Big Boss. Who ran naked? Who had sex with whom? What have we reduced to?

Capitalism has many charms to it. The inner intricacies aren’t realised by many until they have the money and nature has the resources. But, as they say money has spoilt everything it has touched. The media is no exception. It has added numerous charms to reporting. A lot of young people now want to get into the mainstream media and report for a NDTV, Times Now, IBN and the likes. Electronic media with soaring advertisement rates has definitely bought in a strange aura in the society these days. Young men and women who now dare to aspire change. But is this the change we want? Since we have always been a money-starved country more than food-starved, our obsession of linking money to everything won’t die. But, please let’s not do it with our integrity. Abdul Kalam once said-
If you have integrity, nothing else matters.
If you do not have integrity, nothing else matters.”

Yeah, nothing else matters!

PS: I came across this nice article on which describes how our news channels function and mocks at them.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Presenting the wonder called India

At the very outset let me tell you why I chose to call India a wonder, instead of a great circus. A country which integrates more than a billion people; who differ not only in how they look and what they eat but also in their perception and beliefs about their own motherland. A country which assimilates the ideological, cultural and cross sectional differences of a billion brains working in a billion directions. A country which stands witness to more than 5000 years of documented history, out of which have emerged saints and scientists alike. A country which taught the world the eternal priniciple of “Sarve janaha sukhino bhavantu.” My happiness lies in the world’s happiness. India, is just not a country in geographical terms, it is a world in itself. No other geographical territory comes close to what India as a geographical territory is. When I attempt to segregate these facts and join them to comprehend, I wonder! And I just keep wondering. Staring into the eternal space that has failed to contain this land into a definition. A circus, as it may seem to an eye of a foreigner who just sees India with a closed mind.

By this time, my own fellow countrymen will start thinking that I am being influenced by patriotism and taunt me saying- “Abe Gandhi ka bhoot jad gaya tujme!” Well, my country has taught me to integrate differences as a way of life and find a path to tread. But my intentions of writing this are square and simple. It is the countrymen who portray their country to the world. I believe that the true identity of a country lies in its people. India as an entity is being portrayed as a beautiful country with not so beautiful people. India as a country is being perceived as a great circus as opposed to a diversified culturally vibrant and a working democracy. It naturally is not so good news for the coming times. These vibes may just reduce India to another African nation which had an equal amount of cultural and civilazational history but failed to be a cohesive unit. That was something not to so India about them. When, the external factors have tried to loosen the cohesiveness in India, time and again she has given birth to men, who have exemplified their life with their integrity.

Are we part of the great Indian circus?

Let us do some analysis. For an onlooker, India is a country with people defecating everywhere. Every open wall is a urinal. Every railway track is a fully fledged toilet. Every road is a dustbin and every market place, a sea of humanity. A country where in politics is truly a last resort of a scoundrel. A country which starts its day by bribing the local babu. A country, which curses itself when the equally corrupted media shows reports on corruption. A country where in imitating the west is a matter of pride and studying Samskrut old fashioned. A country which is disintegrating in its own values and yet be known for its value system. To add on, I can give a thousand pictures of how we are being part of a circus called India. The real India lies not in the circus depicted, but in assimilating these facts and still surviving as a country, nurturing every hungry soul. What bemuses me is the power of this country to integrate in the ever disintegrating world, to stand strong in the winds of change and to assimilate everything that comes its way and yet be “India”.

Why are we the way we are? A student of scientific history will answer that India was ruined and looted by the various oppressions it has underwent in the last thousand years. Adding to it, the fertile land made the people all the more lazy. The abundance of water consumed the thirst of her people to achieve more. The population exploded out of proportion with none willing to control. When things went out of an amicable solution, Morarji Desai was heading the government of India. Power, irrespective of where it is, fantasizes men. He wasn’t aware whether to secure India or the Indian government. Well, after his attempts neither India nor the Indian government was secured. Both went berserk.  Things began to get complicated. We had the power to frame rules after a thousand years and we did not know what rules are to be framed?! Poverty, began sky rocketing. The power to “adjust” is in every Indian’s DNA. We adjusted to road side toilets, made railway stations and bus stands our homes and begging became our second nature. No one seemed to notice it then. We were the part of the circus without even knowing our roles.

