Making India proud

“What a great day for India!”

Having just glanced through the front page of the printed newspaper, with its usual dose of an Opposition walkout in Parliament, a Central Minister being questioned for undue favours to a tainted businessperson, rapes, stampede deaths at a religious congregation, and not having a clue to what he was talking about, I pretended I did not hear.

I racked my brains. Wild thoughts were coursing through my mind; Did India move up to the 132nd place in world football rankings, by some stroke of luck? Or did we finally, irrevocably nail some senior politicians for stashing away illegally collected billions in secret Swiss bank accounts? Or was it religious tolerance; did the nation finally find a solution to its internecine religious squabbles?

“Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard?” In his excitement he had failed to notice my response, or the lack of it.

Affected by his excitement, even wilder thoughts started occurring to me; Did we finally manage to get people to start arriving on time for an appointment? Or did we get people to start respecting the vulnerable sections of society? Or, even more difficult, did we manage to get people to understand the purpose of traffic lights?

It still did not come to me. Not one to flinch in the face of adversity, I held my nerve. I did not give him the satisfaction of knowing that I did not know.

“Apna (Our) Sundar is the new CEO of Google”, he burst out excitedly, not caring whether I was participating in the conversation or not.

Sundar?

The question was, perhaps, visible on my face, because he said, “Yes, don’t you know Sundar?”

I racked my brains yet again. ‘Twas the day for the brains to be racked.

Like in any engaging and meaningful discussion between close friends, he continued without waiting for my response, “Sundar Pichai has been appointed as the new CEO of Google.”

As if on cue, my phone beeped. In one of the WhatsApp groups where I am a member, a college friend had posted, “do you know Sundar’s wife is from my state?”

“Wow!”, “You lucky dog”, “Did not know you were capable of this” and many other congratulatory messages immediately filled the screen of my phone, in recognition of the remarkable achievement of this friend being from the same state as Sundar’s wife; a state with a population of only 73 million. In such a sparsely populated state, obviously everyone would be on first-name terms with everyone else.

“His wife is from my city.” This message, on the same group, came like a thunderclap. Silence enveloped the WhatsApp group. Messages suddenly stopped. There was no way of topping that. Members, perhaps, realised they had been hasty in congratulating the guy who was from the same state as Sundar’s wife.

Now, I am not one to shy away from admitting when I have been bested. Truth be told, in the newspaper I was reading at the start, I had noticed a headline about Sundar’s elevation, but had neither paid any heed to it, nor connected it to being a great day for India. I was ashamed. Yet again.

To make amends, I asked, softly, “Why is it a great day for India?”

“Don’t you get it?”, he started, exasperated with my thickness. He halted, looked around, as if searching for the right phrase, and stammered out, “It is a…great day for India….because…because…it is a… great day…for India”. He got up and walked off, to avoid having to answer other silly questions.

It was a lucid explanation. I fell silent, as I usually do when faced with logic and reason, especially in addition to lucidity.

Between the excitement of the friend who was (or had been) with me, and the messages on this WhatsApp group, I was getting the drift. The enormity of the event was dawning on me. Now all by myself, I slipped into a haze of rose-tinted possibilities, imagining all the reasons why it must be a great day for India.

It must be a great day for India because a person, born and brought up in India, now heads an American corporation. It must also be a great day for India because this corporation, as all corporations do, is trying to become an even bigger and more profitable corporation.

It must be a great day for India because it must mean that shareholders of Google will now sell their shares in Google and donate their wealth to India, paving the way for everlasting success and happiness of all Indians.

It must be a great day for India because Sundar, instead of working for the interest of his employer, who pays his salary, will suddenly start working for India, without pay.

It must be a great day for India because the elevation of Sundar is a validation of our time-tested policy of unwillingness and inability to engage bright minds that require an orderly environment to thrive, leading them to look for, and thrive in, greener pastures overseas.

And let us also spare a thought for America, the country to which the corporation in question belongs?

It must surely be a dark day for them. They continue to provide an environment that makes it a magnet for people from around the world. Not only that, they provide them equal opportunity for success. When will they learn?

It was beginning to make sense.

We deserve credit for Sundar’s success because we have been a party to creating hurdles in his way at each step. That he was able to overcome them and pursue his life, is a credit to us, not to him.

The timing is propitious. The sixty ninth Independence Day looms.

The PM, in his Independence Day speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort, is expected to ask the rhetorical question, “Did any Indian become CEO of Google before we came to power?”

