Monday, August 29, 2011

Why Anna Can't Fight Our Battles Always

I'd like to see the Anna Hazare movement and the events over the past six months in perspective. What he has done is get everyone involved in a public protest against all-pervasive corruption, along with him. He has insisted that a Bill be passed that could make the lines of accountability clear which could be a better option to the one we have now. After all, this system has been in place for long and it is only getting worse going by the scale and magnitude of the scams that are being exposed every other day. Now says Anna, give us a Bill with teeth. The government stalled, shrugged, looked away, intimidated and finally agreed in principle to look into it. That is where we stand. The public of India can feel that it has achieved victory but it is only a small battle that was conceded. The war everyone knows is a long drawn affair.

Firstly, nothing may happen finally. Debates are always long drawn. Too many view points were put forth even as the old man lay on a fast unto death program, even when he had a gun to the government's head. Now with time available, the issue can go all over the place. That is the first hurdle. When and in what form will the Bill be finally passed? The content of the Bill.

Then comes the issue of how effective the Bill can be actually. How will the people use it? How will the actual mechanism of the Bill be made that people can use it well? How can it be used to make a fair, transparent, accountable and clean society? How will the people be educated? It will finally have to be a tool that can be used and effectively. That is the second issue - the implementation.

For both these to happen it is only the people who must take inspiration individually and collectively. At an individual level people must decide that they will now proactively cleanse the system, starting with themselves. They will not tolerate, they will question, they will not participate in anything that is detrimental to this cause. This cannot be done alone, hence the power of communities and groups is important. It is time that societies and groups are formed to keep this thought alive, to convey the true meaning of what this movement is about, what one can do, and how one can contribute. Only when the people at large get more involved in the actual process will there be change because then the power of the individual and the collective can be leveraged to greater common good - be it in protesting, in voicing opinions, in bringing issues to the notice of the representatives and in getting things done.

One thing we must all realise is that someone else cannot fight our battles for us always. We have to participate. We have to be aware. We have to educate and organise. Anna Hazare has only shown the way, the possibility, a glimpse of what can be done. Now, it is up to every individual to be a more responsible, proactive and committed citizen. It is time for every individual to take out that much time and sacrifice it for the sake of what this movement has started. Do not expect a 73 year old man to rescue you all the time!

It's an Ad Mad World - Reliance Net Connect

An ad that stands out above the rest these days is the one about Reliance Net Connect. The ads are based purely on grabbing your attention by putting the models in life and death situations with little time and only a Reliance Net Connect to help them. One is about a guy who is tied up in a car and a train is approaching, another about a girl who is in a car that catches fire and there is one more that I cannot remember.

The story
So there are people who get into this situation willingly, I presume its a reality show, and waiting to be killed. The first guy is tied up with some complex knot and a train is approaching. He somehow gets the laptop started (how did he get it started so quickly?) puts the Reliance Net Connect and is connected. Now this is where my problem starts. How does he know which knot is on his hand? Even if he did, I'd like to put the guy who made this ad in that situation and see how he gets out so quick.

Similarly the girl who is driving her car finds that the boot of the car has blown up. Her only option is the laptop and Reliance Net Connect. She quickly logs on even as she is driving and finds out where the nearest fire station is. The firemen put out the fire. But how about something simple like getting out of the car? What if there was traffic on the way? What if the car just blew up as she was driving? And what if the firemen were away at lunch?

The Verdict
The ads do convey the super speed of Reliance Net Connect. That much gets conveyed pretty clearly. I'd think I'd have no problem with the ads if I was Reliance since I'd have established that one USP well. I don't mind pushing the envelope here for the sake of getting the message across. However, if I were in a situation similar to that, I'd do certain things a little differently. Like opening the door to my car and getting out when it catches fire. My laptop takes an hour to even get started.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

It's an Ad Mad World - Sanju, Sanju

Anyone who has seen the advertisement of a hysterical wife looking for her husband, screaming 'Sanju, Sanju' loudly and rushing into their home will know what this ad is all about. It is about the uncertainty of life - like finding your husband alive. And when there is uncertainty in life, you are expected to take life insurance!

The Story of the Killer Wife
Any number of times I watch it, this ad never fails to make me wonder if the wife (I am assuming it is the wife) is actually expecting him to be dead. Is she the killer? Her whole demeanour is that of a wife who wants her husband dead at the earliest. I mean, here is a guy who is really chilled out on a working day, reading a magazine, sleeping off happily without a care in the world. He is one of those who will live happily for a hundred years. But add the stress that this screeching, stressed out banshee piles on him needlessly, and then you have a different story. Also when she finds him alive she reacts with complete surprise - how did he survive? Survive what? The nap? I know wives could be dangerous to health, but this one is a sure killer. That guy Sanju (I hope he is Sanju) has no chance is she keeps up like this - she does not need a knife. Even I get stressed out watching the ad (and have also taken life insurance from Max!)

It is a sad tale really and touches the heart, ouch, let me rephrase it, touches you. A wife who loves her husband so much that she constantly expects to find him dead, a lazy husband who is shirking work and sleeping off at home and the only obvious solution - life insurance!

But seriously, the ad has strong recall value. A bit too dramatic. The ad has made a return after a while (is it the season for heart attacks!). But overall I generally liked the Max ads, right from the ones with Rahul Dravid and his fans who gave him tons of wonderful advise. This one does not compare with those for me, but it probably has a different agenda. I am always a bit confused with this ad though - is he unhealthy, is he expected to have a heart attack, is she always like this? Is it cheaper to get a divorce than buy life insurance in such cases?

Dr. Manmohan Singh and the Winds of Change

The quiet, soft spoken Prime Minister of India is on the verge of a hat trick of massive achievements if he gets the Jan Lok Pal Bill out with enough teeth. He was there as the Finance Minister to P.V. Narasihma Rao when India did away with the License Raj with the process of liberalisation that set the mood for a market oriented economy. He was there as the Prime Minister when the Right to Information Act was passed.
And now the Jan Lok Pal Bill.

Big achievements for someone who is seen as an ineffective Prime Minister. Mr. Singh can look back at his career with satisfaction.

3 Things to learn From Anna Hazare

3 things to learn from Anna Hazare:

1) To believe that you are never insignificant - whatever you are, wherever you come from - you can make a difference if you want to

2) To have a purpose in life and back it fully with all of your belief irrespective of what the world may think

3) To act on what one believes, and let the act do the talking

As good a formula as any.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Well done India!

There was much talk of the blackmail of the government by Anna Hazare and how democracy is under threat. I wonder what the democratic process should be in this case? Should Anna Hazare (or whoever had a problem) with corruption written a letter and let the government take it from there? Or wait for the next elections to get elected and then pass a Bill? Or break the fast after two days and hope for the best?

Is this the best the ordinary man can do in a democracy? Is the common man completely helpless? Is that democracy?

If there was such a threat to democracy, then the government should have gone by its wisdom and done what it should have to protect the democracy. Which would have included stopping all things that were against the democratic process, including protests for certain Bills. Why did the government not do that? Why did the government not just arrest Anna and put him away? Or just let him fast to death and let it be as it did with many others?

Maybe they could not because this movement was different. No one really expected this movement to become so big, to hold on for so long. And, no one else except Anna Hazare could have carried out this fast, this protest and got so much support. There is something to be learnt from that. Not everyone could have done what he did. None of these speakers who condemn his methods could have sat on protest and attracted such energy. Why is it that he does? Why did the government blink and concede?

Forget the conspiracy theories. I would like to believe that it is simpler than that. One is his credibility. His track record - of which he speaks openly and challenges anyone to check it - is full of achievements that not many can dream of pulling off for some one with his means and resources. He believes he has led a life that is 'nishkalank' or blemishless and that is what gives him the power and conviction to take on such protests.

Another thing that I think served Anna is his belief in the power of the people, in the basic tenet of democracy, that it is of the people really and their real concerns should be addressed. That, I believe, is what drives him to go it, if need be alone. Now not many would have the conviction, the belief, nor the will power to carry it off. He merely protests, as a citizen, and demands what he wants. I think our constitution grants us all that much. Only not many of us can carry off such things, with such conviction. No wonder Laloo, in all his health, cannot believe that such things are possible, that some people can undertake fasts and still survive! Sometimes, belief can do that, as does will and surely the practice that Anna has had over the years. (Even if he did drink glucose and salts, still, no mean achievement I should think Dr.Vaidya? Have you tried fasting for 10 days with water, salts and glucose only?)

Baba Ramdev despite his clout and money and public support could not last long, in fact he was treated with complete disdain by the government which then systematically tore him and his reputation down. What was Baba Ramdev asking? Probably the same things as Anna, but he had not enough belief, conviction in what he did nor did he have the credibility. Only Anna Hazare could possibly have brought this movement to such a head because you cannot break him nor his belief, his conviction.

If the government had done what it did with Baba Ramdev (and protected democracy from being blackmailed) it would have been another story one suspects. Why they did not do it is also interesting. But I would imagine (naively, I know) that they did realise finally that they are after all mere representatives of the people, not the people themselves, or worse, their masters! And when the people start taking it upon themselves to make themselves heard, it speaks of the distance that has grown between the people and their representatives. Somewhere I suspect they realised that.

It is also that time of our history when seventy year old men threaten to 'starve themselves to death' uncompromisingly focussed on the end goal, reminding everyone of how it can be done in a democracy. Forget about the process being good or bad, there may not be many more such instances we get to see of what human will is all about, what true democracy is about. It is after all about the people. And perhaps that is what Anna Hazare has done with this movement, taken the power back to the people. He has made the people ask, demand from their representatives what they are about, what they are doing to safeguard the peoples interests. Now it is up to the representatives, who are hollowly trying to defend their honest ways, to win back the confidence of the public. I do not see anything undemocratic in what he is doing because the government is at full liberty to do what it can to stop him. That they have not been able to speaks for itself. And that in itself is a wonderful tribute to democracy. And to India.

