Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Loss of compassion

Why have we all become so discompassionate about our fellow human beings. There is anger everywhere. And this anger is exacerbated by social media where we vent this anger and have our friends and acquaintances add fuel to it. We are unhappy with each and every product and service we are offered and make sure that those companies know it. Should we not give them a benefit of doubt that they made an honest mistake? Probably they knew they were not doing the right thing but were hampered by the system.

We get angry with the airlines if they are late. Fair enough. But no airliner is perennially late. We are angry if the check-in baggage comes late. We are unhappy about our telecom service providers. We have endless complaints about them not responding to us. We are unhappy about politics. We are unhappy about corruption but will indulge in it as per our discretion. We are unhappy with the restaurant if the food comes a second late. We are sarcastic about the food with the waiter if the food is less tasty by an infinitesimal amount. We are unhappy about rickshaw and taxi drivers over-charging but we can do it with our customers. We will break all traffic rules and blame others for the traffic.

All companies have their senior management living a luxurious life but go for downsizing as soon as the quarter sales are not up to the levels of ‘stratospheric’ satisfaction. All that each company cares is profit at the end of the year and for attaining that, the process is immaterial. Ethics, laws, helpfulness, care, empathy, respect and family can take a back seat. Sales people are driven by fudging sales numbers, accounts people are driven by window-dressing the financial statements, finance people find ways to raise money through short-term objectives, human resource people are worried about least employee cost. There isn't an end to it. No one cares about the skilled worker on the shop-floor. Or the security personnel who is watching over your multi-billionaire conglomerate. It is ironic that you have mega photo-shoots with poor children to show that you are doing your bit of charity and spend millions on television ads when the same money can be used for the betterment of those children.

Why are we becoming so impatient. What are we going to do with the time we are saving by not stopping at the 30 second traffic signal. We are always on the worry about our jobs because we have so many wants which we assume are our needs. Social media has made people consume things to show others that they are living an exciting life. The situation is rather contrasting. Lifestyle diseases are on the rise. Love is at an all-time low.

Look inward and you will see that there are solutions. If we stop living life like wanting to consume each and every materialistic pursuit available, we will have more time for ourselves. We will be more accepting of supposed problems in our life and be compassionate towards people. Respect a human being and not the chair that he occupies. The sweeper is not less human than the Chief executive officer. Everyone is bound by the same life and how you help others show who you are than the external manifestation.

Our current ways of life can be summed up by the two lines of this beautiful poem from W.H. Davies “What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.”

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Ban on loose cigarettes. Uncalled for. Look beyond the obvious.

It is sad that we all consider cigarettes and alcohol as the only evil. An individual smoking a cigarette of drinking alcohol is considered to be having a bad habit or an addict. There is a whole laundry list of wrong things we humans do but none get the kind of blame as cigarettes & alcohol. I do not smoke and I drink occasionally but I abhor the kind of condescending attitude towards smokers or drinkers. We all do corruption in some way or the other. We all find ways to avoid taxes. We all (Men, in this case) are to be blamed for the crimes against women. We all exploit individuals working under us (agree it or not) through less pay or inhuman working conditions (read, workers cleaning the sewers or coal mines or maid at homes among others) yet take the moral higher ground when it comes to ethics. We all watch pornographic videos. Has banning porn reduced divorces or infidelity? Guns kill more people in the world than smoking and alcohol combined. The crux of the matter is that we pick and choose what is right and wrong for us.

The problem lies in our attitude to look at external beauty and get impressed, to look at materialistic objects and feel proud. We never look beyond what is visible to the physical eye. Since time immemorial, cigarettes and alcohol have faced a larger tax because it is a luxury and the government wants to reduce its consumption. Yet the consumption doesn’t reduce because for every person dying or giving up the habit, there is a college going student introduced to it as the solution to all ills. There were written warnings on cigarette packets. Subsequently they introduced gory photos. Why is there not a warning on liquor bottles? Why are there no photos on liquor bottles. Man is designed to find out ways to do things when told not to do so. We all know that corruption is wrong. But it still exists. The only way we can reduce consumption is by educating the people about the perils of both these things and then let them decide their course of action. Force will not work and never will.

The government needs to find ways to educate the children, right in school. Education is the only way consumption will decrease. Who is the government or tell a person what is right and what is wrong about a personal consumption. It is entirely his or her prerogative. If it doesn’t affect other individuals, then it shouldn’t matter. Every individual is intelligent enough for his or her volition. A teetotaller isn’t a morally better individual and neither is a smoker/drinker a morally degraded one. Move beyond the obvious. Try to find the underlying which affects human decisions and then work on that underlying. Until then, we will have more bans which will not work. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Yuvraj Singh and the frustrated Indian citizen!

