Monday

The great Indian Debate – Will it, wont it?

How do our political leaders, ministers engage with us - the public? The young guns do it through an impersonal stupid one line templated response from their Blackberry. Which amounts to minus zero engagement. In fact works dramatically in an opposite manner – only if they’d understand the damage they are doing themselves and their reputation! The older leaders try to engage the masses through their blogs which continue to have a personal motivation and an agenda. Once again amounting to nothing for the masses given high illiteracy levels in our country.

And if none other vehicles of communication work then a press conference is called for to wash dirty linen in public! No matter what questions get shrieked at them, they only give information single mindedly on what they would like to provide ammunition for. There is no two way speak, in this great democracy of ours. Do you remember a scenario where you have had a two way dialogue with any of these leaders?

And I don’t mean touching them or shaking their hands post the Bombay attacks or during a rally! I mean a dialogue, a conversation, a meaningful point of view which us masses have absorbed, analyzed, understood and have related to?

Indian leaders’ direct communication begins and ends with that great ‘tamasha’ called the election. The moment the vote is counted and government formed, they build impregnable fortresses around themselves. No Indian Prime Minister has ever organized a town hall kind of a meeting and took questions from the public in the middle of a raging national crisis or controversy (remember Obama on the Jay Leno show?).

When did our Prime Minister ever explain the various stock market scams to us directly, in terms that you and I can comprehend? Dr Manmohan Singh was famously dismissive of the biggest scam that first broke the trust of the small Indian investor in 1992, saying he “did not lose his sleep” over the plummeting BSE Sensex, which, until then, was hawked incessantly by his government as the emerging middle class’ big ticket to prosperity.

Why do our political leaders shy away to connect with this country’s people? A case in point was the nuke deal crisis that threatened to force an early election on the country. The deal resonated favorably, at least with urban India, but all that the PM did by way of reaching out was to shadow box. The party spokepeople – now they are a tenacious breed! Ravi Prasad, Jaitley, Kapil Sibal, Amar Singh – fantastic shadow boxers! Infact they have an alternate career if they ever decide to give up ad libbing! They have mastered the art of rhetoric, interruption, finger pointing on TV shows- they behave like the lotus flower. All the ‘keechad’ is around them viz their opponents from rival political parties. They themselves are the beautiful Lotus flower which blooms, does its work remaining agnostic to the ‘keechad’! Don’t we really wish!

On the other hand irrespective if you hated it or loved it, The India Today Conclave pulled off a high decibel conclave showcasing international political stars and villains all on the same platform. Look high and low on TV do you find a single show of equal nature and stature for our prime ministerial candidates to make an appearance on? Ok lets not even debate this… they can honestly come on any show and we will allow the likes of Arun Purie or Arnab or Prabhu Chawla to field questions at them

But- they shy away. Its alright for Advani to challenge Dr Manmohan Singh today. If the situation was reversed I assure you not even Advani would take the centre stage who seems to be roaring like a Tiger from within his den with no purpose. Its time these guys realized we are an intelligent people who understand whats at play in Politics. And no amount of fake talking or hoodwinking can take away their credit if they have done substantial work in the development of the nation, or the demerit if they speak mere hollow words.

Sure the big question remains - will they ever come live on TV? In a debate? Highly unlikely – neither will the challenged nor will the challenger, you figure who’s who in this great democratic, hollow power play that seems to be unfolding with some fervour in our country!

When a nation is in troubled times, be it the security of the country or the economic meltdown, be it the Satyam scam or the problem involving criminals in politics, when it is about hate speeches or about paani, sadak, bijli for the aam janta - our leaders, political leaders need to be able to differentiate between the real problems and political wolves and find a way to wrest a communication pathway with the public and reassure them the nation is in steady hands, hands that are not daunted by the challenges. Our future leaders need to display a show of courage that despite the humungous problems facing the nation “together” we will keep our wits and diversity and secularity intact and still be able to ride the wave of development and grow at a frenetic pace.

That’s a leader you want to leave the country in the hands of. That’s the leader you want to vote for. How difficult can it be to talk on a subject they have spent 70, 80 plus years of their life on?

Once upon a time there was a sport called cricket

India is in the throes of an election that will possibly throw up a crazy alliance governement; our political leadership has been fraught with social and communal tensions and the meltdown of the economy has not helped either. Add to that the continuing suspense over whether the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament will happen or not (The IPL has now been shifted outside India). Its a B grade thriller that has captured the interest of masses who look upon this incident in India and wonder in their minds, once again, what will it take politicians to do their jobs instead of interfering in territories best left alone like sports. But the likes of Jaitley or Pawar are already well entrenched into cricket and there is no getting away from the fact where there is money (and most certainly there is lots of cash in cricket)- politicians will be scripting their Swiss account maths!

The IPL symbolizes the bright and brash, mixing India’s great sporting passion and Bollywood’s glamour, topped with lashings of money. Enter: The Politics of politicians and powerful lobbies who will jostle to topple anything as long as their currency is not being held ransom!

Cricket is only a game and entertains you for 4 hours. Many of us understand that. Didn't The IPL organizers know that there will be the Lok Sabha Elections in April, May months of 2009, as the current government is completing their 5 years term. They should have planned it accordingly. Now the organizers are putting all the blame on the central govt. The real culprits are IPL organizers and not the central govt. Who don't keep cognizance of certain basic calendar of events before planning a tournament! I mean is that dumb or is that dumb! And this pathetic story hogs the media headlines?! Do we have better things to do during an election phase?