I have heard some of the injured and hurt parliamentarians who have felt that the civil society has exceeded its brief in putting them all in one basket. Forget it guys, you are still not getting it. If the team fails, the entire team has to take the blame, and everyone who is representing the public has to take the blame. If there is an overwhelming cry from the youth that says 'mera neta chor hai', it is time to get the blinkers off and set things right. Not put on the injured and hurt look.

But all said and done, whether corruption goes or not, some points have been made emphatically. Full marks to all concerned, Anna for his fast and belief, his really small and vulnerable Team (the Bhushans, Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal - take a bow) for weathering such a rough storm against a powerful system and several factions in Civil society and sometimes from their own associates and holding their own, the public for their overwhelming response and support, the media for keeping the movement burning with some exceptional coverage. But mostly, the Parliament for showing exceptional grace in a situation that could have gone totally wrong. Well done India. Now, onwards, to creating the fair, honest, accountable, equitable, transparent society we all want.

Thought for the Day - Why We Want to be the Same

It's intriguing why despite being so different from one another, we all crave to be the same. In this sameness, there is a comfort. We are no aberration. We are safe.

And in this sameness we lose what we really are. We hide deeper within ourselves. We are scared to move. We are scared to act. We are scared to think. And we are scared to speak. In sameness, we die.

If on the other hand we choose to be our own unique selves, we are no longer bound by the sameness. We can think and act differently. Like how we were meant to. To be true to the uniqueness is what makes us different, is what integrity is. It is also seen perhaps mistakenly as being 'creative' when all you are being is you.

Maybe there is a case to be more of the unique you. And less of being the same as others. It could be a very freeing perspective.

Anna Hazare - Interesting Turn of Events

As Anna Hazare completes the 11th day of his fast he has forced some interesting actions and reactions from all over.

Notable among the reactions are the ones by the Prime Minister who finally reacted positively after a long hard wait. The entire Lok Sabha reacted as well in a first of its kind reaction which was a fine gesture. The opposition, after dragging its feet a bit, prompted by Yashwant Sinha, reacted as well in support of the movement. Rahul Gandhi came up and added a curious twist, a new perspective to it. The heads of business have been cautious and understandably. The TV artistes have come out in support I think. The public has been more than vocal in their support for the movement and the fast. I know a few people who also fast quietly in support of Anna, and who admit that it is difficult. But overall, the movement has done enough already in provoking interest, spreading awareness and putting the law makers on the defensive, and full credit to the strong willed Anna Hazare. What happens from now on is anybody's guess though I suspect that some concessions would be made - some give and take done, and after some assurances, Anna will break his fast.

On the other side are reactions which are negative. Most of our intellectuals seem to feel that this is blackmail and the method is wrong. I am not sure what method they had in mind especially after the way the government tried to water down the Bill. Supporters like Swami Agnivesh and Santosh Hegde have decided to distance themselves for different reasons. The movie stars who normally have an opinion on everything, have chosen to keep mum (which is probably for the best). Many people on the net and outside also feel that this Bill is no answer, and that this is blackmail and undermining the Parliament. There are others who have put up short videos of some people who were with Anna earlier in other protests - a disgruntled lot now. I did not find too much in their arguments - that he is hogging all the credit, the limelight, that he is drinking glucose etc while on fast, that his people are all criminals etc. It appeared to me more like a case of sour grapes.

But the most interesting reaction came from someone who took offence at the movement. 'By demeaning the constitution framed under the Chairmanship of a Dalit, Anna Hazare is insulting the Dalits. This is an upper caste conspiracy!' It is amazing! If anything, the Dalits are the ones who will be the worst affected from corrupt practices I thought. Anyway, everyone has a say now which is good. At least it has provoked that much in our normally apathetic people.

And now, for tomorrow's debate in the Parliament. And where it leads. But for Anna Hazare's sake, and for the sake of a more accountable, honest and fair society, I do hope that they reach an honorable compromise. All criticism aside, I do join the Prime Minister in saluting the spirit of Anna, his conviction and belief that has made this what it is, his integrity that has come through unscathed despite every attempt to throw mud at him. It is amazing but there is no parallel of sch a protest in the world as we know of it now - a 73 year old man holding up the entire country, the largest democracy, through a non-violent protest. Amazing.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Thought for the Day - Commitment, and Purpose

Until recently I never realised or cared too much for the word 'commitment' - thinking that it would somehow take care of itself. It was there, this oft used-in-the-wrong-perspective word, lurking in the background, never truly explored by me. But the day I started saying, perhaps a few months ago, that writing was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, did the word start making sense to me. That is what commitment is - for life.

Until then I was - 'writing, hopefully as long as I can, and let's see what happens'. There was no conviction to the whole thing - never felt it. In my mind I was writing for the rest of my life of course, but I was also hoping that some other things would happen - maybe screenplay writing, may be workshop facilitating, lecture tours - it was all a bit hazy, with no real foundation to ground anything on. What gave my whole idea (my existence if I may say so), firm foundation was the commitment that I gave it when I said 'I will write for the rest of my life'. I could feel it all sinking in comfortably. Now it all made some sense.

That commitment gave me a deep sense of purpose. I now know I have 30 odd years, (going by the average human life) to write. I now know how I can space myself out properly. As opposed to the 'hopefully I will write as many books as I can' I now know realistically that I can write 30 books or more. And now I can see myself writing more purposefully as well.

Maybe this is the best part about 'forever' and 'till death do us apart'! You start any relationship with a firm sense of resolve and purpose. You know that this is what you want to work at, and make it work whatever it takes (and not run away at the first sign)! This is for keeps, so give it your best shot, don't give it up, keep at it through the rough periods, establish that body of work, and then, it is a life that is filled with satisfaction, purpose, and a sense of achievement. One can say, I did give it my best shot, after that.

In relationships and in careers, there is an increasing tendency these days to walk off at the first sign of discomfort. But it might make a huge difference if one at least gets into the 'commitment'; with an attitude that says 'I will be here for the rest of my life'. Suddenly the perspective is different, one can plan out one's career, one's growth, one's contributions. It will make a huge difference. Maybe HR departments should run an exercise like this while recruiting and ground the recruits with a firm commitment.

But whatever it is in your life that is important to you, its worth a try to commit forever to certain things and orienting one's life towards that. I suspect that all else that one desires will fall in place if one gets this grounding right, this foundation right. Pick one, get committed, go!

In a way, commitment is also about total responsibility, the sense of purpose that drove some great souls!

The Cinema Theatres of Hyderabad that have Disappeared

Hyderabad was well-known for the sheer number and good upkeep of cinema theatres for long. Friday releases were a huge thing three decades ago when movies offered the greatest form of entertainment, when television had not yet made its foray into our households and completely zapped all action. From the several that were there in thos days, many landmarks have gone missing - landmarks because those areas were always referred to by the biggest and most well known theatres there. Here is a list of some of the theatres that have entertained many a Hyderabadi with racy Hindi multi-starrers, B grade English movies and even Malayalam movies.

1) Sangeet theatre: This theatre held pride of place, the prima donna among theatres for the quality of crowd it attracted and the quality of movies it showed. Almost all the best English movies played at Sangeet and it offered a great ambience and experience with a clean theatre, good canteen, lots of parking space. I watched many English movies here including 'Gone with the Wind', 'Falling in love', 'Oh God', 'All that Jazz', 'Dirty Dancing' and so many more.

2) Maheshwari and Parameshwari: These relatively newer twin theatres came up in the 80s and soon became the landmark in the Kacheguda area. Glitzy in their decor and architecture, they were best known for the escalator, probably the first in public space in Hyderabad, which was almost a major tourist attraction those days. I saw 'Jaws' here with my school cricket team, and several other Hindi movies.

3) Farheen, Shaheen (later became Surya): These two theatres were also new those days, the late 70s and played new Hindi movies and even English movies. The big landmark of Tilak Road off Abids, they drew big crowds. I remember watching 'Poltergesit' in this theatre.

4) Palace theatre: This theatre was located at the corner near GPO and was quite spacious. It generally played Hindi movies if I remember right. I probably saw only one or two movies but I remember going to a place called Ajanta Cool Drinks near it. This Ajanta Cool Drinks only served cool drinks but had an elaborate set of rules one of which was that you cannot comb your hair in the store!

5) Royal theatre: Somewhere in those parts, of King Kothi, if I am not mistaking it with Palace. It was a well known theatre then but I never went there.

6) Zamrud theatre: One of the oldest and grandest in terms of its location, bang in the middle of Abids, opposite the now older Santosh Sapna, Zamrud was the grand daddy of them all in Hyderabad as far as Hindi movies were concerned,. Huge posters of Hindi films, painted then of course, displayed all over, where you could barely make out who the stars were depending on the quality of the artist. I saw 'Khoon Pasina' here and 'Dharmatma'. Zamrud, sadly vanished without a trace.

7) Navrang, Ashok, Vikranti: The three theates stood side by side on the busy Jamnagar road, almost at the junction of Mojamjahi market and played Hindi blockbusters all the time. They were always crowded. I saw 'Don' for the first time in one of the three theatres.

8) Plaza theatre: This theatre was one of the few that played English movies, but rather second rate movies. It was fading even in teh late 70s with lack of upkeep, but it held a fine place at the corner of the road leading to Nanking. I saw some movie here - I forget which.

9) Lighthouse theatre: This was a relic, a heritage structure if any. every day we passed by Lighthouse on the way to school, as it invitingly put out posters form its cosy location near Lepakshi next to Nizam College. It continuously played soft porn films of Malayalam and some English language. I saw a Malayalam classic called 'Wine and Women' here.

10) Basant talkies: Another landmark in Kacheguda, now a function hall. It played Hindi movies generally and was a good theatre.

11) Dreamland theatre: This was was near Tivoli, probably still is. It looked very European with lots of space and was a nice structure, only very old. I never saw a movie here though we hear that it was a popular joint in the 60s for English movies. It slowly started showing only shady movies later.