To counter the impact of this revelation, it is also learnt that the Opposition is preparing a campaign, the highlight of which will be the statement “Sundar was born when we were in power.”

I am now a prouder Indian.

I made a mental note to check if Sundar, or his wife, or any other close or distant relatives, had ever passed through my town, or state, or intend to. Or if I, or any of my close relatives, had ever travelled to the city, or the state, where Sundar grew up.

 

PSA-150706-Useless Info

Originally posted on Grumpa Joe's Place:

These are very interesting…Don’t see how anyone could go a day longer, without this enlightment….

I have to try the one with the champaign and the raisin.
BIG_49935

A rat can last longer without water than a camel.

Your stomach has to produce a new layer of mucus every two weeks or it will digest itself.

The dot over the letter “i” is called a tittle.

A raisin dropped in a glass of fresh champagne will bounce up and
down continuously from the bottom of the glass to the top.

A female ferret will die if it goes into heat and cannot find a mate.

Chewing gum while peeling onions will keep you from crying.

A 2 X 4 is really 1-1/2″ by 3-1/2″.

During the chariot scene in “Ben Hur,” a small red car can be seen
in the distance (and Heston’s wearing a watch).

On average, 12 newborns will…

View original 755 more words

In a Soup

Madhuri Dixit, a leading Bollywood actress of the nineties, is in a thick soup. Not an ordinary soup. A thick Maggi soup. 

It appears that a packet of Maggi, of which she is a brand ambassador, has been found to contain Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), a taste-enhancer, which is a restricted substance, without a declaration on the packing of the product. To add salt to Maggi, or insult to injury, the discovery has been made simultaneously in Barabanki and Muzaffarpur, remote towns deep in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, as well known across the nation for their rule of law and morally upright administration, as they are for the ethical, uncompromising stand on testing of food taken by the common man.

Such amateurish behaviour was not expected from an actress of her stature. It is learnt from reliable sources that she did not even rush to her private lab to check the ingredients under a microscope before signing on the dotted line. All she is reported to have done is seek confirmation from company officials regarding the quality of the product.

Such negligence deserves punishment.

The government, poor souls, have been forced to take this action against the brand ambassador, since they have no way of knowing that the product was manufactured by Nestle, one of the world’s leading packaged food manufacturers.

How can they?

Are they children who consume the product?

Or are they expected to read the printed matter on packets of the product?

Or are they expected to maintain records and governance information that could lead people to believe that they have some idea of what is going on in their jurisdiction?

Even if they did, how are they expected to know how to contact Nestle or how to serve a notice to them? So, as smart, reasonable government officials, they sent a notice to Madhuri Dixit.

The government is sending out a clear signal to the younger generation. It is just not enough to be a good, popular actor. You also need to have a private product testing lab.

Salman Khan, a popular Bollywood actor, who endorses a brand of cotton vests, is running scared. As is Aishwarya Rai, former Miss World, who is endorsing a commercial real estate development in Mumbai. With a fair and transparent government at work, there is no knowing which product MSG might surface in next.

Shopkeepers around the country who have stocked it are already under the scanner. Why did they not check the packets in their own labs before selling them, is a question baffling experts?

Sooner or later, it is bound to come back to the parents. What were they thinking? Don’t they even have labs at home where they can test the products they are feeding their children? Do they expect the government to do even that? When will they start taking responsibility?

The Information and Broadcasting Minister, having failed to detect the presence of MSG in the product, and allowed product ads to be aired on TV, in a principled stand, has resigned his position as Minister and become the governor of a state.

Realising that Madhuri Dixit started endorsing Maggi only recently, the government machinery is leaving no stone unturned to uncover the names of celebrities who have endorsed Maggi in the past so that blame can be placed where it belongs.

Following the lead given by the government, the courts are creating a precedent whereby responsibility for future indiscretions regarding a product can be clearly assigned.

If it is found that Fair and Handsome does not really make you any fairer or more handsome, who will the blame lie with? Of course Shahrukh Khan, another leading Bollywood actor, who endorses the product.

We don’t need to tell you whose responsibility it would be in case it is discovered, in Barabanki or Muzaffarpur, that Boost, the chocolate energy drink for children, does not really give any additional natural energy to children. Of course it will be Sachin Tendulkar’s responsibility. Everyone knows Sachin. And everyone should know why it is his responsibility.

The government and courts have also given a resounding endorsement of the decision-making capability of the common man. They possess such sound judgment, the government believes, that they are forced to buy all products endorsed by a celebrity, even though they have no use for them.

