Archive for September, 2006

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Salute the new wise guy, Lage raho Munnabhai- Bapu ke Lal or Jessica Lall?

September 19, 2006

The word “lal” in hindi implies one’s children and Gandhiji was revered as Bapu(Father) by many. The movie “Lage raho Munnabhai” is a very good attempt at remembering his legacy. The director has tried to show quite humorously how truth and non-violence which is what Gandhiji stood for are still one of the best ways to deal with day to day life situations.

Jessica lall more than anybody else in recent times symbolizes the fight for truth and Justice. Almost the entire mainstream media united in appealing and making presentations for justice when her murderer was adjudged not guilty by the court. Priyadarshini Matto is another case- she was raped and murdered by the son of a police officer who again managed to get away because of a priviledged background. In a country where the father of the nation is deemed an apostle of truth and non-violence and whose professional integrity as a lawyer is unquestionable, such incidents are clearly a blot on his unique legacy.

The Times of India supplement September 17,2006 in an article “Gandhi kaun hai” states that though a majority of Indians still believe in a peaceful way out in settling a dispute, a whopping 64% of Indians and 90% Delhiites believe that Gandhigiri does not work anymore.

The Chairman of Infosys, Mr Narayan Murthy, a man known as much for his integrity as for his numerous achievements in the software Industry admits in the book “Business Gurus speak”, “Since all our operations were outside, we had very few operations here(India) and had no need to bribe anyone. Maybe we would have done it, if forced to by circumstances. Every corporation can take only a limited amount of nuisance; beyond that it becomes very difficult“. One has to admire Mr Murthy’s forthrightness in admitting this.

Speaking from my own experience, the best boss(an outstanding CEO and later very successful businessman) that I worked under told me once that ” I draft a legal agreement with the assumption that the entire world is a cheat.” He said that that is the best way to be safe because practically everybody cheats.

Exactly the same words were mentioned by a lady on NDTV in a program on Karan Johar’s “Kabhi alvida na kehnai” . She was talking in the context of extra marital affairs and said that eveyrbody who thinks that he can get away with it cheats.Cheating is something that has become so common that one is more surprised when it does not happen. A government organization’s “commission” almost trippled over a decade.

It’s an all pervasive culture- some doctors misguide patients for money, some lawyers delay cases deliberately for money, some chartered accountants collude with the taxmen and fleece the client etc. Some teachers force tuitions on their students, one gets to hear corruption by the police now and then and one has even heard of some elements in the media indulging in corruption of a different kind. One wonders how “Gandhigiri” can work with such people . The question very often is “Who polices the police, who educates the educationists, who watches the watchdog, who makes law for the lawmakers etc or to sum up “Who keeps the keeper? They remind you of one of the all time great songs of Hindi Cinema from the movie Amar prem Chingari koi Bhadke(taken from http://www.youtube.com):-

The whole song, which has one of the best lyrics of all times tries to explain that if the people who are responsible for certain duties do the exact opposite, nobody can save you. Not only Gandhigiri but nothing can work in a situation like this. God alone knows what the proportion of such people in the total is- whether they are an exception or the rule? The legal system being perceived as “remedy being worse than the disease“, the common man feels stifled and helpless.

Well known management consultant Arindam Chaudhary uses the words “practically defunct judiciary” and “inefficient and lethargic judicial system on perpetual strike for all practical purposes” in his book “Count your chickens before they hatch”. It sounds like a sweeping statement and one can’t help wondering how far it is true. Not only in the Judiciary but elsewhere, people take their professions for granted. One’s occupation sustains oneself emotionally(for a majority of waking hours)and financially and one should have the highest regard for it.

Contrast this to what is said in Gandhi’s autobiography(those not inclined can skip),
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” 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”

Gandhiji’s views on funds management-” Carefully kept accounts are a sine qua non for every organization. Without them, it falls into disrepute. Without properly kept accounts it is impossible to maintian truth in its pristine purity” . Gandhi always insisted on receipts being given on the amounts paid.

