Archive for the ‘News and politics’ Category

h1

Who watches the watchdog?

September 7, 2007

Today it came in the papers how Sachin Tendulkar had to repeatedly clarify that he was not contemplating retirement because of the controversy sparked by his one statement ,” At 34, it is difficult to recover after a one day match” . The report said that how some Marathi newspaper stated he was contemplating requirement and then how he, the manager Rajiv Shukla and Rahul Dravid described the report as completely false. What a waste of energy!. About a couple of months ago, it happened with Saurav Ganguly. I don’t remember what the issue was but in the end Mr Ganguly was telling the journos ,”I can understand that there is tremendous competition in the media but at least you should have checked with me. I was just a phone call away”

In recent times, the Jessica lall case is one case where one can really be proud of the media. One wonders why it has to resort to all this. I was in Rajkot about a month and a half back where I asked a very reliable source about the case of Pooja Chauhan who had roamed the streets of that town half clad to protest against dowry. While there is some element of truth in the story, we learnt that someone from the media encouraged her to do that. That’s being really proactive.

When I read Hindustan times editor MR Vir Sanghvi’s lucid articles and a lot that is written in newspapers and magazines, one really wonders whether the so called communication revolution can bring about a change for the common man or is it all a sham or intellectual fun.? There were so many articles about the common people favoring Abdul Kalam continuing as President and even the fact that had there been a direct contest, Mr Kalam would have won hands down. Yet, the elected representatives were able to thwart democracy or the voice of the people. How is then, the common man any better off than his ancestors with all the communication hullabaloo ? Even Internationally, Mr Bush went ahead with the Iraq war with practically the whole world against him.

Now, the Times of India has started a leadership lead India campaign. They are encouraging young people who “have it in them” to apply. One of the surveys says that a majority of people believe in honesty as a trait. That is obvious but if I shout from the rooftops how I honest I am, after the way Satyameva Jayate failed, is it going to make a difference?. How does one monitor honesty while the person is in office. Going by the old saying “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely” and the fact that the future is not always an extension of the present, how can one ensure that somebody continues to be honest. How does one judge the honesty and competence of politicians ?.

Instead of running after Sachin and Saurav, the media should also report why the board President is not appointing a CEO to run cricket affairs as promised. It is strange that Sachin is accountable to Mr Pawar and the nation for a poor world cup performance but nobody bothers about how the board or its President performs. That is why we have only symbolic presidents (Pratibha means talent in Hindi) instead of performing Presidents( Mr Abdul Kalam)

A day after(8/9/2007) writing this post, it came in the papers that the sting operation on Delhi govt school teacher Uma Khurana maybe a fraud. This only vindicates what is written in the post above. Then during the last one day international between India and England, Sachin Tendulkar was again given out when he did not seem to be so. What is use of technology and the third umpire then? That is also kind of media and one is not proactive when one supposed to be.

h1

Sham Jhoothmalani(?) aur Justiceca Hal(?) (Jessica lall)

November 12, 2006

I would like to say at the outset that whatever is written here is only in the context of Jessica lall’s case. One sparrow does not make a summer and therefore an entire life should not be judged by a single act. I would rather not name the concerned lawyer(CL) here though it is obvious whom I am referring to. Though I have been an admirer of his for the bold stands he has taken at times and his professional skills, in his latest avataar, an ordinary citizen is perhaps better off by not referring to him directly. I am not making a sweeping statement but only talking for this particular issue.

This has reference to articles on this issue written by prominent journalists Vir Sanghvi (Editor of Hindustan Times) and Barkha Dutt( NDTV anchor). While calling the CL a friend and lauding some of his past achievements, both have questioned his stand on the Jessica lall murder case. They have tried to convey that while some his past “Houdini” acts- rescuing people like Kehar singh (accused in Indira Gandhi murder case) and Professor Geelani(accused in the parliament attack case) were admirable extrications, Manu sharma who is the accused in Jessica lall simply does not deserve such a release from perhaps the finest criminal lawyer in the country. Here are the links to the articles:-

Barkha Dutt’s article- Ram and Manusmriti

Vir Sanghvi’s article -Lone ranger in white shoes

Another interesting article is by Namita Bhandare which states that even the CL’s family is unhappy with this decision-

Namita Bhandare-Devil’s advocate

Some views of Mr Vir Sanghvi are worth repeating:-

“Some weeks ago, in context of the Mohammad Afzal case, I wrote, on this page, that ordinary people believe that if a rich and powerful man commits a murder in full public view in the middle of Connaught Place , a smart lawyer shall still get him off- so unfair is our legal system. I did not know then that Ram would actually accept this brief and try and get Manu Sharma, a rich and powerful man accused of committing murder in full public view, off.”

“But my words now seem eerily prescient. Lawyers tell me that Ram is conducting Manu’s defense so “brilliantly” that he may well get him off. He has already found a sex angle and has told us that the real murderer was a Sikh. Perhaps, in a week or so, he will tell us that Manu was not even there and that Jessica was killed by Navjot Singh Sidhu/Rabbi Shergill/Manmohan Singh.(all of them)”

After all these years, saying that a Sikh killed Jessica is almost like saying that Kashmir is in the south and Kanyakumari in the North of India or should we say that the CL works in the film industry and Hema Malini is fighting criminal cases. It cannot even pass off as a sardar joke. The CL claims that he is not taking any fees for this- wonder whether that qualifies as a joke since Mr Sanghvi has also stated that this time the person whom the CL is defending is not somebody who is weak and poor and therefore defenceless.