12) Shaam theatre: This one lurked at the corner of Lakdi ka pul and played many Hindi blockbusters. It had a fine approach, lot of parking space and a blue facade that I can never forget. I saw some movie here, I forget which.

13) Theatre next to Shaam, was it Dilshad?: This theatre was next to Shaam, not prominent because it was a little in the gully immediately after Lakdi ka pul. It was a slightly seedy joint that showed several Hindi movies, maybe the old ones. Never went there.

14) Manohar theatre: Closest to Secunderabad railway station, it played its own version of B grade movies and Telugu movies. Never went there. I wonder if it is still around. (Apparently it is, sorry Manohar!)

15) Shobhana theatre: This was the first theatre in the Balanagar area and regaled many cinema lovers with its Telugu and Hindi movies. Later on the management built Vimal theatre, a much bigger theatre. Now only Vimal remains while Shobhana has been brought down.

16) Sheeshmahal theatre: A well known landmark in Ameerpet, it stood proudly on te main road. It was a big theatre early on with many good movies playing there. But with the advent of other theatres closeby, the management seemed to lose interest and it gradually closed down. I saw 'Dana Veera Soora Karna' here, a fantastic movie by NTR where he played all three roles of Krishna, Duryodhana and Karna.

17) Skyline and Sterling: The big Landmark in Basheerbagh, plenty of parking, huge space, nice eating joints around. good movies. I saw plenty of movies there ' 'Chicago', 'Titanic', a whole festival of Bond movies was it or something similar, and many forgettable movies too. But I enjoyed the movie going experience in Skyline and Sterling always.

18) Liberty: The theatre was so popular that the bus stop and area at the junction of the road meeting the Basheerbagh-Tank Bund road from Himayat Nagar was called Liberty. A huge affair with some old fashioned architecture on it (can't remember the motif) and lots of English movies which later degenerated into B grade English movies. Was it 'African Safari' that I saw here, or was it 'Silent Movie', I fail to recollect, but I saw these and some other not so good movies.

19) Natraj, Ajanta: If I remember right they were next to one another, at the corner of the Secunderabad GPO traffic signal leading towards Clock Tower. Natraj was a grand affair, with lots of big releases but Ajanta was not if I remember right. I never saw a movie in either theatre but I passed by both several times of course.

20) Kalpana theatre: This one in Kavadiguda has been around for decades. But I am not sure if it is still around. Another one that needs to be checked up on.

These are what I can remember now. More when I get them. However I must doff the proverbial hat to Vijayalakshmi theatre in Ameerpet, a run down establishment if ever there was one, that played B grade movies always and which looked it would wind up even in the late 70s, one way or another. It has survived and still plays movies! Truly a champion.

But I truly had wonderful memories of all these theatres. It was an experience to watch movies then in these single screens complete with the wisecracks, loud comments, first day blues, black marketing, queuing up for hours, trying to get women to buy tickets for us etc. Sangeet had lovely sandwiches but all others had pretty lousy fare. But who cared? A movie was as experience, where everyone dressed out well, took popcorn money, went with families, and in all likelihood ate lunch or a meal outside. A complete experience. Thank you all for making life so wonderful those days, for the entertainment, music, song, dance, drama. Great stuff!

Blackboards - Irani Movie

Samira Makhmalbaf, daughter of Mohsen Makhmalbaf, (then 20) directed this movie about Kurdish refugees. It was released in 2000 and won Samira several awards.

The movie begins with a sight that really intrigued me. A group of ten men walking with huge blackboards on their backs, slowly making their way up the hills, hiding from hovering helicopters, camouflaging their blackboards with mud. As they talk we find that they are traveling teachers in search of work in villages on the Iran-Iraq border. They are not able to find pupils and hawk their services in every village by walking up to anyone trying to teach them multiplication tables, reading and writing. We follow two of them mainly - one who splits and joins a group of old men looking to go back to their homeland across the border, another who runs into a group of young boys smuggling contraband strapped to their backs across the border.

The first teacher who finds the group of old men tries to teach them, finds no takers, asks for any work for a piece of bread and takes up the job of leading the group of Kurdish refugees to the border for a price of 40 walnuts. There is only one woman in the group with a small son and he marries her, giving away his blackboard in dowry. He tries to teach his wife to read and write, writing 'I love you' so she can say it. He finally helps them over the border where the wife decides to move on with the group to her homeland and the teacher returns to his, minus the blackboard, which his wife takes away with her - the 'I love you' showing prominently on it as she fades off. They are divorced as simply as they got married.

The other teacher finds the group of young children, none more than 14 years, as they hide from soldiers and patrols, scurry along with sheep, heavy contraband on their back. The teacher thinks he has hit a jackpot at seeing so much children of the age and attaches himself to them. They are however not interested in learning anything. Save one young boy Reeboir who shows interest. As they walk on, the teacher walks ahead saying lessons for the young student to repeat, writing words on the blackboard that the boy can see while they walk. When one of the boys falls down the steep hillside the blackboard is chopped up to make a splint, and only one third remains. Reeboir is a good student and learns well, even writing his name on the blackboard. When he proudly shows his achievement to his teacher, young Reeboir is shot by a stray bullet and the rest of the group runs away.

'Blackboards' opened up something about cultures that I could never have imagined. Traveling teachers with blackboards, small children smuggling stuff, old refugees seeking their homeland are all new. The use of the blackboards for something other than teaching, their fight for survival and their keen desire to teach, to earn a living, all shows up hopelessly in the background of war where chemical weapons are used. Reeboir's death and the divorce of Said (the other teacher) bring back the movie to what can only be a human story, and not a happy ending. Blackboards is poignant and deeply depressing but makes its point powerfully.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sabah - A Love Story

Watched 'Sabah' - a cute love story made in Englsish, in Canada, and directed by Ruba Nadda. The film is about a Muslim family that has migrated to Canada several years ago and are western in all the things they do, except for the strong thread of tradition that is kept alive by the son, Majid.

The movie begins with Sabah's 40th birthday celebrations. Sabah, is a 40 year old woman whose main job is taking care of her old and ailing mother. Her brother Majid is a married man, who imposes traditional values on his family, despite not following them himself. He is married to a Canadian Muslim girl, but he refuses when his niece, another sister's daughter, wants to marry out of her choice. The family feels that their father, when he was alive was less conservative and more western and progressive in his outlook than Majid. Majid does not even approve of swimming, falling in love, meeting non-Muslims, even spending his father's money on his sisters and 40 year old Sabah has to give him an account of her spending as well.

Sabah receives a birthday gift of an old photograph of her and her father who went swimming when she was small. She wants to swim again and surreptitiously starts swimming a neighbouring pool. It is fun to see her initial reluctance to swim in a public pool, her clothes, her obsession to cover herself and how she gradually changes an becomes more confident. At the pool she meets a handsome, divorced carpenter and they fall in love. However Sabah leads a double life, telling lies at home while meeting Stephen and not being entirely honest with Stephen either.

Her modern niece Soulhaire is meeting Muslim boys arranged by her brother Majid against her wishes and Sabah helps her get out of one of those arranged meetings. The niece finds out her aunt's love story, teaches her belly dancing and helps her out. On the other hand Sabah discovers that he brother Majid's wife is having an affair with her Arabic tutor. Sabah stays back one night with Stephen when she realises that she must indeed take control of her life, make her choices and live. When the family questions her the next day, she tells them the truth. The brother promptly tells her to go out, she no longer belongs to the family. She walks out to Stephen.

Stephen is delighted. The women of the household revolt. Majid's wife walks out on him due to his overbearing ways. The old Mom decides to meet Stephen, as do her other daughter and daughter-in-law - and they all like him. Sabah meets her isolated brother to tell him that he is not responsible for their lives at all. He says that he had been supporting the whole family despite the fact that his father's inheritance had run out many years ago and he was now bankrupt. Sabah is shocked. Why, she asks. But Majid had made a promise he would take care of his family. Sabah and the family rallies behind ajid and they all live a happy and normal life again. Soulhaire also finds Mustafa, the boy that Majid had fixed for her, worthy of falling in love. The family accepts Stephen. Majid's wife returns to him. Alls well and that ends well.

Sabah is nice and cute. I never saw a romance of 40 year olds played out so tenderly and diffidently. Very real and very warm. I enjoyed the movie which was light hearted, warm and still made many points about cultures and traditions.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

10 Things That I Miss In Hyderabad

Here are some things I miss in Hyderabad from say, a couple of decades ago:

1) Irani cafes (They were the first casualty. I am talking of the good old real Irani cafes that had lots of space, good biryanis, chai and a wonderful culture of chai, cigarette, biryani and lots of space and time)

2) Parking anywhere you liked (We could just park anywhere and rush in to Irani cafes, bakeries or whatever, now the vehicles will be towed off or clamped down upon or have parking receipts sticking in them)

3) Talking for hours in Irani cafes (there is no place that offers the ambience to talk for hours as I did in Irani cafes)

4) Movies at Sangeet (Ah, that was an experience, like going to the Opera or something, good English movies, good sandwiches, decent crowd, girls ummm)

5) Real biryanis (not the masala mixes that pass off as biryanis these days)

6) Secret lakes (Durgam cheuvu was a secret lake, not known to many people those days, now there is almost no lake!)

7) Rocks, rocks, rocks (the rocks that used to be so unique to Hyderabad, a small one balancing delicately on a large boulder, now most of them turned to rubble)

8) Romancing on Tank bund (we could park the bikes right on the kerb on either side and settle ourselves on the benches, grass, and amble over for a fish fry and kebab or corn until late in the night)

9) Shopping at Abids (all shopping was at Abids and Kothi and not in all the malls that have sprung up these days)

10) Listening to good old Hyderabadi wisecracks in new releases (Ah, every new release had its own drama and fun with wisecracks that filled the theatre each time a Rekha or a Helen came on, way before the multiplexes came on and polite people started to clap after movies!)


