2009 LS elections - my truth

Why did I feel such a great sense of elation? Such a rush? As if this were a personal victory when Congress won a near majority? I searched deep within for some real answers.

I think I was grateful for the fact that we did not have a half and half verdict because that would have meant much horse trading and opportunism. I was so afraid that the educated masses were so divided about BJP versus Congress and no emergence of an alternative plausible 3rd national party that both could have drawn blood and us ‘aam junta’ would have been forgotten in the war of internal politics. I also was somewhere deeply worried the young were still shirking from their responsibilities despite so many efforts to draw them into the circle to exercise their voting rights and they abstaining may have led to a negative back lash like a Sena or MNS gaining more power! Thank God none of this happened.

I certainly did not want to see religion and caste dividing my country any further in the middle. I am fully aware that the BJP has done little right over the past five years in Opposition to merit any positive views. Even the Congress led UPA Government had not scored any brownie points during the same period for any performance led results with an urban dweller like me.

Maybe the gratitude of seeing Congress emerge victorious was felt so strongly by me perhaps because I felt this was a party that maybe was the better evil amongst the two? Maybe Congress would be less hungry for power between the two parties (as Congress had been in power much longer before and hence maybe satiated some?). I most definitely feel that local issues impact the decision of voters, young or old and the 26/11 Bombay terror attacks were a latent reminder of a large looming threat over us people and instinctively with so much finger pointing being indulged in by the BJP at Congress, it felt right to uphold Congress with a will to change things for the better for the country because pedigree of the C-party people stood out stark, almost reassuringly this elections. Led by Manmohan Singh, and a relatively young brigade like Rahul Gandhi, Jyotiraditya, Sachin Pilot, Jatin, Omar and a battery of able sharp shooting PR speakers of the C-brigade made me feel confident about Congress and that they could have my vote.

Now it is for us to ensure we hold these happy fellas, accountable, post victory. They certainly have made the right noises about security, internal issues like the naxals and economic development, and inducting young people into the cabinet etc. It’s imperative that every Indian seek a score card of progress and transparency in development - economically and socially - from this victorious C-party frequently, to keep track of performance led politics:)


Seize the moment

(reproduced from a forward)

I arrived at the address where someone had requested a taxi. I honked but no one came out. I honked again, nothing. So I walked to the door and knocked. 'Just a minute', answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90's stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets..

There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

'Would you carry my bag out to the car?' she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, and then returned to assist the woman.

She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.

She kept thanking me for my kindness. 'It's nothing', I told her. 'I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated'..
'Oh, you're such a good boy', she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, and then asked, 'Could you drive through downtown?'

'It's not the shortest way,' I answered quickly.
'Oh, I don't mind,' she said. 'I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospice'.

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. 'I don't have any family left,' she continued. 'The doctor says I don't have very long.' I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.

'What route would you like me to take?' I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator.

We drove through the neighbourhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, 'I'm tired. Let's go now'

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.

Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

'How much do I owe you?' she asked, reaching into her purse.
'Nothing,' I said

'You have to make a living,' she answered.

'There are other passengers,' I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.

'You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,' she said.

'Thank you.'

I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.
I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift?
What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?
On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life.

We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments.

But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.



Are India’s young an illusion?

Everyone in India thinks that the youth is a very powerful, decisive, changing agent for a super power India to emerge! And with 2/3rds of Indians below the age of 35 the young certainly look a promising large number to make some powerful changes if they decide to.

At the risk of sounding na├»ve and simplistic I’m not sure we can conclude that young Indians have a unique and independent political preferences and views – my own sense is they are out of depth and out of sorts with the world of politics and that they’d rather not dirty their hands or brave hardships to change the status quo in the country.

They are happy to sit on the sidelines and continue to be apathetic and indifferent to the political governance in the country but are opinionated and trigger happy with words and points of views which continue to spew forth, without a break.

I guess much stress does get put on the youth of our country because the youth are supposed to be the carriers of change and transformation. If the past 3 phases of polling were to be taken into account then this myth feeds on a perception that the youth does not confirm to any of these beliefs including the angst of 26/11 which seemed to have overtly galvanized them into action but now seems long forgotten!

The youth seem less politically active than ever despite so many “voting driven” communication campaigns – with John Abraham, Aamir Khan and so many other large Bollywood stars. Obviously there are more active priorities and anxieties in life they seem to be consumed by a) how to earn money furiously quick b) how to prepare for a professional career c) how to circumvent controversies and not stick out with any point of view!

If I were to draw inferences from all the tv debates and real life instances I have seen thus far, then there is no systematic difference between the manner in which the young and the not-so-young vote. In opinions, there is simply nothing like a generational jump in Indian politics that can form a dividing line between an emerging point of view and an old generation thinking!.

The young support democracy in much the same way as the old do.

The young are about as traditional and conservative as the old. Even on questions like inter-caste marriage, live in relations, son preference over daughter - the opinions of the young are not actually very different from the rest of the population.