At another place, Mr Sanghvi has stated that the tag of “smuggler’s lawyer” never harmed the CL despite his having defended an assortment of characters who maybe regarded as “murderers, smugglers, gang bosses and desi Mafiosi”. Ironical- One would be normally be inclined to think that a lawyer was supposed to protect the Rams from the Ravans if not for anything else than for the fact that he happens to be his namesake as also the fact that he happens to be “Maryadapurshottam”

In my lage raho Munnabhai post, I had given Gandhiji’s thoughts on a lawyer’s profession which are worth repeating:-

” As a student, I heard that a lawyer’s profession is a liar’s profession. That did not influence me. I had no intention of earning either position or money by lying.” “I have never resorted to untruth in my profession and since a large part of my legal practice was in the interest of public work, I charged nothing beyond out of the box expenses and that too I met myself”. “The true function of a lawyer is to unite parties driven asunder”.

Gandhiji was practical enough to admit though that “Truthfulness in the practice of a profession cannot cure it of the fundamental defect that vitiates it”

One cannot expect anybody to be as truthful as Gandhi was but does one have to go to the other extreme? Even while writing the Munnabhai post, I knew that Gandhigiri was a passing fad. This was revealed last week when the Times of India had headlines of “Gandhiriri gives way go Goondagiri” when traders went on a rampage in Delhi against the imposition of Ceilings of unauthorised properties. In practical life, things happen more in confirmity with the other movie “Maine Gandhi ko nahin mara” which conveys that Indians remember him more is letter than in spirit and that too during his death and birth anniversaries. From another perspective,while Munna(bhai) was cute, can the same be said of Manu? At least here, should we not follow the apostle of truth, our “father of the nation”?

Coimng back to the professional context, I had mentioned in the post how the so called professionals(in all fields) do exactly the opposite of what they are supposed to be doing which is so well expressed by one of the all time great songs of Hindi Cinema. In this context (CL), if the guardians of law behave like this, what is left for the common man? The song is worth mentioning again here:-

In the BMW case, when a rich man’s son got away scott free after bunping off several people with his car, it was mentioned that the practical situation could be described as “show me the man and I will show you the law”. The way things are happening, law seems to have become like a five-star hotel, only for the rich people. Mr Sanghvi has also mentioned the same case in the article and stated how the “justice was available only to those who can pay for it”.. My fahter-in-law is a non practicing lawyer and a jain who would not even harm a fly. Even he has expressed serious reservations about the law time and again.

One day after writing the post, it has come in the Times of India that in the context of implementing the Ceiling, the Supreme court said “”Those who govern should know how important the rule of law is. If there is no rule of law, there will be nothing left in this country”. This is obviously true not only for this country but all countries but should it also not all apply to all parties and not merely restricted to “Those who govern”. What matters eventually is the motives with which the law is implemented but not law-per se. I recently read on some blog how the domestic violence law could be subverted by women with dubious motives.

Mr Sanghvi has used the expressions “deeply flawed justice system” and “ how little faith people have in our legal system” apart from “unfair legal system” mentioned earlier. The common man is so scared of the delay in justice that the judicial system is seen as a remedy worse than the disease. Considering that Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and Jinnah were alll lawyers, they can be proud of the fact that lawyers had a pivotal role in making India Independent. Isn’t it a strange irony that in Independent India, the ordinary man feels stiffled by the law and is almost under siege by the judicial system? If this situation continues to prevail, people might start taking the law in their own hands the way it was shown in the movie “Rang De Basanti”.

One should focus on the brighter side- the Priyadarshini Mattoo case where there are hopes of justice after the recent verdict in the victim’s favor. There again, the day after the verdict, both the Lall and the katara families(fighting similar cases) while welcoming the judgment said that it was late. They feel the pinch because it is they who are fighting and have to go to the courts on a day to day basis. I am sure that the murderers in those cases too must be thinking of approaching the CL.

These cases have come under the limelight because of media and public pressure but there must be countless others languishing in courts because of delays of various kinds. I can remember annother all time popular song from yesteryear’s super comedy “Chalti ka naam gaadi” “ Oh Mattoo, tera tau hua lekin mera kya hoga?” . In the original song, it is not Mattoo but Manu and if the CL succeeds in the Jessica lall case, we can revert to the original song with a slight variation “ Oh Manu, tera to hua lekin justice ka kya hoga?”

Though both Barkha Dutt and Mr Sanghvi have written very well and the media as a whole has played a very constructive role in these cases(even if for their TRPs), one wonders wether the role of the media is that of a watchdog or a bloodhound? Everytime a prominent case emerges, there is a lot of noise about delay in cases but nobody does any follow up and takes the issue to its logical conclusion- why the delay?, what can be done to expedite justice and what is the latest situation? If everytime a Jesica lall has to happen to arouse the consciousness about delay in cases, all the noise about it whether by the mainstream media or the bloggers is nothing but a lot of intellectual masturbation. Even in the Lall case, why did the media wait for seven years and for the verdict to go against the victims? Why can’t the justice system be made faster as in the other great democracy- the United States.? Even in Tennis and Cricket, the follow through is given its due importance. Practical corporate management is impossible without “follow-up”. Why not get to the root of the problem and effect a lasting change?

