Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Happy Diwali

Well its Diwali time again. New clothes, firecrackers and lots of yummy food...I can understand the issues critics have with all the noise and smoke and people getting hurt during diwali, but it just ain't the same without firecrackers. Would have been great to have some company also though.
Hope this Diwali brings cheer, happiness and prosperity to my family and friends and to each and everyone out there and here's to hoping that we keep the "spark" burning bright in our lives as Chetan Bhagat said in his speech.

*Pic courtesy: Capt Rohit Saxena

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I am India - A functioning anarchy

As I open the news websites today for India , I'm greeted with these three top news items:

1) India's first mission to the moon
2) Raj Thackrey's arrest over extreme regionalism shown by his political party
3) Gay rights and legalization of homosexuality

Three totally unrelated events somehow all intertwined in the amazing web that is INDIA. As I get kicked from one country to another for work, I'm often asked the same questions again and again and i thought maybe its time to post something about it and point everyone to the blog.(Wink ;) gets more people reading it too). The most often asked question -"What do you say xyz in Indian", can actually raise and answer all questions about India in my mind. When I'm asked this question I often go into a big monologue description of India so that the poor questioner wishes he never had asked the question. But honestly the answer has to be in this way for the person to get a complete context of the question.

What follows herein is as much of a personal debate as it is an opinion

Here's my typical answer : Well i can't tell you what xyz is called in Indian cause there is no such language called Indian. I however can tell what xyz is called in any of the 25 major languages in India.(Please don't kill me, the actual number of major languages and their classification is varied from different sources,so I'm taking a round number here) To understand India better think of Europe as a single country. The Danes are as different from the Spanish as are the British from the Poles. This is India in a nutshell. We speak different languages from one state to another,wear different clothes, eat completely different food (yeah almost everything is spicy to the bland European palate...thank you very much) and have different social setups and customs . Not all over India is beef banned (its even a delicacy in south and east India) as much as not everyone in India is doing yoga. Yes, religions and castes are very much prevalent and their effects are very noticeable. But to understand it ,you need to probably read a contemporary book (readers please suggest a good book which discusses religion and caste system in Modern India) about it. And we still stand United in our diversity.

Yes we are the world's largest democracy but its a joke. The rich don't care as no one can touch them, The poor are too hungry to worry about democracy when they have stomachs to feed(and hence the votes are bought for as low as a promised day's meal) and the most populated "educated,sensitive and highly opinionated"middle class (myself included of course) are too concerned about dirtying their hands in the muck that is Indian politics. Thus it is but natural that the leaders are representative of such a society-the politicians aka the Indian mafia.

Yes we are a trillion dollar GDP economy growing at 8-9% per annum. We have the highest population of educated ,English speaking Under 30 population in the world. We have the highest number of billionaires in Asia and quite a few businesses making it into the Forbes 500 list. Business CEO's across the globe swear by the Indian IT companies & in fact many of the global CEO's are Indians.

Yes we do not have the infrastructure to sustain the growth and need 300 billion dollars of immediate investment in infrastructure just to hold all of this growth together let alone fuel it.
Yes we have a free and powerful press and media and yes my blog can be blocked if Raj Thackrey takes offence to it.

So it is this contrasting views of India that is again shown in the top 3 news items of the day. We are proving our scientific and economic might by sending a mission to the moon and showing we are in touch with modern society and its sensibilities by for the first time taking serious steps in regards to gay rights and homosexuality .However we also take a step back by showing extreme regionalism. Raj Thackeray is the political leader who is trying to make Maharashtra for Maharashtrians ONLY.

But we push on. There's a great confidence in today's India and its young minds. We will make a difference, we will make the politicians accountable, we will push Indian industries to greater heights,we will clean up the system and we will build our infrastructure and we will make sure no child goes hungry. And remember when a billion people say this you better not be in the way.

