Return of the Culture!!!

Pardon me for joining the “Return” bandwagon😉 But hang on! This piece is not on the “Return” which is in news in India these days! This is the time of the Navratri festival which is celebrated all over India with much gusto and gaiety though in different forms. In Mumbai where I live now being a melting pot of cultures it is, we get to see the Garba nights, Durga Pujo pandals of the Bengalis and ofcourse the South Indian way of celebrating Navratri in close quarters.

Before I landed in Mumbai in the early 90’s, I had not heard of Garba or Dandiya Raas,… During those college days, Disco Dandiya nights were popular among the youth who were getting drowned in the Remix wave. In Churchgate – cars with disco lights and blaring music used to be parked in the centre of the roads. Boys and Girls were seen crooning to the songs and rhythm of Garba all night long! I see less of them now. Today there are many Garba festivals almost in all suburbs featuring celebrities and wannabes where people let their hair down during the nine nights and have fun. Specialist singers and folk artists get imported from Gujarat for the same to belt out more traditional and original songs. (Doesn’t mean that there are no songs dripping with Honey Singh’s lewd lines and all that😁

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There are also a few like Phalguni Phatak who have become celebrities by just making people dance to their tunes during Navratri. There are different types of Garba steps and in Mumbai a month before the season, classes spring up to coach people on those! I have been personally witness to the enthusiastic crowd in one of the classes in Mulund a happening suburb for Gujjus!!! Not to forget the crowd in outlets selling traditional wear like Gagras and Cholis! And talking of attire, these days the vogue thing is to follow the Navratri colour codes for the 9 days (even to office) so much so couple of days back which was a Green day – a ladies coach in Mumbai local resembled a cricket stadium in Karachi😁😁

This year, Raj Thackeray’s MNS which has an ongoing axe to grind with the Gujjus in Mumbai – wants to give their own “Marathi” twist to Garba it seems. They see Garba as another conspiracy of the Gujarathi traders to take over Mumbai. So at MNS supported Pandals (yes where there is money there is politics) as per party diktat no Gujju song is to be played and Garba will make way for Bhondla a form of Marathi folk music!!!

My exposure to Bengalis and the Durga Pujo (not Puja) festival was only after I started visiting Kolkatta on work. Bengalis are extremely proud of their culture. As oxymoronic as it may sound they are “passionate liberals” when it comes to their culture. For Bengalis, Durga Pujo is more than a festival which I understood in early years of my career. Once when I called for an important review meeting in the midst of the Pujo festival, I got a call from the wife of one of my team members from Kolkatta to reschedule the dates!!! Politely but firmly she said that her husband will not attend the meeting because its Pujo time in Kolkatta. I realized that Pujo was bigger than Diwali in that part of the world. Amidst the feverish pandal hopping they indulge in, eating, shopping and even match making happen feverishly! I see the Pujo pandals increasing every year in Mumbai as well. I don’t miss visiting atleast one Durga Pujo Pandal every year. I like the one at Hiranandani Gardens, Powai which is elegantly decorated devoid of too many ugly sponsor’ billboards.

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Coming to my own backyard, I have fond memories of Navratri of my growing up days in Trichy. Every year we used to have our vacation to coincide exactly with Navratri after the Quarterly exams. Though it’s a festival which brings the ladies at home to the fore, at home we equally participated. The Kolu (tradition of arranging idols of Gods nicely in steps) at our place was popular among the neighbourhood. Apart from the Kolu steps we used to set up some theme based arrangement every year. Usually my dad threw the ideas and my brother did the execution with me and my sister pitching in with colouring and stuff. Those were not the days of Google or readymade clay, colours, models,.. Most of the stuff like a hill temple or an exhibition ground,.. were painstakingly constructed with waste material and made at home! Our mom was good at making different stuff made of beads which we used extensively in these theme based parks! We used to make some change every day which is what made our place👍

Nine days mean nine varieties of Sundal which is made and distributed to all who come as Prasad. If Bengalis do “Pandal hopping”, we Tamilians do “Sundal hopping”😁😁. Our decision to visit other house Kolus used to depend on the type of Prasad😜. Popular one being Puttu (Jaggery and coconut laced steamed rice flour). And generally houses which had paruppu masiyal (a very sticky paste like stuff made of dal) that day were given the cold shoulder😜😜. Navratri used to be the time those days when mamis feel much empowered sauntering in and out of the house wearing a different Kanjivaram every day and associated finery while mamas sit quietly in a corner reading newspaper😄 without getting much attention. One favourite question of the mamas to their wives was “Enna Innikku collection ellam aacha???😄” In those days of no WhatsApp, invitation to the Kolu needs to be done personally which is the job of us bachas. (Today a WA fwd does the job in a jiffy). As an interesting aside I vividly remember that in our one neighbourhood house in Thillainagar Trichy, during every Navratri there used to be a baby arrival!! This went on for 4 years in a row. Letting one naughty mama to comment – Koluvila dasavatharam bommaigalaa ivaa aathu pasangalaiye koodiya seekiram vechudalam pola irukke😁😁 (Soon we can keep 10 children of this house as Dasavatharam idols in the Kolu looks like)😁😁

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As we grew and we went in different directions in pursuit of careers, the Kolu at home tradition stopped in our place as in many households I knew. But in the last few years I see the “return” of the Kolu tradition with a vengeance. Particularly the NRIs are in the forefront of the revival. From Dunedin to Dublin. I don’t know if the infectious enthusiasm has been fueled by social media. But these days FB posts and WA shares mostly are of pics of the Kolus and Sundal of the day. Another reason for one Mark and his friend Modi to be happy! Women these days assiduously prepare for the event including rehearsing nice Durga songs, scheduling their days (for hosting and visiting others) diligently trying their best to be at most places.

“How to throw a Kolu party???” is a caption of a news item today in today’s Bombay Times (Anything to do with TOI has to end with party I think😜). Well, the tradition of calling ladies for Vetthalai paaku (Haldi kumkum) for Kolu during Navratri has been given a very contemporary twist! The same piece also talks of a “Green Kolu” where instead of idols the steps are replete with plants of different sizes and shapes!!!

Among all the commercialisation that comes along with increased market activity and purchasing power and the lament that we are missing the cultural connect I do sense a “Return” of the people including the youth to their roots and Culture. And Navratri is a shining example of the same. And this “Return” is one we must be proud of unequivocally👍👍👍

Down Ganapathi lane!!!

