Sunday, December 30, 2012

Dichotomy of the Black Dot

Yesterday morning when I woke up and read the news of the delhi gang rape girl passing away, I was numb..I was sure that she would live, and these protests would die down gradually...and she would b forgotten like so many other victims of this barbaric act...A flurry of messages poured in on social networking sites, condemning her death and abusing the inept government...I still was numb, with fear, sadness and anger at the fate of this girl who fought bravely for more than 10 days for a mistake she did not even know- of boarding the wrong bus! She was one among us, leading a normal life...studying, going out for movies with friends...she could have been anyone, my sister, my friend or a colleague...last night I could not sleep, thinking about the atrocities she had to undergo for an hour, the pain she wud have felt...the anger her family and friends wud have suppressed at the media glare and politicalization of the sufferings of their loved one. She may have passed away to a better world, but her soul will not rest in peace until we ensure that no other girl has to go through what she did.

It took the life of an innocent girl to bring us Indians out of our sleep. And the sad part is, instead of initiating social reforms in our medieval society, our policy makers and the self proclaimed social intellectuals are trying to hog the limelight in the current media frenzy on this issue. Our first duty to the poor girl should be to let opportunistic people play politics over her dead body! Women get raped daily in India, and most are not even reported. And we have such a long list of the ones which are reported that even memory hardens after a while, thinking about the history of violence against women in India. This girl somehow became the tipping point of our tolerance and inaction, the one whose battered body symbolised the pain and damage inflicted on women's bodies all over India, whose rapes and deaths are turned to footnotes in newspaper as soon as the concerned people get leverage out of it. Most of these deaths or rapes didn't shake us but this one got through our armour of our 'theek hai' attitude. The grief of her death hit harder than anyone expected. This anonymous girl had a name of her own one day (not Nirbhaya, Damini or whatever the media gave her as if the rape defined her identity), and a life to lead..the life we lead today. By putting up the picture of a black dot, we have acknowledged finally that humanity is dead today.But god did not take her to make us realize this...Her death should mean to us much more than that, it should show us the monster lurking within all of us.

The guys who raped her were the type of people we interact with daily. Statistics on rapes tell us that most rapes are committed by people who are an acquaintance of the victim. It is not a handful of evil men, like the delhi case makes us believe, but the work of extremely common men who carry out such acts of violence against women. We have bred a culture of misogyny and valorize it, the popularity of Honey Singh's songs being an example of how we men think. He, who speaks about taming today's independent and liberated women, is a youth icon! Songs with crass lyrics like Fevicol, Shiela ki Jawaani or Chikni Chameli are chartbusters. Our cinema popularizes voyeurism, by objectifying women through their inappropriate camera angles showing heaving breasts, shaking bottoms and swivelling navels; and we do enjoy it, don't we? This mass culture accurately reflects the values of a son-worshipping society in which large-scale violence against women is seen as entirely legitimate, running the gamut from street harassment to female foeticide. And mind you, policing can’t change a culture that produces and legitimises violence against women. It may successfully mitigate the threat occassionaly but there is no reason to believe that more police checkpoints will deter rapists, as projected by media. 

I believe that I am one among those 90% stupid Indians that Justice Katju was speaking about one day. I am stupid because I feel that writing this note and telling people about my feelings is going to make a difference. I am stupid because I still believe that we as a society are not beyond repair,and that the big black dot can be separated from the whote backdrop. The demands for more police vigilance and an effective justice systems will not suffice if we wan't to tackle this menace of rape. To quote a recent article in The Hindu by Praveen Swami- "Fixing the police and the justice system, thus, will achieve only so much — and that so much is not a great deal. The real battle is one that women’s organisations have fought to address for decades — to change the ways in which men relate to women; to create a culture of masculinity that does not involve subjugation. For progress to be made, we must begin by acknowledging this one fact: the problem isn’t the police, the courts or the government. The problem is us."  And hence, the change has to begin from us, in the manner how we see our women. If there comes a day, when every girl in this nation feels safe to wear whatever she likes and go out of her house at any time of the day, the soul of this anonymous girl would rest in peace. Till then, let Pink Floyd's 'Coming back to Life' haunt and torture our conscience...