10 Things I Can Do for an Honest, Fair, Transparent, Accountable Society

What can I do for an honest, fair, transparent and accountable society? There are things that are certainly in my control, that if I do, might not need things to get to this situation. If we all do our bit, maybe we do not need to fight on this scale.

1) I will be honest in my dealings. (No excuses - like the whole world being dishonest so why should I be honest?)

2) I will be transparent in my dealings. (I will not hide income, not indulge in ways to reduce or evade paying taxes, duties).

3) I will be fair in my dealings. (I will not cheat the uneducated, the needy by paying them less because they are in need, not exploit little children, the illiterate etc)

4) I will be accountable for what I do. (Even if no one asks me, I will hold myself accountable).

5) I will do my job with sincerity and integrity. (I will understand what my job is and do full justice to it, as I would expect others to do it for me, without using it for undue gain).

6) I will stand up against dishonesty. (If there is dishonesty and I can see it, I will stand up to it and question, complain and protest against it)

7) I will make people who are responsible, accountable to me by asking in a fashion that is democratic. (I will ask questions, I will make them accountable, I will not merely let them get away without any accountability - this is my job having elected them).

8) I will stand up for my rights. (I will stand up for my rights even if it takes time, even if I have to wait, even if I need to go to the police station or the court. I am prepared to stand up to what is right and not pay my way out in the easy way).

9) I will use my vote wisely. (I will vote for people who are sincere, who have a track record of doing constructive things, who have the intentions and the energy, only.)

10) I will report the corrupt in the appropriate channels. (When I see corruption around me I will take the trouble to report the same to appropriate authorities through proper channels. I will take this much time out of my busy schedules because this affects all of us.)

Even this list looks like a lot of work. But we cannot hope that someone else will fly the flag for us. That someone else will fight for our rights. Why will anyone else do it, if we are not interested in sparing some time, some effort, some energy? We must give this much to ourselves. We must be prepared to see where each thread leads, how far it goes, what is the law governing it is. Once we refuse to yield to the short cut, it is easy to handle it.

Why We Bribe

I would be the first to agree that the Jan Lok Pal is not a magic wand that will cleanse the system of corruption. It is like saying that because there are laws in India no one breaks them! Of course everyone breaks the law here. And that is the problem. Not the law itself in most cases.

Why do we break the law so easily? Because they are not implemented strictly. In most cases people can get away with bribes - from petty offences to murder, corporate fraud to corruption. (Sometimes people pay bribes not to be implicated in crimes!) There are at least three angles to this - the person on whom laws are to be enforced, the enforcer and of course the law maker.

The reason why laws are broken by common people easily is because the enforcers of laws are willing to look away for a small fee. Even a school child in India knows how to get away if he or she is caught by a traffic cop. Every push cart owner knows, every beggar probably knows how to get around. Of course the law by itself is clear and pucca. It has recourses and remedies and punishments. But everyone knows how to get around it. The law enforcers have almost nothing to fear and so for the common folk bribes are a way of life. Everyone is happy!

The second part is the law enforcer who is in a position to take advantage of the system because there are no definite guidelines, nothing definite to pin him down. Ever visited a government office, a police station, a government hospital? You know there is hardly anyone in their place. If you find them they are (usually) most unhappy at seeing you. They are rude, they ask you to come back, go away, ask you why you have come, ask you what you want them to do, ask for bribes. Rarely do people get work done in one visit. (This situation has changed quite a bit in certain departments in urban areas after computerisation and outsourcing). The only way to get things done in almost all cases, and here the majority of our 1 billion Indians will agree, is to pay bribes and get things done. If you choose to complain, and go the ACB route, there is a further strain on your time and resources. Many times the culprits get away, or they harass you further. Sometimes the department sees you as an enemy and that is the end of the case. Many people who fight this route find it more difficult to prove their case. They have nothing to base their case on. What is the duty of the government officer? What is the procedure? What is the time limit? Why is he not clearing it? If he does not, what is the punishment? What exactly is the status of the case and how can the problem be solved? Nothing. There is nothing there. He can say anything like he was not well, file is missing, he is examining the file, he has too much workload, he was on leave...anything, for years. Yes, a few people do get caught but mostly the lower level. And here also, all law enforcers also know how to get away if ever they are caught. See the number of convictions and one knows the true picture. Funnily, most actually get promoted!

The third cog in the system is the law maker. Our laws have been made in such a way that they give the law makers and the law enforcers enough loopholes to get away. Yes, if interpreted well and implemented correctly, they should work. But we are talking of olden times when law makers resigned at the slightest allegation that they are not doing what is expected of them - to work for the highest good of the people. On the contrary we are in times when law makers are resigning when their misdeeds are being probed and found out to blackmail the government! (Any wonder why people close to most of our law makers seem to get away with murder?) These loopholes have been systematically misused by many law makers in the hope that they can never ever be made accountable. Now when some law comes in from the outside that is going to make them accountable, many of them will not like it. So they will fight tooth and nail to keep the loopholes. They suddenly become one. They are a tightly knit bunch, the same law makers, irrespective of party lines and agendas. On certain issues they come together rising over party lines. No points for guessing what.

But what is heartening is the number of corrupt people who are in jail now. The CBI is investigating and revealing more scams, more frauds on the people. From Ramalinga Raju to Kalmadi, Raja to Kanimozhi everyone is feeling the heat. But most times it is happening after the deeds have been done and money is missing and spent. Where is the money? That is the key.

The CBI, left to itself can do a wonderful job. It is the selectiveness with which it is used that bothers the public. It has been slowly made a political tool. If Jagan (of YSR Congress) had stayed with the Congress, instead of unwisely breaking away, surely there might not have been the CBI enquiry against him, which is currently unearthing all sorts of misdeeds by him when his father was the Chief Minister. And that is the tragedy of it all, this selective use of the CBI.

To me the biggest gain of Anna Hazare's movement is that it will put the perspective back in the right place. Corruption may not go overnight, but it will be worked against in two ways thanks to this movement. One, the fear of public backlash for any government on this issue which saw such unprecedented support, would keep them on their toes. The Bill itself may deter and scare the corrupt and hopefully seal their escape routes if caught. Most importantly to me, it has educated many common people on the evils of participating in corruption. All those who waved flags, walked in rallies, may not find it very easy to give bribes now. A new thought might have crept into many people, that maybe we are to blame for this. Maybe we should be careful with how we deal with this problem at our individual level, we should be careful whom we vote for. That maybe we should be more honest, transparent and accountable ourselves and not bribe our way through. To me it has made people more aware of their own role in the process and that is a great start.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Kandahar - Irani Movie

'Kandahar' was made in 2001 by renowned Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf. It is a partly true and party fictionalised story that is set in the Taliban ruled Afghanistan in the last years of the millennium.

The story is about a Afghan woman who has fled Afghanistan and settled down in Canada. She receives a letter from her sister who is Afghanistan under the oppressive regime of the Taliban. In the letter the sister says she would commit suicide on the last solar eclipse of the millennium. With great difficulty the Afghan-Canadian lady Nafas reaches Iran with plans to sneak into Afghanistan. She is taken to a settlement where the children especially the girl children are being told that there are no girls schools in Afghanistan but they must not give up hope. The kids look blank, not knowing what to expect. They are also told not to pick up dolls that could be mines.

Clad in a burqua Nafas is sent with a family that is planning to go to Kandahar for a price. She is to pretend to be the fourth wife of the man. They set off in something like an auto trolley into the desert where they are promptly robbed. The man and his family returns leaving her in the desert near a settlement where there is a madrassa.

In the madrassa there is a boy who is thrown out because he is not learning the Quran. The boy Khak offers to lead her to Kandahar for some dollars and she takes his offer. On the way she sees the boy steal form a corpse, a ring, that he tries to sell to her. That is one scene that does not leave you.

Nafas falls sick drinking dirty water and is taken to an American black who is a war mercenary who has settled down as a doctor there giving out some basic treatments. The way the doctor treats his female patients with a cloth in between, a purdah with a small hole, from where he can see the affected part, and the way he carries the conversation with an interpreter, says it all. Another scene that does not leave you. He offers to take her further on his horse cart. She gets rid of Khak with great difficulty. He finally sells her the ring of the corpse.

The doctor and she make it to a red cross station where they are fitting out crutches and artificial legs to dozens of Afghani civilians who lost their legs in the landmines and suffer so much that they cannot sleep without medication. Some are trying to take limbs in anticipation of losing limbs. In probably the most haunting scene of the movie all the single legged men stumble forward on their crutches suddenly as if a God is coming to them, their eyes full of hope as they hobble on a as group. Then the camera shows what they are looking at in the sky. Parachutes are descending slowly. Only after a couple of moments do we realise that the parachutes do not carry men. They are carrying pairs of artificial limbs that are being dropped off near the Red Cross station. It is chilling to see the legs float down towards the crippled civilians.

The doctor hands over Nafas to a quick witted civilian to take her to Kandahar for a price. They join a wedding party, singing songs, making up a story to tell the Taliban when they catch up, and proceed until the Taliban stops the convoy. Several impostors including the guide are detained. Nafas is allowed to go ahead with the wedding party. The movie closes with the outline of Kandahar in he background.

One can easily see why Mohsen Makhmalbaf is so highly rated. 'Kandahar' speaks more for the state Afghanistan was in than any account you can read of. Those three or four scenes say it all. Brilliant stuff.

The Curious Case of Politics in Andhra Pradesh - MLAs Resign to Protest CBI Probe

The Andhra Pradesh politics is beyond me as almost all forms of politics are. But even to me this was a really curious case. Yesterday 29 MLAs resigned from the Andhra Pradesh assembly protesting CBI probes to the YSR Congress chief Jagan Mohan Reddy. That is fine. What is curious is that these MLAs belong to other parties like the Congress, TDP, PRP etc. But their allegiance is with the YSR Congress! How is that possible?