It’s the Ganpati festival season now in Mumbai and as they say this city is the place to be during Ganpati time. Last Wednesday (the eve of Ganesh Chaturthi) as I was riding back home from the airport late evening, I could still see feverish activity in the lanes and by lanes of Mumbai – people thronging the market for last-minute purchases of Ganesh idols, lights, lamps, decoration items,…,… The cabbie mentioned that the markets will be open throughout the night. Well, the “Ganpati economy” is huge and thriving.  And over the years it has only been ballooning. What Lokmanya Tilak started probably as a movement In Pune to get people together during the Independence movement in the name of Sarvajanik Ganpati Utsavs are on different trips these days. Ofcourse so are Durga Pujo in Kolkatta or Navratri in Gujarat. The interesting aspect over the years I have noticed is all these festivals and expressions around them are immune to economic recession,..,… Irrespective of how the economy is, these festivals are observed with fervor only to better the previous year effort and budget.

As I watch the Ganpati festival unravelling around me now, I couldn’t help walking down the Ganapathi lane when I was in school. Vinayaga Chaturthi in Tamil Nadu was indeed celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm. Trichy being the place of the Uchi Pillayar (Rock fort temple) was not an exception. With Vinayaga temples of different sizes and scales in every nook and corner of Trichy, the day of Vinayaga Chaturthi is extremely noisy with loudspeakers blaring Seerkazhi Govindarajan’sVinayagane Vinai Theerpavane’,.. on the loop. Once the songs were done, it was the time for playing the sound track of popular Ganesh movies, top on the list being Shivaji Ganesan’s Thiruvilayadal. If I can reel out even today the fiery exchange between Shivaji Ganesan (playing the role of Lord Shiva – one of his career best) and A.P.Nagarajan (as Nakeeran) and the antics of Baliah from that film, it is thanks to the over exposure on Vinayaga Chaturthi days.

After the Pooja at home and polishing off few Kozhakattais (Modaks) – sweet and salty made at home and savoring the ones made by neighbourhood mamis – it was time to literally walk down the many lanes to check out on Ganapathis. One of the favourite competition among friends was to check who sees the maximum number of Ganapathis on Ganesh Chaturthi day. And ofcourse tasting the different Sundals offered as prasad at each temple. My personal record was 65 I remember vividly – from Thillai nagar where I stayed till Main Guard Gate area in Trichy.  In Trichy, all these Ganapathis were mostly in temples and not in pandals as we see in Mumbai today. I understand that the Mumbai style of huge Ganesh idols being kept for public viewing and worship for 10 days and immersing the same in the sea/River on the 10th day have become popular in other cities like Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and even in Trichy today.

In Mumbai, from the 1st time I was witness to the mass Ganpati Visarjan at Chowpatty from the terrace of our college hostel and now, Ganpati Utsav has come a long way.  Corporates and sundry companies pour in big money. So don’t be surprised to see “Ganpati being sponsored by Baba Elaichi Pan Masala” at one place and Kailash Kher exhorting people to use Torex cough syrup from ugly hoardings in another place.

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“Eco friendly” is the buzz word. From the idols to decorative items to the prasad bags – pandals try to be environment friendly. The latest innovation in this Eco friendly business is the campaign I heard today on Radio. Red FM’ Visarjan squad” – where they urge people to carry out immersion in artificial tanks instead of spoiling the waterfronts. Supported by corporates, in this campaign – you give a call and a Visarjan squad comes to your place with a mobile artificial tank and carry out the immersion. Cool isn’t it???

When we talk of cool and innovation can “apps” be far behind? Literally Ganpati Bappa this year has become Ganpati bAPPa!!! So you have a “Times BAPPA” app where you can decorate your Ganesha idol in the most creative way and then share it with your friends!!! Most liked and shared entries get points and get featured in Times Of India it seems. Ganpati bAPPa morya!!!

And for pandal hopping celebrities, the latest craze is ofcourse “Selfie with Ganpati“☺️ And so is a pandal showing Lord Ganesha taking a selfie with his parents☺️

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or a muscular six-pack Ganpati as Baahubali carrying a massive Linga Idol ☺️☺. In these days of health and fitness can Ganesha be left behind. Is Ganesha’s tummy size reducing by the year????

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The civic administration of Mumbai I would say comes out at its best during Ganpati I would say. From filling up pot holes in a hurry to controlling  crowds to handling traffic to managing the immersion at different spots in the city – things happen efficiently. Few years ago I was travelling on the next day of the Mega Visarjan. Much to my pleasant surprise, even early in the morning as I was riding to the airport, the Powai Lake road near IIT which is a major Immersion point was swept clean with hardly any signs of the crowds and revelry of the previous night. I was told that many volunteers of NGOs and Sansthas work with the civic administration for the massive cleanup.

In addition, there is the other “Terrorism attack” menace to be handled. So most pandals bear signboards goading people to call the Police if they spot unattended/suspected things!!!

After so many years 30 to be precise, I would like to again walk the Ganapathi lane in Trichy to see the changes in the Uchi Pillayar town during Vinayagar Chaturthi. Trichy being in the Govt.’s “Smart city project” list, who knows may be Ganapathi pandals will be free wireless zones to enable easy sharing of the “Selfie with Ganapathi” over WA ofcourse 🙂 🙂

A watch on “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan”!!!

“I have read in history and folklore that kings in those days used to take rounds of the countryside in disguise to understand if aam admi are happy in their regime. I thought I will also ape that idea and do some MBWA (Managing By Wandering About) in disguise to mainly see for myself how this ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ is working on the ground.  I chose to move about in the guise of a Sardar (clearly avoided the pinned stripe suit and all 🙂 ) and do the wandering about this Sunday morning in a Mumbai suburb – Mulund where I was holed up in a friend’s house. I chose Mumbai because of my firm belief that if we clean up Mumbai, we can clean up any place!!. Over the years Mumbai apart from being the “Melting pot” of different cultures, had also become a cold pan of civic apathy.