When India is growing at the rate of 8-9% a year leaving the world behind, the contrast appears to be stark. Some might divide us between Bharat and India. While India is shining, Bharat is still without electricity. Why is India being torn apart?

Turning the great Indian Circus into a great Indian Show

I believe unless you suggest solution to a problem you are not competent enough to discuss the problem. My solution to the problem is fairly simple. It is in taking personal responsibility towards the country. It is in accepting this way of life as a way of life of India. The problem is with respect to our identity. We constantly compare ourselves to our western counterparts. They live in a lavish lifestyle and we cannot. That is what differentiates us. A lavish lifestyle is not the only thing to live for. We are taught that an inner lifestyle is more important than the outer one. In our small homes, we are happy and contented with 3 square meals a day. We achieved new heights only to integrate and assimilate it amongst our own people. We never competed to be in the race, we excelled only for our own needs. We showed the way forward to a global, diversified and a heterogeneous world. And then, we lost out. Now is the time, to wake up again. Now is the time to tell the world that the great Indian circus is just not about the Indian ‘jugaad’, but it’s how things happen in India. Isn’t it wow!?

I would rather be a comedian in the great Indian circus than be a hero in a western opera.

Are you with me?


This is what the Indians called Jacque Kallis in south park, Cape Town. What else needs to be said praising a batsman on a pitch even a school going Zimbabwean kid would turn a ball? The man survived it all. The one thing that stood between India and history was Kallis, undismissible. Unconquerable. This is how greats are born and legends made. If I write the whole article on the epic cricket series, the fairer sex which seldom likes the game might not like the writing too. Being cautious of that, I wish to draw parallels between the great men who made the news this century. As the times change, so do the challenges. As the challenges become difficult, men are compelled to raise themselves up to tackle them. The first decade of the 21st century has come to an end. What lies ahead is infinite opportunity says an optimist. The world will shrink and end one day, says a pessimist who likes to stay in the dark. Choose who you are, and c’mon let’s get some basic things right.

Instead of talking hypothetical things and wasting the print space, let’s get into some ponderings over our education first. Since it is the primary opening of a man toward sanity, I believe education can alone make an ordinary person, great. If you understand the above sentence, the way I do, you would find it too ambiguous and non sense. Let me clarify. We are accustomed to think that education is school and college education. It need not be. I can give you a thousand examples of people achieving their goals without going to school. Education is whatever a person learns over his life time. The totality is called education. When you get the difference right, you are half way through in achieving your goals. In the present times, more and more intellectual filth is getting added to the society. Being responsible citizens we should be the crusaders against this. In this case, the best way to fight is to defend yourself.  The next thing is to help others defend themselves, because, the filth is here to stay.  It can’t be taken out of the world and thrown out into unknown space. For leaders are born in times of crisis. Come out of the cocoon and start saying- “I am more than my engineering degree”.  If you believe you can, you will.

I write to light the fire inside people. The fire to rekindle their spirits. In all sanity, I believe every person has got a fire to achieve. That comes from the fire to wake up and live through the next sun shine. There is nothing that strikes as much as the issue in hand. The issue in hand when you read this article might be the placements. For it is the purpose of our engineering degree. A job would turn a boy into a man. I have already written about the difficulties of getting a job in today’s world. Let’s not talk about it again. The agenda here is totally different- The idea of inventing a job rather than finding one.  That is what Mark Eliot Zuckerberg did in his Harvard dorm. That is what Larry Page and Sergey Brin did in their Stanford Dorm. That is what Steve Jobs did in his attic. Congeniality never made a man. These are big names in the IT industry who defied the odds. In the world where in cross cultural and cross breeds have become so very popular, it only indicates that it is ready to absorb anything new you give to it. Deep Joshi, a MIT ian, came back to Bihar and started uplifting the lives of the poor. It needs a split second, a lightning to realise what you want to do with your life. Muhammad Yunus left the lucrative job of teaching economics at Stanford and started microfinance in Bangladesh. It helped improve the economy of the whole country. I can go on. But, I strive to drive home a point that you should find an ideal for your life. You should make a difference.  

