Category Archives: People & Politics

A Question Of Class…

The Day Our Class Was Rocked!

That day the entire class witnessed a number of arguments: in groups of twos, threes and even more, everyone was arguing.

What set this off was an unusual departure by our teacher. That day he started teaching in English! Normally, this was not the practice. Though the higher classes were supposed to be English medium yet the accepted medium of instruction was Hindi.

The entire class was simply mystified, and more than the subject he was teaching, what kept us engaged was why the hell he was speaking in English! Most of the class students belonged to the middle class families and had a workable knowledge of English; but there were many who came from very poor families and were not good in English. However, by the time they will complete their Senior Secondary they would have picked up enough English to be able to clear qualifying examinations for various jobs. And that was enough!

Certainly, the reaction of entire class was not lost on the teacher because after that he never used English to deliver his lectures.

Do You Dream in English?

The English earns us our bread and butter — while Hindi, or any other mother tongue, is used to express ourselves with our closed ones.

There are some privileged few, who are fluent in English, those who have studied from Convent schools, or whose parents converse with them in English. They can easily and fluently express themselves in English. Maybe, they also think in English. And, what about dreams? Do they also dream in English?

As far as the spoken language is concerned there are clearly two classes of people in our society – English speaking and non-English speaking. The first one is superior, the other one is inferior. The first one has Class, the other one has not. The fist one is privileged, the other one is under privileged, no backward describes it more aptly. The latter one is also known as desi, or native.Though the former class is also native but they are not desi. Got the difference? In the desi circles, the other class is known as angrez (literally meaning English) or angrez ki aulad (progeny of angrez). The desi circle is generally in awe of the angrez one, and the angrez ones generally look down upon the desi’s.

After all this is life and this is not a perfect world and we have to live with this inequality.

For the English speaking class merely the act of speaking in that language is a hallmark of their superiority. In one single instance it proves that they are sharp, wise, intelligent, witty and successful. Or going to be successful. They move in another world – they listen to Rock, heavy metal and American country music, while our desi brothers listen to Hindi film songs, bhojpuri folk or Punjabi folk. The angrez class also listens to Hindi, but only when enjoying the Gazals of Jagjit Singh and Mehdi Hasan, which only accentuates their class. The desi class also listens to these gazal singers, but they always fall short of being the class. Their fate is sealed.

That’s how it is, whether you like it or not.

Who brought about this situation? Maybe Macaulay, maybe Nehru, we can blame anyone for this but this situation has come to pass and here we are stuck with this. On one side is the angrez class and on the other is the desi class.

When, after completing our Senior Secondary, we entered College the class was broadly divided in two groups; you get it — angrez’s and desi’s! They may be further subdivided in sub groups, but you get the idea: at macro level there were only two real ‘classes’.

The Coming of Age of Desi’s

I am talking about my own student days – the 80’s. But I observe that these class differences still persist. The desi ones have increased in numbers and they have emulated many habits of the angrez’s – they eat pizzas, they watch English movies, they also have girl friends – but the difference persists. Generally, boyfriends and girl friends belong to the same class, and the two classes maintain their distances. It is only a rare one who can effortlessly mingle with both the groups.

How far this division can be rationalised, and how this division helps one group in being successful in life at the cost of the other; how this creates a false sense of superiority in one class and a lifelong sense of inferiority in the other? – this is for the society to decide.

However, dear readers I will love to see your observations and experiences in the comments section.

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‘What Do You Do While Commuting?’

Commuting to workplace is a daily chore. And unavoidable. Previously it used to be buses, now metro railway. With the change in the mode of travel has come certain changes in habits.

Travelling in buses was not a very pleasant experience. The dust, noise, heat, wind – there were so many botherations you had to put up with. But what could I do? I had to reach the workplace; and travelling by bus was certainly preferable than travelling on my own two wheeler – the only mode of travel I had at the time! Travelling on my scooter would have meant all the above plus the stress of negotiating the wild and unruly traffic of Delhi! On any given day – I would have liked to avoid that tension.

In Delhi, driving a scooter always gave me jitters – it was as if I was negotiating through a play of life and death! It always amazes me how Delhiites risk their lives driving so rashly!