Where were you when I was burned and broken
While the days slipped by from my window watching
Where were you when I was hurt and I was helpless
Because the things you say and the things you do surround me
While you were hanging yourself on someone else's words
Dying to believe in what you heard
I was staring straight into the shining sun 
Lost in thought and lost in time
While the seeds of life and the seeds of change were planted
Outside the rain fell dark and slow
While I pondered on this dangerous but irresistible pastime
I took a heavenly ride through our silence
I knew the moment had arrived
For killing the past and coming back to life 
I took a heavenly ride through our silence
I knew the waiting had begun
And headed straight..into the shining sun


Monday, December 17, 2012

5 Things that You Should Never Say to a Girl

Women make our world complete. Their influence over our lives is unmatched, be it in the form of a mother, sister, wife, girlfriend or sometimes even a close gal pal! But there is one thing common among all these women..they are sharp conversationalists. Many a times guys have fallen for the conversational land mines which either they lay for us or we unknowinlgy create sometimes, and then step onto it! Now I am no expert at relationships, but experience has taught me a few things which I would am sharing through this post

1. Am I looking fat in this dress?  

This is a very common question asked by women, whose obvious answer is an instant no! (the lesser time you take, the safer you are) Whatever urge one has to say the truth that yes, you are looking fat and the dress has nothing to do with it, should be immediately suppressed. To make it look genuine, a subtle compliment like 'you are looking ever' helps, but the trick is not to overdo it by using pompous adjectives like 'ravishing' or 'stunning' (unless she looks so, and in which case your eyes will say more than these words), because women are usually quick to identify when a man lies.

2. You have made this dish like my mom used to do

A guy may make this remark innocently, thinking that he is showering his wife/gf with the ultimate compliment of comparing your girlfriend's/wife's cooking with his mom. But girls hate comparison, be it with a guy's mom or even worse his ex. Comparison is natural, but its better to keep it to you as it would be held against you in the court of law in some future fight.

3. Isn't she cute/hot?

When your girlfriend or your wife makes such a remark on some friend of hers or yours, in a party or on facebook (or anywhere), do not think that she is cool about you voicing your opinion on some other girl's beauty. An apparently casual question, guys tend to get lured into answering it honestly drawing the irk of the girl later on when he is expecting the least. So its always advisable to tread the middle path and come up with answers like 'she is fine' or 'she is ok' (probably with a shrug to make it look genuine).

4. Who were you talking to on phone? 

Never ask this question! It may be out of plain curiosity, but girls tend to think of the worst, that you are insecure and do not trust her. These two feelings are usually the tipping points of a relationship and if someone reaches this stage, there is a very bleak chance of going back to the happy forever phase. (Its also helpful if you don't automatically conclude that she was talking to some guy friend, otherwise the jealousy angle too creeps in her mind)

5. It must be your time of the month?

It might be, but that's not what she wants to hear when she is in irritated and in rage. Rationalizing doesn't work with women when they are angry and in pain (popularly known as PMSing), so its its better to take the high ground and show pity, instead of pointing that she is deranged by hormones. 

I know that whatever I have said above are heavily cliched, but the important point to be noted is that they are true and surely we are going to face situations which will finally boil down to these points ;)  

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Top 25 Hindi movies - My List

If there is one thing that keeps our nation going other than cricket, it is cinema. And we should thank the British for introducing us Indians to both! Ever since its inception in 1920's, Bollywood (as it is popularly called) has been churning out hundreds of movies every year. Not all are memorable though, but there are some that leave a lasting impression on us. It is very difficult for an avid movie buff like me to choose a top 10, so I made my top 25 list! The movies listed below are based not only on the content of it, but also on the overall impact and appeal that it had across generations. That is why I have skipped some of the landmark movies made by the likes of Shyam Benegal and Govind Nilhani, who were the torch bearers of the new wave cinema in 70s and 80s, because the viewership of their movies was limited. The listing is not on the basis of  priority, and is purely my own opinion. Some of the movies that missed out narrowly on this list are Bombay, Choti si Baat, Kaagaz ke Phool, Omkara and Ardh Satya. 