By rule of nature everyone can’t be an entrepreneur, because you need labour to run your business. There are people with varied mindsets and varied goals. But what is common in all of us is that fire, the same fire that makes me to write this and you to read. There is an urgent need of men who can stand up and deliver for the world. A world where there is respect for every person’s work.  Those who have got the fire inside of making it big one day, I request you to e-gnite it. If this appeals, the world is waiting for you. Wake up! There is nothing that can stop you in achieving this. It’s only adversity that has bred brave soldiers.

On an ending note: I chose to write this because I felt this is the right time to talk to you about this. There is nothing that strikes as timing. In the process of change, we are left behind. The worst part is without even being known. The typical mindset of engineer, engineering degree should change. Be convinced of yourself and your goals. Don’t get bogged down by external pressure, like parents and peers. Believe me; the world is in need of men, who are true to their backbone. Your perseverance is tested all along while the doors of greatness open in front of you. Let’s wait for that, e-gnited. 

Why will there be no revolution in India?

The Indian geography has many a distinct features. From Megasthenes to Darlymple, writers have travelled to the country and have written travelogues mainly insisting that: India is a special country with lots of specialness attached to it in various ways. The Vindhyas not only divide the country into north and south but also the perception, understanding, belief and orientation of the people living on both sides of it. For any person who is still a novice on India and is curious to know more, I would suggest him to first land in Srinagar instead of Mumbai. For modern writers, their India begins in Mumbai and ends in Delhi. For the prospects of exploring in limited gaze seem to be rewarding. On the contrary let us understand the wonderful country from its head to the toe and get a ‘complete look’. As is the Indian way of selecting a bride, the groom curiously scans the beautiful girl head to toe on their first meeting. Likewise we shall scan the country albeit for a different reason.  

Enter Srinagar you will find people chanting Pakistan and the aura in the general public is as special the state’s treatment to them. The Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir described by many as heaven on earth for its beautiful lakes and snow capped mountains, has turned into a land of extreme military activity. The leading political leaders are themselves confused over the state’s accession to India, in a treaty signed by the then Maharaja of Kashmir with the government of India in 1948. Various factions of people still opine that the treaty was unfair and unjust and the state of Pakistan being an equal stake holder was not consulted by the scared maharaja. The dust from that is still not settled in the valley. I strangely feel that it is equivalent to an ugly real estate war that happens day in and out in the ever growing market of metropolitan India. Both the parties aren’t willing to budge. The Indians fight it out with their comparably superior military strength and the Pakistanis with their comparably superior terror strength.

In the northern Gangetic plains people are wilfully sleeping because mother Ganga has been bestowing them with food and a socialist masked government with their shelter. The plains are among the most fertile in the world. This God given gift has turned into a major bane to our people. With food coming at a comparative ease, the people never thought of newer ways to empower themselves. The ‘stomach’ has historically been the weak link in a man’s growth. A person who can control his stomach can control the entire world. That is what Mohandas Gandhi preached and followed. Anna Hazare is the most recent man in the news to testify it. In a democracy people are bound to get what they deserve. The government in New Delhi seems to reciprocate its people. No wonder.

