Thursday, April 24, 2014

Time To Take Sides- Election 2014

I have long cherished and celiberated my politically neutral position as a proclaimed mugwump. However, the way political world around me moved with a speed so unusual in Indian world of homeopathic revolutions, only way to maintain sanity in a rare fast-changing scenario which moved from Congress to AAP to BJP was to get on the bus whisking past.

So I did and vote this time, not hiding behind missing entry of voting list or the NOTA, which is nothing but a self-satisfying absurdity, since with or without NOTA, the one with highest votes in rest of it will win the seat anyways. The world around me was seething with anger, and I perhaps, augmented that fury with mine, even more feral then that of the world around.

A lot many Pundits term this election as a referendum on corruption. That reading isn't entirely correct. Many things happened in last few years. We Indians, to a great degree have, over the centuries reconciled ourselves with the idea of divine rule, however much ridiculous it might appear to the world at large. That reflects in the Gandhi family having Amethi and Raibareli as Gandhi bastion, in spite of failing to do any service to the said constituency. What compounds the absurd notion of divine right is the silent submission of public logic which agrees to the lack of development but refuses to change the incompetent guardians. 

Then India Against Corruption happened which actually followed Ramdev's movement against black money. I was still unmoved cynic, going about selling computer. The option presented by BJP as principle opposition was nothing more than a saffron congress, with similar smugness, and political arrogance. Then beheading of soldiers on the borders happened with a continued dithering by a incompetent government. Then Nirbhaya happened and Home Minister, used all his learning as a police constable to crush an impromptu movement. He shamelessly said that is the state supposed to talk to every twenty people who come up to protest. He was the Marie Antoniatte of Indian polity at the time and very ugly one at that. I was there on the first day and still remember water canons, and young girls mounting themselves over the lamp posts near the parliament. The non-political face of movement and a clear disgust at the crime, with the shameful statement of erstwhile CM of Delhi advising women to not to be adventurous in the backdrop of murder of a female journalism playing in my mind, I had to step in and be counted. The only hope for the movement was in numbers. When the power corrupts the minds of the ruler, citizens can only find safety in numbers. AAP came in towards the end of the day with their caps, declaring political intention.

So, to my mind, to believe corruption be the force behind the suspected change of guard in governance is creding ourselves with much more than what we deserved. We are Ok with corruption till the time a pretence of ruler as a guardian is maintained. In the backdrop of all these events, that thin veneer fell down and the political apathy stood in front of us in its naked ugliness. People aren't only angry with congress, they are disgusted with its apathy. We could've probably tolerated the government which is corrupt, but not one, which additionally is uncaring. The carefully crafted illusion of the king as divine father fell off, as women died and nation attacked and government 'condemned' everything. The table where founding fathers envisaged the buck to stop, became the desk of decadence with a helpless figurehead, making rare utterances of condemnation, followed by thorough inaction. One found the outgoing PM active and aggressive only when his a few corrupt men were attacked. At those occasions, he would be scathing in attacks on not only constitutional bodies like CAG , but even judicial entities, the port of last call like the honourable Supreme Court. The man had the anger when it came to protecting the party, but when it came to protect the nation, he was a timid man. 

AAP in between created the cracks in the images of infallibility of ruling dispensation, and I cheered with all when AAP cheif beat Sheila Dixit with a defeat as definite as could be possible for a serving CM. But then the 49 days disaster happened. Traffic police were taken away authority to challan the errant auto-drivers, since the auto-unions supported AAP. Then standard drama of free power and water, feeding on greed of citizens who would believe that the state can run without contribution of the citizens. The drama went beyond being amusing when the man who claimed everywhere that he had proofs of massive and blatant corruption of congress in CWG, suffered amnesia. Then he brought out Lokpal bill as a panacea to all the ills of nation, before resigning in a huff, merely because the Lt. Governer asked it to be routed through the centre. He wanted his bill, cleared his way, and not being allowed, left citizens without the bill and even without governance. But then his idea was to use Delhi as first stop to national politics, which soon became clear and in the process, also escape the impact of illogical policies he enacted.