1. Saheb Biwi aur Ghulam

To quote the review featured in The Times of India - "The well-knit screenplay, achieving an effective balance between the various characters and emotional phases, provides a neat dramatic pattern. It appears to be a specially successful job considering the verbosity and digressiveness of the novel of Mr. Bimal Mitra who, though often brilliant, writes in a highly disorderly way." A nostalgic tale of a bygone era, the film remains with you for its splendid performances, soulful songs and rich dialogues.

2. Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro

A cult classic, which was basically a dark satire on the rampant corruption in Indian politics, bureaucracy, news media and business, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro's reputation grew over the years. I am sure those who have seen the movie would have rolled on the floor during the climax 'Draupadi cheer-haran' scene. Truly a classic!

3. Pyaasa

Widely regarded as Guru Dutt's best work, the movie is an entertainer with an absorbing story and cauterising comments on the commodification of people in the quest for success, money, and power. It is a film on the eternal struggle between man's materialistic and spiritual quest. It was recently acknowledged in TIME's 100 best movies ever made.

4. Hazaro Khwayishen Aisi

Sudhir Mishra reflects the intensity and fate of 3 young characters, who start out on the same platform but board different trains and reach a destination of their own making. Set against the backdrop of the emergency period of 70s, the movie boasts of some stellar performances by Kay Kay Menon, newcomer Chitrangada Singh (inspiring awe as the sultry and sexy Geeta) and Shiney Ahuja, who steals the show as Vikram, the political fixer who has a crush on Geeta from college days. His role has a certain greyness that is unsaid and yet subtly hinted through mere expressions. All in all, a superb film made with a lot of heart.

5. Ek Doctor Ki Maut

I am sure many would not have even heard of this movie. It is one of those 'one of a kind' movie, that Bollywood rarely makes. Maybe there are other better movies than it which should have been in the top 25, but this movie desrves a mention for the unique story, which still holds relevance today. Pankaj Kapur as the pained scientist whose research is insulted and suppressed by his own people, gives a realistic picture of what many people still face today. 

6. Mother India

Mother India is a classic example of a movie made to depict the power of the Indian woman! With a tragic ending where the mother kills her own son for the greater good, it was one of the first movie with a woman oriented theme & inspired a slew of movies that tried to copy the directorial and acting genius portrayed in this movie. It also secured India's first entry to the Oscar's in the best foreign film category.

7. Pushpak

Pushpak is a materpiece! Released in 1987, it reinvented the silent film genre. Essentially a black comedy, with a mix of slapstick humour, it showed that people can be made to laugh without under the belt gags. 

8. Guide

Based on the novel by R.K.Narayan, it is considered as a masterpiece and one of Dev Anand's best. With soulful music by S.D. Burman and excellent performances by the cast, this movie was a blockbuster and till date remains a classic!

9. Dil Chahta Hai

This coming-of-age story about 3 friends changed the way Bollywood made movies. The urban essence of the movie was a fresh change from the routine rich girl poor boy story that we were so used to by the time it was released. It is counted among the path-breaking movies of the last decade. 

10. Deewar

It was this movie that established Amitabh Bachhan the title of 'angry young man' and redefined the definition of the modern urban woman in the form of Parveen Babi. Salim-Javed's story was reflective of "the tumultuous politics of the early 70s" in India. Its dialogues like 'mere pass maa hai' is one of the many reasons why it is considered as a cult movie.

11. 3 Idiots

In film critic Subhash K. Jha's words, "In a country where students are driven to suicide by their impossible curriculum, 3 Idiots provides hope. Maybe cinema can't save lives. But cinema, sure as hell, can make you feel life is worth living. 3 Idiots does just that, and much more." The movie, lossely based on Chetan Bhagat's 'Five point Someone' went on to become the highest grossing Bollywood film ever.