On the other side of the Vindhyas, due to the Dravidian invasion in around, circa 10th century B.C and the numerous fights that the feudal lords fought, the land was divided into sub geographies. Every one developed their own tongues, their own rituals, their own interpretations of the holy books Ramayana and Mahabharata. What is interesting and the most beautiful aspect of India is this. It allows people to be different and yet be similar. Over a period of time, the Deccan plateau saw many a great rulers who concentrated their efforts on building huge temples and literature database. What they could never comprehend or feel the necessity was to build an intellectual database. I would not blame them here. As I have written earlier, with food coming at ease they never could think beyond. Mother India is bestowed graciously by Mother Nature with the perennial rivers.

I met an IAS officer some years ago. He was candid enough to tell me how the system of education we follow mocks at us. In a fifth grade examination, it is asked to differentiate North Indian and South Indian rivers. The first prominent point written after mugging up the text book is: “North Indian rivers flow in north India and South Indian rivers flow in South India.” This is a classic example of how we have built our intellectual database over the years. We never concentrated on building an education system but only concentrated on building an examination system.

Yes, we know we are like this! We still manage to clock an impressive growth rate. That has been our pride and a face saving campaign come elections. But, are we going to change?

Revolution: A distant ideology

Frankly speaking, why do we need a revolution now? I am increasingly oriented towards believing that it has become a fad, created by the 24X7 media. The happenings in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya are totally different case studies. Are we aroused and infatuated about “revolution” seeing and hearing that? If the answer is in the affirmative, then revolution is going to be a distant dream. Nothing great can be done by imitating or by reacting to the situation instead of responding. Why revolution remains a distant ideology with us is for the reason that we are not equipped both ideologically and intellectually for a sweeping change. Why Gandhi was instrumental and successful in getting the British ousted is because our forefathers at that time were ideologically equipped. The entire country had only one idea to live for: ‘to oust the British’. That is natural, because when you are convinced that you have a snake in your house you empower yourself ideologically to oust it. Why Anna Hazare has a difficult task calling for a revolution is that the nation cannot be ideologically convinced for a revolution like this. Because the majority stake holders in corruption are the people themselves.

What happened in Tamil Nadu elections recently was shocking and shameful. We can fight, wage a war and make a bill into a law but we cannot fight and empower our people. That has to happen through peace and assimilating the ideas of everyone involved. If India is desperate of a revolution, it will happen. And we will eventually be a part of it. We have learnt this sacred art of blaming others for our state of being. Pointing fingers at our politicians won’t just work. In a democratic set up, blaming the leaders is laughable. When you take the responsibility of choosing them you should be ready to bear them.

 To end, I am reminded of these eternal lines of Robert Kennedy- “The world demands the qualities of the youth. Not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite of adventure over the life of ease.” 

PS: I am a firm believer in the incredible capacity that India, my motherland has for a revolution, cometh the time for it. What worries me is the intellectual bankruptcy that we are nearing to. What scares me further is that we are not sensing this.

In the heartland of chaos- Finding Patterns

In my quest to know more about the patterns of an incredible land that I am fortunate to be born in, I stumble upon a lot of things each day. I am bemused in the same manner when a rickshaw driver who inadvertently breaks traffic rules to cash in on a waiting lady, near the bus stop and when the Prime Minister who waits for the lady’s aye, before he opens his mouth. India is a nation of many paradoxes. Many people have molded and adjusted this paradox to their own convenience. This leads into another paradox. This is what makes my motherland, the mother of all magical existences. There are only 2 places where in 2 negatives make a positive. One is in the mathematics work books and the other is in India. My perceptions, understandings and their perpetual deductions have filled in me a varied look of the land I live on. I cherish, thinking about my country; for it’s always a rewarding exercise. It has helped me to reinvent myself as it has helped millions of others who came in search of the pattern in India; homegrown and foreigners alike.

After covering some ground in my previous essays, I come to the most dynamic and important part of my search: Finding the leadership pattern in Free India.