Both the Journalists have described the CL as the “lone ranger” against injustice. In reality, it is the common man who is the “lone ranger” against the flawed judicial system. Barkha says “ Much is being made of whether media trials have substituted or, at the very least, weakened the judicial process. I disagree. “ She is absolutely right. In a country where the politicians are perceived as corrupt and the judicial system inefficient, only the media can save the common man’s skin . The common man in this context is more like that famous bespectacled character from R.K.Laxman’s cartoons- looking baffled but genuinely confused and helpless.

As for the CL, since he happens to enjoy the stature(more or less) of cricketer Sachin Tendulkar in his field, it’s worth repeating what Tendulkar said in an interview once “ No matter how big a player is, nobody can be bigger than the game ”. In legal lingo “ Be you ever so high, the law is above you” –here, I am talking from a laywer’s perspective . Purely by coincidence, I happen to be reading “Why pride matters more than money” by Katzenbach. Though I am only half way throgh the book, it seems to be all about sustained motivation in the long run coming from pride in one’s work and profession- it states that though money may entice somebody to join an organization, in the long run, it is only meaningful work and pride in performance in one’s work that motivates an individual towards individual and group excellence . The CL already enjoys an enviable reputation in his field and hopefully, this is only an aberration. Barkha has mentioned in her article that the CL does not have to do all this for money anymore and behave like a typical professional(all maynot be like that) which reminded me of an artilce I had written some years ago- Is money the god and profession the religion ? .

Mr Sanghvi has concluded the article by stating that the next time the CL claims to use his legal prowess for the national good to help the weak and powerless, all of India will laugh in his face. One should hope that it does not come to that. There are many of the view that as it is, we already have plenty of entertainment from some politicians.

It would also not be out of place to mention here that some artists have spent a lifetime of poverty despite being very good in their respective fields- Hindi novelist Premchand and Hockey wizard Dhyanchand among them. Others like the famous painter Vincent Vangoh and Shakespeare became posthumously famous. Therefore, Professional prominence should never be taken for granted. People in the wrong profession have described it as “Spiritual suicide” and “lifetime imprisonment”. Therefore, one should have the highest reverence for one’s profession as it sustains both emotionally and financially for a majority of waking hours.

{ Nobody is disputing anybody’s right to hire a lawyer or any lawyer’s right to take up a case. This is just an expression of concern(which I think the journalists too are doing) if a smart lawyer is misusing his smartness. It is also an appeal to his conscience)

h1

Vindication of Sex-Education

October 17, 2006


(picture from http://www.askmen.com)

This post was prompted by an interesting incident in my 11 year old son’s schoolfriend’s life. Though only in the sixth standard, with lots of girls showing interest in him, his parents were dumbfounded when their son actually received three letters(in addition to earlier emails) at their residential address from some girl. Amusing though it was, they actually didn’t know how to deal with the situation. His mother remarked, “ My daughter is almost double my son’s age but I have never had any problems with her. Since when have girls started chasing boys like this and that too at such a young age”.

Incidentally, my son studies in one of those schools which is very particular about preserving Indian culture. It reminded me of an incident at the parent teacher’s meeting a few months ago when a mother complained that she didn’t know what to say when her daughter told her about a senior boy and girl smooching in class.

The funniest incident occurred with my wife, a nursery school teacher when some tiny tot who was also known to some mutual friends actually said ,”She is sexy” on being asked “How is your teacher?” Height of “catch them young” I would say.

One almost feels like going back to school and reminds of that song “Koi lauta de mere bite hue din”

Just a couple of days ago, in the Sunday Times( 15/10/2006), in an article “Orissa teachers coy about talking birds and bees” , Arabinda Mishra says that Teachers in Orissa are reluctant to impart sex education and the dangers of AIDS to their students because they find words like condom, sex and intercourse too unpleasant to discuss in classrooms. Under pressure from the HRD ministry, a chapter on AIDS was introduced as a part of social studies for students of IX and X but the teachers were so uncomfortable discussing it that it was withdrawn. Since then, it has been a tug of war between the teachers and the bureaucrats of the HRD ministry. The Orissa Aids Cell had prepared the chapter in consultation with experts but could not convince the teachers. Orissa has had a spurt in AIDS cases but the teachers found the topic to embarrassing to handle.

A few months ago, there was a similar article in a magazine advising parents on how to go about imparting sex education. It was also somewhat amusing but the fact remains that before imparting an education of this type, the teachers themselves have to be specially oriented if not trained. The teachers however do not seem to be too inclined it seems.

The gates of this impasse can be penetrated by no less a man than Bill Gates himself. Though he has not mentioned the word “sex” anywhere in his book Business@speed of thought, some of the extracts(relevant to online education from the chapter connected learning communities) seem to be written for the current situation:-

“Most teachers have a great love of learning and they will get excited about anything that will help kids learn. What teachers don’t want is to be thrown into something they have not had the opportunity to learn about and be comfortable with”..

