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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Waking up in dark - current state of aam aadmi

This post has been selected as top post in 'Spicy Saturday's picks' by BlogAdda. 

Imagine waking up inside a closed room,small, dark and slimy. You hear drops of water falling from an acute point to the floor. The first emotion you'd probably feel is claustrophobia. You feel lost, you feel afraid and you need to feel normal. So you start punching at a wall you think is the front, which you think is your best bet at being heard by someone. Seconds becomes minutes, minutes become hours and hours become a day. Your hands are broken, fingers fractured, skin torn, dermis bleeding wildly, your hair wet with sweat, your joints aching and your corners itching. You sit down with your back against the wall with your head resting on your palm. The noise of the water drops seem to never stop. It makes you go mad. It distracts you. You make an effort to collect your thoughts at the hand you've been dealt with, how badly you are betting against the odds and how stupid you were to go 'all in'. You don't even have a high card for christ's sake, your highest is 6 of hearts. You then turn your head to notice a small rubble falling off from the wall, it is a rift. It's possible that the wall is not indestructable. It is not all strong. It can break, it can give way, it can be fell. You again start punching and kicking, now at the exact portion where the rift is, and this time the hope inside your head is high, this time your heart works faster, for the first time experiencing the term 'optimism'.

After the current day's work that involved punching, hitting, kicking and knocking you rest. With more hope that the wall is now breaking. The noise of water drops hitting the ground has grown into a nightmare inside your head. It pulls you down from thinking straight but you try not to heed to that. The enemy is getting torn apart, it is losing and thats all you need to hear. There have been times when you had asked yourself how in the world can you be alone in a place where all the hours of noise your kicking and punching created was not heard by another single soul who could help you. You don't heed more to that thought. You recollect that it is the will to never back down, to not stop going in the direction that gave you hope, and optimism that had pushed you this far. By comparison, the first hour inside the room had been a horror story. You recognize that you are growing, learning and changing from every experience. You make up your mind that you are never going to travel near this place again so there wouldn't be a chance you'd be trapped again.

Finally, finally, sixteen days of starving and punching had done the deed. The wall breaks down. You throw your hands up in the air and cry 'I'm the King of the World. Hoooo hooooo'. Just like Jack cries in the movie 'The Titanic'. But then you realize you are still trapped inside a room, a little larger compared to the first. But the similarities are total. No doors, no windows and slimy polished walls.

This is what I see the people in India going through everyday. The person I addressed 'You' are the people. The 'learned brain' and 'heart' that motivated you to keep punching are few optimistic leaders, who are basically common man. Draped in cotton, like you and I, but can generate hope and a whole lot of it they do. The room you are entrapped inside is your life in India. It feels locked, makes you powerless with no doors and windows in sight. You can say from the invasion of 'modern' brands like Gucci and Armani into our markets, the glamorous parties during New Year celebrations and an optimistic third party rating system naming Bangalore as the 9th most livable city in the World that we are going in the right direction. But they are all distractions. They are the noise created by the drops of water hitting the ground. The Audis, the hundred floor towers with robotized parking, beautiful pubs serving high priced single-malts, Italian cuisine that brings Florence to our kitchen, the smart phones getting introduced in India the same day as in the West, the wider and smoother highways to travel between cities, McDonalds and the globalization. They are the stream of the drops. Divisive politicians, harassing goondas, ever drowsy government workers(1), looters in power constitute another stream of drops that alternate with the former.

It had been long and hard battle, but the first victory has been tasted. What happened in 2011 was a rude awakening to the forces keeping us trapped. The defeat the people tasted from getting a weak Lok-pal, any lack of voting in the parliament which turned out to be more interesting movie than Ra One or Don 2 terms the scene when you realized that there's more to be done. Another bigger wall to be fell. And now we feel our spine has been broken. We feel we as people are powerless and that another victory of the masses will be dealt with a stronger retaliation from the wall. Yet we should recall the story of a spider which would never give up(Sparky or 'Vikram and the spider' story, choose one yourself) from climbing to the ceiling inside a cave. There is still hope, there are crores of fathers and mothers grueling under the sun everyday so their children can have a decent education. There are many who 'Like' the articles shared in social networking sites that lists how many Indian borns were heading various fortune 500 companies around the world. There is a lot of hope.