The leaders of free India:

As are the leaders so are the men who are lead by them. This is one of those statements for which the corollary also holds equally good. India has seen a total number of 15 prime ministers till date and an equal number of Lok Sabhas being formed. Much of India’s progress can be associated with the way the prime ministers have functioned and performed. There have been many compelling works written about the history of free India. But very few of them talk about the ideological history of free India. A nation’s ideology is primarily shaped by its leader. In the course of this essay, let’s see how we as a nation were metamorphosed and then defragmented into a liberal-democratic republic from a social-goonda raaj-democratic republic. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime minister of India, was a man of scholarly attitude and a person born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Inheriting a land, which was ruined by foreign oppressions for a thousand years, he did a very brave job of giving a direction to an otherwise misdirected nation. He had a very knowledgeable and ideologically strong team of ministers with him. This was an added advantage, nevertheless. Nehru’s cabinet included luminaries like Babasaheb Ambedkar, Vallaba Bhai Patel, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee who gave a definite outlook to a then, reinvented nation. Each one of them  had a profound understanding of their respective ministries. India was very fortunate to have these men take over its initial days of sovereignty. Unlike what Churchill predicted in the British Parliament, India saw the light of the day because of the intellectual and leadership capabilities of its early leaders.  They could lead because they had earned the respect of the masses due to their intellectual and ideological stronghold.  If I can draw a corollary here, these leaders commanded respect just as the elder members command respect in every Indian house hold. The elders are known for their experience and decision making. The early leaders were mass leaders, who came directly from the masses. These leaders were one among the masses; they represented the face of the common man and placed his needs before theirs. This, I believe led to the emergence of an India, which could tolerate future shocks, attacks, crisis, internal rebellions and foreign attacks. On the contrary, Jinnah an extremely gifted and foresighted leader that he was, failed to lay down a protocol of placing the masses before oneself, in matters of national importance. Though he went to Karachi taking a happy pie of an otherwise large land, his was an emulation of the British style of ruling. Having studied in Cambridge and Oxford, he was immensely influenced by the life style of the Britons. The leaders who followed Jinnah, who lacked a clear direction to take an otherwise inefficient nation forward, faltered and thus the disintegration of the state of Pakistan started. Today’s political results are always based on yesterday’s political leadership.

India after the incubation days:

Both Nehru and India were fortunate enough for the first government to be in office till 1964. In this period of 17 years, Nehru and his team had got enough time and space to play around with their ideas. Various innovative programs were introduced and we were on our road to stability. The detractors of Nehru would argue on various points of inconsistencies, but then without Nehru, India would become another Indonesia or any African country for that matter. The biggest contribution of the first leader I believe would be to carve a path for future men to walk upon. Be it any walk of life, it’s the prime duty of the early birds to show a path to tread.  Lal Bahadur Shastri, followed Nehru at the helm. The man known for his intellectual and ideological integrity stood firm against detractors and carried his predecessor’s welfare programs forward. Due to his untimely demise, and to everyone’s dismay, Nehru’s daughter who was otherwise passive till then pushed herself to the forefront. And thus started a renaissance in India.

Indira’s India:

Indira’s historians describe her as the only “man” in her cabinet. This explains the power with which she wielded authority. Criticized as ‘ghoongi-goodiya’ by her detractors before she got into the PMO, her governing style saw to it that all noisy mouths were sealed either by fear or with shame. Most of her male colleagues in her initial days, were unhappy for the fact of being ruled by a woman, but then it wasn’t long enough that she showed who was the real ‘man’. No wonder the country, irrespective of the societal cadres was impressed. She molded herself into Indraji, Indiramma, Indrabayi, Mother or just Amma, which she is even referred to as now. During her 2 decade rule with breaks in between she changed the direction of the ship. Nationalizing banks, was one of the most significant steps in governance that she took. With respect to the economy, she bought in what is famously referred to as the ‘license-raj’.  Companies/Individuals who wanted to start a business needed to obtain a license by the government. This however attractive it may seem, brought in many difficulties. To ease them, the babus found another deal of under-the-table cash. This, according to me was the major factors for increase in rampant corruption. She imposed emergency at will, jailed her detractors, toppled state governments and gave away the foreign policy of her father.  After 25 years of Indira, India is still reeling under her effects. On the brighter side, she made India self-sufficient in food, tested nuclear bomb in Pokhran despite world opposition and demonstrated to the nation, what will a strong leader be like?

