Archive for July, 2009

India, undoubtedly, is one of the largest democracies in the world. And, in terms of free and fair elections at all levels, India may be way ahead of other democratic giants. Central elections, state elections, district level, city level, you name it, we have them. On top of it, the trade unions have their own shows. And of course, elections for various positions held by taxi drivers, autorickshaw wallahs and so on.

But the age-old definition: “by the people, of the people, for the people” would not be accepted in toto. Much water has flowed under the bridge since India attained independence and gone are the days when even a child could tell you the name of all political parties that existed.

Now it has narrowed down to, “by this caste or that caste, of this caste or that caste and for this caste or that caste”. It is no longer for the people of India as such. Even the classification of people as rich, middle-class or poor is no longer accepted. The general view is that if one belongs to the so-called forward caste, they have to fight it out no matter how rich or poor they are. For the rest, there are so many benefits from the government’s side. And to make sure that they get these benefits continuously they have their own parties. One of their hobbies is to force the government to get loans for various purposes. Then they will hold demonstrations to force the government to write-off these loans. What these people fail to understand is that the dependence on countless concessions and reservations will rob the individuals of their self confidence or the will to come up in life on their own.

Nilgiris Mountain Rails

It coincides with my evening walk

If I fail to keep pace with the long whistle

It would have crossed the bridge near the lake

And entered the first tunnel. But the noise

And puffs of smoke still linger in the sky.

On such days, I skip the sight-seeing stops

And hurry along the zig-zag road

Till the second tunnel comes into view

And I heave a sigh of relief,

For I was there just when it was crawling into the tunnel.

 

That’s about the Ooty-Coonoor train

Just a short distance, and no one cares

Not even the kids. But to me it is a craze.

 

The joy and excitement are manifold

When you are in it

More so, if you occupy a window seat

In the Mettupalayam-bound express

The show starts from the word ‘go’.

As soon as you pass the Ooty lake

You feel as if there was a power failure

Nothing to worry. The train is passing through

The first of the fourteen tunnels

But get ready for nature’s live telecast

Rows of trees welcome you

With a nod of their heads, but

The band masters capture your attention.

Sitting on the shoulders of the trees

They play the tunes you like!

Hills, Valleys, Hills, Valleys

Tells the train which moves at snail’s pace

As it leaves the Coonoor station

You may spot wicked monkeys jumping from tree to tree.

And down there the cattle leisurely grazing.

Wow, you see a wayside station down there

It is not the next station but the next to the next.

Suddenly the train gathers speed

And you realize it is bye, bye to the hills!

What’s special about this railway?

You may ask

The answer is it runs on narrow tracks

We have just a couple of them in India

You are in the plains now….

All in one; And one for all—The Newspapers

The demand for newspapers (or print media, as they call it) is diminishing all over the world, specially in developed countries. We have ever so many news channels on TV and on top of this, we have the all-embracing computer. Then, why on earth do you expect us to buy or read a newspaper which comes a day after the actual happenings. You are dumbfounded and change the topic.

But, old is gold. The newspaper readers are well-informed than those who hurry through internet or watch things on TV. This is not an old-timer’s self satisfying statement but an undeniable fact. The first advantage is leisurely reading. Then you are very comfortable. You can sit on your bed or arm chair stretching your legs so that you won’t be tempted to skip certain news items. Then there are weekly supplements which cover a wide range of topics, catering to the tastes of people of all ages; but, the one which needs special mention is the supplement meant for kids and teenagers. They are very informative and encouraging and, above all, give the kids an opportunity to exhibit their talents. So, do not underestimate the importance of the print media.

Hillary Clinton’s visit to India

The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton’s visit to India would’ve helped the two countries come closer on various bilateral and international issues; but if you are to look beyond these official matters we see a charismatic lady who is at ease with anyone she comes across. And, when she chats with them it is devoid of any self-imposed inhibitions….and she listens to them with the same spirit.