The product will be banned with retrospective effect, as has been so successfully done by some of our leaders.

But wait! Why should the product be banned? Is it the fault of the product? No way. It is the fault of Madhuri Dixit.

Cities of Joy

Even before an official announcement was made, a fight has already erupted between the contenders.

The recent announcement that a hundred “smart” cities will be created across the country has set the dovecotes aflutter. As political announcements without substance usually do.

The project has a high chance of success as nobody seems to have asked for it and nobody knows what it really means. The genius of the scheme can be judged from the mere fact that it did not promise to create seventy three “smart” cities. It also did not promise to create one hundred and sixteen “smart” cities. It has set out to create exactly one hundred “smart” cities. It is a clear sign that it is based neither on need, nor on any research or study.

The Medieval-era mystic, saint and poet Amir Khusro is said to have written about Kashmir, “Agar Firdaus bar rui zamin ast, u hamin ast, u hamin ast, u hamin ast” translated to, “If there be a Heaven on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this”. If he were alive today, he may well have waxed forth, “if there be a project destined to succeed on Earth, it is this, it is this, it is this”, in chaste Farsi (Persian) of course, the language he preferred for his verse.

It reinforces the courage of political leaders in taking the difficult decisions they have taken in the past, braving ridicule and protest. Of repeatedly permitting slums and shanties to mushroom in all major cities, right under their collective noses, as they looked the other way. Of permitting millions of people to live without basic amenities like water, electricity and sanitation while charging them taxes. Of regularising these colonies each time an election was around the corner, for the next unauthorised colony to start rising immediately thereafter. Had these difficult decisions not been taken, the dream of creating a hundred “smart” cities would have remained just that, a dream.

It reinforces the vibrancy of our democracy by sending out an unambiguous message to people to exercise their right to vote. If they don’t vote, how will they elect such governments that make such promises?

Political leadership of the country, cutting across party and ideology lines, stands together as one in telling people that they, the political leadership, have no time to waste on creating a fair and transparent environment where people get just reward for efforts; where there is rule of law that facilitates organic growth; and where cities develop in a manner desired and dreamt of by people who live in it. They will continue to bow to the demands placed on them by our democratic traditions, and reward the faithful by bestowing political largesse, drawn from them as taxes, back to them, periodically, in order that they can feel beholden.

As the criteria for selection has not been specified, there is rejoicing across the length and breadth of the country. There is even more rejoicing across the length and breadth of the country because what is meant by a “smart” city has also not been specified.

There is excited “chai pe charcha” (discussion over tea) all around on the subject. Will my “smart” city look like Bangalore? Can we really all but destroy a once pristine environment in one generation? Is it even possible to do it again? Or will my “smart” city be like Gurgaon? Can we really build another modern, planned city right from scratch in twenty years, and still ensure that the water table plunges, electricity is in short supply, parking cannot be found for love or money, and there are bars and restaurants at every nook and corner, as every “smart” city must have.

And there is still more rejoicing across the length and breadth of the country as people will now not have to take responsibility for the development of their cities. Apart from their municipal authorities, they will now also have the central government to blame. What more can citizens of “unsmart” cities ask for?

The deal has been made that much sweeter by the government insisting on replacing the current municipal officialdom with a professional municipal cadre.

Really? Could one ever have guessed that there was a professional municipal cadre, straining at the leash, waiting to be let loose on “smart” cities, to solve all their problems, that has been kept hidden away in the corridors of bureaucracy, while the current officialdom gnaws away at the bulwark of functional cities? A cadre, despite being drawn from the same source, trained in the same manner, and responsible to the same set of self-seeking superiors, that would behave in an entirely different manner. And, of course, this cadre can be let loose only on the “smart” cities.

Since ours is a rich culture which prohibits corrupting foreign influences, especially when it threatens us and our agendas, we have to invite Singapore, Toulouse and Tel Aviv to set-up these “smart” cities for us. In addition, an American organisation which has the word “Philanthropies” in its name has been roped in to identify the cities.

Major builders are salivating at the prospects the “smart” city project presents to their ilk. Efficient public transport, abundant power and water, clean environment, a technology backbone for all services may still be debated as to them being rightful constituents of “smart” cities, but the presence of grotesque looking glass and concrete buildings with inadequate parking and zero accessibility in a “smart” city, alongwith elevated and tunnelled roads to ease the traffic woes created by the lack of planning, no person in his right mind would question.