Who can forget Yuvraj Singh crying after the World Cup win of 2011. It still gives goose bumps thinking about that campaign.

The seething anger at Yuvraj Singh over India’s surrender at the finale of the cricket World T20 shows a lot about the state of mind of the current Indian.  To put it in a harsh way, it shows a lot about ‘what is wrong’ with the state of mind of the current Indian citizen. The stress of elections 2014 and the hope of better governance is taking its toll on the average Indian. Let us look at cricket first and then move on to Indian psyche.

The rise of Sachin Tendulkar coincided with India climbing up the global success ladder giving it confidence to be world-beaters. The era of the Gangulys, Dravids, Laxmans came to an end with the meteoric rise of current India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and present heart throb Virat Kohli and in-between we had Yuvraj Singh and Virendra Sehwag. The contribution of out-of-favour Virendra Sehwag has been exemplary but it does not match the heroics of a Yuvraj Singh. Yuvraj has been the darling of the masses starting from his exploits in India’s win in the under-19 World cup followed by a dream debut against Australia in 2000 in Kenya consolidating it at the Natwest series in England in 2002, catapulting himself with six-sixes in an over in World T20 in 2007 (which India won) and the ultimate pinnacle of World Cup 2011. It would not be exaggeration to say that the kind of influence he has had over India’s success is unmatched. Don’t compare his individual records with others because individual performances matter less in a team game.

Yuvraj’s personal fight with to overcome cancer and his subsequent return to International cricket is nothing short of a miracle. He has not been the Yuvraj of yore though. We can draw parallels to the state of economy that India finds itself here in 2014. India also was a darling of the International investors not too long ago and the eminent rises of the Indian economy never ceases to the hopefuls. We have flatter to deceive more often than not. As the world comes out of a trough after the highs between 2002 & 2007, India does not seem to find favour with those who form the bulwark to get the world economy back on track. Yuvraj and India seems to follow a similar path. Just like Yuvraj who finds favour with the captain and selectors based on past performance and talent, India too finds favour among the international community on basis of past performance (namely the importance of BRIC) but this does not translate into on-field performance.

The suppressed energies of India’s youth due to an overall letdown of the incumbent government over the last decade find its outlet with the seething anger at Yuvraj. Cricket has always been passionately followed in India but the expectations surrounding the grand entry of India into the World Cup final turned into a damp squib. Yuvraj found himself at the centre of attention when he unintentionally turned out to the anti-hero with his hapless performance. But the Indian fan who had sky high expectations could not bear the loss. A team failure was attributed to one person who bore the brunt of freedom-of-speech on social media. It doesn’t augur well for the incumbent government considering the kind of restlessness among the citizens. Sports and movies are an escape route for the citizens of a country who are under stress of under-performance and lack of satisfaction in daily life. When this escape route meets a dead end, it is bound to create repercussions. And the seething anger at a failure in sports is one such repercussion. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Good guys always win. Arvind Kejriwal’s story though is unfolding otherwise

Good guys always win. And I think Arvind Kejriwal’s innings in the politics reinforced the fact. Last two months though have saddened the lot of people who believed in the Arvind Kejriwal Story. I still think over a longer period of time, he might bring about a change in the political mindset even though he may not remain a major player.

He won people’s hearts with his actions which were in sync with the way people liked their leaders to be. Simple, straight-forward and action-oriented. Everything he said after forming his political outfit, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was in tune with the ground realities. Corruption has always been an impediment all over the world and it is no different in India. That does not make us attuned to it and he rightly made it is agenda to root out corruption. He also understood the people’s problems with the current political functioning and the disillusionment of the working class who contribute the majority to the exchequer. Against all odds and disrespect from the leading political parties and with a lot of trepidation, he fought the Delhi state elections 2014 and came out the second largest party. As destiny would have it, he became the Chief Minister of Delhi.

With all due respect, he had the chance to prove that he walked the talk. Unfortunately, we do not know what transpired or what was the thought process of him and his team. They went berserk with announcements which by all counts were populist. A lot of unconventional methods went into the kind of governance. Austerity drive that did not materialise, alleged anarchist attitude with the Dharna, vigilantism to catch corruption through hidden cameras, on-ground mob mobility against alleged drugs & prostitution. All the actions were for the larger good although they might not be too pleasing to those who follow the rule of the book. It won him friends and foes as well. Lot of arguments about the process being right or wrong. And then the Jan Lokpal. Not being allowed to get it through, the unnecessary accusation of the Lieutenant Governor being ‘partisan’ and the ego battle to pass the Jan Lokpal finally took out life out of the Arvind Kejriwal Story with his resignation as New Delhi Chief Minister.