This brought changes in BJP as well. The old guard, who were in some tacit understanding with corrupt and uncaring government, with some Omertà with the congress found their own position untenable. After dithering for a while, Narendra Modi came in as viable option and a hungry notion jumped at the fresh air which came with him. He came in as a man who wouldn't hold his punches and to the utter surprise of detractors, would follow secularism to the literal meaning. If the amount of opposition is a measure of a man, this was quite a man, given the opposition he faces within and without BJP.  Those who used the falls ideology of feigned secularism, people who get annoyed by Kanwariyas disrupting the traffic, and advise how crackers must not be used on Diwali, but have no problem with mosque loudspeakers in the middle of town or change of traffic five times a day, collected and conspired against the non-Delhi outsider. They all became Raj Thackarey to the man who came from out of town. 

AAP which lost the briefcase full of evidence against kalmadi and Shiela Dixit got new briefcase about Modi and Adani. The great Shobha De fumed in national daily about the misfortune which has befallen on the forsaken wife of Narendra Modi whom he married as a minor. I was surprised at the article with the tenor of a feminist fanatic and wondered if she wouldn't have termed it a story of emancipation had it been a woman opting out of her wedlock, illegal in the first place, to pursue an ambition, assuming for a minute, Modi was driven not by a intent of serving the nation, but by political ambition. From earlier readings, I would believe, Ms De to believe that pursuing ambition is an act of emancipation. That both concerned parties are not complaining didn't matter to anyone, even to those who are luxuriating in the happy world of polygamy.

Citizens who lost a guardian, corrupt or not, find hope in Modi, and the fact that he comes from outside the closed coterie of so called national politics gives further confidence to people. It pins hope of people on him, which once in power he cannot overlook, lest it will become a case of Janata government post-emergency. He will have to take bold decision, which is what the country sorely need. He, also hopefully will bring in real secularism, wherein the state is not equally interested in all religion, rather the state is equally uninterested in any religion. As a friend commented, India is only country where secularism want separate laws based on religion and so-called non-secularism want uniform civil code. Irony will not be lost on any thinking man. By contrast, AAP with its shifting stance, celebrity common men and women, and candidate with changing names basis the religious demography of constituency doesn't get my vote. 

So my inherent tendency to think too much makes me refrain from going ballistic, but I can no longer bask in my neutrality. I have to jump in. In my own small way, my vote is for Narendra Modi, the man, and not the hype- the man with his greatness and failings. I want a new guy to run the country, who isn't yet sure of divine right to rule and between Arvind Kejriwal and Modi, Modi gets it. Modi brings a hope against status quo and going by indications, that is what we need. We are in a mess which we can not continue preserving. This is the time for a new thought, this is the time to stand up and be counted. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

In Sickness, In Health- The Difficult Time for Parenting

Me and Nonu
The weather in Delhi is changing. The beautiful winters is fading away and summer is spreading its furious fangs over unsuspecting Earth, blooming with colorful flora, creating a magical beauty.
Nonu- my about-to-be-six year old is the first to bear the brunt of this indecisive change of weather. Last Thursday, she broke into tears on account of headache and unbeknownst to her- fever. I spoke to her. She broke down and I helplessly rushed back home to be with her.