As I started my morning walk, though its’ a Sunday early morning, as it is typical in Mumbai, the roads are quite busy. And what I saw in that 1 hour walk set me thinking:

  • Just next to the gate of the building I stayed, stray dogs were devouring the contents from inside the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) dustbins and thereby littering the whole place. The place was also wreaking with foul stench. If only the bins had tight lids I thought.
  • The road adjacent has a large peepal tree under which I saw a heap of banana peels. This must be a regular place of a banana vendor I reckoned, where people come to eat bananas after their meal, eat and throw the peels on the road there itself. After all it is the job of the municipality to clean up the next day!
  • Just ahead where a few chawls line up both sides of the road, a young lady was helping her infant kid to do his morning chores right on the side of a drain.
  • As I was wondering “if Swachh Bharat will ever become a reality?” a set of volunteers wearing uniformed T-Shirts got down from a bus and swiftly got down to the task of cleaning up both sides of the L.B.S.Marg. I was impressed to see them coming fully prepared with all kinds of paraphernalia needed for cleaning. Interested in knowing about them, I engaged in a conversation with an elderly gentleman who seemed like a leader of the group. He mentioned that like-minded people have all come together to do their bit in response to the Prime Minister’s clarion call to clean up India. So every Sunday they spend 3 hours in different parts of Mumbai and today was Mulund’s turn. Not bad I thought.
  • Just as I watched them cleaning, there were dividers on the road with signage of “Green Mumbai, Clean Mumbai”. One could hardly read the signage properly as they were half buried in red paan stains. I thought to my mind that this paan chewing is a curse for our country. Many young and old, rich and poor, literate and illiterate, men and women all take the pleasure of chewing paan and spit the red juice on the roads, walls, steps, stairs in short wherever. No amount of the poor volunteers cleaning week after week is going to make India clean if this paan spitting is not stopped in public places. Ills of spitting in public itself can be a topic of one “Man Ki Baat” broadcast.
  • While I was pondering on this, I saw a pretty young girl in her teens walking her dog and she wanted me get out of her way. I stopped my MBPA (Managing By Pondering About 🙂 ), mumbled a Sorry and moved to the side. She walked ahead and then stopped for a while as her dog pooped well, yes on the road. The PYT got immersed on her phone while her pet nastied the public place and then continued to walk when her pet finished its quota of Aswachh Bharat Abhiyan 😦 😦 . In most of the developed countries pet owners are required to clean up their pet poop.
  • As I turned towards the corner and headed back to my place, I saw a paan shop littered with cigarette buds and Gutka packets (And I thought Gutka was banned in Mumbai!), crushed sugar cane trash of a juice vendor lying on the road so on and so forth. Can’t they have small dustbins outside their outlets and get their customers litter into them?

The one hour stroll in Mumbai was enough for me to understand where the campaign is working and where it is not.  

  • While it is good to nominate celebrities and entities to get involved in the programme to get visibility and continuous awareness, that in itself is not enough
  • Any amount of cleaning is not enough unless aam admis realize that they should not litter in public places.
  • And in public places there aren’t enough dustbins.
  • Cities with more population are dirtier than smaller towns and villages.

 On my flight back to Delhi itself I thought of the next steps for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. 

  • Focus first on the 6 metro cities, then next 14, then the next 30 and so on. Build on one success after another.
  • Carrot and Stick approach towards implementation of the programme. Rewards for success and introduce stiff fines as deterrence.
  • Call a meeting of the municipality heads in these cities to get them involved.
  • Get Municipality wards to provide dustbins in every conceivable public place. Involve large corporates to give dustbins as CSR initiative.
  • Competition among wards and awards for the cleanest wards.
  • Involve set of NGOs to do repeated door to door campaigning for creating awareness about not strewing in public. Duplicate the success of the door to door polio eradication campaign.
  • Collect all who are involved in begging and “transform” them to “Swachhata watchmen”. Find a way to empower them to collect “On the spot” fines when they catch people red handed for paan spitting, not cleaning up dog poops,…
  • Request the celebrities who have been nominated to focus on spreading awareness about not littering rather than just spend few hours cleaning with a jaadu.
  • Tell Arun Jaitleyji to levy a x% cess on companies earning more than 100 Crore profit in a year in the forthcoming budget to fund the campaign
  • And finally in order to put the foundation for a clean India, call up Smriti behen and get her ministry to include importance of public cleanliness in school curriculum to indoctrinate “Swachhata” from childhood. 

As the Prime Minister of this country who brought the issue of cleanliness to the public agenda, I have to keep a watch on this Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and make sure that this campaign succeeds. We indeed have to wake up to a “Clean India” in Oct 2019. And for that if I have to disguise myself and make more clandestine trips to different parts of the country and continuously crowdsource ideas so be it” !!!

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That was a bit of imagination going wild – as if our PM Narendra Modi himself hits the ground to check what’s happening and taking some corrective actions!!!

Image courtesy: India Today

Towards Swaasth and Swachh Bharat!!!

It’s not often that you get up early on a Sunday morning and go on a long drive. But when I did that this wannabe winter morning, it was nice. Oh, not just because of the weather or the lazy weekly off feel.  There was something more surreal.  Enough to conclude that the change we have been yearning to see in India is finally happening.

The Eastern Express Highway stretching from Thane to Kurla was nearly empty as if it was a “Sena Bandh day” of yore. But hold on. The highway was empty, the service lanes on both sides of the highway were not.  Right along the stretch of the service lane – ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages, sizes and shapes were seen – some jogging, some running and some walking briskly. The many cars seen parked in the side meant they have all come from not so near places. As I moved further, I could see people huddled together and putting up banners of their upcoming locality marathon. (Is there any activity these days without the proverbial marketing I wonder?) It looked like they have assembled for the practice runs.

Further ahead on the highway, an impressive volume of youngsters were cycling attired in fluorescent colours (as is the norm) in groups. Just about as I was begin to wonder if all this cycling and practicing for marathon running are just upper middle class or “US returned Desi” phenomena, I saw a group of young boys and men. Under the vast span of land under a flyover these guys mostly bare footed and in vests and shorts were seen carrying out some exercise regimen with a leader in the centre. (In Mumbai the areas under the flyovers mostly left vacant without any landscaping,.. come as a succour for many group activities – Exercise, Humour club, Bhajan Mandalis, Street play rehearsals,…,…)

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So it appears that India or for want of empirical evidence may I say Mumbai has caught on to fitness adroitly these days or so I found today. And that this phenomenon cut across different strata of society comes as a welcome news if not as a surprise.

On my return, we took the famed L.B.S Marg which runs parallel to the Eastern Express Highway. By now it was already 9’o clock and not so early morning anymore. The tea vendors were busy whipping up Cutting Chai (for the uninitiated in Mumbai a half cup tea is called a Cutting Chai or simply Cutting) along with Vada Pav and Bun Maska to a variety of men lazing around with the morning newspaper. (In my house reading a newspaper in the morning is always associated with lazing around 😜) But along the long LBS Marg there were another set of men engaged in loftier acts.  In what could be mistaken for some Aam Admi Party (AAP) event, Jhadus of different hues were being deployed and the pavements and street corners were being swept diligently. Now it dawned upon me that the Prime Minister’s call for a Swachh Bharat was indeed being taken seriously by his countrymen and the effect is trickling down. Mind you there were no cameras. So these were not Netas or film stars cleaning “already clean roads” in their locality😜. Or as somebody wondered these weren’t instances of celebrities sweeping hard “dried leaves” again and again under shady trees😜😜. Or for that matter they weren’t as we saw in Delhi staged scenes of Netas cleaning after accumulating litter 😠. Or not as I saw a few days ago – a group of people cleaning for a couple of minutes and then taking pictures with banners of their party for the next 10 minutes😠😠. In reality these were common men young, middle-aged and old cleaning with a lot of seriousness not just in one place but in different spots and stretches along the road.