India after Indira:

It was Indira’s courage and over confidence that killed her. Her Sikh body guards shot her down on October 31st 1984. For a country which was just learning to dream of a brighter future, this was a massive blow. As her successor and Son, Rajiv Gandhi went on to describe- “When a big tree falls, the ground around it is shaken”. The entire nation was shaken with this shock. What followed afterward was brutal murders of Sikhs under the nose of Congress leaders. The confused government turned a blind eye. Rajiv, was totally unprepared to lead the country. Enjoying his days with his chariming Italian wife, he never thought he would be in politics one day, leave alone in the Prime Minister’s chair. Sonia, in one of her interviews, years later recalls, that Rajiv had promised her that he will never enter into politics. But, things had flipped and facing the other side of the coin seemed inevitable. Thus, the congress which went into the general elections of 1984, bagged a total of 434 seats out of 544 in the parliament. The record, I think will never be broken. Rajiv, a learned man that he was, understood that he has a definitve task to perform. And he did. Power tested him a lot. His government was put to shame in the Bofors deal when he had to acceed favours to the Italian business man Ottavio Quotrocchi. His wife, seems had influenced him. On the flip side, he initiated the nation knowledge commision, brought in electronics and aviation to India and tried to put India on a global map. The corruption alleagtions couldn’t save his massive majority government. He was followed by V.P Singh, Chandrashekhar in short stints. Both of them, did leave a mark behind but were not allowed to sustain. By the early 1990’s Congress had assumed that it is the only party that can rule India. The raj brought in by Indira had turned out  greedy, corrupt and power-hungry politicians and bureaucrats.

Modern India:

Rajiv’s mistake in handling LTTE down south, killed him in a brutal suicide bomb attack. This led to a chaotic “no-leader” situation in the Congress. The veteran PV Narasimha Rao who had declared political hermitage by then, was forced to come to the PMO. Rao, who was also Nehru’s colleague earlier, was a statesman. The congress made a very smart move by bringing in Rao. If anyone else like an Arjun Singh or a Digvijay Singh or a Scindia would be made the Prime Minister, the country would again go into a state of oblivion. 3 successive unstable governments would have pushed the Congress into a permanent backseat. But, the Congress has got lucky innumearble times in the electoral history of India. Narasimha Rao, picked up the then retired RBI governor, Manmohan Singh as his Finance minister. The duo did what nobody had expected of them. Break the shackles of their own predecessors! The brilliant economist that he is, Manmohan converted India into a socialist republic from a licence raj republic. This led to India becoming a new America. If America is considered modern, India too became modern, aping it in all aspects. Conservatives would argue that, the liberalisation brought in more harm than good. But on the face of it, many significant problems that were facing India, were eleminated.

The Times Now:

Today, is a day which is a result of what happened in the early 1990’s. If we see these many cars on the roads, mobile phones in everybody’s pocket, it is the seed that the nation sowed in the liberalistion period. Most of the below middle class families of earlier times have been elevated to the upper middle class status and some to the creamy layer status.  Its all because of we had an open mind towards  everything. We learnt to sense an opportunity in everything. We learnt on how to survive in the competition? We learnt to keep moving, even if there are detractions. But, the imitation of the west has brought in its dark face too.

PS: 1.  If we look into the history of the world after World War II, for I believe that is where modern history starts, it’s been the leaders succeeding that, gave the direction to their respective countries. Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Jawaharlal Nehru, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Joseph Stalin, Charles De Gaulle are the notable leaders who have left an indelible mark in the DNA of their respective nations. Their vision carried their respective nations in their footprints.  

2. After Nehru’s  and  Shastri’s untimely demise Gulzari Lal Nanda was the interim Prime Minister for 2 short terms.