She has immense capacity of bearing such ill-health. I do not know if that is due to some great patience or innocent inability to understand her own discomfort and pain. I guess, this she got from me. I can still vividly remember bearing in silence the crushing pain in my chest twelve years back which had all the potential of leaving me dead. I can also remember that I could still walk straight into the hospital and get myself admitted, in the throes of severe pain before slipping into an undecided unconsciousness.
It is not to boast about that. It has its own demerits- bearing pain, that is. After initial admiration fades away, the fascination of Spartan reserve takes flight, one is left alone, finding oneself in harm's way. I was thinking about it, while I look at my daughter now happy, and playful, out of the bout of sickness. I know, the perils of parenthood in absentia. I find all those argument of making money for the family, man - the bread earner a drag. But then, I wish, I had a way out of it and I could help her learn out of my mistakes. As they say, experience is the comb life hands you when you have lost all your hairs. I would like to hand over that comb to you, my dear. I would like to sit across the whole day and tell you these things which no one else will. For instance, while have the grit to bear the pain, but then be open about incurring that responsibility of taking care of your own self, on that account. I did bear the pain in silence for long and messed my own life, wanting people around to come on their own and help me. It was only later did I understand that the strength  to bear the pain brings with it responsibility, the responsibility to resolve it. I will not want you to tell me about the pains you go through, but still I want you to be able to resolve that pain. Some day, when I am not there, I want you to be ready for that day. I also want you to know that I so very regret my inability to get out of this money-making rut and spend time with you. It has nothing to do with my pride as a man as bread-earner; It has everything to do with my pride as a human being. I hope someday you will be able to understand this when you grown up.
I want to write some notes to my child. The on-going, unfinished novel makes it difficult. I need to get on to it, lest I may forget. I have to get the Comb ready for Nonu. While I will make those notes for you, in the mean time, I am leaving some of those things in these blog posts.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Psychology of Running

I stepped into the dreaded zone of diabetes, close to one year back. That placed a seal of educated declaration on what I always believed in - that is, I am a basically, a sweet person. It was heavy and dreadful with research on the internet and scary taglines screaming - silent killer.
The struggle began with some medicine and then some gym. Eventually, as with everything else the dread faded away and so did the exercise. Lack of time, irregular work hours, travel, moodiness- I was having a quiver full of arrows in terms of excuses. Eventually, slowly and slowly I drifted in to danger zone.
Then almost on a whim, I went out and bought out an expensive pair of shoes. I began running. No gyms, no machines, out in the wild. It was a different world. The initial pain slowly became fun. It was my way of testing myself and surprising myself. The great thing about running is that it suited my temperament. It is a solitary exercise. You do not need a trainer to make a run, to tell you how to do it the right way. All you need is a pair of shoes.
That is the great fun part of running, it has least dependency on the external world. Then, half-mile by another half-mile, I took to running. The run always began with great deal of dithering, and then you promise yourself another mile, and then another. The rhythm of the steps clears off the tense thoughts and slowly the sky is  clear. Slowly, it doesn't  matter that you are loved so little or so much, nor does it matter that no one understands you. Nothing matters except the run. There is something soul-cleansing and divine in the drop of sweat which runs from the back of your neck as you cross the first mile. You are cleansed and pure soul. The body and soul are one for a while and you bask in this oneness.
I run in the park nearby, which is an amalgamation of three different landscapes. One is the manicured district park with picnicking crowds, Other a large lake with some historic ruins on the other end, and yet another is the deep, shadowy run in slumbering woods with cozy couples and feisty fawns. Against the boring environs of treadmills, running in open gives you a lot of choices. You change the track, elevation and scenery as you might want to. The perspective of life changes with each vantage point. That is the fun of running in the open space. Another advantage, I found when I was on vacation recently in the hinterlands of Amarkantak where I ran in the forest along a brook, relishing the greens without the worry about equipment or space.
Slowly the thoughts space out and mind is busy watching the birds, the people, the changing hues of the skies. Then there is ample opportunity to do body weight exercises in the open park. Towards the close of the run, I find a tree and do pull-ups. Then drop on the ground to do some push ups. Life is unpredictable and we know not what will happen next. But when I run, I feel I am in control and I will someday run with my daughter when she is sixteen without embarrassing her. I am not afraid of dying, I never was. I however, do not want to decay into death. I want to walk into the sunset. No man can wish for eternal life. We at best, can wish for an easy death, easy and quick. That is what a good health can assure us. To quote Haruki Murakami from "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running"
"Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest...Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits, that is the essence of running and a metaphor for life."
I have been meaning to write this post advocating running since the time I took to it, but never thought I could qualify to write. However, now slowly, with difficulty having crossed 4.55 Miles, I feel, I have some moral right to write this. My advise:
1. Get the right kind of shoes and clothes to begin. Having spent some money will bring some seriousness to it.
2. Don't wait to get into shape to begin running. It will happen. Don't underestimate your body. It will surprise you. It is not about overcoming your physical limitation. It is more about overcoming your mental limitations.
3. Don't wait for the right state of mind to begin running. Mind will fall in line. The thuds of running feel will settle all the noises in the mind to silence.