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And as I turned on the FM radio, RJ Malishka was heard talking to one Mr. Deshpande of a local community help group. In Dadar Shivaji Park area the civil society and Municipal Corporation have agreed upon to have a competition on which wards are cleaned and maintained better.

When the Prime Minister flagged of this now famous Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” to turn India into a clean place by 2019 by a symbolic cleaning act and goading people from all walks of life to clean and clean, I was wondering if India will become clean by just cleaning. Ergo in my earlier post (Read here) I said that Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is not about cleaning but ceasing the need to clean. I realize today that, as aam admi get involved in cleaning (as I witnessed today) may be they will stop littering and will stop their near, dear, friends and folks from littering as much as possible. More importantly, they will convey a strong message to their children and kids around on maintaining a clean surrounding. Well that atleast is the hope.

The visible seriousness I saw over Swaasth & Swachhtha this morning has spawned a new hope in me.  That Mumbai and indeed India is changing and changing for the good. And as the Prime Minister enjoys his dinner this evening in Sydney he can feel proud of himself and have an extra drink. For, his campaign for a ‘Clean India’ has hit the right spot and has begun to work.  Wait a minute – did I say “extra drink?? Oops, read that as Nimbu Paani😄😄

While on this, here is LOL one from Satish Acharya:

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For “Swachh Bharat”, STOP the Cleaning!!!

From the time Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the kickoff of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in India on the 15th August this year, India has been on a cleaning overdrive. Routinely we have been seeing ministers, netas wielding the broom and doing a cleaning act. It culminated in the actual launch of this new social awakening campaign by the PM on the 2nd Oct where he himself did a bit of sweeping. Its’ been a while since India actually saw the top leader championing a social campaign which Prof. Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Shashi Tharoor in their articles refer to as the “Bully pulpit” a phrase meaning to drive change top down. Close on the heels of the PM, we saw many ministers, MPs, MLAs, officialdom, volunteers from NGOs, celebrities and general public doing their bit of Shramdhan on the 2nd Oct in cleaning in different parts of the country. So far so good.

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But the moot question is does a country become clean by cleaning alone?

Among the many countries I’ve visited if I have to pick up one country which stood out for its cleanliness it will obviously be Japan. Many who have been to Japan agree to this. Is Japan spic’n span because they have more people to clean and for longer? Or do they put technology to use to ensure cleanliness? May be they do. But the fact is Japanese are extremely particular about cleanliness not just within their homes but in public spaces as well. So what they do is not just cleaning but not creating many opportunities for cleaning. They just don’t litter.  The cleaning up of the football stadium during the FIFA World cup by Japanese fans that too after their team’s exit from the World cup is now part of WhatsApp “forward folklore”. I’m sure most of the litter must have been generated by the Columbian fans!!! From having a small personal ashtray in their pockets to having 4 or 5 waste bins in every nook and corner to separate wastes, cleanliness is one of their two biopolymer strands in their DNA!!!

Contrast that to we Indians, forget DNA, cleanliness need to be searched in our hair strands!!!

I was walking down the stairs after leaving my daughter in a class yesterday. This was when the country was still reeling under the Swachh Bharat mania. A young man must be in his 30’s was standing on the edge of the stairs talking on his mobile phone. As I turned to exit the building, he used all his energy to spit the red juice of the paan he was chewing, on the floor.  I stopped and gave a long stare at him and asked him “Swachh Bharat”??? He started smiling and I felt like slapping him then and there. Now the red remnants of the “paan art” will be cleaned by someone someday. But the stains will remain to remind the world of our dirty etiquette.

For a while, I was of the view that public etiquette is an education thing. After seeing the walls and corners splashed in red in Mumbai, I have concluded that it is not. Day in day out in Mumbai (and indeed in many parts of our country) gentlemen “paint the city red” by spitting after chewing paan in public spaces and wherever they are.  In most walls, the warning sign goading people not to spit is submerged in paan stains.

For us Indians, by and large cleanliness is within the four walls of our homes. Beyond that is not our concern. This is the core issue and the reason behind the pathetic state of our public places.

If Ganga is dirty, it is not for want of cleaning. In the past Governments sanctioned crores of rupees on Ganga cleaning project and I am sure a fraction of it indeed would have been spent on cleaning. But if we don’t stop littering, then this cleaning is of no use. Like Shashi Tharoor in his article says, in the past also they have been different campaigns for a “Clean India” though not necessarily as visible and of this scale as Narendra Modi’s. They have not yielded results for the same reason that people don’t feel the need of a clean surrounding beyond their four private walls whether they are bus stands, temples, railway stations, airports, parks, gardens, schools, hospitals,… ,…

To be realistic, we cannot expect the PM to keep cleaning his surroundings in public every day in public view. And similarly the ministers, babus, NGO workers,.. . Even I heard that once the programme was over in Delhi, it left behind a trail of of water bottles,.. When the optics fade out in a few days, it will be back to the municipality workers to pick up the thread and litter literally.

So are we to stay condemned with a dirty India? Certainly not. From that point of view, the PM’s initiative is extremely laudable in creating awareness about cleanliness. This awareness needs to be transformed into an awakening by us citizens by educating our children right from the young age about the need to have clean surroundings wherever they are. I don’t have much hope on the current grown up generation to give up their few minutes of self-pleasure and stop chewing paan and spitting from tomorrow. That will continue. And for that may be the PM’s push to all to spend few hours in cleaning every year may help.

But, what will make India a Swachh Bharat though not in 5/10 years but may be in 20/25 years is when attitudinal shift happens in generations. For that we have to follow as per me the most vital part of the pledge which is “I will neither litter or let others litter” and drill this in our children.

Swachh Bharat is not about cleaning but a clarion call to cease the need for cleaning!!!

After thought: If Swachh Bharat Mission leads up to this type of cleaning no complaints though 🙂 🙂 🙂

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Cartoon courtesy : Satish Acharya

Do read my another post on Swachh Bharat – Towards Swaasth and Swachh Bharat!!! https://anandkumarrs.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/towards-swaasth-and-swachh-bharat/

Will Metro in Mumbai bring in more “Will”???