Now if their allegiance is with the YSR Congress why are they still with the other parties? Correct me if I am wrong but it appears that these MLAs will attend meetings with both parties. They will criticise the party they are in still, as they bear allegiance with the YSR Congress. Then why are they still with their party? They should be in the YSR Congress party right? Now the party in which they are does not seem to mind all these people criticising them and being in the opposition camp which is hostile to say the least to their interest. At the same time, the YSR Congress camp also does not seem to have any issue with their being in another party. It's rather confusing - to me at least. But that is politics.

What is even more curiouser is the reason why they are upset. They are upset that the CBI is conducting searches at the YSR Chief Jagan's house (how can they?), finding evidence (how can they do that?) and naming Jagan and his late father in the FIR (how can they?). I fail to understand what their indignation is about. The CBI will go by hard and solid evidence. The charges are not frivolous, the involve, misusing the government machinery to the tune of hundreds of crores for personal benefit. Serious charges hinting at large scale corruption at the state's cost.

Now resigning at this stage of the investigations can only indicate one thing. That the MLAs bearing 'allegiance' have been held back to negotiate with the government in the event the CBI raids should not occur. If they do - we will destabilise your government. Clearly the MLAs do not want the investigations to continue. Why? If there is nothing to hide, if everything is transparent, it should not be a problem right? But here, these public representatives are doing everything to stop all investigations and further investigations leading to an understanding of what really happened.

What they are doing is resigning in protest to protect what could be large scale corruption! To stop all transparency, all accountability! And using their resignations to blackmail the government! Astounding. Of course, the ones at the Centre are doing similar things to stall all transparency and accountability too.

What does one make of this? What kind of a Bill will save anyone from this? Anyway, a glimpse of AP politics for you. When instead of protesting and resigning for a clean, honest, fair and just government, you resign and protest to protect those accused of corruption!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Action and Achievement - The Only Yardstick

The only indicator that separates the wheat from the chaff is this - have you done anything to create what you believe in? If you have not please join the other side, the band of frogs in the well who only have opinions and can do nothing but pull down those who are doing something.

Look around and see - how many are there who have created, who have made a real difference, and how many who are merely lolling about in the limelight without creating anything. They specialise in pulling down stuff that is already created or that is being created.

The only thing is work that is clocked already. Put it on the board. Not mere intentions. We are too far gone for that. Show us what you have done - and then talk!

Why Ms. Arundhati Roy cannot be Anna Hazare even if she wanted to

I was a fan of Ms. Roy many years ago. The 'In which Annie gives it those ones' days. Then 'God of small things' happened and my enthusiasm dropped a bit. And then I read many more of her works and heard her and now today when I saw her piece in a leading newspaper titled 'I'd rather not be Anna', I cannot say I am anymore. Not because of any particular reason except the fact that I don't understand her or her writing anymore. Her language is powerful and persuasive, but I cannot see what she is leading at.

I don't think she can be Anna even if she wants to. How can she? Her writing, her life, her talk everything is far removed from Anna's. She comes from the privileged class unlike Anna Hazare who comes from the poor classes, much closer to the poorest of the poor she keeps talking about. She made her fame writing books for a western audience, he from working in his village and making a small difference that has become a big difference. She is highly educated (Lovedale, School of Planning and Architecture), good looking and pampered by the media (Prannoy Roy is her cousin). He is not educated, not good looking (by her standards definitely) and demands media attention through his acts. She is highly articulate, has plenty of resources at her disposal. He is limited by his rustic clarity, by his Gandhian beliefs and has almost no belongings of his own and lives simply. She is a thinker, a perspective pusher. He is a simplistic doer, who believes the only way to make a change is to get down to it and start doing it even if it means taking the system on directly. She keeps making statements that are YOU versus US. He believes that what he is doing is for the betterment of the country, for the sake of transparency, accountability. She has an agenda that is not clear - yet. He has an agenda that is clear. She is a known face to everyone. No one knows Anna Hazare and it is only in this round that people have started finding out who he is (much thanks to the Congress again who poked at him and his past). She is a Booker prize awardee. He is a Padma Bhushan awardee. She has shied away from taking public positions. He has been fighting criminals, powerful politicians all his life for his audacity to question them. She had a fully privileged, protected and pampered civilian life. He has served time in the army, in war time. There is nothing in common. How can she even think of being him?

To me there are those who create their world by their acts. The RTI and several other initiatives that Anna Hazare has taken in the past (its amazing how one man with no fancy degrees can do so much in this country through peaceful means) are now reality and are making the system more accountable. He has lived a life he has believed in, done his bit for the country he believes in. He has his ways, his beliefs, but there cannot be any doubt on what he has done, what he has put up on the board against his name. Any amount of opinion passing from the confines of a room (as I am doing now) cannot be a patch on real work like that.

Then there are those who merely specialise in tearing down what is already there. There are many in this category and it is growing. And they get equal footage on television because they create the drama. They have no solutions. No clear agenda. All they have is problems, conspiracy theories, allegations. How the government is failing, how the corporate sector is looting, how we are becoming a police state, how NGOs are getting grants. More importantly, how their demands are bigger and better and far more important - and if nothing is done the country will go down the drain.

If you have solutions Ms. Roy please put them out. List them. Start doing something about them. If it is empowerment, world peace, do it. Get the government to hear you. Get the laws made. Educate the poorest of the poor. Throw out corporates. Whatever it is, please do something. Create. It is in creating that you will earn more respect than for your opinions, for deriding an old man and his ways, his alleged links with the RSS (is that a crime even if true?), by his quoting of Gandhi (out of context was it not Ms. Roy), by deriding an NGO that got grants (is it a crime?).

The space in the newspaper where you gave your opinion would have been better utilised if you had given your solutions instead of merely trying to pull down an old man doing his bit so resentfully, so vehemently. You are not a columnist trying to gain more readership by shooting down people in the news, by taking the other than popular stand as most columnists do. If you had come with your agenda, a superior one, instead of merely painting a hopeless situation, that would have been fitting of your intelligence. Unfortunately you chose to use all your energies to try and make him seem like a power mongering, RSS sympathising, MNS sympathising, Modi sympathising, US funded conspirator who is misleading the public which was totally uncalled for.

You see Ms. Roy, I don't think Mr. Hazare would ever do that if you started a movement in something you believed in. But then he might not want to be Ms. Roy would he? He has several other things to do in the twilight years of his life. Also, I somehow suspect, you cannot be Anna Hazare. Even if you wanted to be. If you did try however, you could start doing something for things you believe in. And making a real difference that someone with your phenomenal reach, power and intelligence can.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Only India Can Do This - Fantastic Country

One man, 73 years old, an ex-army man, not educated, not rich, no position, no organisational support, no affiliation to any known political or business party, no political status can - on the strength of his belief, his conviction - ask questions of the Government of India in a peaceful manner and be heard in a manner that mobilises thousands across the country. He keeps asking the questions, he does not back off until he is heard.

His belief and conviction catch public attention and probably for the first time we see thousands of real people congregating in open support at rallies. These people come on their own cost, brave rain and sun, sacrifice their earning opportunities for the day and support his cause peacefully. They all want an honest, clean, transparent accountable administration and governance.

And the entire country watches as these rallies go on peacefully. The Government allows it and the stage is set - not for confrontation but for discussion and some way forward. One man, in India, has this power. He can express - and all else too - can choose to express with him or differ. Not many countries can say that they can see things like this. Peaceful marches, fasts, rallies, candlelit walks.

Corruption may not go away in one moment, overnight, but if anything this movement shows the power of what this country can do in its unique manner. We can disagree, we can discuss, we can express. Tanks won't roll in. People won't be bundled away or shot. One needs no further proof of the power of democracy than this. Everyone, if they have the belief and the conviction, can be heard, can ask questions. If this seventy year old gentleman from a small village in Maharashtra can do it, so can everyone else.

A Wonderful Number by Kailash Kher in support of Anna Hazare

This song is worth listening even if you don't support Anna Hazare because it sounds really nice. Check out Kaliash Kher singing 'Ambar Tak Yehi Naad Goonjega' at the following link:

Go Kailash Kher!

Change the words immediately - Pro Clean Honest and Just (from Anti Corruption)

Taking the principles from some of the philosophies I have heard and read about, can we change the words from 'fight against corruption' to something more positive? To something we want. What we don't want is a fight. Nor do we want corruption. But according to the law of attraction (correct me if I am wrong), we will attract just these two ('fight' and 'corruption')by focusing so much of our energies on these words.

Like perhaps our desire for a clean, just, equal, transparent and efficient government and administration! That sounds a lot less dramatic but a lot more peaceful. So I will now campaign for a clean, honest, just, equal, transparent and efficient administration starting now. (And more, when I get more clarity!)

Ah, that feels nice!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Thought for the Day - Weakness And Strength

After watching the movie 'Facebook', the first thing that struck me was how a young man who has zero ability at making friends could create a social networking site that got him '500 million friends'. Of course at the end of the movie he is still searching for a 'real' friend. But the young man took his one obvious skill which was programming, his greatest weakness, one that he obsessed on all his life, which is his inability to make friends, put them together and voila, resounding success. Facebook got created.

Zuckerberg's greatest virtue in the whole film appeared to me his open acceptance of his weakness - his inability to make friends, his wanting acceptance. Herein lies my theory for the day. Many times we obsess and try to hide our obvious or perceived weaknesses. (Tall, short, dark, women, unpopular, food, sex, fat - whatever it is that is consuming you). We ignore it as if it did not exist at all and try to do everything else in our life when in fact our entire energy is centred around this perceived 'weakness'. And then we go all around the world and finally find that we cannot seem to avoid this one thing that we are trying to hide. It could be anything - writing, painting, poetry, singing, acting - people have made a success out their weaknesses once they acknowledged them as being their big obsessions.

This morning I was reading about the musician R. Vishwanathan of Mysore who relates how he used to hate the veena, an instrument that he is known for. He hated learning it and detested it until one day he found that he could play it better that his brother who was actually learning the instrument. And now he is known the world over for his expertise at paying the veena. He is defined by the veena that he hated when he was a youngster.