It is a case of missed opportunities. He could have been slow with the announcements and could have had a measured approach to governance. He though thought otherwise. Wanting to go for the big-bang statements and have an immediate impact.  I think he has over-estimated the success story of AAP far too much. I hope I am proved wrong. There is a theory going around that they are looking at the bigger battle now i.e. the Lok Sabha elections 2014 in May by contesting 350-400 seats out of 544. Apart from the resources required for such a large scale elections, they do not have the individuals who have a mass acceptance. Merely fielding social activists or corporates will not guarantee success. It worries me that in case the results do not come out as expected, the whole movement might fizzle out. Thus I hope better sense prevails and Arvind Kejriwal takes a long-position rather than go for instant gratification. You should not try your luck too far. But then Arvind Kejriwal has being unconventional and might make a lot of us ‘eat crow’ with its success going forward.

Bottomline is- goods intentions do not necessarily translate into actions. And altruism isn’t always better for others especially when it comes to being on the administrative and governance side. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Romanticism- thy name is Rahul G

                                                   (pic source:

It always is a pleasure to see romanticism in every walk of life. Rahul G personifies the romanticism in politics at its pinnacle. Much has been said about the interview this week and reams of newspaper and electronic space will be devoted to intricately dissect every word said. It was sort of a damp squib at the end of it.

Any individual who isn't related to India and has not seen the last 10 years of India's journey would not be blamed if he chooses to endorse him for the next PM. On the basis of sheer innocence and forthrightness. But as always, there is more to it than what meets the eye.

Rahul wants to go for 'Business Process Re-engineering' of the political system i.e. make radical changes than go for ‘Kaizan’ i.e. slow and steady improvements. Nothing wrong in the thought. However, if you consider the anomalies, extremities and dichotomy in behaviour. On one hand you want to scrap the ordinance which bars individuals with criminal proceedings to stop contesting elections but on the other, you align yourself with the RJD chief implicated in a scam. On one hand you pride yourself on bringing in the Lokpal but on the other, you save the politicians from the Adarsh scam. On one hand you talk of 'women empowerment' but on the other, you do not take a 'zero-tolerance' stand against injustice meted out to the fairer sex. On one hand you talk of opening up the system and bringing in meritocracy in selecting individuals for elections but on the other, you are a beneficiary of dynastic politics. On one hand you talk of RTI as a game-changer but on the other hand, you have the biggest scams in India- Coalgate & spectrum allocation wherein your coalition partners ran amok and you were a sitting duck. On one hand you talk of Narenda M and his government abetting 2002 riots in Gujarat in spite of him being exonerated but were audacious enough to accept that 1984 riots had a few Congressman involved. This isn’t an endorsement of what happened in Gujarat. It is your double standards on two heinous events.

Having said this, you still want to believe him when he says that he isn't afraid of Narenda M because it is a trivial thing for someone who has seen his Grandmother and Father assassinated. When doubts are raised on him being afraid of a one-on-one contest with Narenda M, it is a metaphor being used. We know he isn’t physically afraid of Narendra M and he need not be. If I want to be harsh on him and turn this issue on its head, it can be argued that he is indeed afraid of being the PM as it gets him directly in line to be assassinated next. He might like to be in power yet without having this precedent and thus have a dual power centre as is the case with his mother and the current PM. I do not want to believe this but circumstantial reasoning might force me to.

'Women empowerment', opening up the system to meritocracy, making India a manufacturing hub to compete with China, and eradicating corruption are issues common to not just India but all countries in the world. It is a no-brainer that this has to be done. You will be treated with respect if you show- in actions- how this will be done.

Sycophancy is ingrained in Indian politics and thus he isn't shown the mirror by someone. And this is the reason you have to Aam Aadmi party taking shape to fill in the void. They have ideas and have shown the willingness to take actions. They are faltering at the moment but no one doubts their credibility. Credibility for the other political parties is at stake. Lip service and honest intentions will only help you to a break-even point. Deeds will get you the respect and support to govern. An attempt to have an upheaval in the current political system isn't necessary. What is necessary is to bring accountability. Having your ear to the ground will help. Hope a time doesn't come when you behave like Queen Marie Antoinette of France who, on being told that the peasants had no bread, said “Let them eat cake”.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Request to the Aam Aadmi Party’s First Among Equals

 Success has taken quite a liking to you. Your impeccable strike rate of hitting the bulls-eye on first attempt might have few precedents. IIT in first attempt. Civil services in first attempt. Chief Minister in first attempt. And who knows, Prime Minister in first attempt as well. Life is good to good people.