The newspaper of today fluttering in front of me announces the flagging of Metro Rail in Mumbai today and as I key these words, it would have been flagged off, some last minute posturing between the Govt. and Reliance over the fares notwithstanding. Reliance was the successful private bidder for this project which was supposed to be on PPP (Public Private Partnership) model. Tomorrow in Mumbai local trains and near water coolers in offices many will be singing paeans to the launch of the Mumbai Metro. Real estate brokers who have been jacking up the rates of properties along the Metro line for 10 years now claiming ‘Metro Aaraha Hai’( like they have been doing in Navi Mumbai showing picture of one empty land in Panvel with a board which says “Site for New International Airport”) will now say that their promise has been kept!!! Not to mention of the viral pictures, videos and messages which will “forward” on WhatsApp, FB,..!!! Just that the project which was an absolute must for a city like Mumbai has ambled in some 20 years late.

MMetro

If at all if there was any city in India which needed a Metro in the first place, it was Mumbai. For years the suburban rail network built by the British has been literally carrying the commute burden of the Mumbaikars without a break down as efficiently as possible. Though it was obvious that it was bursting at its seams, the administration was only working on putting bandages here and there and flogging the same without seriously thinking of an alternative. Kolkata surprisingly with Communists at its helm for more than 3 decades implemented the Metro 1st in India. With the support of Soviet specialists (not surprisingly) and inspired by the idea of Public investments in infrastructure, Kolkata went ahead with the Metro and commissioned the same as early as in 1984, 10- 12 years after laying the foundation. Delhi was the next in line to adopt the Metro Rail. Delhi ofcourse had 2 things going in its favour. The Common Wealth Games which Delhi hosted and the leadership of Mr. E. Sreedharan (Now called the Metroman). Both these ensured that Delhi Metro was on track in record time. Mumbai was not blessed with either. In Mumbai when you really want something to happen, the whole political world conspires to delay it!!! Is this city Paul Coelho’s nemesis???

30 years after it was conceived and 10 years after its Bhumi Pujan, finally the day dawned for commissioning the Metro in Mumbai. And this is true for every infrastructure project in Mumbai. I remember the ‘Vikhroli Jogeswari Link Road’ project a crucial one linking the eastern and western suburbs of Mumbai started when I joined my last company in 2000. It got completed in 2011 the year I left that company. 11 years to complete a Road project??? During those 11 years as I was passing by that road day in and day out suffering from long traffic snarls due to “Work in slow progress”, I was convinced that the much needed political will needed in ensuring fast implementation was missing among the Mumbai rulers. And this I would say is true cutting across all political parties which have been in power in the state in the last 50 years.

Here I must mention with abundant adoration the work and the difference made by one T.Chandrasekhar an IAS officer who as Municipal Commissioner of Thane in the late 90’s changed the face of Thane in 3 years. Within months after he took over, he cleared illegal slums and hawkers and launched a massive road widening and beautification drive. He had the backing of the political class till the time he didn’t touch their vested interests. Trouble started brewing when he started acting on illegal restaurants, encroachments and buildings. The Municipal councilors passed a resolution to sack him but eventually backed off when public showed solidarity behind him and Bal Thackeray the late Shiv Sena Chief supported him in his endeavour.  As part of his master plan Chandrasekhar had in fact started work on a Metro Rail project within Thane. Unfortunately like all good things in this country Thane’s tryst with better destiny ended when he was “promoted” and transferred to Nagpur. The Thane Metro dream ended then. He came back to Mumbai years later and was made responsible for Infrastructure projects. But frustrated by lack of support and political interference he resigned from IAS and is now a potential AAP candidate 🙂 In the mean-time Mumbai continued to suffer. Its clear that if there is political will a transformation is possible.

Whether it is Express highways, a decent mass public transport system or world class airport Mumbai has been 20-25 years behind in getting them. Few months back as Mumbaikars we were lucky to get a world class International airport terminal. All along we had a bus stand masquerading as an airport. As I mentioned, may be 20 years late. Today has been the day of the Metro. And by the time the 3 phases of the Metro will be completed and it begins to make a difference to commuting public I guess it will be another 10 years away.

With India in the throes of change after the recently held General Elections one can say with certitude that people have voted for development and positive change. One hopes that the administrators of Mumbai also will get the message and work towards making Mumbai a better place to live. “We will make Mumbai a Shanghai” – this baloney has been mouthed by the rulers for long. The moot question is whether there is enough stock of “will” for the same??

Ache Din Aa gaye???

Mumbai Metro pic

X: Metro came to Mumbai but it came so late!!

Y: Be happy. It atleast came late not after you became Late !!!

“Dahi Handi” & the many parallels with India’s Economic Growth

It was the 29th of August, a day after people celebrated Krishna Janmashtami with gaiety and religious fervour all over India.  It was almost around 9 pm and I was flying back after a same day return business trip, obviously tired.  I was lost in thoughts of the happenings around the Indian economy the last few days. The rupee had its worst fall in the last 20 years and nobody had a clue where it is heading to. The worst nightmares around India were coming true one by one.  Finally India beat ChinaChina was supposed to slowdown first but we beat China on this!!! On the flight for a change we were spared of the usual traffic congestion over Mumbai and we were promised a prior to schedule arrival.  Closer to touch down, one could see the narrow streets of Mumbai lit up in sparkling Chinese lights, crowds gathered around some junctions and an overall frenzy. It just dawned upon me that on that day in Mumbai and may be in few other cities in India, the Dahi Handi (Curd pot) ritual was played with increasing vigour year after year.  As per Hindu mythology, Lord Krishna as a child used to steal butter from earthen pots hung high from the ceiling of neighbours. The practice to emulate this has become an increasingly popular event in cities. The earthen pots migrated from inside houses to main roads, streets and housing complexes and Krishna’s surreptitious acts of theft have now become open opportunities for groups of men (called Govindas) to excel in broad day light in front of thousands and take home rich bounties chipped in by many a sponsors!!!