Then I sat down to think what is missing? Why can't we take our case to the streets just like middle East and demand a better government? Why is it too hard to get good roads, basic necessities like public toilets or even cleaner hospitals. Why? Why can't we shy the non-violent movement and take the highroad? Because we don't have to. Because we have electricity flowing almost eighty percent of the day. Because we can still fill our cars and bikes with petrol and drive. Because even if by buying fresh water in container lorries, we have the money to spend and have a good bottle of it. Because our intelligence and hard work is praised by the West who'd rather source jobs to us. Because Dolce and Gabanna wants to open shops in our cities. Because Olive oil manufacturers from Italy want to export to India. Because we are not 'that poor Nation' anymore. We have the power to understand what we have, what's at stake and how much we would lose if we took our cause to the streets. Perseverance is the key word here.

While writing this, my hopes went up with the knowledge that the general elections are within 800 days from now. We have the power to choose, or the power to say 'fuck you' to the cards we are dealt with using the 49-O to 'vote for nobody'. We have the strength and should be careful to not waste it.
Anything useful is useless until it is used.

Here are some of the important agenda that a party needs to fulfill if it needs my vote. That's right, you heard me. Nobody can rob it and caste a false vote. I'll go to any govt. office and demand my right to vote this time(2).

1. Roads : The reason this holds the number 1 in the list is because of it's importance in our everyday life. We spend minutes(hours in some cities, like mine) negotiating over the potholes, carefully missing the swarms of speeding cars, black polluting lorries and carbon monoxide poison weapon of mass destruction that are our auto-rickshaws. If you belong to someone gifted with an Audi or BMW, an ever nodding driver and gadgets to take the boredom away then this is not for you. Please hop onto the next in the list. I am talking about the ninty nine percent who make up the rest. My legs hurt, joints pain and the mood becomes so fowl I'd kill anyone who annoys me after commuting back from work. If there is even a slightest agreement in your head to this, you'd know we care less about what happened today in India. How many accidents, who said what, this party blamed that party, the saffron blamed the palm etc. and think 'fuck with it' and start to watch 'The Friends season 1000' or 'The big bang theory', laugh a little and hit the bed. Other requirements in our smooth life like time for relationships don't stand a chance.

I want the party to make roads, and in general the infrastructure with movement, a very big deal. They should have atleast a pseudo-code if not a detailed plan on how they are going to solve the problems of over-crowdedness and endless traffic grid locks, the lime vendor encroaching the pavements might not be the first attack, but laying roads on air like 'namma' Metro should be.

2. Sanitation : While our govt. goes all hodge-podge with press releases and accusations against the ill humor shown by Jeremy Clarkson when he made fun of India, by sticking a toilet over his Jaguar, we should take a pause and ask ourselves. Isn't what he said very true? Maybe the way he said was humorless and racist like half the World is, but the point is true. We see people urinating at the sides of streets and human faces next to the holy places of worship. This is not an exaggeration but the truth at least in it's generic sense. We need a government which would take cleaning up our Country physically with utmost importance. One which would set up dedicated and independent branches in corporations and towns to wipe our country off from dirt. We Indians after getting our H1-Bs and Schengen visas don't lose a minute to become half-firangis. We go to their countries and become Babas patronizing the system in those countries, preaching cleanliness to not throw waste on the roads. We come back to India and throw our hands up in the air feeling so free and the first thing we do is to color the streets with blood red paan from our mouth. Yes, India is a free country. The responsibility to keep it clean should start from people themselves. But how'd we know the beauty of the land unless we are shown. The govt. should show us how clean we can be and make us follow.

