Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Narendra Modi in Bangalore

Most of us, people like us - who have a day job who have graduated to be so called 'white collar' workers would rarely have attended a public political rally. This is a part of us feeling excluded from the political process. Not only do we feel excluded, we feel that the exclusion is a privilege. Most of the 'upper middle class' feels that they dont need politics and politicians. Indeed this has gone on to the 'politicians' ignoring this class. So, there is set of people in the cities - people who are 'comfortable', 'well-off' who are entirely disconnected with the political process.

And in our first past the post democracy system - as Kishor says metaphorically- as long as 'Dharavi' votes more than 'Vile Parle',  'Dharavi' will vote who they want to vote for. And thus it has happened that 'Vile Parle' is a forgotten vote bank - and besides, they dont even come out to vote. So, politicians focus on 'Dharavi' and how to get its votes.

Over the last few years, I have tried to get involved in the political process - both at a local level and also writing about it. And it has been an eye opening education - thanks to blogs and twitter.

So, when I got the opportunity to attend Narendra Modis meeting in Bangalore, I took it up with both hands. Despite the fact that I had enoughts reasons to not attend, I ensured that I was able to make it (Talk about inspiration).

But I suspect in a lot of ways, this meeting was different. I was amazed to see 'Vile Parle' turn out in strength for the meeting. The meeting was organized very well  and as the speeches began, it almost had a college fest kind of feel.

It had practically all the current legislators in Bangalore. Some of the ministers spoke - notably R Ashok who has done a fantastic job of taking BMTC and KSRTC to being perhaps the best TC and RTC in the country. Bangalore has cracked the upmarket public transport market in this country - which no other city has yet cracked - and moved people from cars and bikes to buses.

Venkaih Naidu spoke - and in his brand of trilingual speech of Hindi, English and Telugu and I kept getting lost - though his humour and rhyming did resonate with the audience.

The star of the show though was Narendra Modi through and through - from the point when he came on stage - the audience only wanted to hear him and no one else. And he had to ask the audience in his own inimitable way (I have come from Gujarat to hear the Karnataka leaders speak and after that I will spend as much time with you as required - and thats it - the audience simply fell in line).

And when he finally spoke, it was an amazing experience. Using a brilliant mix of metaphors, facts he found the mark each time. He spoke about mother and son - referncing Sonia and Rahul, dynastic politics (netas with golden spoons), security, governance. All in all, quite an inspiring presence.

Yes, a rally organized well - can be quite an inspiring and influencing factor. And of course hearing Narendra Modi almost reminded me of  vintage A B Vajpayee. All in all, it was a great experience. See the speech below for yourself.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hamaari Maangey Poori Karo

"Hamaari Maangey Poori Karo"  is an oft repeated slogan heard in Hindi cinema and in real life protests as well. It is also used in the context of asking vote seeking politicians. The sad part of it is that this is used as an example of people power - when in reality it is perhaps the opposite.

Why does one have to prostrate in front of a politician or a political party or government to get something that is basic? Why does one have protest to seek justice? Why do citizens have to ask the government for something as elementary as water or good roads?

Why is a basic expectation from government and governance transferred as a "demand" that is then "fulfilled" by the "benevolent sarkaar?". I can understand this if we were governed by an occupying force, such as the British, but really, do we as a citizen need to spread our hands and ask for such benefits? Or genuflect in front of a political party to seek these? Or threaten a politician or a government to get these?

Yes, this is the sad part of the political system that we call democracy. If it were a democracy, then these needs would get fulfilled by a usual system of simple governance or by making an application to change a law or thereabouts? But in our twisted system of democracy - inherited and implemented by the same framework that the British used to keep the natives in check - these are not options. We have come to accept misgovernance, corruption and even non fulfillment of basic needs - like a typical occupying force.

And therefore, Hamaari Maangey Poori Karo is a sad reflection of what our democracy is today...

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Garbage Problem

In this speech Narendra Modi addresses the garbage problem of cities. Why is this so pertinent? For those of us blessed with a memory a little better than goldfish, Bangalore in particular had a great problem recently of dumping the waste of the city.

Frankly, the garbage problem is our problem. The people like us, who live in apartments and houses and expect someone to collect the garbage and clear it each day. We have been composting for about 3 years now and I can say with first hand experience that if we compost all the kitchen waste and segregate the dry waste - what is left is miniscule.

And this is exactly what Narendra Modi talks about - if cities did their composting, we can get farmers in the radius around the city off fertilizer and start organic farming. Here is another earlier post from 2010. And 2009.

Why is this so difficult for people for understand? Firstly, we need to realize that garbage is our problem - those who create it. But this problem is an opportunity - and someone with vision needs to be able to tap into this at a city/community level.

And then there is the bigger problem of sewage...but thats for later. But seriously, we need to reimagine our present concept of urban living...

Monday, April 01, 2013

Things fall apart

Recommended by @Rajeevsrinivasa on the death of Chinua Achebe, somehow the book caught my attention and I purchased it on impulse.

The book starts off with a glimpse into African culture and explores the Ibo tradition in Nigeria and its subsequent conflict with the 'white missionaries'.

The plot of the book is a very simple one - it captures the rise and fall of its protagonist from humble origins and parallely, the rise of a foreign religion that grows its tentacles amongst themselves dividing an hitherto united culture.

I dont know how the present day structure of Nigeria is, but reading the novel brought alive, vividly, a glimpse of Nigeria of those days. What I liked about the book is its genuine voice that brings the culture of the Ibo to its pages in a matter of fact way. The village ceremonies, the rituals are described in detail almost transporting the reader to the village and making one empathise with the characters.

The second part makes for tougher reading - because it takes one through the journey of the protagonist through his eyes and the the writer does well to make the reader connect with the protagonist and his tragedy. But a very well written book that connects beautifully the reader and the subject.

It also tracks the way a foreign religion makes inroads into the native culture slowly splitting it apart - and this is something that has been highlighted in India as well many times and has led to inevitable conflict between tradition and so called modernity. The Nagas come to mind inevitably.

This has been an aspect of colonisation, I suppose, one that has never been sufficiently highlighted in most Indian literature. In the name of civilization, apart from banning certain bad practices, there was a strong tendency to impose a new religion as well. Wherever, colonization went, there went missionaries as well, in the name of civilizing the natives. That it split apart cultures and disconnected the people who lived in harmony with the earth and literally worshipped it has been ignored in most contemporary literature. This aspect comes out very clearly in this book as he exposes the conflict between traditionalism and a foreign religion on the people of his village. Of course, it is politically incorrect to say that these days...

The most recent I read something similar was in this review of Korkai by Aravindan Neelakandan at CRI.