IPL should not be considered as a sports event.. it is entertainment galore. In addition it also is a money making machine to earn a lot of cash at the expense of manhours of India. A question some leaders should be (instead) asking - can this money find better use for advancing the nation instead...

Smart folks know it is the Politics of money and self interest that has compelled the decision of taking IPL out of India. I am a huge cricket enthusiast but I frankly don't care if IPL going out of India was about security or politics. The glaring shocker for me is during an election season the IPL needn't have participated or precipitated another row within the warring political parties - because instead of debating national issues of governance our politicians are in a full blown war of words (over cricket) over matters that are not in the interest of the nations development !For crying out loud, when will we as The people hold these political parties responsible for debating issues that shld constitute election agendas?!?

Surely India deserves better!And that can happen only if we as The people seek answers from these politicians and not allow them to hijack our country's voice, over petty politics and cash! The Electorate needs to differentiate between politics and devious capitalistic looters in sports!

Friday

Women- half way there?

Women- strong power? Or smooth cooperation?

Have we seen accomplished women in our world? Have we felt their strong presence?

Her views on power, goverance, politics are largely associated with male charachteristics. She would rather avoid conflict than engage in it, leaving the field open to her being manipulated

In times like now when life is so multi dimensional, needing reinforcements and replenishment's a female stands the acid test of multi roles, soft and hard facets of a leader and a marquee manager

Many women do hold center-stage today, because people believe in them. Women present themselves more honestly, transparently, with clarity, speak a direct language that is relevant and connects. However is that the norm?

Women run countries with as much ease as they run creches with sensitivity and care
And here is a revelation - 50% of our electorate today are women. That's a sea change of statistics when you compare it to the days when women were not allowed to step out of home and from behind purdahs

Sure it is not easy. But then again sucess is not for the feeble hearted. The juggling for the top is fraught with stress, power play, frenetic lobbying, compromising. Infact in a candid moment you may even hear the admittance that she has made it to the top because of the men in her life. O nari, tu kyon itni pyari:)

Listen to this- Even today, one wishes for a son rather a daughter. Even today women have to fight for their rightful place in the corporate ladder. Even today if she is a tad too harsh with her colleagues she feels remorse and sad.

So how will she make it to the top? I know its fashionable to think living in cities like ours that women have arrived, but it is so far from the truth. Will she ever make it to the top like her male counterpart? Will the male bastion be on the verge of crumbling? If stats have their way then women have quite a long way to go before taking on the male bastion in the top of the chain-in-command.

SO maybe the trick lies not in competing but delineating the two bastions. By defining a new paradigm for herself? Where she is queen of all she rules? Till such a time the combination of environmental, cultural and societal reasons don't re-engineer, the marathon will chug onwards for the quest of the final bastion...

Tuesday

Festival of colours- Holi



Holi welcomes the spring and the season of love in Honor of God Krishna, who played in his times throwing colors at his many lovers. In the city of Vrindavan, this festival lasts for 7 days. Colours are the most joyous part of the Holi celebrations. They add life and vitality to the festival making it most vibrant of all. Happy holi, everyone

Largely everybody I know love to indulge in Holi celebrations. Not me. I not only refrain from celebrating the colours part, as the artificial colours used in the festivities give my skin rashes and irritation in the eyes. The other unholy part why I desist is the rowdiness associated with this festival which don’t allow me to feel comfortable with strangers coming up to me to apply tilak!!

Pre Colours night - the bonfire
As much as this was a genteel act of good winning over evil, with my social knowledge quotient going up I just feel that the burning of fuelwood to create the bonfire for Holika dahan presents another serious environmental problem. A study done in the state of Gujarat revealed that each bonfire uses around 100 kg of wood, and considering that approximately 30,000 bonfires are lit in the state of Gujarat alone on Holi night this leads to a staggering amount of wood loss.

Maybe we need to find an alternative material to burn instead of good wood?

How about a dry Holi?
In the current situation of water scarcity faced by most of our cities, the wasteful use of water during Holi, is also under scrutiny. It is common for people to douse each other with buckets of water during Holi, and children often resort to throwing water balloons at each other, if not buckets of water from atop apartments on innocent passerbys. The idea of a dry Holi may seem superficial and alien, however if you allow yourself to ponder a wee bit, especially as the climate becomes warmer around Holi, and the water provides welcome relief from the heat – consider our large cities where citizens go without water for several days, it seems wasteful to use so much water simply for a celebration.

I think awareness about the environmental impacts of celebrating Holi are being felt, we need to find traction , and we need to allow our actions to speak louder than words. We need to choose a more natural and less wasteful way of playing Holi.

An environmentally sensitive Holi?
Originally the playful throwing of the coloured powders was seen as joyous as it had a medicinal significance as the coloured powders were made of Neem, Kumkum, Haldi, Bilva, and other medicinal herbs prescribed by Ayurvedic doctors. Including Bhang that is drunk had medicinal reasons for it to be considered good.

But modern days bring its own apathy and neglect. The pastes contain very toxic chemicals that can have severe health effects - Black contains Lead oxide and can cause Renal Failure, Green contains Copper Sulphate and can cause Eye Allergy, Puffiness and Temporary blindness, Silver contains Aluminium Bromide which is Carcinogenic, Blue contains Prussian Blue whcih can lead to Contract Dematitis
Red contains Mercury Sulphite which is highly toxic and can cause skin cancer

And heard this? Holi gulaal is now mixed with Glass Powder to add that sparkle and shine to it to make it look more alluring to beckon buyers!