With this achievement, of the announcement, under their belt, the political leadership is already looking ahead to the next project. A senior leader, in a moment of weakness, revealed that to a close confidante. On seeing the quizzical look in the eyes of the listener, the leader clarified, “You see Delhi. It was expected that pollution levels will come down once metro is introduced. Also, transport woes will ease. But, has there been any change? What does one do now? One cannot rest on one’s laurels. That would be cheating the public who has reposed their trust in us and put us in this position. If we don’t keep showing them a brighter future that will never be attained, how will we ever repay our debt to them?”

“Hence, we are preparing to launch the ‘smarter’ city project soon”, he revealed.

The erstwhile “smart” cities, meanwhile, continue their inexorable march towards becoming “smarting” cities.

The fight between contenders continues to intensify. It is not clear if cities fighting for inclusion are “smarter” or the ones fighting for exclusion are.

 

Advance preparation

In the final analysis, the Indian cricket team managed a respectable showing in the recently concluded World Cup Cricket for One-day Internationals (ODIs), ending up as one of the two losing semi-finalists.

How that happened cricket pundits are still trying to figure out. Pretty much the same team that did not win a single game in the two months they spent in Australia prior to the World Cup, their undefeated progress to the semi-finals has become a bit of an enigma. Knowledgeable analyses like “they would have felt at home after so many days in Australia”, “playing Pakistan in the first match was the key”, “the team management helped them focus on the game” have been offered, giving us deep insights into winning cricket games.

But this is the hallmark of great teams. Up one day, especially when playing at home. Down the very next. Frequently giving up without a fight. Being consistent, especially when on a losing streak, particularly in unfamiliar conditions overseas.

While the armchair pundits continue their efforts at unravelling the mystery behind the team’s showing, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), claiming responsibility for the World Cup performance, while maintaining a dignified silence on performance prior to the Cup, is not letting the cat out of the bag. Instead, demonstrating the leadership that has made it India’s richest sports body which apparently generates 80% of the revenue generated by the game all over the world, it has already hunkered down to the task of preparing for the next World Cup.

Their actions in the immediate aftermath of the recently concluded World Cup might also provide some clues on the turnaround in the team’s performance.

 As a start, the BCCI has lost no time in issuing guidelines to the Advertising Standards Council of India, the apex self-regulating industry body for advertising companies, that when a pretty girl calls a cricketer in an ad, she has to give him at least an hour to reach her. Five minutes will just not do, as was the case with a TV ad of a tyre company where a girl had the cheek to ask the vice-captain of the team to reach there in five minutes, and which, one can conclude, was the reason for his lasting no more than five minutes on the pitch in a crunch game.

Thankfully (or was it pre-planned by the Board? Perhaps we will never know) the next edition is in England and Wales, where our teams have had spectacular lack of success in the past, though a couple of teams in the past did buck the trend. A long series of matches has been scheduled just prior to the tournament, involving the home team and, for additional insurance, the other best team in the world (India is always one of the best teams; sometimes one of best four, sometimes one of best seven, sometimes one of best twelve). Matches will be scheduled on pitches that require skill and fitness. After this series against fast pitches and competent opposition before the Cup, whatever performance the team is able to put-up in the World Cup will be like manna from heaven.

The number of teams participating has been reduced to ten. Who can argue that even if the team involved is Afghanistan or Ireland, or even Fiji and Chile, who have never claimed to play cricket, for that matter, the possibility of defeat always looms, such glorious uncertainties is what the game of cricket is made up of. Gradually, the number of teams will be reduced in future editions, till we are left with two, one of them India. From then onwards, the winner will be decided based on the toss of a coin. If we lose…well, who can argue with the caprices of a coin.

Even management of supporters has not been left to chance. Selection policies have been updated to ensure that at least one of the major players has a girlfriend who is a well-known actress, so that knowledgeable fans know who to blame for the team’s poor performance.

In an inspired move, the selection committee has asked for the duration of T20 cricket’s India Premier League to be extended so that the top overseas players who participate in it can qualify to play for India and eliminate the problem of Indian players not performing overseas. There need to be teams and players overseas to lose to, stupid! In any case, it is a much more controllable and easier method to deliver results than the alternative, which is to get people to adopt fitness and sports as a way of life. 

Eagerly looking forward to the next World Cup.

Defamation

We can hold our heads high.

Our leaders are leaving no stone unturned to protect us. British film-maker Leslee Udwin’s documentary “India’s daughter” has been banned. It has been banned because it defames the country.