As my cab took right from the Western Express Highway (yes, in Mumbai we call long stretches of road at times narrow, at times wide, with intersecting signals every kilometre, with slow inefficient toll plazas slowing down the traffic and with no concept of a hard shoulder to use in case of emergencies – as Highways and Express ones in that) the traffic congestion which we were spared of while on the sky came to haunt us with a vengeance on the ground. The traffic quickly graduated from being slow moving to “No” moving. I got out of the car and it took me just few seconds to realize that the battle between the “Govindas” and the “Dahi Handis” perched few metres from the ground was gathering steam and so traffic blocks be damned. I decided to let myself consumed in the atmosphere and observe what’s going on. I had not watched one in such close proximity before frankly. As I watched the proceedings I could draw few parallels between the Dahi Handi ritual and our country.

dahi handi,1

The Handi I guess was suspended about 20-25 m high and I heard that the height varies from mandals and it could be even 40 m +. The chants of ‘Govinda ala Re and ‘Haathi Ghoda Palki Jai Kanhaiya Lal Ki’ accompanied by beats of the Dhol amplified the already noisy surroundings. It signaled the arrival of a group of Govindas all attired in yellow with sponsor’s logos (as is the wont nowadays) to take a shot at breaking the pot. They took a few minutes to size up the challenge and as the beats started hitting a crescendo they began the task of putting together the human pyramid. Expectedly, strong, taller men formed the base and layer by layer they built the structure. So far so good. With few thousands of people watching the scene with breathlessness some with jaws open like me, the tension was palpable. It was now time for the kids to be lifted up as the pyramid gathered height.  The pace slowed now. One could hear many instructions going around. It was clear that these groups practiced collective leadership and were mainly driven by instinct. With just few meters away from the pot, it was time for the last part of the pyramid – a small kid may be 6-7 years of age to be thrown into the ring. The boy wearing a yellow protective vest (happy to see that but surprisingly he was the only one to wear that) slowly helped by many limbs, biceps and shoulders gradually made his way up. The cheers now get really boisterous.  And as he reached the top and tried to balance himself – lo somewhere something went wrong and the pyramid fell apart and with it the hopes of the participants to hit the pot and jackpot accompanying it. It’s very difficult to pinpoint who did what and what went wrong.  What happened immediately after this was interesting. Few seconds of disappointment later, the group recouped itself.  Took a few minutes off breaking into a dance to ‘Sheela Ki Jawani’ and goading chants and went for the 2nd attempt.  Ironically they didn’t manage to break the pot in that as well. When the crowd withered away, we got some leeway and got out of the spot. Another group may be in a red uniform might have come next. They also might have given a crack at the pot. Might have failed once and may be finally accomplished on the 2nd or 3rd attempt. The 1st yellow group forgetting the experience would have moved on but with renewed energy to the next mandal and hopefully succeeded there.

I was soon in the cab continuing my journey back home and couldn’t help myself reflecting on what happened.  What I hear is that while the Govinda groups are highly enthusiastic about hitting the pot, there is no training or rehearsals done before the day. There are also no structured strategy / tactics adopted to hit the pot which could be of different heights from mandal to mandal. The groups just move on from place to place, size up the task, put together a quick approach and give it a shot to hit the bull’s eye. If it’s achieved well and good. Everybody is happy. The prize is won.   People all around are excited. If they fail, there is disappointment for few seconds. But there is no despair. They again give a try. May not do anything much differently.  May succeed this time. If not just move on and may be give a better try next year.  Political parties associate themselves with different mandals. Bollywood joins the party. As I mentioned before businesses are anyway part being sponsors for different teams.  The next day every year invariably newspapers report of a few hundreds of people who got injured and a few who even died due to mishaps and accidents in the whole Dahi Handi revelry. I asked the cab driver if there is any formula for success here. He said – Nothing Sir, just try, try and try till you suceed oops succed sorry succeed (YES!!!)

Unfortunately our approach to managing the economy and achieving growth rates is eerily similar. The breaking of the pot is similar to the GDP growth rate India can achieve. Just like the different heights of the pots it can be 6 %, 9% or whatever. Just like different groups trying to hit the pot, there are different groups working in different areas to make the economy grow and hit a GDP rate figure. The target may be 8%, 9%,.. in the beginning of the year but only at the end of the year depending upon the height of the handi we will know if we have hit the same or not.  Though we want to grow there is no structured plan or strategy which is put in place. We just hope that the consumption fuelled by our great growing population or economic growth in the developed nations will use more of our products and services and propel our economy. That’s the reason why our economy grows one year at 7 %, few years at 8%, drops to 5% and so on. If the GDP target growth rate is achieved, everyone is happy, plenty of jobs are generated, billions of FDI comes in, stock market booms, realty picks up,.. ,.. and there is happiness all around. On the other hand when the economy doesn’t achieve its growth, and goes down, it drags with it thousands of people who lose jobs, have to take pay cuts,.. like the hundreds who end in hospitals the next day injured. But is there a major despair?? No. Just a bit of disappointment and people just shrug off and continue their day to day work hoping to contribute to a better growth next year.  In governance too there is no leader but something called a collective leadership which essentially means no accountability. In the whole process of driving the economy, politics, government policies and corporates all play their part – sometimes helping the cause and (as we see these days) at times hampering the cause.

On the day when rupee depreciated close to 2 rupees to a dollar, there was panic and gloom in the corporate board rooms as reported by pink papers. But not on the streets. The Dahi Handi was going on in usual raucous fashion.  So that is India. We have our own way of balancing our lives by shrugging off our woes and still moving on in life with fun and revelry. The festival season has just kicked in. Janmashtami was just the start. Tomorrow is ‘Ganesh Chaturti’ – a time to chant “Ganpati bappa morya’ and forget what’s happening to our Rupaya!!!

Mumbai – A Hol(e)istic view !!!

When I read Suketu Mehta’s award winning book –“Maximum City on Mumbai, I found it a bit hard to comprehend what is “maximum” about the city. If Mehta has to write a book on Mumbai today as a sequel he could very well name it “The Maximum potholed City” which will make for unchallenged comprehension. A drive this day through what people often refer to as a metropolitan city – Mumbai will be an (w)holesome experience with an exposure  to holes of all sizes and shapes 🙂  In between holes you will be lucky to find some bits and pieces of road.  While in other cities you find signs of “Caution bump ahead” in Mumbai soon you will find signs of “Caution Road ahead”!!!

Mumbaipot1

All of us who keep cribbing about potholes in Mumbai sadak are missing an important point called “Positioning”. If Mumbai roads are as good as they are in Tokyo, Paris or Dubai then what is the unique positioning?  What is Bappida if he is not a walking jewellery showroom? The dark glasses which our Tamil Nadu octogenarian politician Karunanidhi wears 24*7 defines now his identity. Potholes and Mumbai are something like this and now defines the city’s personality.

Realising the importance of imbibing this personality of the city, one NGO proposed to change the name of RTA (Roads and Transport Authority) in Mumbai to HTA (Holes and Transport Authority). But the proposal has apparently hit a “Holeblock”!

Recently one of the popular travel companies in Mumbai made a killing by positioning Mumbai as a destination for bachelor trips to the West. The idea was very simple. Post Zindagi Na Milegi Dubara movie there has been a rush from rich boys in India to travel to Spain to do Road trips. This agency turned the concept on its head and positioned Mumbai abroad for fancy “Holi(e)days”. The result has been extra ordinary.

There has been another novel attempt as well. Considering the fact that “Space holidays” or “Moon holidays” are still some time away and may not be also light on the pocket – for lesser mortals there is the option of “Moonbai holidays”. Sasta and Sundar.  See the pictures for yourself.