 You have been like an Arab spring of 2013 for India. It has shown our democratic foundations are as strong as ever. But admit it that you too would have been surprised by your performance in the New Delhi state elections. Even more surprising would have been Indian National Congress' support to you to form a government. And most surprising would be your own acceptance of the support provided by the INC. Because your entire election was fought against Congress' indiscretions vis-a-vis corruption. Pragmatic people have no doubt this was the right thing to do considering the high cost of re-elections. And this also gives you an opportunity to prove your mettle the first time. The start of your innings as the CM started on good footing with attempts to be a common man as the name of the party suggests. No red beacons on cars. No palatial bungalows. Although these are small issues and tokenism, you have won the hearts of millions by practising the Gandhian principles of austerity and not just wear the Gandhi topi.

 Things though have been off-course. Nothing against populist measures such as electricity and water subsidies but retracting on the FDI has been a regressive step. Yes, there are instances of FDI not helping many countries though that cannot be considered as empirical evidence. As marketers have understood, no other country can even come close to India's diversity in terms of cultures, languages, perspectives and landscapes. FDI will help India in solving supply chain issues via infrastructure growth and reduce inflation related to supply-side constraints. Kindly have a rethink. You also need to have an economic cell to develop economic policies because being new, your team doesn't have the experience of policy-making. Not that it’s a problem but it needs to be addressed on priority.

 Two things have to be addressed by you- citizen empowerment and economic development through the most-abused word in politics these days – inclusive growth. Both these things are inter-dependent and could act as imbalance in isolation. When the citizens are empowered, there will be economic development and when there is economic development, the citizens will feel empowered. Your movement was started with an endeavour to root out corruption and the disillusionment of the populace towards the political establishment. The latter is because of the former and the helplessness towards the former. All countries face the uphill task against corruption and India is no different. It would be foolhardy to think that corruption could be eradicated although that could be the ultimate vision. We, as human beings, are the ones who make laws and therefore have the wherewithal to find loop holes and make ways around it. Materialism is the root cause of corruption and any government cannot change the thinking of an individual. It would be better to concentrate on the process and reduce the dependence of any individual on another individual especially a government employee in different department. Corruption in private sector is generally towards the giver rather than the taker. It is in bureaucracy that corruption is at an individual stage and palm greasing becomes the norm rather than an exception. Thus rationing, excise, property, water, electricity, energy, public works department and such places need to have oversight and less influence over policy. If this can be done, then corruption automatically takes a back seat. Sting operations & phone help-lines will help but as I said, eventually people will find a way around it. gauging the root cause will help rather than excessive policing. It is better to have more controls in place rather than administering medicine on a case-to-case basis.

 The other necessary issue is of economic development. And this I am saying from a national perspective. There is a need to bring accountability in public institutions. No white-collar job is safe in private sector where you perform or perish. Why doesn’t the same barometer apply to government institutions? There is a tendency in India to apply for government jobs because they offer job security. An endeavour should be made to change the perception because this results in lack of accountability. There are no checks and balances. Cartelisation is banned through the Competition commission of India which keeps a hawk eye on private companies. But no accountability is the biggest cartel by government employees. They can hold the public to ransom at their whims. Socialism has its advantages but this is harming all. Free electricity, free water, low energy prices are affecting the overall economy because subsidy becomes the norm rather than an exception. Would it not be better to have the infrastructure and businesses in place that people earn enough to pay market price. This would bring equilibrium to society and the gap between the haves and have-nots will come down.

 The kind of activism that is on display will alienate the thinking middle-class and further increase the disillusionment with politics. A goodwill wave with the Aam Aadmi party isn’t strong enough to catapult it into the national centre-stage. You need to go slow. An attempt to expedite might result in unfavourable situations. Like if you contest 400 + seats in the Lok Sabha elections of 2014, and if you lose heavily, it will have a domino effect on your supports, majority of whom are youngsters looking for instant gratification. It would be better to show you mettle in New Delhi and decide to strike it by going national. That doesn’t mean you don’t contest Lok Sabha 2014 but go small and in territories where you can relate to the issues at the grass-root level.

You have bought politics from a dirty word to the buzz word. Efforts need to be in place to sustain it and work towards cohesive governance.