PS: I am trying to breach 5 Miles barrier, and while away from any medicines, feel I am not that wseet anymore.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Tough Art of Apology

Courtesy Mark Twain, we know that forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the feet which crushes it. Which is a lesson good learnt and easily executable. What is more complex, more difficult is the task of seeking apology. 

It takes a great soul to forgive, but it takes a greater soul to seek apology. Even more complex is the task of seeking apology when none is necessary, even when logical. We do not seek apology to assuage the feelings of hurt party but very often to assuage our own ruffled soul, which stares at us with those innocent, unbelieving eyes. We surprise ourselves with our greatness many times. But as a contrary corollary, we also shock ourselves with shallowness of thought which we never thought we were capable of. We laugh empty laughs, discover flimsy reasons, and stay up for nights saddened of the evil we have perchance discovered in our own souls. Our sleeps are troubled and souls are fractured. Only merciful solution which can make us reach some solace is apology. 

It is so difficult to apologize. It amounts to the admission of the fragility of our morality, admission of the presence of evil lurking from the dark corners of our mind. It is humiliating. But it is only liberation that we can hope for. Of course, the inner turmoil after an immediate moral slip will fade away with time. But it will require you to cultivate an duplicity of conscience to bear it for a time long enough for it to fade away. And that duplicity will haunt you for the rest of your life. 

There could be other instance when you know for sure that you are a victim of interpretation and inherent dislike of your being as a person. In such cases your ego will stand in your way of apology. You are a victim of unreasonable evaluation of those who have, in any case, no assigned job to weigh you. But they do. I have written in many a blog posts that ignore those small souls whose only way to greatness is to shorten your stature. I am not going to deviate and ask you to apologize for something which isn't your fault. You ought not apologize to please those who seem to have been waiting for you to fall, so that they may pounce over you with a feral righteousness. 

You ought to, however, apologize if you slip off your own measure. That could be even when you are not the reason for such a slip. It takes a grander, larger heart to apologize for things which you have no control over. Be clear in your mind, not to feel criminal or victim over the failure which was incidental.  Be very clear that your admission of failure does not offer the lesser soul an opportunity to pounce over your soul. Apologize for the act, not for the person you are. Apologize with a straight spine, for you are the brave, blessed child of God, who has both the nobility and courage to say sorry. 

How to do it?
1. Plainly, without justification. Don't beat around the bush, just do it. Never ruin an apology with an excuse- Benjamin Franklin

2. Do it quickly. The more you delay it, the more the noise will be, the more it turns into personal affront, and more difficult it will become. This doesn't mean you do it in a rush, with a secret hope that no one hears you making it. Do it boldly, with serious intent, not shoot-and-scoot. 

3. Taking responsibility. Standing ahead of a team to get credits of good work is so easy, taking charge and saying sorry for the failure of the team is so difficult. That is what leadership is all about, even when it is Robin Sharma's oft-quoted Leadership-without-Title. 

4. Without shame: Don't let the apology haunt you for the life. That is the purpose of apology- to move ahead, to leave the past behind. That you could go beyond petty ego and cleaver justifications, makes you a nobler person. An apology doesn't define your relationship with the person in front of you, with yourself and with the world at large. An apology doesn't mean you need to remain apologetic for the rest of your like.

Remember, you are doing it for yourself and the fact that you are able to do it, makes you a better man.

Post-script: The post arises out of a sense of immense emancipation which I felt after writing in apology note to a customer, whose deliveries got delayed and who almost waited for the slip to happen. It was a disaster for sales people when your phones are always designed to send message of "I am in a meeting" simply because you have no answer and the other party has no respect for reason. I had no way to hasten the deliveries and I do not know I am forgiven. The best part is, I do not care anymore. I breathe a free man.

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