It was not so back in Jhansi, where I purchased my scooter – the first vehicle that I purchased. The traffic was less – unruly but negotiable. On some roads I enjoyed riding my two-wheeler – pulling the hand accelerator all the way back – riding on an almost empty road, feeling the air on my face, hearing it fly past my helmet with a whoosh!

I had just learnt driving; my inexperience gave those drives an extra thrill – the ride became riskier than it would have been for an expert driver: the seat seemed to be too high, speed too fast, curves too tight, speed too fast!…I remember a ride that I really enjoyed, albeit mixed with stirrings of trepidation. I took my wife from Jhansi to Orchha, the temple town. I had not yet become an expert driver, we were newly married, I was not so sure about the route to the temple town, and I was concerned about the safety on that road – all these factors made me a little jittery, which was reflected in the speed with which I completed that ride — a little more than my normal-speed-on-the-highway…I was pleased to learn later on that she thoroughly enjoyed that trip, including the ride to-and-fro. I still have extremely beautiful and memorable photographs of that visit!

When I came back to Delhi after completing my tenure in Jhansi, I tried to take my scooter to my office presuming that I will get used to the roads of Delhi as I had got used to the roads of Jhansi. But it was a qualitative change: the traffic was unbelievably unruly and fast, a free for all — I just couldn’t accept the idea that every day I was risking my life to commute to my office – the ride to and back from office was horrifying! I made up my mind after a few days against commuting on the scooter and took to buses – chartered buses, as they were called, being buses exclusively run for office people under a sort of pooling system.

During the initial days, it was a novel and exciting experience. Away from the noise and hustle of the public transport buses, safely ensconced in the cozy environment consisting of similar people, who were also polite and well behaved – what was that if not the icing on the cake? Every trip exuded the flavor of a homecoming!

Some of my initial experiences in these buses made me quite emotional! For example, once when I was travelling with my wife a person started distributing prasad of Tuesday. Suddenly we felt as if we were the part of a family: it was almost as if we were well looked after and taken care of!

Another experience of those initial days makes me feel proud to this day and made my workout chores in Jhansi worth all the hard work that I put into them!

During my initial tryst with these buses, I was going to my office in a chartered Bus. I was standing, with my hand firmly holding the bar overhead. I used to be very proud of my grip, and was quite certain that nobody could disengage it; but I was not aware that it was going to be tested that day! The bus was moving with fairly high speed, not that anybody was unhappy with the fact, all of us being in a mood to reach workplace as early as possible! Suddenly the bus driver applied brakes, and a shockwave went within the bus from front to the rear. Everyone was jolted wherever he or she was standing; with many passengers falling over each other.

I, with my firm grip, was not moved much, physically I mean. But there was a plump lady standing next to me. She got hold of my free arm, yet she fell down the stairs of the bus, still holding me in her panic. However, I did not lose my grip, she got hold of herself, and by dragging herself up the stairs with the help of my arm, she again got back to her feet…and thanked me! Later on I heard her telling one of her friends that she was saved due to my grip, since she weighed more than 80 kilos in weight!

Did I feel proud!

Travelling has always been an exciting activity for me – even if it is a simple commute to my workplace! The changing scene outside the window always catches my imagination and sets my mind on fire.

An activity that gels well with travelling is reading a book. I have finished so many books while travelling – mostly while commuting to and from work.

An interesting place to observe people, and how they pass the commuting time is inside the Mumbai’s Metro trains – the old ones! The variety that I observed there is simply marvellous. Besides the most obvious activity – sleeping! – that people indulge in there is another one that seems to occupy man’s fancy- playing cards. Generally the office bag is converted into a makeshift table – no mater whether you are standing or sitting – ways can be devised to keep the bag steady – on somebody’s lap, on two arms from two participants in the game. The owners of the arms will keep on changing, to share the burden – but the game must go on!

Then you find bhajan tolis, groups of people singing religious songs – in various languages.

While commuting in Mumbai locals of yore I began wondering the kind of skills that can be woken up in you by the mere act of commuting. Some commuters have become experts in judging the names of the local stations by their smells, and others by their sounds! The sensory skills are really important for survival, and surviving the local commute in Mumbai’s locals was a skill that had to be learnt over a period of time.

But that is a separate subject…more on it some other time!