3. Hospitals and vaccines : If you are reading this on one beautiful cool morning having just woke up, do not forget what happened in Calcutta like you forgot the dreams you had last night. Tens of helpless children dying for a mistake they never had a hand in. Rage resulted, angry parents took the case to the streets. What is the situation now? They have placed it in a corner of their head and continue leading the same life, earning to feed the family, while the authorities from Dr. B. C. Roy's and the state government still eat rich food three times a day. This is a mess. The whole system governing government hospitals and supplying vaccines to the country needs to be cleansed with dedicated persons who understand the responsibility of social work they are doing. I don't need to spend thousands in private hospitals so my kid can be cured of a normal flu without contracting worser diseases like pneumonia, encephalitis or meningitis.

4. Essential commodities : Food and oil and other essential commodities are rising faster that the mercury due to global warming. Rice I bought for 16 Rupees a kilo in 2003 is 32 Rupees now. Auto drivers blame rising petrol prices and food commodities to the question of their huge rents.. While they can increase to their wish, unregulated, the public will still use them to commute for various personal reasons. But what can the normal babu and behan working in mediocre jobs paying around fifteen thousand rupees a month do? Can they knock the H.R's door and demand more salary? No, because the next email or memo they'd be getting will be communicating the news of them getting fired. I have wondered how in the world can anyone live in Bangalore with salary less than say ten thousand? With huge rents and sky high prices, they'd be strangled to death. No wonder they don't talk about BJP or Congress at night when their heads are thinking ways to save another thousand for son/daughters education or marriage. Add social pressures like dowry's or your son wanting an iPhone to be considered cool in his group, you need to earn more.

Please take some time after reading this post to read this. The party that woos my vote should have an aggressive plan to regulate prices and lower them.

5. Independent executioners :  Sorry, I don't mean to scare you with thoughts about French revolution and guillotine. All I am talking about is one of the bravest and dedicated men in the country - our police force. Any one who works in or near the department knows how awesome they are, but do the uninformed normal person feel that way? Bribery, harassment, rape and murder charges. They are all he feels. Do we stop and think if every policeman is corrupt and if not why is this general false opinion? It is the tight hold of the bad bad people with power. Leave them alone, and we will understand no one can do a Houdini looting twenty thousand crore rupees in 'whatever' G scams and face a day with freedom.

6. Schools and colleges : The children and young adults are the prince and princesses who would rule India in future. If they don't know to fight, don't know to swing swords or ride the horses, how could they win the war over future Voldermorts and Sarumons? I don't even need to begin talking how broken our education system is. Right from the bribes and 'donations' in the primary school over to 1:infinity ratio in colleges:students this has a lot of problems to play with. Add to it the pathetic memorization and impractical education. From wasting time debating on history lessons being re-written or which version of Ramayan would do good getting published in school education, we need to understand ways to provide the best system to the children. The system of practicalness and 'choose to learn what you like' should be pushed in lieu of the 'memorize and vomit'. I still think what does the construction of septic tanks help me do in doing performance tuning of the Oracle/DB2 databases I work with now.

7. Agriculture : Where is the 'aam aadmi'? We take a step back at 90's where India was still an agricultural country with huge rice/wheat and pulses exports. Tech. and other industries spring up and we quickly forget our past with the lure of iPhones and broadbands that enable us to broadcast our thoughts. Agriculture is disrespected. No good policies are being introduced and the unchanged current ones succeed in ending their lives. We cry out of our veins hearing about 50% FDI and other issues concerning industries that impact cities, but what about these mute people who stomp on mud and glide the glazing Sun everyday to give us food? I would want a very clear and to the point policies that are not overly optimistic but proving legible enough to pave a better future for our agriculturists. Better pricing, lesser middle-men intervention and shinier export policy would make it a career path to the lost souls today are pretty sure of being matched up with a job they don't like. Better power facilities, water facilities and credit structure are the need of the hour and if we do not concentrate we will end up importing rice and wheat.