By the way, we know that the country’s defamation can only happen when a foreigner is involved, like in this case. An Indian can, at best, cause regional defamation, state-level defamation or religious defamation. But defaming the whole country? No, an Indian can never hope to rise to the level of causing national defamation.

And why should it (the documentary) not be (banned)? After all, it seeks to unearth the truth. And ask searching questions about male attitudes towards women. It deserves to be banned.

Of course, it is quite possible that in the process of interviewing the accused, laws may have been broken, which the Home Minister has been at pains to point out. And that needs to be addressed, as the common man is extremely upset about that, which is evident from the fact that amongst the milling crowds at bus-stops, the people at corner shops, the panellists on TV shows, the headlines in newspapers, nobody is talking about it. The Home Minister has rightly addressed this aspect to allay the fears of the common man.

The documentary, among other things, portrays the accused in the infamous Delhi rape case of December 2012 as blaming the victim for the rape. It is a clear case of a sick mind. We need to shelter the public from such honest confessions, especially the adult male population, who currently don’t, but will start thinking like the accused if exposed to his views. Who knows what further atrocities women will be subject to as a result, that would not take place if the adult male population were not to be exposed to these views.

If that is not enough, we are bound to reverse the gains that have been made in uplifting the stock of women in the country through the introduction of pink taxis and a women-only bank run by men.

Whoever has heard of a debate on an issue of importance doing any good in our society? Whoever has heard of presentation of a true picture ever leading to a catharis in our society? Whoever has heard of debate and counter-argument leading to society gaining a clearer understanding about itself?

There is no need to waste time on such trifles. In any case, since we know that ours is a rich culture, there is no need for a debate, or presentation of a true picture of what people really think, especially men about women. We know. We know all men are chaste and pure and only possess clean and noble thoughts for women. It is only the people who are caught after acts of crime against women who possess a sick mind. Everyone else is clean.

And we know that men have the right to decide. On what women should do. What they should wear. Where they should go. Who they should meet.

Now that the issue of defamation of the nation from presentation of a true picture has come to light, requiring political leaders to act, we should be happy our leaders do not undertake half-measures. When they address an issue, they address it whole-heartedly. Defamation might never be able to raise its ugly head.

In order to shield the country from defamation brought on by poor performance in a future game, political leaders have prevailed upon the Board of Control for Cricket in India to use its clout in world cricket to treat all games, where the Indian team loses, as not having ever been played, with retrospective effect. Any media house found covering the same will be acted against. This will also prevent any other country defeating India from inviting criminal charges from the Indian government for defamation of the nation.

Every person who does not wear foreign clothes or, at the very least, does not talk in a western language, will be removed to an area specially reserved for such misfits. After all, if an overseas visitor were to interact with such a person and see reality, would it not create a poor impression of our great civilisation that is tantamount to defamation? We cannot leave such things to chance.

If at any point of time economic measures reveal a less-than-rosy picture, the slump in growth is to be addressed by changing the formula to measure growth rather than risk defamation.

Many other measures have been prescribed. But nothing is foolproof. To cover that eventuality, legislation has been enacted requiring citizens, in the manner of Mahatma Gandhi’s three monkeys, to “hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil”. In simple terms, bury your head in the sand and pretend all is well.

In the interest of transparency and openness and in order to protect against defamation, all divergent views, particularly ones that call upon men to introspect about their attitude towards women, need to be clamped down upon.

Being published

I feel happy to share with you that the last two issues of Friday Gurgaon, a weekly newspaper in Gurgaon, have featured my articles. Here are the links to the two articles in the online version of the paper:

http://www.fridaygurgaon.com/news/5808-Licence-to-Learn.html

http://www.fridaygurgaon.com/news/5792-lies-damned-lies-and-elections.html

Regular readers of this blog will recognise these two as modified (and edited) versions of articles published on the blog.

Friday Gurgaon is also open to continue assessing future submissions for publishing :-)

Another article was published in Unhinged, an online satire magazine, a few days back. Here is the link:

http://unhingedmagazine.com/2015/02/the-good-that-men-do/

An interesting thing I have noted is that both Friday Gurgaon and Unhinged have embellished the article/s with images. My articles are always only prose, except, where the article is about an image of some sort, like traffic signs. Perhaps time to consider including suitable images, though I think addition of images limits imagination. Not sure if that last sentence made any sense. Will welcome views on inclusion of images with articles.