As Zuckerberg with his friend-obsession and R. Vishwanathan with the veena, many of us seem to be using up most of our energy on some of these things that we apparently seem to dislike or do not seem to have a particular ability for. But all our energies are on it for a great part of our life. We can ignore that for all our life. Or we can accept that and use it to make it a resounding success of our life.

In fact what we consider weaknesses, may not really be our weaknesses. (They may be things we can do well or easily, something we scorn because we want 'something else'.) In fact when accepted by us, they could be our biggest strengths - all weaknesses are really our biggest strengths flipped around! If we are putting enough energy into something, or can do it easily, it need not matter what we think of it, it will manifest itself as our greatest asset.If we allow it of course.

The more I think of it the more I am convinced that there is really no weakness. It merely needs to be seen from another angle, married to one skill that you possess and are good at, and you have the story of your life. Your success, purpose, wealth, fame, contentment could all stem from it. But the only condition is that one must accept it and work with it. Then everything looks so easy.

Yet another paradox - your weakness is really your strength.

Friday, August 19, 2011

And Now, A Conspiracy Theory

One thing that is always interesting is the way political parties start looking for conspiracy theories when all options run out. After trying to find many ways to dissuade Anna Hazare, a spokesman for the Congress gave a statement yesterday that they were probing where the movement was getting its support from. The US? How come there were so many SMSs and stuff going around the place? Who was behind this campaign? For years it was Pakistan. Now it is the US. Or the opposition. "How is it possible that the people of India support anything like this. They are incapable of doing anything for their own good" - seems to be the premise that he is basing his argument on.

My friend, dear spokesman, there are plenty of people in India who own mobile phones. All of them, or most of them, know how to send SMSs. Most of these are also the people who have suffered from payments towards corruption out of their meagre earnings. Most of these try to make two ends meet, or are always in debt. This should cover over 90% of the population - maybe upwards of 95%. It is the sudden, unexplained affluence of some of the 5% that chokes the life out of these other 95% who keep paying more and more for basic necessities, bad governance while the 5% seems to be skimming the cream off the top easily without any accountability.

While the 95% is struggling with price hikes, pollution, health bills, bad infrastruture, rising costs, taxes in various forms that we don't even understand them anymore including credit cards use which is also debt - the other 5% is always in the news with their unexplained hundreds of crores, their luxury cars, their nexus with politicians, their illegitimate deals that are not being allowed to be investigated, their land grabbing stories, their misuse of power stories, their tax evasion stories, their palatial houses (I hope someone just makes a compilation of pictures of some of the houses these people live in with their valuations and sources of income), their shameless methods of clinging to power to protect themselves and their own.

Most Chief Ministers are in the red or were - Maharashtra (Chavan for the Aadarsh scam), Andhra (Jagan under the scanner), Karnataka (Yeddyyurappa indicted by the Lok Ayukta), Delhi (Sheila Dixit)...and the list goes on and on and includes many politicians who are already in the dock. Most businessman are in the news for the wrong reasons. All scams are now in the tune of thousands of crores, lakhs of crores, sums that are so big that most of the population cannot even conceive it. One the other hand a few hundred rupee increase in domestic items like fuel, electricity and gas, can strangle most middle class households.

Typically bribes are paid everywhere. From birth - getting admitted to a government hospital which may include bribes, getting operated properly, getting a birth certificate, buying a plot of land, getting permission to build a house, getting loans, to get their salaries (especially in the government), to get certificates, medical fitness tests, driving licenses, starting a business, getting a job, getting promotions and transfers, getting phone, gas connections (in the earlier days), getting passports, moving files in government offices, getting due payments from government offices, getting police assistance even if one is the victim (possibly more if one is the victim), escaping traffic challans, escaping police action preventively (most illegal stuff from petty crimes to murder goes on with the tacit approval of the police), for government contracts, for inside information, for votes from the electorate, for votes in the parliament, for illegal mining, for illegal construction, for awards, for pensions, for getting favorable verdicts, for favorable newspaper reports, for policy changes, for college admissions, for death certificates, for releasing bodies from the mortuary, for reducing tax burden by negotiating with tax men from various tax departments - income, sales, service, property etc etc. These are some I can think of off hand. If you are a businessman then you can add political parties, religious parties, mafia, extremists, local politicians, slum lords and the like to the above list.

All of the above are not done voluntarily by the one who is paying the bribe. They are forced to pay by the people in authority who think that it is their right to recover the money since they have paid for their jobs. What was the odd such incident is now the norm. The bribe takers now demand their share else you can run around their offices for ever. The poor and the illiterate have no go and pay up because they see no other way out and every extra moment costs them more. And they are already in debt.

Most Indians have been subjected to some or most of the above forms of bribery. The one who has not been, I would love to meet and find out what kind of a protected existence he has had that he has not met reality yet. I assume at a minimum each Indian has paid a bribe of Rs. 1000 (really low estimates) in their life. Assuming a billion people that is 1000 billion rupees. The real figures are far more surely.

"Anna is alone. He has no organization. Then how did this movement start and grow? Who are these people spreading the word on internet and telephones; the way video message was recorded prior to arrest. The US had never spoken about any movement in India. This is the first time that it did. We show the path of democracy to others, what was the need for the US to say it. This has created suspicion."

Why Mr. Spokesman, does the US or any other source need to support or send SMSs to support Anna Hazare? Do you think the people of India need more reason to support this movement? Do you really think they can be pushed further without any reaction? What does it take for you to see what the people want? Who they are?

The people out there supporting Anna are real people, Mr. Spokesman, people who have left their families, jobs, work behind - who have all sacrificed something, paid for their travel to get to the venue. Not people who are paid to attend rallies. It must have been too long since you might have seen real people at rallies - no wonder you don't recognise them. They, Mr. Spokesman, are the people of this country.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hidden Half - Movie Review

'The Hidden Half' is directed by the famous Iranian woman director Tamineh Milani - known for her strong woman-centric movies. She was imprisoned for making 'Hidden Half' which was considered anti-revolutionary by the government. But worldwide backlash by famous directors including Coppola and Scorcese pressurised the Irani government to release her in two weeks. She is back to making movies. She is a trained architect.

The movie begins with a high ranking government official preparing to go out of town the next morning to verify facts about a woman political prisoner who is awaiting execution. The official is rather dismissive of what his visit would find. Seeing his preset attitude, his wife Ferestey, tells him to be open. to listen to the woman. The official is surprised at her anguish and thinks that she is reacting so, because she knows nothing of the world outside, being brought up to be pure and innocent.

When he reaches his destination, the official opens his suitcase to find a letter from his wife and a notebook. She tells him that he does not know of her hidden life, and that after reading her unknown story, he should, if he believes in her story, listen to the woman prisoner. Fereshtey then tells her story of the days before the Islamic revolution, when she was a leftist student who was actively involved in propagating the thought of her group in a still conservative country. During the course of her stay in the University she meets an elderly man, an editor of a magazine and falls in love with him. But her group members are arrested and she has to flee. Her editor friend tells her to leave for England and asks her to get her certificates from home soon so he could help her out of the country.

On her return she finds that he is a married man who has a daughter as old as she is. She meets his wife who is helpful and who gives her a place to stay, as Fereshtey is expelled from the University. Fereshtey finds a job with help from the wife and gets on with her life, meeting her husband along the way. She however realises that her editor friend really was fond of her as she reminded him of his first love who died. When she meets the editor friend many years later at a funeral he tells her that she never heard his part of the story.

The husband is stunned as he reads his wife's hidden story. When he meets the prisoner the next day, he listens to her story and you know that justice would be done.

The 'Hidden Half' brilliantly captures the mood of Iran's society, especially of the women who lived in that era. I can identify with the country so much more as I see its movies as it appears so much like India in the way it lives, the traffic etc. Of course we had Irani students in our Engineering college, we bump into the Parsi friends of ours which makes Iran so much more familiar. Nothing seems different - for the Iranian women they had their own social norms that bound them, just as India also has a society that one way or another imposed curbs on women from being themselves.

Again, an honest glimpse into Iran from yet another movie of high quality, as the director scans through the period, the characters, their hopes and aspirations, their fears, in the course of that one night when the official reads his wife's notebook. Again, one wonders, why such movies cannot be made in India, where no period of a crises, political or social, has been properly covered. In the current scheme of things obviously everyone would ban such movies here I guess!

Close Up - Movie Review

'Close Up' is an extraordinary film and one that only Iranian film makers could have made. It is a movie about a real life incident when a young, unemployed film buff impersonated the famous Irani movie director Mohsen Makmalbaf and was caught for fraud. The movie reconstructs the events of the story.

The movie starts with a journalist going to the house where the impostor, Hossein Sabizian is, with the police. He has come to know that there is a man claiming to be Mohsen Makmalbaf who has gained access to the Akankhah family and who has offered the wealthy man's son Mehrdad, a role in his next film if they financed it. He is visiting them frequently and has also started rehearsals. Though he has not taken any money from them, something about him makes the wealthy father suspicious and he tells a friend that perhaps under the guise of shooting a film, this man was checking out his house for a burglary. The friend contacts his journalist friend who knows how Mohsen Makmalbaf looks so he arrives, gets the impostor arrested and clicks pictures and hits the headlines the next day.

In court the impostor says he never intended to cheat anyone. He wanted to really create something, to experience how it felt to be Mohsen Makmalkbaf. He says that it is his reality and he enjoyed playing the part as an aspiring actor, as someone who loved arts. He says he never meant any harm and all he wanted was to enact his part of Mohsen Makmalbaf to the best he could to satisfy his creative urge. It is audacious, as the impostor says exactly what he seems to think went on in his mind then. His mother comes and pleads for his release. He himself pleads for his release. The judge asks the wealthy family to be forgiving and accept the impostor's apology in view of the fact that he has a young family, has not committed any grave crime except impersonating someone and that he is already penitent. The family agrees after some reluctance and withdraws the charges.