Gandhiji’s views on truthfulness in business- ” I strongly contested my merchant friends views when they said that business was a very practical thing and that pure truth was out of question in business. I reminded tham that their conduct in foreign land is how Iindians would be judged in general.”
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Sometime back, there was another movie called ‘Maine Gandhi ko nahin mara” which stated how Indians remember the father of the nation only during his birth and death anniversaries. The truth is that he and his legacy have been murdered in a variety of ways and there can be a post on each of them. He being a lawyer, apart from “Truth” being explored above, our laws merit some detailed mention:-

In our colony. some people have let out their property to Banks. This causes traffic problems of Herculean proportions. About a week back, I received a call from the security to remove my car. I was surprised as I had parked it in the right place and said so in so many words. A young lady pleaded “You maybe right but I am very late and my children are waiting. Please remove your car and let me go”. She was almost on the verge of tears and I had no alternative but to remove the car. Banks in the immediate neighborhood apart, someone had dumped the construction material nearby(with no fear of the law) which compounded the problem considerably. Traffic is a daily nuisance and it probably takes even the bank customers more time to park the car and go back than the time spent in the bank. What can one do if the laws themselves are idiotic? Why allow any commercial activity in a residential area? The resident welfare association had once closed one gate in desperation as a result of which some people could not back to their own houses after going to the local club and were up in arms. This can have an endless spiral in stupidity but the basic fact remains- why are such stupid laws there in the first place? Some years ago, there was an article in a magazine by the name of “The law is an ass” which gave details of stupid and obsolete laws. Can “Gandhigiri” work in such cases? Indian businesmmen often complain of default in payments. In the United states, anybody can purchase anybody’s credit for a nominal sum and nobody tries to fool around with their credit history as everything runs on credit. Why can’t such laws be introduced here?
There must be donkey number of such cases where people have to face mental and emotional rapes without any hope for justice. It may not be possible for everybody to be as truthful as Gandhiji was but at least we can have sane laws.

I have always admired Gandhiji for his integrity and his sincerity. Some of his views on giving more emphasis to rural India have also proved correct. On the negative side, some of his conduct against the leaders who were against his non-violent policy leaves a lot to be desired. His family also suffered because of some of his obsessions. Forcing “Prohibition”(in Gujarat) on poor gujjus like us some of whom believe in enjoying their drink is actually a farce which is why maximum bootlegging deaths occur in cities like Baroda. Thank god they did not similarly try to impose his views on sex.

In Ganghigiri’s context, no system is infallible and if you need a Gandhi against a Churchill, you need a Churchill against a Hitler. No one strategy works all the time; it is the situation which dictates the leadership style. Lord Krishna himself orchestrated the Mahabharat(epic war) because the situation demanded it. One must mention here that the leadership likely to succeed in the stress filled 21st century -mother and servant leadership is similar to Gandhiji’s style. Gandhigiri maybe back in business not just in reel but in real life as well.

Today(25/9/2006), six days after the original post, I came across an interesting post which stated how Gandhigiri had failed with Pakistan(I had read similar posts after the recent Bombay blasts and some even suggested that we should follow Israel):-

http://o3.indiatimes.com/worldofpickledpolitics/archive/2006/09/24/1711337.aspx

It reminded me of what the Mahatma had said once which I wish I had mentioned earlier. Gandhiji had once specified in the context of the Hindu-Muslim riots ” ‘Ahimsa’ does not imply that when your sisters are getting raped, you standby and do nothing. That is not Ahimsa but cowardliness”. One has to see the situation and then act instead of being overobsessed with any one strategy, whatever it maybe.

Movies like “Lage raho Munnabhai” and “Rang de basanti” are very good symbolisms but some of our problems are too deep rooted and need a surgical operation. These problems cannot be solved by token symbolism no matter how much we eulogize the father of the nation.

I am a firm believer in “Without danger, one cannot go beyond danger”. When things go completely out of control, maybe Gandhi II will emerge from the teeming millions of India once again to our rescue. It is said that the hour produces the man. Till then, while trying to solve our problems and live like “Bapu ke Lal”, we have no option but to suffer like Jessica lall.
This post has an excellent presentation of both podcast and videocast
Remembering the Mahatma
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After I wrote this, while bloging I came across a couple of more websites
Indian legal system
Teachers disgrace

This corroborates what is written earlier. How can Gandhigiri or anything work if people do the opposite of what they are supposed to be doing. One only hopes that such people are in minority.

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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.)