12. Munnabhai MBBS

Rarely does a hindi film come that has so much impact on the audience's minds. This was one of those movies which made the audience laugh and cry along with its characters. It popularized the 'jaadu ki jhappi' concept and revolutionized the comedy genre in Hindi cinema. Its sequel also was equally popular, but I choose this movie over the latter because of one reason - Boman Irani as the headmaster of the medical school!  

13. Sholay

Dacoits|Horses|Dances|Comedy|Action|Romance|Drama. Sholay had all of these! No wonder, it's a classic till date. The movie established Amjed Khan as an actor and his character 'Gabbar Singh' remains immortalized in hindi cinematic history.

14. Rang De Basanti

Rakesh Omprakash Mehra put the debacle of Aks behind to make this classic tale of friends, who change from being a bunch of carefree souls to radically charged passion driven individuals to avenge the death of their friend in a plane accident. The film was well received by critics and audiences for its production values and had a noticeable influence on Indian society (the candlelight marches). A. R. Rahman'ssoulful tunes put life in the movie, makng it one of the biggest hits of Bollywood ever.

15. Do Bigha Zameen

The film is known for its socialist theme, and is an important film in the early parallel cinema of India and is rightly considered a trend setter. It was the first Indian film to win the International Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Like most of movies by Bimal Roy, art and commercial cinema are merged to create a movie that is still looked upon as a benchmark and paved way for future cinema makers in the Indian neo-realist movement and the Indian New Wave, which began in the 1950s.

16. Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge

DDLJ redefined love stories in Bollywood, and that it remained the highest grossing film ever till a few years back proves the impact it had on the industry. The movie made SRK the superstar he is, and also marked the successful union of one of the best on-screen pairs of SRK and Kajol.

17. Naya Daur

I think this movie may have the inspiration behind Aamir Khan's 'Lagaan'. This movie is set in post independence era when industriliazation was slowly creeping in. The climax scene is particularly heart wrenching, where you will actually exult in joy as the underdog comes out as the winner. A must watch film!

18. Swades

This movie was not as popular as his previous directorial venture Lagaan, but three cheers to Ashutosh Gowariker for making it. There are movies which are made to please the audience, and there are movies which are meant to please the crtics. This movie fell in neither category. Probably SRK's best performance till date, the movie was made more in a documentary sort of way which is the reason it failed at the box office. It is one movie that I feel should be shown to every Indian...compulsorily! 

19. Mr. India

Shekhar Kapur gave India's first superhero, as well as first supervillain (Mogambo) in this 1987 movie. This was the last movie that the duo Salim-Javed wrote together. The film attained cult status as India's first sci-fi movie with memorable quotes like "mogambo khush hua" becoming a rage overnight! If you still haven't watched it on Doordarshan, just download it and enjoy Ms. Hawa Hawaii's performance ;)

20. Hera Pheri

I feel that the movie belonged entirely to Paresh Rawal! Whatever laughter the film solicits is solely due to him and the interesting story Priyadarshan weaves in. His impeccable timing and a natural flair for comedy gave this film cult status, along with the likes of Golmaal and Choti si Baat. I am sure, everyone belonging to my generation would have seen this movie more than once.

21. Hum Aapke Hai Kaun

One of the most entertaining family films ever made, the movie mainly explored moral values and relationships through its protagonist's dilemnas and family functions. This is one of those movies that is watchable any number of times, and with anyone!  

22. Anand

The Oscar Academy, while adding Anand to their library, admitted that if such a movie would have been made by an American, they probably wouldn’t have nominated any other movie (or actor) for the ‘Best Movie’ & ‘Best Actor in a Lead Role’ Oscars! What more can I say? :)

23. Satya

This may be the best potrayal of the dark underworld that once thrived in the city of Mumbai. The gritty and realistic depiction of the urban violence was applauded by cine-viewers and critics alike. It is regarded as a path breaking gansgter movie and spawned countless imitation by Bollywood, some by Ram Gopal Varma himself. But none matched the sophistication of Satya. With a haunting background score by Sandeep Chowta, this movie with very few well known faces, gave many people the ideal platform who would one day go on to become the kingpins of off-beat Bollywood cinema, some of them being Anurag Kashyap (writer), Manoj Bajpai (as the legendary Bhiku Mhatre), Vishal Bhardwaj (Music), Sandeep Chowta & Saurabh Shukla as an actor.