This exactly describes the Orissa situation..

Elsewhere, Mr Gates writes, “ An important reengineering principle is that companies should focus on their core competence and outsource everything else. “. Though this book was written a few years back, these days , it is not uncommon to find reports on homework of American kids being outsourced to India. Why then should teachers or for that matter parents take the onus of sex education when it is not their core competence and requires specialized knowledge imparting skills?. Why can’t it be done by the computer to the extent possible? As it is, on line education is all about the best teachers producing the best content and making it accessible to all, not just their classrooms. This is true for all subjects and the added advantage is that the computer can both innstruct and demonstrate and therefore make it more comprehensible.

One more extract from the Book also fits the bill “ One of the most forward looking ideas is to use the PC to offer a variety of ways to learn. About fifty different major theories identify similar attributes. Some people learn by reading, some by listening, some by watching someone else do a task, some by doing the task. Most of us learn from a combination of all these methods. “Any subject can be personalized according to the learning style of the student. What a unique way to know about sex.

It is also given that “ A highly motivated student can learn from different reading materials, where a poorly motivated student needs accessible materials such as a video to learn”. Well, considering the subject matter, I would not be surprised if a majority of students turn out to be poorly motivated. One should also discuss the motivation of the teacher here. Off and on, one gets to hear things like how teachers have not exactly taken a liking to computers and there is resistance to change. Now, if you give them a Hobson’s choice- either teach sex education directly or through computers, I think you can kill two birds with one stone and do away with the resistance to computers problem forever.

The children can also ask the uncomfortable questions on line and get their answers. With the way broadband services are improving, why a multi-media sex education initiative has not been taken surprises me. Such a move can live up to that saying in Hindi “Saap bhi mar jaaye or laathi bhi na toote” . Why not? Especially for those who find it too difficult to handle. It can also be a combo strategy- the computer can give the basic orientation and certain doubts cleared by parents/teachers.

I had read in a book how a father, on failing repeatedly to get his son to wash his hands before eating finally took him to one of his doctor friends. The doctor briefed the child on what germs were, gave a display under a microscope and topped it up by showing a video film showing explicitly what could happen if he didn’t wash his hands. Thereafter, the child never had to be told to wash hands. Another doctor had told me similarly that to prevent people from smoking, they should be shown video films of lung cancer patients and apprised of other problems they could face with advancing age when health becomes more and more precious. This is the “Without, danger, you cannot go beyond danger” that I have advocated in my earlier posts.One cannot have a wishy-washy,ambiguous, half hearted approach to AIDS(or other adverse effects of pre-marital sex) . It must be significantly scary to create an impact.

There are many who feel that teaching sex education at a young age in school is both awkward and undesirable as it may prove counterproductive. Many others are of the view that such an education is not in accordance with our culture. Such issues are best addressed by an expert.For those inclined to know more,let us have it from the horse’s mouth. These are two best articles by renowned sexologist, Dr Prakash kothari.They address AIDS, awkwardness of parents and teachers, influence of television etc among other things and vindicate the introduction of sex education among students:-

Sex education for adolescents stressed

Birds, Bees and Relatives

Today)17/10/2006), it has come in the papers how children are becoming more violent because of influence of Television. Whether it is sex or violence, one has to follow Osho’s philosophy “ To remove darkness, one has to bring light into the room and not take darkness out of a room”. The right knowledge has simply got to be introduced in the right manner and spread as fast as possible. .

The fact that “Child is the father of man” applies now more to sex than anything else can be proved by this joke:-

The teacher at the beginning of the class says: “OK kids, we are going to talk about sexual education today. First we’ll talk about how the human reproduction goes on…” Immediately, little Johnny raises his hand, and desperately tries to get the teacher’s attention. But the teacher, knowing how little Johnny is about these things, goes on… “… First, a man a woman have to be in love… ” But little Johny keeps his hand up, waving it up and down, and from one side to the other one. The teacher ignores him..”..They have to be very much in love because…” But now little Johnny even starts making noise with his feet, so the teacher decides to acknowledge him: ” OK, little Johnny. What do you want to say.” Little Johnny then stands up, and says: “I just wanted to ask. Those of us who have already f****d, can we leave?

h1

Lalu denied entry at the India International centre, There and at IIMs, who is really eligible to enter?

October 9, 2006

Yesterday(8/10/2006), the Sunday Times reported that Railway minister Lalu Yadav was refused the much sought after membership of India International Center which is considered a kind of “arrival statement” by Delhi’s Intellectual circuit :-

Elite IIC refuses to take lalu as member

The high esteem membership was refused on the grounds that Lalu was charge sheeted in criminal cases. One is prompted to ask “What’s new?”. If he could lecture impressively at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad on September 18, why such a hue and cry over membership of another elite institute? Five days after this post, on 13/10,2006, former Union minister, Dr Karan singh(son of Hari Singh,erstwhile king of Kashmir) resigned as one of the life trustees of IIC on failing to deliver on his promise of securing a membership for lalu. Now, if people of that kind of stature want lalu as members, one can hardly grudge him that.