8. Infrastructure : The party should have an outlook on better daily governance of the country. Infrastructure on the activity path concerning government should be atleast thought out. No one can form a well based plan in a day, but the party that woos me should hint at being thoughtful of this. Online or offline, starting from the passport offices, transport offices and sewage and other public service departments should have a better data flow strategy. It's high time we take a look at the pathetic state of our passport offices and I donot want to go inside the checklist a citizen needs to fulfill to get his passport renewed leave alone getting a new one. Train tickets(is even a single soul happy with irctc website?), busses and other transportation needs to be comfortable to be used by the traveller. You could increase taxation on cars and bikes(roads etc.) if thats what is needed to influence the public to use public transport. But better clean up the messy busses first. I wouldn't want to travel a whole night in a dirty bus that has forgotten what shock absorbers are.

This is one large encompassing area and I know pretty sure that it cannot be changed in a day. But like I said, I need a hint on it being considered.

9. Public places : Forget the thousand elephant statues and the debacle over Kannagi statue, the project in making Indians proud (Project Proud Indians? PPI?) should start from within. I've travelled to Europe, studied and worked in the States and visited exotic east. I've never been very enthusiastic on travelling to remote forest resorts or lakes in North India. Yes you might counter attack with examples from clean and well organized areas, but I would've already travelled there (Corbett park has been my favorite). I see the dirt and forsaken bacterial infested food and containers along the shores of the Naini, a neat layer of green crap over the water and I don't even want to start about the brown waters of the Ganges. It was the first and last time I visited the holy river. I am sure each and every foreign tourist visiting India have a heart of a Lion to go through with it. The lovely white marbles of Agra are getting blackened, nearly twenty percent of the beautiful carvings in Thanjavur's Bragadeeshwarar temple have been recoated. Its a sad state that the only issue I could agree from the Oscar award winning 'ditch-India' movie was about the treatment of tourists when they visit beautiful attractions like Agra. Self pity and 'blame the authorities' board games are what we play when we talk about this situation. Unless they clean up, forget PPI.

10. Sports: Familiar with new-age gen-Y complaining our 'classical' parents with regards to career motivation? Doctor, engineer, studied from the States, these are what they wanted us to be. Does that in anyway portray them being narrow(money!) minded? Never. It is because of lack of other attractive avenues. Sports. How many news reports we hear parents being unhappy to push their children to sports? The extent also includes some stopping to pay for schools. Take Spain or any European nation for that matter, take USA, and the importance of sports they give from the young formative ages. I went to an American Football game between two high schools that were watched by thousands. I thought how awesome it would be if it was between say Don Bosco institutions and Vidya Mandir associations India, and I hit my head for being over optimistic. Millions of parents in thousands of families around the world respect sports for having a viable future. What about India? Cricket, yes. And the buck stops there. Eleven hard working players get to represent the national team to earn good money. Every heard how much the state players get paid? A tech industry junior project manager gets higher. I have to defend myself here saying I am a project manager in tech Industry too. But I love sports. I take a look at organizations for young adults and children and find the ratio to be worse than 1:1000 (one institute per thousand kids). We hear about Leander Paes and Abhinav Bindra for winning titles in the highest level but the sad fact is that we can count them all with our ten fingers.

The party that needs my vote should clearly show it takes sports seriously, starting with changing the 12 hour a day education system with impractical lessons to more and better governed departments concerning the grass root development in Sports. We will then notice an India with multi faces and at the same time lesser obesity problems in young children.

Enough said. I should not be over-optimistic to think one single party would satisfy more than half of the above requirements. We start slow, but the most important thing is that we start. The steps might be small but it should oppose to being stale. I hope I don't present as being over optimistic, and on a wrong account of it being the case I'd ask the reader to study about the resurgence of Chinese and Japanese societies and how the Japs became a world super power within fifty years from being nearly bombed off the map.

We are intelligent, we have it in our DNAs. A thousand references to scientific and social achievements in prehistoric and medieval  ages should prove as an inspiration to change for the good, appreciate pluralism in society and become proud of our country. It's high time our government workers(3) and head of it's departments start laying the path to that.

1 - This is a generalistic opinion, I do respect every hard working public servicemen in India
2 - I had two chances to vote, first time my name wasn't in the list, 2nd time someone else already voted. I couldn't do anything about it due to lack of time
3 - I won't use the term leaders, because I don't find any

Post read - Our Scissorland