24. Andaz Apna Apna

I was amazed when I learnt that this movie didn't set the box office ringing. Way back in 1993 when it was released, comedies were hard to come by and this movie was sort of a trendsetter for a lot of other successful films later. It is widely considered as a cult comedy, which gave memorable characters like Crime-master Gogo (apparently mogambo's nephew), the villain Teja and his sidekicks Bhalla and Robert. Some of the scenes of this movie are still imprinted in the audience's mind and it is because of its evergreen appeal that I have included it. 

25. Kaun

This movie is included ahead of many other popular ones, primarily due to two reason - its taut screenplay (Anurag Kashyap) and  because it was way ahead of time. The movie thankfully had no songs and kept you on the edge right from the start, with its quirky characters (only 3, again a revelation!) and suspense element keeping you guessing till the end. It is one of the few examples of experimental cinema from a mainstream director like Ram Gopal Varma. 

*The synopsis of many of the films listed above are copied from various sources by the author. Some of the references are -: 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

My letter to PM

Dear Prime Ministerji

Even after more than 60 years of independence, our nation faces a lot of basic problems of a society like poverty, corruption, inflation, etc. As an engineer, I have come to believe that there exists a logical solution to all problems around us, problems that need not necessarily involve the laws of physics or mathematics. I understand that problems such as corruption, which doesn’t have a clear face or agenda, are more difficult to address. Hence I will speak about a problem that I understand more clearly and have been facing it every day, directly or indirectly- the plight of the Indian youth.

India is a young nation, both historically and demographically. Statistics say that 70% of our population is below 35 years of age today. Yet we are highly under represented, maybe because we do not form the vote bank for our casteist politicians. Although people expect a lot from us, and often say encouraging words like ‘you are the future of the nation’ or ‘we need ignited minds to take the country forward’, they forget to tell us how. Throughout the student life, all we can think is of getting good marks because it guarantees a seat in a good college, which in turn happens to be the key for getting a good job. Do you see where the flaw lies sir?

We are a society obsessed with success, and the marks secured by a student in examinations are the direct measure of his success. Hence, parents cannot be blamed if they expect their children to be toppers, pressurizing them to become humanoids from an early age. And they are not wrong in doing so, because no parent would want their child to be unsuccessful. And such a situation arises because of a simple imbalance in higher education – the problem of demand and supply. Every year, around 20 lakhs students (actual figures are more) appear for senior secondary examinations. Based on our grading system, 10% of them are class toppers, which comes to a staggering figure of 2 lakhs students! And here in lies the paradox, because the maximum number of seats that prestigious colleges in the areas of engineering, medicine, commerce or arts put together offer today does not exceed 50000, leaving the rest in a state of despair despite their proven merit.

30 years back, every aspiring engineer wanted to study in the IITs. 30 years hence, the aspirations remain same although the number of people who aspire have increased. Same is the case in medicine and economics, where it is either AIIMS or Delhi School of Economics respectively that a student wants to study in. In these last three decades, not a single institute has come up to match the reputation of these stalwarts, compelling the youth to opt for other options like studying in some racist country or compromising by studying in one of those privately run colleges, that mushroom today in every corner of states like Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. These colleges, run mostly by businessmen (like liquor barons and sweet shop owners) and influential political leaders, lack proper infrastructure and quality faculty but offer assured jobs, howsoever minion they may be. Hence, we have students who were talented enough to score high marks but not enough to get into a college. Don’t these people deserve a shot at a good life that the elite institutions offer?