In an article,”Are you club class?” in the Sunday Times(15/10/2006), Meenakshi Kumar says that some clubs like Delhi Gymkhana insisit on a certain status and stature( a Janpath shopkeeper being refused membership)and some like Delhi Golf club insist on sporting talent. At the Gymkhana, people may have to wait upto 35 years. IIC on the other hand insists on members who help sustain the international character of the centre. On being told once that the Japensese can turn Bihar into a Japan in a few months, Lalu replied that he could turn Japan into a Bihar in a few days. That’s all the internationalism lalu’s got but jokes apart, he would simply be as much of a misfit in these clubs as a club member would be in his native Bihar.

The Prime Minister, Mr Manmohan Singh has publicly praised Lalu very highly for his turnaround of railways.However, following the news that lalu was going to address the students of Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and after he gave his lecture, a lot of blogs questioned the validity of granting him such an honor stating that the railways turnaround could not be attributed to him directly. Some argued that even if for a moment, it is believed that he had a major role to play in the railways turnaround, considering that he had made a mockery of democracy and governance in Bihar for a decade and a half, his overall record was grossly negative and a person like him had no business lecturing at premiere Management institutes of India.

Laloo interacting with management students at IIM, Ahmedabad.
(from Hindustan times archives)

In the book “The war for Talent”, the authors day” Manegerial talent is at the epicentre for the war for talent. Mangerial talent is a combination of a sharp, strategic mind, leadership ability, emotional maturity, communication skills, the ability to attract and inspire other talented people, entrepreneurial instincts, functional skills and the ability to deliver results”.

Lalu may not be a manager in the true sense of the firm but one wonders how much of this applies to him.When lalu first became CM, he was lauded for his unique administrative style like doing surprise checks at odd hours among other things. Personally speaking, I admired him for his rustic wisdom and supreme artistry at playing to the gallery. However, he flattered to deceive badly and also got embroiled in the fodder scam.

Rather than get into debates on Lalu’s credibility, one should focus on those who really deserve the honor. Where are the Shahrukh khans and Sachin Tendulkars of management? Can the information revolution and mass communication unearth those chupa rustams(hidden talent). Unfortunately, such talent is not as transparent as acting or sports. I had the pleasure of coming across one such prodigy.

Ashish Kundu and I were in the same school and same class for four years between 1977-81. We bumped into each other in the Kedia group(1992-1995) in September ‘1992 when he joined as Assistant Manager(Exports) and I as Assistant Manager(MIS). The kedia group which specialized in liquor had a turnover of about Rs150 Crores at that time. Though he used to come on a motorcycle initially, his prodigious talent soon got him three cars(two from the company) and several promotions within a span of a year and he rose to become CEO. Eminent novelist Agatha Christie had once said that everything could be done creatively and it was my pleasure to see Ashish do something as mundane as administration in a unique style( doing ordinary things in an extraordinary way-it is one thing to read about it and another thing to witness it). He excelled both vertically(each post from assistant manager to CEO) and horizontally( Finance, Marketing, Personnel, operations etc).

He completely outclassed the powers that be in the company in front of the political leadership of a southern state and foreign collaborators with whom they were contemplating various projects. Much later,after leaving his job, he established a big project consultancy business of his own in next to no time.

Poetry being the spontaneous flow of powerful emotions, he inspired this out of me in August’1995 when we parted ways in the corporate world. The quality of poetry is not as important as the fact that his brilliance inspired it. It is more of prose in poetry than real poetry.

I have said in other posts that Greatbong is my favorite writer in the blogoshpere. Here is the other greatbong in my life. As I say this I would like to add that had it been possible ,maybe the people of Bengal would have loved to see his meteoric rise as much as Saurav Ganguly’s. It was like watching a superstar take off. Here then, is a tribute to a wonderful friend and an outstanding business executive:-

Poem- Tribute to an outstanding corporate executive

Within the first month of our bumping into each other in the corporate world, on watching his razor sharp business brains and superb communicating abilities, I predicted that one day he would make it very big in the corporate world. Now, If only I could predict share prices like that, I would have become the Indian Mr Buffet by now. Despite knowing each other since school days and being regularly in touch, I always think of him as boss first, an attitude which is at great variance with some of the other bosses I have come across in my life

Jokes apart, can there be two opinions on whether or not such people should be allowed to address premiere management institutes? IIM ne bulalaya lalu, inko kya main bulalu?

h1

Are bloggers failed writers and half-wits or for professional journalism, is this the pits?

October 3, 2006

Today(10/3,2006), under the heading “Failed writers and half-wits populate the blogoshpere“, Shobhan Saxena has many disparaging things to write about bloggers in “The Times of India ” :-

Net result:Failed writers and half wits populate the blogosphere

It is surprising that there is not one positive thing mentioned about bloggers or the blogosphere( Extracts from the article in Italics).:-

“Everyone has the right to express an opinion but a lot of people confuse it with meaningless fuming and ranting. Everyone has the right to be stupid but some people abuse the privilege”

I am no professional writer but having written sporadically for The Times of India(seven small write-ups; coincidentally one is under “Mind,body,spirit and you ” today itself)and a couple of reputed magazines(four write-ups), I have to concede that when you work with professionals, it improves your focus tremendously and enables you to separate the wheat from the chaff in content. I am grateful to all my Journalist gurus for that more than anything else. However, to consider focus more important than the ideas is clearly putting the cart before the horse;what are you going to focus if the ideas iself are not there and ideas come from the unconscious mind- nobody has patent rights on them. In this context, being formally qualified can actually be a liability because it builds up the ego which is the biggest impediment to cretative ideas.