Later Mohsen Makmalbaf arrives on his motorcycle and meets his impostor who begs forgiveness again. He then takes him along to the house of the wealthy businessman, asks them to forgive him, and says that his impostor Sabizian is now going to act his role in this movie 'Close Up'.

Everyone played his own role in this movie, including Mohsen Makmalbaf, the impostor, the businessman, the son etc. Used as I was to our endings here, I expected that the impostor is actually Mohsen Makmalbaf, going by his evasive and philosophical replies in the court (which also irritate the son of the wealthy man who thinks its all fake). But trust the Irani films - he stays on course and ends the movie on that note, that the movie is about to be shot on that incident. Apparently another director made a short film called 'Opening Day of Close Up' on a theatre owner as he is about to show this movie in his cinema.

One thing with Irani movies - they always make you drop your jaw and say 'How can they make movies like this?'

Fireworks Wednesday - Movie Review

'Fireworks Wednesday' is an Iranian film released in 2006. It is about three relationships, two married and one to-be-married, and dealt with during the course of one day, the Persian New Years Day.

Rouhi a young girl is about to be married to her fiance. They are poor and live far from the city. Rouhi takes up a job as a cleaning woman to earn some money for her marriage and lands up at the house of a young, urban, rich couple with a little son, Mojdeh and Morteza. They have obviously had a fight as Morteza has a broken window, a bandaged hand and the place is in a mess. His wife is not home when Rouhi arrives and he asks her to get started.

When the wife comes, she fires the girl and tells her to go away, paying her handsomely to go away. But by now Rouhi has heard enough to realise that there is some trouble in the marriage, that Mojdeh is suspicious of the neighbour's involvement with her husband, and Morteza is trying to prove his innocence. Mojdeh changes her mind about firing the young girl because her help does not turn up and instead sends her to the beauty salon run by a recent divorcee who is pretty and who she thinks is having an affair with her husband.

When Rouhi goes to the salon, the beautician Simin, gives her a free treatment, and makes her look beautiful for her wedding. While she is there Rouhi realises that Simin is being thrown out of her place by the landlord. Rouhi goes back to Mojdeh's house where Mojdeh's sister has arrived. To do her new friend Simin a favour, Rouhi tells Mojdeh something that scuttles all her suspicions (something about tickets which Mojdeh suspects Mroteza and Simin to have planned). Morteza is much relieved at Mojdeh's cooling off, and offers to drive Rouhi to her house after the firework display for his son. He slips off for a while leaving Rouhi with his son. When he gets back and drives Rouhi home, the young girl realises that the car has Simin's perfume which she had tried out that afternoon. Simin has just broken off her relationship with Morteza. Morteza drops off Rouhi (who tries to tell Mojdeh the truth, but has no opportunity). Rouhi heads home with her devoted fiance who is waiting for her despite the fact that it is very late. And so all the relationships go back to another day, some with hope, some ended, some starting afresh.

'Fireworks Wednesday' as with all other Iranian movies keeps you wondering what will happen next - without all the excessive drama the much lesser film makers resort to - I wonder how they do it. Its pretty much the flats, four women, two men and that is what keeps it going. The pace is slow and purposeful as the story unfolds, but never boring. The acting is sublime, all actors are so good that you almost feel like you are peering into someone's house as this is unfolding. The last scene when Morteza drives home Rouhi on the fireworks night when he has to pass through celebratory fireworks is terrifying - if it were not for the calm faces of both Morteza and Rouhi - you'd think they'd get mugged or mobbed. Another fine piece of work by the Iranian movie makers - this one directed by Asghar Farhadi.

False Impression - Jeffrey Archer

I picked up an old Jeffrey Archer book that I had not read (gifted to me on my 40th birthday by Don) under the mistaken notion that I would be reading a quick, action packed page turner from the master story teller. Unfortunately 'False Impression' is probably Archer's worst among the ones I have read so far, and I found it difficult to finish it. If I was not one of those determined 'finishers' I'd have given up long ago.

'False Impression' is the story of art - or rather one art collector who goes to any extent to get some of the prized art works of Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Monet and some other well known master painters in his collection. Fenston is a Romanian refugee, a Ceacescu (the Romanian dictator) aide, who laundered money for his boss, now running a bank in America. He lends money to rich clients in need of money, swindles them out of their art and if that is not enough, has them killed by having their throats slit and ears lopped off. Why he should kill his clients at all was something I did not understand if he had all the paperwork in place? Alternately why lend money if all you want is to take away the paintings by slitting their throats?

Anyway he has one Dr. Petrescu, another Romanian and an art expert who worked with Sotheby's etc, and who is an ethical, good hearted, single, attractive, jogger in fine physical shape, in his employment. The story begins with Fenston's ethics clash with his attractive employee and he fires her minutes before the planes crashed into the WTC towers in New York. Their offices are also in the WTC.

Petrescu survives the WTC destruction, but despite all that happened, is more concerned about the Van Gogh that her boss is cheating her client of. Technically he is not, but ethically he is, so she decides that she should unethically retrieve the art! She does not know that the boss also has the world's best murderer, Olga Krantz, a Romanian gymnast who specialises in killing anyone by slitting their throats and looking into her victim's eyes. She has already slit off the client's throat for two million which is placed in a locker in Queens, New York. In an elaborate, and rather unnecessary manner, Dr. Petrescu flies to London, via Canada, risks getting arrested for impersonation, meets the client's hard nosed sister and promises to save the Van Gogh. Why? Are they related? What is wrong with her? Why steal the painting especially when she knows her boss is a killer?

Anyway here the story degenerates into a three way story. One Petrescu who manages to outwit both the FBI, who has an agent behind her. Two the FBI agent who is falling in love, and who has some of the most juvenile dialogues ever read in an Archer novel. And three the incredible Olga Krantz who is slitting throats as she follows Dr. Petrescu. No points for guessing what the amazing Petrescu manages to do - she somehow escapes Krantz and gets her jailed, exchanges corny dialogues with her FBI friend, gets a million from her client's sister, gets a job from an ethical Japanese businessman who also buys the Van Gogh. Fenston, for his ruthlessness, seems to be a dud and seems to operate with three people, his secretary who is actually on a mission to avenge her brother's death, his ex-con finance director and his favourite Olga Krantz. Beyond that, Fenston seems to have no life.

'False Impression' is what you don't want to read, if you are familiar with Archer's works. It is long, drags, implausible and I found it very difficult to read. It almost appears as if he gave it away to someone else to write. It has none of his great storytelling, page turning qualities. I found it unconvincing from the start and it got worse as it went along. The backdrop of 9/11 served to find what one would have experienced as we see it through Dr. Petrescu's eyes, but after that, it went downhill all the way. If you want to learn of art, find other sources. If you want to learn of Romanians find other sources. If you want to learn of romance, definitely find other sources. If you want to know about dumb mafia bosses who go about wearing expensive ear rings of their murdered clients whom they have just had killed and whose ears have been lopped off ear ring and all and sent to them, and wear the same ear ring when meeting President Bush at Ground Zero and puts up the picture as a huge poster in his office which could be certainly visited by all types of FBI investigators, his clients sister etc, you must read it. Avoidable read. There are better Archer books out there.

Kanal - Movie Review

Watched 'Kanal' a Polish movie of 1956 vintage. It is made in the time of the Warsaw uprising where a group of Home Resistance men try to flee the oncoming Germans who have taken control of Poland. Their only route of escape is through the city's sewers (kanal).

The movie is about a small group of men, some army and some civilian, led by Commandant Zadra. As they are surrounded from all sides they take to the sewers to escape. In the sewers they are led by Daisy, a girl (she apparently knows the sewers well) who is in love with one of the injured soldiers. She helps him and falls back as the rest of the group stumbles on without knowing where they are headed. As they move further on they find people running from the opposite side, panicking because they believe the Germans have let in nerve gas into the sewer. The group splits up in the dark - Zadra resolutely leading on despite not knowing the place, the second in command and his new lover the messenger girl, Daisy and her injured lover, a civilian composer who goes mad.

Some die while trying to escape from sheer terror of walking the sewers, Daisy's boyfriend is weak and falls down from his injury and probably dies, the second in command walks up to find his other associates already captured and killed. Only Zadra and his assistant make it out in a safe place. But when Zadra orders his man to call the other men out, his assistant tells him that he had been lying - all the men had fallen behind long ago. Angered at the betrayal, Zadra shoots his assistant dead, and in a mad gesture, for the only thing that seems sacred for him, his sense of duty to his men, he gives up his freedom and steps back into the sewers to find his men. It would seem improbable that he would find any alive. Daisy would be the one who would escape the sewers, strong and she is, and knowing her way as well. But what the death of her love does to her, one does not know.

Kanal is shot is black and white. Director Adrzek Wajda rarely shows the Germans, he shows only the fear and the claustrophobia in the sewers. The film is based on a sewer survivor Stawiriski and was the first of a trilogy of war movies that Wajda made. Set in September 1944, it captures the horror of the second world war as the Poles experienced it starkly.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

21 Questions for the Prime Minister of India

Dear Prime Minister,
In the light of the arrest of Anna Hazare and his team, I have a few questions that have been confusing me.

1) Is it a crime to ask for greater accountability, transparency in the way the government functions especially in light of all the allegations of corruption, Swiss bank hoarding etc that have plagued us?

2) Is an anti-corruption movement (a stronger Lokpal Bill) something that must be dealt with so strongly, an iron hand as in a military coup?

3) Are the corruption charges against Anna Hazare so serious that it warrants instant action as against all the dilly dallying against people who are still in power, who are brokering deals, who are threatening your government with ill gotten money and subsequent political clout?

4) Is it more important to stay in power than do the right thing?

5) Is Anna Hazare enemy No 1 of the state? What crime has he done?