One may give clichéd arguments about why we don’t have reputed institutes today, some of them being lack of good faculty, lengthy government procedures for setting up of new colleges, etc. But no one accepts that the only thing lacking today is political will. Education has never been a politically divisive issue, and no one questions the amount of money spent on it.  All it needs is that policy makers sit together and come out with an action plan rather than simply ‘discussing’ the issue for years. Some of the possible measures that can be taken up are easing out the entry of reputed foreign universities; starting institutes along the lines of French ‘grand ecoles’ in public-private partnership mode and removing the no-profit clause for setting up private colleges (which is meaningless, since the promoters of such colleges devise other ways to make money).

The quality of higher education in a nation is an indicator of its growth, and the youth are the pillars of this growth. By introducing more opportunities for students, the extreme pressure of performance on them can be eased out. And it is then that they will strive for excellence, not just success. All our woes, like not winning Nobel Prizes, not enough R & D output and brain-drain will be addressed by one simple solution- education. I understand that current times are bad, with inflation and corruption hogging the maximum limelight. But I write in the hope that being a teacher yourself, you would understand the gravity of this issue. I hereby request you to please save the dreams of an entire generation from being robbed.

Yours Sincerely

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Great Indian Dream II - Our Society and Culture

As a child, I had read in my history books about how our primitive society was divided into 4 castes – Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras; that children were branded based on their caste right from the moment they were born. I got to know mine, though after 15 years of my birth, while filling out my senior secondary examination forms. And I am thankful to my parents for that. It was only later on that I got know how much important it is in the 21st century India...

This topic is heavily clichéd and I am sure that many prolific writers would have already done justice to it, but I touch this issue in my 3 part article, because it is by far the most important aspect to be addressed in the hope of a ‘great India’. In an article for TOI, Chetan Bhagat had rightly pointed out that ‘For any lasting change to happen in a country, its society has to change in terms of its behavior, attitudes and values. We can blame our politicians for every wrong in the nation. However, politicians only reflect what society thinks.’ He may write quirky novels for the masses, with zero literary value, but through his editorials, he manages to make his ideas more clear than he ever could through his stories. If some part of us burns today when we see injustice being meted out to someone because of his or her lack of powerful connections, or say, the repeated broadcast of the video of a poor girl being publicly molested, or public property being vandalized in the name of religion, we ourselves are to blame for some of these problems; and it is time we start taking responsibility for the socials ills that are prevalent around us.

I sometimes wonder that maybe we take our caste, religion and mother tongue more seriously than our forefathers ever did. We have made our social divisiveness official after independence under the garb of development. Divisiveness is not new to us, because we learn it at our homes itself, through our family and relatives. We are told about how to differentiate between people, not based on their values, but based on their religion, caste and language. Our religion, caste and language is often depicted as being superior and celebrated within the family. We accept such divisiveness right from the childhood, leading to a lifetime of bias against people from other communities. And therein lies the root of our problems – our mindsets! However educated we are, most of us still are prejudiced in their decision making, based on such petty considerations like language, religion or caste. It is 2012, but we still vote on the basis of caste, marry on the basis of caste and religion, be friends with people who speak the same language, thinking that by doing so we are continuing our so called ‘traditions’. I wish to ask my countrymen just one question; when you go to choose a car, do you see whether the makers are from high caste or low caste, or do you make your selection based on the quality and value of it? 

Carrying forward our millennia old societal values in the name of ‘culture’, we Indians are a confused set of people with varying set of values. I have never got a concrete answer whenever I asked people to define ‘culture’. Is it our food, arts, personal values like family, religion, etc. or just plain traditions that we have followed blindly from centuries? We need to know exactly how it is defined because today, ‘preserving’ our precious Indian culture has become a politically motivated issue. I have read many books, and always ended up with conflicting ideas. Scholars, unable to explain such conflicts, make romanticized statements like ‘Many India’s within India’ and ‘the beauty of India’. I call it sheer perplexity! Indian society has lived with such muddled set of values for a long time now. And if this continues, our society cannot exist for long, because social harmony can only be achieved when the people think alike and know their roles in the society.