What I feel is that a professional should be circumspect in using certain words and adjectives( like “stupid” above) with amateurs in particular. Sometimes I feel that that the article written by Saxena is the kind of article I used to write before I interacted with journalist professionals(my association with all of them has been pleasent) – a one sided diatribe without perspective with expressions beginning with the title itself best avoided .

The whole tenor of the article is such that one wonders at the motives behind using certain expressions and statements such as :-

” A lot of people are sick of being nobody. A lot of people’s lives have been reduced to inconsequential chatter with inconsequential friends. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions and their lives are a second hand mimicry of others’ lives.”

This could be true to a significant extent but “inconsequential friends” is a highly objectionable expression because no human being is inconsequential. Some bloggers may have opinions that are more insightful if not original than that of a journalist and some of them may have genuine first hand experiences to share from their own lives which maybe far more interesting at times than what a journo has to say. There is no point writing about “inconsequential chatter “ but psychiatrists advocate social outlets as a means of overcoming mental and emotional problems and blogging serves as a good one. In fact writing is viewed as a kind of catharsis in that context.

Some months ago, on my other blog, I had spoken about the urge to write as a genuine need for some people- While stating that some famous writers-Horis-karl Huysmans, Henry Miller , Herman Melville, Sir Arthur Conann Doyle, Anthony Trollope ,Anton Chekov , Somerset Maugham all lived dual lives(as writers and their other occupation) , this post gives Indian examples of people from different occupations who were very keen to write. One person explains that “It is not so much about the inner need to be a writer as an inner need to write.” Every journalist may not become a good writer or vice-versa but if people from other occupations can succeed as writers, there is no reason why some can’t succeed as Journalists as well.:-

Schizophrenic existence of budding writers.

That apart there is a saying, “ I write to know what I think”. The so called inconsequential chatter becomes very consequential when one starts writing and exchanges views. Writing is actually a very good way to clarify your thoughts and even be centered..

There is then no justification for making statements in the article like:-

They think they have something to say. They want to be read and heard and seen”.

Some of them may actually have something to say. There is nothing wrong in being wanting to be heard and seen if you have the talent for it. One of India’s foremost filmstars said in an interview ” It takes a show off to be a show on”. I read about one writer who used to sing and dance on the roof to attract attnetion;what could he do? There was no blogging in his time. Isn’t blogging one of the most powerful means of self expression? During my nomadic excursions through the blogosphere, the creativity that I have come across at times is mind boggling. For instance, some of the cooking blogs- the pictures and the content is so good that this seems nothing but a labor of love since they are not being paid for it. They appear like professional cooking websites rather than personal blogs.

What are programs like “Nach Baliye” and “Indian idols” or for that matter “Laughter Challenge” doing? There are several sides to a human being’s personality and the chupa rustams(latent talent) in them comes out only when there is a transparent platform. One of the judges in the musical show “Indian Idols” wrote in an article how much new talent was emerging and how it was giving the established singers a run for their money. Similarly, blogging is a transparent platform for writers and it is only a matter of time before the hidden “Khushwant Singhs and Shobha Des” emerge. Why should they not be seen and heard.?

Digressing a little, I would like to say that excellence in any field does not necessarily have to be a corollary of formal qualifications. Neither Amitabh Bachchan nor Rajnikanth are formally trained actors but have been long enduring superstars. Dhirubhai Ambani was not a naturally trained lateral thinker(to the best of my knowledge) but his out of the box thinking was brilliant. Japan, as a country did not have a formal business school for a long time but during that period, that tiny country gave the Americans a run for their money. In the recent Movie “Krishh”, Naseeruddin Shah while complimenting Hrithik Roshan’s abilities tells him ” Others are trained but you are gifted” Therefore a gifted writer though not formally qualified maybe more than match for a journalist where sheer writing skill is concerned.

Elsewhere, it is written that “it looks like the revenge of the amateur who dreams of becoming a professional. And that’s a cause for concern”. At another place it is given ;” The pace at which the blogoshpere is getting cramped with half wits, religious maniacs, failed writers, sociopaths and cold blooded killers is scary” . I feel that this is a one sided view. One wonders whether the people described above are the rule or the exception. Is that scary or is something else scary?

Why should “dreaming of being a professional” be a cause for concern? It happens in the management world all the time. If a company in the unorganized sector like Nirma can take on a giant like Hindustan lever, what is so sacrosanct about Journalism? Management history is replete with stories of how lean and mean small companies(mouse) gave the established companies(Elephants) a run for their money. It seems more of a nightmare for the professionals – a fear of competition from unknown quarters.

Some formally qualified journalists may have the natural ability to excel in other fields as well and similarly some people in other fields maybe more gifted writers. To throw light exclusively on the negatives in the blogoshpere is an article without perspective in my view.