This my dear friends is the contrast that is India.If you thought you could describe it in one sentence then you got another thing coming. But if we think again, it IS possible to describe India in one sentence. And that is to rewrite the quote of my dear friend Neelabh :

WE are - I am -India -the world's only functioning anarchy.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Happy Saraswathy Puja to all

Today is Saraswathy Puja in Kerala. Celebrated across India in different names and fashion.Its also called Dussehra in north India, Navrathri in west India,Durga Puja in east India and few other names across the country. I guess the Keralite version is the most simplistic version of all these ones.There is no 9 days of celebrations,no people on the streets than usual,no Dandiya and all the glamour that goes with it, no fasting- absolutely nothing to indicate something is afoot except the look of complete joy in the eyes of kids everywhere.

For Malayali kids everywhere this is the time of the year eagerly awaited. Kids keep their books for puja to receive blessings from the goddess Saraswathy( The Goddess of Knowledge)on the Navami(9th day) and have to get it back only on the Dasami(10th day). Their biggest reason for joy is tht NO ONE can tell them to go and study or do their homework for these two days.Its almost considered capital sin among your kiddie peer group if one of them is seen reading even a newspaper on this day.

Its funny the kind of things you miss when you grow and/or travel out of India. I miss putting my Maths and Physics Textbooks for Puja as soon as the festival starts. Miss spending two days trying to avert my eyes from all written material- Magazines, Newspapers and even sign boards on the street.Miss playing play cricket all day long-only coming in for the freshly prepared iced lime juice in between the game and munch non stop on the lovely sweets prepared (Our pockets were filled too).

And after two days of pure fun you are asked to go back to the temple and fetch your books. From that second on, the wait for the next saraswathy puja day starts.

Om hari shree ganapathaye namaha

To read a bit more about this festival go to

Pic courtesy: ARTNAVY's Blog

Sunday, October 05, 2008

R.I.P Soumya

I don't know how many of you have felt "just another news item" remaining no more so in your lives.I must admit its an all together different experience...It moves you from empathy and disappointment to shock, frustration,anger and pure rage at the system.

I felt it for the first time on Tuesday evening when I heard the news of TV producer Soumya Vishwanathan's horrific death in the wee hours of the morning in Delhi. She was found with a bullet in head and her car was completely smashed. Again this would have been "just another news" for me had I not known her personally,albeit through my sister.

I had met Soumya at my sister's wedding who coincidentally shares the same name. There was this smiling polite Malayali girl with oodles of "aishwaryam"( Grace in malayalam) in a saree along with all the other Headlines Today regalia. She being one of my sister's best friends had made it a point to appear for the functions of the whole week.And as I went through her friends comments about her, I mentally tick marked all those aspects from my memory of her..Poised yet effervescent...Smiling with a sparkle in her eyes.I'm sure she was all these and much more had I known her more than I did.

Unfortunately this incident brings to lime light yet again the dastardly law and order scenario in our capital of all places. Its a wonder women in Delhi are still working, as among all of our generation Delhi is considered to be the worst city for a working woman to pursue her trade. And foolhardy comments like "She was Adventurous" by our precious CM (Who is a lady herself!!!)just go to add more fuel to the fire that is raging in the wake of such an incident.

I hope the Delhi police whose track record is nothing to write home about in terms of solving crime or bringing the criminals to justice, decides to do something about this and other unsolved crimes in the capital.

Also the onus is on us too-the community to provide our men,women and children with safety on our streets. I think the power of a "Neighborhood safety community" for protection is highly under rated and under utilized in our country. This would also take care of comments like like "We don't have enough resources to patrol all the streets of Delhi" from our CM,Union Minister or Police chiefs.

Why do we wait for incident to spark us to action? Why do we have to see a known face appearing in the newspapers before we feel the need to something? I don't know and might never will....Rest in Peace Soumya - You were too good for this world as I hang my head in shame.

Please sign the petition for Justice for Soumya below


Also find more discussions at following sites.