When we speak of people living in developed nations like America, we associate wealth, freedom, competitiveness, religion and fairness as the values with which they live. That is the essence of heir society. When we think of our society, there exists no such consistency. Do we value wealth more or education? Do we value our local communities or value being a part of India? Do we really believe in democracy, because if we do, then why have we left power in the hands of a select few? These are uncomfortable questions that we need to ask ourselves, because it is only after clarification of these questions that we will have a generation who, with their clear set of ‘Indian values’, would know the purpose of their lives and be part of a bound society. We may brand Americans as greedy and materialistic, but we cannot take away the fact from them that they have created a system in which wealth is created with hard work, innovation and enterprise rather than nepotism and corruption. Anyone who tries to rise up the ladder using unfair means is severely punished in America,  where as in India, we do not have good laws to even nail down the blatantly corrupt! We are tuned to be numb to injustice, because somewhere deep down we are also a little bit corrupt, be it copying assignments or giving a bribe to the traffic policeman after breaking the signal, since we have accepted that it is the way of life here.

My parents feel that aiming to get rich fast is a bad thing. So do most other Indians think and many would even blame such ambitions as an ill-effect of the ‘westernization’ of our generation. Our older generation takes the moral high ground to defend their point – slowness in work is termed as being patient, non-stop discussions and taking no or late actions is termed as being cautious and lack of change in their standard of living is countered with the claims to lead a simple life! Are aspirations to become rich and see my country become rich ‘un-Indian’? Do we fear change? Is progress bad? The dream of a developed and rich India can be realized only if we kill this enemy – the old school of thought! It is not a clear enemy, hence the battle becomes difficult. Our regressive ideologies in the name of culture are the greatest roadblocks in the path of development. And to fight this faceless enemy, we need role models, who could show us the way ahead, like Mahatma Gandhi did during our struggle for independence. Our role models or the so called ‘youth icons’ today are usually business tycoons who are or cricketers, who flaunt their wealth publicly whenever given a chance, be it a birthday party or a wedding. In stark contrast, the top 50 billionaires of USA pledged half their wealth in charity (including Zuckerberg)!

I have ranted on and on about the shortcomings of our society in this article. As an engineer, I will try to come out with solutions to counter these problems in my last article of the series. But my intention here was point out the ironies existing in our society presently. We consider aspirations to become rich as a westernized concept, and are content to live our lives as the great Indian middle class. On the other hand, we hero worship rich people and brand them as role models, ignoring all their shortcomings.  They live in multi crore houses, shop abroad and spend crores on trivial issues at the drop of their hat, where as more than 40% of our people don’t have access to proper healthcare and live in poverty. Our corrupt politicians loot us and display their wealth unashamedly, but we don’t find it vulgar. But if a girl wears jeans and chooses her life-partner, we term it as vulgar. We say that we are religious people, yet we exploit people without power, be it raping women, killing unborn girl child or torturing the poor. We are a land of contrasts and contradictions, true, but I would like to believe that it will change gradually…and all it needs is a push!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Great Indian Dream - Part I

This article is a culmination of my procrastination for almost a year. Yet, nothing much has changed since I wrote my last blog entry. In fact, nothing much has changed since I started maintaining this blog, which dates back to 2009. The question that I ask myself and my peers is that- Have we stagnated as individuals, as a society and as a nation? 

As a child, I used to be happy most of the time. At the beginning of this millennium, when social media was not even in the picture, internet phenomenon had just started capturing the imagination of Indians, and most of the people around me seemed to be happy and cheerful.  There were very few news channels and cable TV was considered as a luxury. Hence, most of the free time was spent with friends and family, with a sense of gay abandon. Those were happy times, because I can recall one good feeling that almost everyone felt during those times – hope. India’s software industry was booming, and had already gained a reputation. Indians were winning prestigious awards in the various fields like science, literature and economics. India had a thumping victory over Pakistani terrorist infiltrators in the Kargil war, so even patriotism was running high among civilians. People were getting reasonably paying jobs in the upcoming BPO sector and overall, the public sentiment was positive.  