The expression “failed writers” or “Nobody” can be quite deceptive. The renkowned Hindi writer, Muinshi Premchand and even the great Shakespeare got posthumous recognition years after they died. Were they failed writers or the audience failed to give them their due? Who knows what could have happened had blogging been around to showcase their skills? Why discourage budding Sakespeares and Premchands with such articles ? Talking of commercial success, Govinda maybe far more commercially successful than a Naseerudin Shah but it is the latter who is deemed brilliant. Who decides success or failure and on what criteria?

“Their(bloggers) aspirations are blocked by the obnoxious monster called the editor and their high voltage facts mixed with slam dunk fiction with a lot of typos and commas and semi-colons in the wrong places, go down a drain called the editorial process”.

One cannot deny the importance of the right punctuation but the most important thing in writing is creative ideas and expression and to give undue importance to commas and full stops would be missing the wood for the trees The book literary humor puts things in the right perspective ,”Commas and full stops are a convenience rather than an integral part of the language; its nuts and bolts rather than girders. Some very eminent writers have been careless in this respect- Somerset Maugham could not handle commas, Jane Austen got her quotation marks in a twist; Geroge Orwell hated semicolons so much that he wrote an entire novel without any. Gertrude Stein ignored punctuation. “

Similarly, the book states that many writers of the most elegant prose have been shoddy spellers- John Cheever, Ezra Pound, Scott Fitzgerald etc. I am not suggesting that this is excusable but more emphasis should be on expressive ability which comes from the depths of the soul:-

“Of all the arts in which the wise excel, Nature’s chief masterpiece is writing well”

In the book “Editors on editing”, eminent editor David Davidar says ” The writer is the artist and editor the craftsman; the editor must never lose sight of this fact.” Elsewhere, it is given that “Editors must reconcile themselves to anonymity, no matter how great their contribution to a text.” This clearly puts the relationship in proper perspective. The blogosphere may have good writers all of whom need not go down the drain. On the other hand, many successful editors may have “gone down the drain” in the writing process or maybe some excelled at both. George Bernard shaw said once “Those who can, do. else they teach.” It was further expounded by Steve Norbdy :-

Those who can do.
Those who can’t teach.
Those who can’t teach train teachers.
Those who can’t train teachers write teacher training textbooks..

Some editors may not be good writers but very good editors. Why give over importance to the editorial process? Sometimes, a free for all write up can be more charming and cute like the raw talent of a natural cricketer like Mahendra singh Dhoni for instance.

“Blogs are an online stream of consciousness written by people who believe that they are under orders form someone to change the world”. Blogging and websites are the only mass communication tools directly in the hands of the individual. Some of the greatest leaders in history like Lenin for instance orchestrated their movements from abroad. Gandhiji in his autobiography expresses surprise at being so popular in India for the work that he did in South Africa. Had blogging been around at that time, it would definitely have facilitated their work. Ghandhiji was a lawyer but has been described as modern India’s greatest writer and editor in “Editors on Editing” and complimented on his mass communication skills by no less a man than Alyque Padamsee, former chairman of Lintas. Who knows what else he could have achieved with a mass media tool like blogging directly under his control?

“Bloggers claim in their hifalutin tones that they want to give a voice to the voiceless and replace the papers with their journalism. It sounds good but look at the way they are doing it. Their vision is apocalyptic and their language is acidic. “ This maybe true in some cases but all bloggers are not like that. Newspapers have been an enduring institution and even satellite television has not been able to replace them. Why be vary of the poor little blogger? Some elements from the media have been criticized for sensationalization but that does not imply that the entire mainstream media is irresponsible.

In my view, bloggers and the mainstream media can share a symbiotic relationship in the spirit of you scratch my back and I scratch yours but not in a derogatory sense. In his book “Differentiate or Die”, the author Jack Trout states how essential it is for every established brand to continue to differentiate itself. National and international issues are well reported and hotly debated and there is not much scope of differentiation there. In a country like India where the judicial system is perceived as “ineffective”, local issues being highlighted can go a long way in helping the affected party( the way it helped Jesicca lall) and also help the mainstream media differentiate itself which is where bloggers come in as the media cannot reach everywhere.

This reminds me of a scene from the famous “Yeh Dosti” song from movie “Sholay” where the side car attached to the motorcycle separates from the main body and then after straying in the wilderness merges with the main body on the main road.There maybe separate actions(bloggers and journalists) on certain issues , go it alone on certain issues and even joint action on certain issues. This may seem far fetched now just as a 24 hour news channel was deemed ridiculous when first introduced Who knows how a medium may evolve in the future? Some professional journalists have spoken in favor of “citizen journalism”. The journalist gives news( at most times), the blogger gives views. Where is the conflict?

Even the song itself is not exactly a misplaced expression of what the relationship between bloggers and Journalists could be:-

The article states correctly that Learning and mastering good journalism is tough. You learn it is libraries, on flooded streets, in front of a rioting mob, in the middle of ceasefire between the milita and the military,in war trenches, in the corridors of power and in the hamlets of deprivation. Sometimes, a reporter walks for miles in an area ravaged by a tsunami to get one quote from the man hanging on to a tree for a week. “ This is wonderfully written and very correct and Journalists and Journalism should be respected for that but then the Journalist should also respect bloggers right to self expression instead of only being highly and blindly critical. It would not be out of place to mention here that Journalism is no rocket science, impregnable to outside perspectives.