Mumbai-Road-Pot-Holes-Are-Like-Moon-Craters

Picture courtesy “Indiaopines.com”

That Mumbai resembles moon’s surface is not a figment of my imagination.  ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) which has plans to do a manned mission to moon may well be advised to divert to Mumbai and save a few millions. In our country millions still need basic food security.

While on this moon like experience, a novice foreign pilot flying to Mumbai for the 1st time panicked when he was losing height above Mumbai and was wondering if he was landing in another planet.  But soon he breathed easy as he saw the countless shanties on the surface which he recalled seeing in Slumdog Millionaire.

In the midst of all this, one thing which got missed is the fact that today Mumbai is the “Beta site” for many car manufacturers to test the quality of their vehicle suspensions.  If a suspension passes the test in Mumbai it passes the ultimate test. What started just with one manufacturer has now become an industry standard and is a major revenue stream for the Municipal corporation. Hence there is now an unstated commitment from the Government to maintain the condition of the roads with enough holes of different hue at any point in time.

This is not the only reason for the Government to have a ‘Hol(e)istic’ view on the road condition.  The other being to ensure jobs for the thousands of workers engaged with the road contractors. Laying substandard roads and keep doing something on them in the garb of maintenance is another Employment Guarantee scheme. The only difference being this scheme doesn’t have the Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi prefix to it.

While on prefixes, suffixes and adjectives, the “spirit of Mumbaikar” is a famed one. But what is not is “the spine of Mumbaikar”. Mumbaikars possess the strongest and at the same time very flexible spine among human beings in the world. As one of my friends value added, after all Camel rides are supposed to be good for the spine and more often than not in Mumbai when you are in a vehicle the ride is akin to a Camel ride.

Recently when the minister concerned was questioned if the Government has a Roadmap to fix Mumbai’s roads, he mentioned that as of now they only have a “holemap” 🙂 and soon they hope to have a master plan and will reveal the same shortly. So it’s still not end of the hole oops road for Mumbaikars as yet. There is some hole oops again, hope!!!

Postscript: Years back – Nestle created a unique positioning for their mint by just creating a hole in the centre and calling it “Polo – The mint with a hole”!!! For a commoner it was difficult to fathom what’s so great in a mint with a hole. But the point is, it was different and “hole in a mint” became the defacto standard for a mint candy.   The same Nestle after a few years introduced Polo Mini – with the tag line “The Hole with the mint”. This hole didn’t find many takers and had to be buried quickly 😦 😦

Disclaimer : The characters and incidents in this post are fictitious and imaginary. Any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental. And no animal was injured while writing this post.

Monsoon’s Diary

“Rain and High tide pour misery on Mumbaikars” – screams today’s Mumbai edition of Times of India. I find this inimical response so ironical and take this with a pinch of salt.  Till the end of May when my cousin Surya (Sun) was scorching the length and breadth of India – a great country in this planet, one thing in everybody’s lips was – “When will “I” arrive this year”?  But when I arrive and decidedly with a bang, I notice that the tunes of the thankless human beings have changed just in a week.   It’s been a week since I decided to make my  annual presence felt in India starting from the West coast, Kerala, Mangalore and then finally hitting the commercial capital – Mumbai and then will move on to other parts of the country except certain pockets.  I normally take a break in September and then visit again via the eastern coast – Orissa, Tamil Nadu,.. in Oct/ November in another avatar.  The ride to this country is one which I enjoy every year and for many reasons.

monsoon

The fact that my arrival on time and presence in many parts of the country decide the economic fortunes of the country gives me a high. Economists start forecasting a bullish GDP growth and government authorities rush to announce the good news when I behave properly. After all good rains ensure a good crop and they say that the farmer community happily spends the surplus disposable income on consumer durables, clothes, better lifestyle for their children and what have you, thereby pushing growth.

While on GDP forecasts I like to be on the right side, the other forecasts where I have fun in proving wrong is of the Met department and those “MRF” guys.  So invariably I make sure that they get it wrong:) Do you like it if somebody starts predicting your behavior in advance on your face???  Or do they ask me before they do their predictions? I see that today the department has warned the Mumbaikars to brace for heavy rains in the next two days.  Well, now you know what is going to happen and let me let the cat out of the bag. You can coolly walk without even an umbrella in the next 2 days!  When the MRF guys start advertising that the MRF Rain day is 2 days away – I ensure that they get it wrong. But does it matter?  Irrespective of whether they get it right or not, they have been doing this branding for decades now. And there is the “betting economy” around me – reason enough for me to behave arbitrarily. Ofcourse once in a while I do toe the line of the Met department – that is purely out of sympathy with the guys there so that they don’t lose their jobs!

But one set of guys who I wish, do lose their jobs year after year are the ones in the Municipal Corporation in Mumbai (BMC). They do a shoddy job of the road maintenance and I have to hear from you guys day in day out as you suffer in traffic jams for hours together during my season.  BMC-Contractor nexus and the ensuing corruption ensure that instead of a permanent solution of having “Monsoon proof” roads you have last minute patch of the pot holes. When I visit Mumbai for 3 months and see the city from the top, I feel that it should be re-named as “Moonbai” as the surface resembles craters of the Moon!!!  In between potholes you find bits of pieces of road. I find it extremely ironical that the people of Mumbai don’t realize that they are being taken for a literal roller coaster ride and keep voting for the same party term after term. They should visit the southern state of Kerala where also I play around quite a bit, but the authorities there have cracked the road issue and I don’t find such pathetic roads as in Mumbai. Guess in Mumbai the authorities just eat your funds.

Talking of eating, hot tea with samosas, pakoras, bajiyas and all those panoply of oil smacked snacks find their place in the Sun or rather Monsoon during these months when I visit.  I keep hearing that there is a lot of romanticism around just sitting, watching me – drinking copious cups of tea and polishing snack plates without doing any work. I feel that in this “I” am only an excuse. Like they say, “Men just don’t need any reason to drink”, I guess people don’t need any reason to just laze around.

Surprisingly the lawmakers in India – the MPs don’t laze around when I’m around. Parliament session is called around this time and the whole session is named after me as the “Monsoon session”! It’s another matter that no legislative business happens these days in the Parliament with walk outs becoming the norm. Ordinary citizen calls for “Bandhs” to protest while the privileged ones (MPs) call for “Walk outs” to protest.  All work and no walk outs make the Indian ruling Jacks dull boys you see!!!