Cut to present day, and these seem to be news from a very distant past. All we hear and think about today are either of these- corrupt politicians, arrogant ministries, immoral celebrities, economic slowdown and a media that always seems to be on the overdrive.  To cut the cynicism, we can count a few events that surely had a positive impact on the average Indian, like winning the cricket world cup, sending a spacecraft to moon, cell phone revolution, 100 crore+ club bollywood movies (basically Salman Khan), Anna Hazare and his mass movement, and the advent of social networking generation. But when we sum up our achievements in the past decade, they seem a blur when compared to what our ex-president Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam had dreamed of as ‘Vision 2020’. And therein lies the root of all our current problems…we don’t have a collective dream for our nation today!

We can rant about corruption and non-functioning administrations for days and months, but the truth is that it is we, the common man, who define the essence of a democratic nation. For us Indians, that is the greatest problem since we never have thought collectively. We are selfish people who are privately smart but publicly stupid. We still continue to divide ourselves on the basis of caste, religion, region and language! Given these differences, it makes us impossible to have a common dream for our nation because after 65 years of freedom, we are still coping up with the idea of a dream called a united ‘India’.

Every Indian who set out for the states in the turmoil times of 1970s & 80s went there to pursue the ‘Great American Dream’. It meant nothing other than to lead life with wealth, health, security and a sense of honour. Americans respect talent, unlike most Indians who vouch for power and connections. Working abroad in a fair state gave them what our nation could never give. Brain drain has been the hot debate topic in pseudo intellectual circles for a long time now. Any number of pay commissions will be ineffective in stopping this process of losing generations after generations of you bright young Indians, because it is not the money but the idea of a great nation that will capture the imagination of today’s youth. We need to have our own ‘Great Indian Dream’, an India where justice prevails, talent is respected above money and power, people are rich and lead a healthy life, and finally these people give back to the society which has made them what they are! 

The mood after our independence was upbeat, because people hoped for a better life under the leadership of their favored son, who gave the people a dream of a prosperous nation that India once used to be. That dream has long faded, and all that remains of it are scars, like the emergency period of 1974. It is time we show ourselves a new dream, the dream of a rejuvenated India, the India that our forefathers dreamt of. We have not fared badly since our independence, but we cannot deny that we could have done much much better. Blaming our leaders won’t do any good because we only selected them and allowed them to rule us with dishonesty, like little arrogant kings and undermined the power of democracy.  

Last year, Anna Hazare and his team members showed the entire nation the power of unity, one single voice against corruption rattled the cages of the highest authorities living in Lutyens. Their movement may have died down gradually, but the good thing that it brought among us was the hope of an India free of corruption. The rustic old man wearing a Gandhi cap and fighting for a selfless cause caught the imagination of the average Indian middle class. He brought an awakening, especially among the college going youth, and in a magnitude that none of his closest supporters would have imagined when they first started it. The reason why they chose to support this diminutive man from an unknown village of Maharashtra was because he gave them a dream of a corruption free nation. And we are going to need many more such dreams, to realize the ultimate goal of India being counted as a developed nation. 

We need to have a dream about India, where we differentiate people not on the basis of their caste, religion or language, but on the basis of their talent and capabilities. We need a dream of India, which will be counted as a land of opportunities rather than a land of biasedness; an India, where everyone is educated and able to earn their livelihoods, breaking the shackles of ignorance and religious superstitions. These are dreams that all of us have thought about at least once, but never did anything to act upon it, because we were devoid of hope for our nation. Such dreams can only be converted to reality when we have charismatic leaders, who can influence the masses like Anna did. And with all our austerity in place, we have to admit that such leaders are present today and maybe a few more will come up in due course of time, to take India from the edge of a possible abyss to heights unreached. And as responsible citizens, it should be our duty to bring forward such leaders keeping aside our prejudices of past about politicians. We, as a nation, should never give up on ourselves because in case no one comes forward to show us that dream, we need to have our own dream and act upon it to give our children a life free from terrorism, corruption, crime and hatred. 

“You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us. And the world will live as one.” - John Lennon