The article continues ,”Bloggers don’t worry about such inane things. They can learn history and politics from google. They can get their facts from newspapers and slam them with their half baked opinions”

That is exactly what I am doing at the moment but whether the opinions are half baked or not again is a matter of opinion. Everybody does not have to have hands-on experience. Some people do well as financial investors. Can you tell them ” You must run companies and not merely invest in them”

Rather than use such expressions, Journalists should look at bloggers with a big brotherly attitude. Cricketer Sachin Tendulkar has given a lot of credit for his success to encouragement by his elder brother,Ajit when he started playing cricket. Looking at the results, we hardly have much to complain out. To only see the negative side of a little brother is not correct- Shobhan, yeh aapko shobha nahin deta.

Now a giggly little, sweet little, little baby brother will only use google because he can hardly be expected to face the challanges faced by a formally trained big brother. Just the way the cute antics of an innocent child or the high sounding words of a management trainee(Fresh MBA) amuse , journalists as big brothers could pull the cheeks of us tiny little fellas and say “Kuchi kuchi koo” or “Gili gli gili” instead of some of the condescending, reprimanding and nagging wife kind of expressions used in the article.

h1

Is it Vande Mataram or Bande Baatram ?

September 3, 2006

I go to play Tennis early morning but because of the rains could not do so today. Since I had woken up early , I thought might as well do some blogging. I read a couple of new blogs on Vande Mataram. After that , I read the newspaper, where I saw the Hindustan Times editor, Mr Vir Sanghvi  himself writing a full feature in the Sunday edition(3/9/06). Then I realized that it was a big controversy.

About 3-4 years ago, when the BJP was in power, they issued some order by which you heard the word “Vande Mataram” everytime you picked up a phone to dial somebody. Does a coining of a slogan make anybody patriotic? Similarly the founding fathers of the constitution coined the word “Satyameva Jayate”. Today, even a child knows that the single most discredited people in this context are the politicians. I even recall reading somewhere that Mrs Sonia Gandhi had expressed surprise and concern that the mere mention of the word politician implied corruption.

Anybody can coin a slogan and shout over the rooftops but does that change anything.? Endless verbal gymnastics over  anon-issue  is nothing but a lot of intellectual masturbation. If the Mahatma had the advantage of today’s information revolution and mass communication,  he would have become popular at least four times faster. Former Lintas chairman Mr Alyque Padamsee in his book, “A double life says” Gandhiji also had this incredible knack of speaking in homilies and one=liners. Like “An eye for an eye making the whole world blind” is a marvelous summation of  non-violence. In my opinion, one of the greatest slogans coined in our country is “Quit India”. In just two words, it gave all Indians a nationalistic rally point. A good slogan emotionalizes the message. It acts as a guiding star.”

The difference is that the Mahatma blended style and substance very well and nearly always walked the talk by saying things like “Be the change that you would like to see in the world.” Even if you compare the Mahatma ;s integrity as a lawyer to some of today’s lawyers, it really makes you wonder what is the point in endless verbal interactions.. If anybody has read Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography, it is clear that he was a very sincere man where public service was concerned:-

http://mypyp.wordpress.com/2006/02/06/hello-world/

It would not be out of place to mention here that former PM Indira Gandhi had coined the slogan “Garibi hatao” but actually it was former PM Narsimha Rao and his finance minister and current Prime minister Manmohan singh who set the ball rolling by introducing liberalization in 1992 and that too after being forced by circumstances.

Last week, in We, the people on NDTV, Vande Matram happened to be the topic of discussion. In the end, one gentleman summed it up well when he said, “ I have never sung Vande Mataram in my life. Does that mean that I am less patriotic than you?”. It is a foregone conclusion that nobody should either force somebody to sing the song or not sing the song if the person so desires. Using force is stupid and what is the point in superficial singing anyway. I like “Saarre jahan se accha” over the rest and it is my prerogative to sing whichever I want to.

Some politicians say something absurd(baat) to get votes and arouse emotions over a non-issue and some elements in the  media go overboard in verbal chain reactions( baat)  to get more eyeballs rather then using it power to make things more transparent and make public servants more accountable.

The Mahatma did walking before the talking . God knows when another will emerge and walks the talk. We are clearly missing the wood for the trees. It is talk, talk, talk and nothing but talk- it is not Vande Mataram but Bande Baatram. Sab bande(people) bolte hi rahte hain. I hope the trend reverses someday or else , because of non-performance, it may become a case of  Dande laatram( Sticks and kicks till the public servant ticks). This may not be a reflection on all public servants but the general perception in the eyes of the public leaves a lot to be desired.

This blog has the English version of the song along with the videocast and podcast-

http://eazyvg.wordpress.com/2006/09/01/pics-vande-mataram/

(I saw the movie  “lage raho Munnabhai” on 5/9/2006. It reminded me of this post because of the continous references to Gandhiji and Vande maatram in the movie but that’s just a coincidence. It is a very good movie and it is good that movies such as this and Rang De Basanti are at least trying to inculcate a kind of national consciousness and aprising the younger gerneration of the past in a langauage they can relate to.)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.