6) Is the peaceful protest of an old man so dangerous that the state whisks him away at night when there are netas going on protests and fasts everyday and your government seems to be doing nothing about it? Our MPs are going about doing things as they please, holding dharnas, erecting statues, breaking statues, destroying public property and nothing happens to them.

7) Can you not see what the who world is seeing, that Anna is a symbol, a voice of frustration that the common man feels? That the common man is sick to death of this double dealing, double talk, insincere politics, shameless clinging to power at any cost?

8) Is the threat to launch a peaceful anti-graft agitation more dangerous than the threats to burn entire cities with unconstitutional methods, to kill people on the name of community that the government moves so quickly and forcefully and puts away an ageing freedom fighter, an upright police officer and a former beaurocrat? Is he more dangerous than communal parties that threaten the government brazenly to arrest them and see Mumbai burn?

9) Is this the Gandhian way? Is this how the founding fathers of our nation, built on such high principles and moral rectitude, would have guided you to deal with this situation?

10) Are you for protecting the corrupt?

11) Are you for hiding all those who are likely to be affected by the stronger Lokpal Bill?

12) Is this the leadership and direction you wish to give the youth of India? Protect the rich and corrupt at any cost?

13) Is this act moral?

14) Is it justified that people with far greater, far more serious charges than Anna Hazare are roaming the streets - murder, arson, genocide, corruption, causing loss to the nation, bribery, threat to peace - you name it you have it.

15) Is this what you were made Prime Minister for?

16) Is this doing your job? You say there is no magic wand to cure corruption. Isn't your job to try everything in your power to cure it?

17) Is it easy to sleep at night having done this? Having dealt with peaceful anti-graft protestors, having smeared them with all kinds of juvenile charges that are so laughable and petty compared to the large scale dacoity that is all around you?

18) You say you wish to bring a more powerful Lokpal draft and end corruption but you jail all those who ask for stronger Lokpal Bills. What does it mean?

19) Is this the legacy you would like to leave for your country? Softer laws to protect the corrupt, harsher laws for the small fry?

20) Do you think that we are all blind, deaf, mute?

21) Are you proud of what your government has done?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Flag Hoisting - Independence Day

For the first time in my life I witnessed a flag being hoisted in a private space at my friend Bhasker's house in Banjara Hills. After the initial years when as a schoolboy I went with my father to see the Independence Day celebrations at the district level or at my own school, and those few times when when I saw the celebrations at the Parade ground, I really found no opportunity to be present at a place when the flag was being hoisted. Thanks to Mr. Naveen Jindal now everyone can fly the flag at their homes, as long as they follow the flag code and treat it with respect and honour. It was a fine thing that Naveen Jindal did and one that all Indians should all be thankful for.

The rules for flying the flag for all 24 hours require a very tall pole, 100 feet high, and lights that illuminate the flag (else one has to fly the flag only between sunrise and sunset). This in itself was a daunting task but was completed on time. The people concerned with this activity also took the trouble of spreading the message of national pride, distributing flags and other material to school children (there were two hundred or so orphans who participated in the event), put up hoardings all over the city with messages of unity. There was considerable effort and cost but it is the kind of an activity that we do not see normally, an activity that seems to have no agenda. It was plain and straight about national pride. A website by the name of was also launched stating the purpose and activities of the group.

A large group of friends, well wishers and relatives landed up at the residence and witnessed and celebrated the flag being hoisted. It was wonderful to see the huge tricolour flutter in the sky, against the blue skies, symbolising all that freedom stands for. A fine speech followed a few songs, by my friend's father, a senior parliamentarian and well known businessman. He said that India is great because it offers equal opportunity to all Indians, something that gave them the space to explore their own talents, dreams. As we march forward he said we need to build skills, something that we are lacking in, to be what we truly can be. he also stressed the need to share wealth, by way of charity and give back to the nation. I missed some other parts of his speech but I really found it interesting.

To me, it made a difference to be there, to share the sense of oneness with other Indians, to reiterate my commitment and responsibility to the nation. It gave me a deeper sense of purpose in what I am doing. Thank you Bhasker, for taking up this initiative and making a difference. It did to me, and surely to many others as well.

Hritik Roshan - Wonderful Message

I was watching the program 'Just Dance' the other day. Hritik Roshan was the judge on the show and he gave a message which was wonderful. He said that we must accept our good with the bad. Nobody is perfect. Everyone has their fears, insecurities, secrets, desires. It is when we accept and love ourselves, with the good and the bad, and say yes, this is me, that we find peace. He further added that - if someone stood up and said that, this is me with all the pluses and minuses, and then another followed, this world would be a wonderful, peaceful place.

Hritik Roshan speaks much sense. I saw an interview of his last Sunday which also made much sense, peaceful warrior and all that. He appears like someone who wants to be himself despite all the glory and stardom. He seems to wear his heart on his sleeve. He also seems to want to walk the path despite ridicule - something that he says he has experienced much of anyway - and show that it is okay to be that way too. You don't have to always be the star, act and behave the star - you can be yourself. Then you are really the star - you don't have to try to be one.

Anna Hazare - Corruption Charges, Conditions, Threats

Why is the government doing everything it can to pin Anna Hazare down? Is he asking for something that is not right? Is he asking for something illegal, against public good, against public interest?

On the contrary it would appear that all he is asking for is in public good, for greater transparency, for greater long term good - for stricter corruption laws. Everyone, from the highest office downwards, says that corruption is one of the biggest problems India has. I think we are all agreed upon that.

Then it should seem logical that we encourage and accept what someone with such high integrity is suggesting (even if the Rs. 2.25 lakhs is put down to corruption, I'll still stick with Anna). Stricter measures that will hold people who could be guilty of corruption at the highest offices (more the power, more the likelihood of corruption obviously as has been already proved at both Centre and at State level). All Anna Hazare is saying is that we must have stricter laws, more transparent laws that make people in power accountable. It keeps them on their toes.

The system to check corruption in its present state, has failed as can be seen in the number of scams where people in power have misused their position grossly and caused a massive loss to the government. This is due to laws that allow the top to get away, which is why the crimes are blatant. Walk into any Minister's colony, any beurocrat's colony and you can visually see that they could not have built these structures on salaries. Probe their assets and one can see what real corruption is. It is about percentages for every decision, every signature - from votes, to jobs, to transfers, to filing cases, to awarding contracts! This is a crime, as we trust them to do a fair job in their wisdom, in their power. In trying to protect these people, the government is taking on Anna Hazare who is merely asking them to make everyone accountable. Isn't that ironical?

But the government is at war with him. They have made it a YOU vs US situation. Unfortunately for the government Anna Hazare has become the symbol of people's aspirations for a society that is less corrupt, that is fair, that encourages all sanctions against corruption. We have all suffered the consequences of corruption. Half the economy in India is black they say. How can we ever cover the gap in efficiency is half the work is unaccounted?

By choosing to go after Anna and bringing our ridiculous charges of corruption against him the government is sending a clear message that it is against all transparency, all accountability. We can see through the holes, dear government, see what you are trying to do. How much ever mud you throw on Anna Hazare, fact remains that his 2.2 lakhs might have been spent not on giving him a luxurious life (does someone have the details on what it has been spent on?), it might have gone towards feeding the poor. It is not money coerced out of the tax payers money for private gain as it is with most other corrupt people against whom there is anger, it is money that came into the trust from sources who believed in Anna's cause. Still if there is a corruption charge, it is a charge, and one can file it against Anna as he has asked them to. And it has not been proven! Compare that with all the others who are shamelessly holding on to their posts despite their involvement being proven by auditors, investigating agencies etc! They are all still in positions of power.

There is a difference, one that we are not blind to, as to the corruption charges that will be affect the rich and powerful, the high and mighty, if the Bill comes into force as Anna Hazare wants it, and the corruption charges of Rs. 2.2 lakhs against Anna. The people who will be affected by the Bill have cheated the people of India willfully, have compromised their positions for personal and political gain, and that is a corruption that we cannot accept. If need be, if everyone has to be painted with the same brush, try Anna Hazare also by the same laws! He is open to that. While you are not! And therein lies the difference.

There is a famous line attributed to Nelson Mandela in the movie 'Invictus'. His aide tells him when he makes a particular decision which is in true interests and unity of the nation - "You're risking your political capital, you're risking your future as our leader." And Nelson Mandela replies: "The day I am afraid to do that is the day I am no longer fit to lead."

It is time our leaders, including Mr. Honest and Mr. Upright, start believing in that. Honesty means not merely watching quietly not taking part in dishonesty, it means that one stands up for all that is dishonest, to not compromise for power. Honesty is dishonesty if one willfully protects the wrong doers, the powerful against the weak. I am sure our learned people don't need me to say that.

True greatness comes from being able to let go of power if it compromises all that you were given the power for, true power comes in shouldering the responsibility with grace, with humility. What have these gentlemen learned from the Freedom fighters, what ideals of Mahatma Gandhi are they following today? What face do they have to say that we are doing the right thing when everyone knows that they are putting all their efforts in hiding things under convoluted laws and protecting their own. Who and what are you hiding? It is unfortunately a case of the Emperor's New clothes. Please do not embarrass yourselves further and do the right thing.

This clinging to power, to laws that protect them, is sounding so hollow now that it is no wonder that our youth, completely disillusioned by the government, choose to go with an old man from Maharashtra who only has his will, his integrity - just as another frail old man had many years ago. Where are the role models in the government, in politics, for the youth to admire? Respect, admiration, following have to be earned - not by wasting public money on posters and newspaper advertisements - that is corruption too. No one on the side of the government, the side that is unfortunately trusted with the job of securing our interest, the peoples interest, the country's interest, has one role model to show who has earned the respect that Anna has. Respect comes with deeds, with courage and with integrity. It cannot be washed away with one mischievous stigma. Earn it first, all of you dear sirs, as Anna Hazare has, through your intent, through your deeds.

And please remember what Mandela said. Remember what Gandhiji said. You have a responsibility towards our nation. If you cannot shoulder it, ask your conscience what to do. You will find some answers.