 

 

 

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Are Indians fool, or, Have Indian Intellectuals Lost Touch With The Ground?

The above heading says all that I wish to convey..and yes, definitely I am referring to yesterday’s thumping majority achieved by Narendra Modi panning across the length and breadth of India.

But the Indian intellectual class – the left leaning, entrenched class, that controls the entire academia and press – thinks otherwise. Going by their utterances, such a victory by Modi forbodes ill for the country, reflects the bad judgment of Indians, and the triumph of majoritarianism over the rational and secular mindset.

It is true that a common man does not get invited to panel discussions, does not has his views published in Newspapers, does not have books published in his name. It is the intellectual class, which does all that. Our common sense gets us to think that these thinkers will become the guiding lights of the junta, and help the nation think clearly and rationally.

But, it is such a sorry state of affairs in India that the class which is supposed to proffer guidance, itself looks so muddled and dishonest in its thinking, that one is forced to think – ‘Which vested interests are they protecting?’, ‘Are they getting paid for voicing such opinions!’, ‘Are they trying to manipulate the public opinion in one direction?’

In a sort of proverbial slip of tongue, one of them almost spills the beans –

“For years, English media, including Outlook, has criticised him. So our jobs would be in peril if he becomes PM.”
— Vinod Mehta

My, my – is this a fear or a confession?

For more interesting quips and tidbits, click here, some of their utterances will leave you stupefied!

 

 

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Why Modi Was Able To Create A Wave

It is fascinating to see the rise of Narendra Modi on National scene, watching him going from strength to strength. From political untouchable to a Hero, having millions of followers, calls for an appreciation of those qualities that made made it possible for him to accomplish this impossible task!

A few years back TV channels were forecasting doom for him; it was generally assumed that his name will be forever tarnished by some misdeeds that he might have committed in 2002. So many Commissions, enquiries, probes for one single person – surely, if he was guilty it was imperative that he was to be brought to the books and treated like any other criminal of humanity.

But, slowly all those Commissions and probes only helped to add shine to his character. They may not have given him the clean chit, but they did not declare him guilty either. The excess of all this Commissioning and Probing was their undoing – the implied agenda behind the setting up of these was became quite clear to the common man  – ‘Get Modi at any cost!‘ – so the dice was loaded against him from the word Go! If, in such a scenario, no enquiry found him guilty, it actually meant more than a ‘clean chit’.

Then there came the Gujarat Assembly Elections of 2013, which he won resoundingly – third time in a row. Obviously the entire population of Gujarat had not been made to drink a magic potion to force it to vote only for Modi. Gujaratis are known to be quite astute and proud citizens of India; it will be an insult to their intelligence if one doubted the judgment of the entire state. They had seen his work, they had seen him from up and close. They knew him more than all of us – who knew about him only through TV channels and newspapers.

Another quality that left a strong impression on public mind was that he was neither detracted by nor got involved in petty arguments. He carried on with a single minded devotion with the one task that he had set set up for his political life – the development of Gujarat. This is extremely amazing if we keep in mind that he could not have foreseen the outcome of his efforts when he set out to do this; there was every chance of failure; it must have been the power of realization that what he was doing was for some greater good that kept him focused and energized.

He had nothing but his own faith to guide him when all around him powerful forces were hounding him and bad mouthing him in every imaginable way!

He was able to make ‘development’ into a national agenda – replacing divisive issues like secularism and regionalism – only because of his single minded devotion and solid achievements. He never bothered to reply to the extreme criticism he was subjected to, did not get involved in arguments and instead concentrated on the goals that he had set for Gujarat.

I have seen him responding to the criticism only from two people – Sonia and Rahul: as if he was saying that he knew who was targeting whom. He managed himself in his public life with such grace that all the criticism and witch hunting against him only added to the sheen of his persona.

His devotion to public service can be readily seen by the fact that he never tried to use power and influence to work for the betterment of his own family members. His mother and brothers still live very ordinary lives. What a sharp contrast from what we see all around us: the breed of politicians that we have got used to who, when they come to power start showering favors, grants and positions to their sons, nephews, uncles and aunts!

This is due to his single minded devotion for the public good that he is always brimming with ideas – which was all too apparent in the India Today Conclave held in New Delhi last year – I have never seen such an abundance of ideas in any Indian leader – living or dead!