Without me realizing I do feel that I come down heavily on children.  They can’t play out in the open and that indeed makes them dull and if they do venture out – they can’t escape feeling under the weather!!! Doctors have a field day. My season is Diwali season for pharma companies!!!  And there is this whole range of business around Me. Umbrellas, Rain wear, Rain shoes,…,… Is the ubiquitous black umbrella part of folklore now? What I see is the more coloured variants resembling costumes from Rohit Shetty’s movies. I’ve no complaints though.

But you guys have many complaints when I don’t arrive on time or miss a season or be more generous in my presence in a year.  There are reasons for all of that. I’m not going to venture into listing up those here as they are well-known and documented. What I find interesting is people don’t follow the “Do’s” and “Don’ts” and then crib about me doing the damage. Also start trying to please me. For example people try to delight me with music. Mythology has it that I am associated with Raga – “Amirthavarshini” (Indian Carnatic) and RaagMegh Malhar” (Hindustani Classical). Yes these are indeed my favourites.  If they are not in your favorite lists yet, please do listen to “Sudhamayi” (Amirthavarshini) and Megh Malhar by Pandit Jasraj and add them.  I am also overwhelmed by the reference to me in many Indian movies – Hindi or regional. My picks from that is Ganan Ganan from Lagaan (That boy Rahman is a genius I say) and Classical and Play back singer Unnikrishnan’s Tamil film song “Mazhai, Mazhai”. Do click on the links to listen if you like.

I sincerely hope a day soon will come when people don’t accuse me of pouring misery in their lives for, my karma in life is to bring cheers to earth and humanity.  So to wind up, here’s  joke on me to cheer you up.

It was a year when there was no rain in Kerala. Obviously concerned, mallus all got together and did pujas, havans,.. to please the Rain God Varuna.

Varuna was pleased.

The next day it rained. And that too heavily.

Not in Kerala but in Dubai.

Mallus went and complained to Varuna

And Varuna said – “Seeing so many of you guys there I mistook Gulf coast for Kerala coast” !!! 😦

Joke courtesy: Sudarshan

Women Vs. We Men in India !!!

“We attain the real freedom only when a lonely woman can walk freely anywhere in our country during midnightMohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

The Father of the Nation must have said this in the 40’s not with animals or aliens in mind.  He clearly alluded to the lurking threat from ‘we men’ to the women community.  Sadly, going by this definition, we as a country might have achieved political freedom, the economic freedom may be just in sight but the “Real freedom” may be light years away. The recent ghastly incident which took place in our country’s capital, Delhi beat the daylights out of me as most of my fellow citizens.  It will be naïve to assume that Delhi is an exception as a city in India and other cities are quite safe.

There is a heated debate today in India on ways to stop this – ranging from Speedy justice, Capital punishment for the accused, fast trial courts for women related crimes,…,..  The lady victim/fighter or whatever one wants to call her has to live through the trauma almost every day of her life. Even if she wants to forget, the society will keep reminding her of the same.  So by hanging the culprit and taking his life, you are giving him the freedom which the victim does not have.  According to me, he must live and live to repent his shameful act every day/ every hour / every minute / every second for the rest of his life.  At the same time the punishment must be delivered in such a way that makes other men think 1000 times before they unzip before an unwilling woman in a moving bus or elsewhere.

That could be

  • Fast track courts exclusively for women related crimes with women as judges
  • The victims compliant corroborated with circumstantial evidence to be treated as final evidence and the accused charged
  • Laws amended to make “Castration” as the punishment for Rape against women
  • Judgment to be delivered within 1 week of any such incident
  • Punishment executed within 1 week from judgement

As a liberal, I’m in general against capital punishment and other such primitive punishments and agree with the view that these kind of aboriginal retributions have no place in a civilised society. However I’ve come to the conclusion that laws and punishments must be in tune with the civility and morality index of the country.  A country where a woman is raped every 2 hours (as I hear) cannot certainly be in the august group of Civilised nations.

Let us hold those grandiose pretensions for a while till as a country we learn to behave and demonstrate civility in general.

  • It’s time to think less about economic recession and worry about morality recession.
  • We face sleepless nights about currency depreciation but don’t bat our eyelid seeing the depreciation of values in front of us.
  • While being delighted watching the bullish trends in the stock market, let’s get concerned about dousing the raging bullish attitude of ‘we men’ towards women.
  • Time to have targets for Gross Discipline instead of just for GDP growth.

May be it’s time to deliver justice the primordial way which may eventually act as the much-needed deterrent for such heinous acts.  Somebody passed me this link from a Tamil movie – though this is a bit crude and violent way of delivering justice, I’m certain a variant of this form of punishment may prove to be the final deterrent for crime towards women!

While this could be a short-term solution, we must pause to pose the larger question. What is with Indian men that make them treat women with contempt, as an object of desire, as an item, ..,…?  As part of the oppressing gender in India today, I cringe with smallness.

To me, it looks like that’s the way we have been brought up in the society.  Till the time I started travelling out of our country in my 20’s I didn’t realise the “Women Vs. We Men” battle being staged in our country day in day out.  I would like to enumerate some of the scenes most of us I’m certain will be witness to :

  • The office elevator reaches the ground floor with men and women in it. As soon as the door opens, the men just rush out without having the basic courtesy of waiting for the women to step out first
  • At the same elevator, as the women try to get out, you will find men charging in to get into the lift – as if the lift is a local train.  In Mumbai where I live now, I see this “Suburban train” approach (which is basically barging in before people get out or without giving space for others before the train leaves) in everything. Even if it’s boarding a plane, getting into a theatre, driving a car on the road,..,..
  • In the airport coach at the departure or arrival gate – you will find very few iPhone/Blackberry wielding alpha males yielding their seats to females even if they are with infants or of the elderly type.
  • The driver of the car keeps honking as a pedestrian who happens to be a woman tries to cross the road and makes sure she halts so that he can breeze away. The short stint I lived in Dubai taught me that as a driver the 1st priority is for the pedestrian.
  • A group of office colleagues (male and female) get out of the company bus and walk together towards the office door to make an entry. Seldom will you find the male members allowing the ladies first and awaiting their turn later.

You may feel that I’ve spiced up some of the incidents for better effect, but actually not. These are what you get to see in the ‘Maximum(bai)’ city every other day! So I was not at all surprised when Mumbai was voted as a ‘Rudest City’ in a worldwide survey of 35 cities by Readers Digest.  That it was Mumbai was just incidental. It could well apply for most of the big cities of India.  I’m not claiming that Readers Digest is the ultimate authority in judging morality or civility, just thought not out of context to quote that to drive home my point.

As a long-term solution, the need of the hour is to coach our children on the basic courtesies in general and towards women in particular and not to view them as just an object of desire. We owe this to our nation. So, tomorrow when I leave my house with my family in the car, let me start by opening the door for the 2 ladies at home!

Enough