He is a strong leader no doubt – and I believe that the country needs just such a leader at this time and juncture of India’s march to greatness – the leader who has got a vision and is neither afraid to articulate it nor to implement it in practical terms!

His enthusiasm is infectious – this is all too visible in the crowds that get electrified on listening to his speeches – this one man army was able to turn the tide in just one or two years – when everything seemed to be working against him – including all the political parties in India and so many of them in other countries too!

Let us pray and wish that Modi is able to come up to such grand expectations that people of the nation have reposed in him!

 

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April 6, 2014 · 5:21 pm

Will You Still Do It If It Was Not So ‘Cool’?

 

There was a News item today that informed that in Delhi University campus during the last December’s Delhi Assembly Elections (2014) you were considered a ‘loser’ if you did not vote! To flaunt the inked left Index finger became a style statement, and also portrayed you as a politically conscious and socially aware guy or gal.

The issues discussed in those elections – corruption and women’s security – were the topics of heated discussions in college canteens and it was considered stylish to out pour one’s outrage in FB posts! One’s social ranking would have hit a real time low had one not gone and voted for the ’cause’.

This was largely caused by the vast media coverage of the Anna Hazare movement which was later on hijacked by the smart guy Kejriwal to fulfil his political ambitions leaving behind a sulking old man with a ‘shared’ topi!

Considering all that hoopla and constant focus on Anna, Kejriwal and later on Aam Aadmi Party, it is not surprising that the events surrounding the main protagonists of the entire drama became the talk of the town, and the presence of many young actors in the drama, and clever manipulation of media, brought youngsters into the centre stage — leaving oldies like Baba Ramdevs, Advanis, Sushmas and Jaitleys on the sidelines helplessly watching issues first raised by them being hijacked before their very eyes!

Now Lok Sabha elections are just round the corner, but that heat is missing from the campus and the talks are again centering around fashion, films and famous! This is surprising, since these elections are far more important than Assembly elections and affect the future of the entire country!

 

 What Goes Into Making Of ‘An Issue’?

It is interesting to analyse the dynamics through which people get involved in certain issues, feel compelled ‘to be involved’, ‘to have an opinion’ and to take action, and ultimately become instruments of social change.

If we just go through the main features of the events described above we observe the following features which make an issue into ‘An Issue’.

  • The issue is widely discussed in society and is considered to be the ‘in’ thing. There is persistent focus on it in all TV channels and is vigorously discussed in News, analysis and discussions.  In almost all the mainstream Newspapers Editorials are written discussing various aspects of the topic.
  • The topic becomes trending on Social Media – Fecabook, Twitter and WhatsApp are abuzz with the buzz and people are never tired of airing and exchanging their views.
  • No one can afford to appear ignorant on the issue – a copy-paste will do if you do not have your own view on it! Everyone feels compelled to show one’s involvement.
  • As a corollary we observe that young crowd begets young crowd. In the Anna movement the presence of so many young actors – media personalities, politicians, Professors and students helped bring about more young crowd.
  • To motivate the middle class it is important to promise a mini-revolution that will the change entire system. However, the revolution should call for not more than symbolic actions like candle light dinners, Jantar Mantar ‘morchas’, mini interviews on Television, etc. – you get the flow, right? Job safety is important man!

All of these ingredients mixed together in reasonable proportions will create a snowball effect. We observed all of this in the Anna movement which was centered mostly in and around Jantar Mantar which does not have the capacity to accommodate  a crowd of more than 3000. And half of the crowd consisted of TV crew!

 

Will You Do It Again?

Now, all that heat and dust is gone: movements and topis stolen, some are eating the fruits of labor while others are still trying to decipher what exactly it was that transpired!

Well, let bygones with bygones –  I am neither with simple Gurus nor with smart chelas – my whole worry is — suppose a situation comes, when issues are even more important, when consequences are even more grave which affect the fate of the country; but all this happens without the fanfare and noise and din of the crowds and TV and social media and candle light marches, will the people feel involved, will they bother to get involved, will they feel compelled to air their views?

The answer – Yes or No – is extremely important — it has a bearing on the fate of India!

Please leave your comments below, I will love to know your views…

 

 

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