She sprang a pleasant surprise while addressing an audience, mostly students and teachers on the Delhi University campus.  It was as simple as quoting a couple of lines from a poem. But there is an incredible story behind it. Way back in 1995 when Ms. Clinton visited India as the US first lady she received a poem written by a college girl and sent through the principal of the college. The lines recited by Ms. Clinton were from the same poem which was presented to her in 1995. Now have a look at those lines quoted by Ms, Clinton:

“Too many women in too many countries

Speak the same language of silence”

Obama’s inspiring speech

 Plenty of concessions, reservations and freebies aimed at the emancipation of the poor and the down trodden will serve a limited purpose but if you expect these people to scale great heights you need an inspiring person like Barack Obama. He is humble, humorous, sincere and above all serious when he is in the midst of ordinary people who need a helping hand. He won’t say, “I have set apart a huge amount for your welfare” or “I will see that you people get some good jobs after your studies”. Rather, he would say, “no excuses, no excuses”. Of course, he has got an ‘amen corner back there’ to inspire him, but he is focused on what he expects them to do. He wants the less fortunate kids to come out of their shells and hitch their wagons to the stars, “I want them aspiring to be scientists, engineers and doctors and not just batters and rappers…” “I want them aspiring to be president of USA.”

It was a challenge…..a friendly challenge and not a soft and sympathetic speech which would receive a round of applause but nothing much to write home about.

Oh, I forgot to mention an important fact. The venue was New York, Hilton. The occasion was the hundredth anniversary of NAACP and the protagonist was, of course, Mr. Obama.

Fore Sight!

1

When the rain out-shone the sun!

It was a marathon innings
The rain was going great guns
And, at stumps he’ was not out

The sun was at his wits’ end…
Bumper, Beamer, Yorker
Inswinger outswinger
And all other weapons in his arsenal
Produced no result. The rain hit them…
All over the park
And, the umpires were busy
Signalling fours and sixes
Or nodding their heads to say “Not out”
To half-hearted appeals from the Sun
On a couple of occasions the rain was nearly trapped
And the crowd saw sun’s smiling face
But that was all.

“The rain is on his Home ground”
said a commentator. “Yeah, He is the hero.
On a wet pitch” said the other.
“And, the sun is a zero” said they
in a subdued voice, rather jokingly.

Religion and government

Every religion sticks to certain practices which are not relevant in modern age. Some religions are so rigidly attached to such practices that they won’t compromise on them, come what may. Any attempt to violate or disobey the religious codes which include the dress you wear will be dealt with severely. But interestingly most of the dos and don’ts are applicable to women.

Since religion is a sensitive issue the matters relating to it have to be handled sensibly. Your intention may be good but the way you want to bring about the changes often meet with loud protest till you drop the idea. The burqa affair in France would not have triggered a heated debate if it were handled sensibly. There is a tendency among people to violate the rules imposed by the government but on the other hand if there was no compulsion, those concerned may not be keen on adhering to these religious practices. The pity is that most of the religions are more concerned about the material aspects rather than the spiritual part of the religions.

Mega serials

Mega serials on TV in native languages have become very popular in India. If you go to any house between 6.00 PM and 10.00 PM you won’t get any attention. With an artificial smile someone will open the door and let you in and then rush to his or her chair. If at all you get any attention, it is between short commercial breaks.

Every mega serial runs into hundreds of episodes but the stories are, invariably, the same, the characters, the same though the actors may differ.

All are based on business rivalry and the business is construction of buildings for some IT companies. Of the rivals, one is too honest and principled and the other is dishonest to the core and brutal. He has his henchmen in every nook and corner and even in the police department. Of course, the good wins over the evil forces but has to wait till the final episode after undergoing a series of problems created by the villianous rival.

The small screen stars may not be as popular as the movie stars but are good looking and educated. Whether you like it or not the mega serials have created job opportunities to thousands of educated youngsters.

Religious leaders condemn gay sex

Ever since the Delhi high court declared section 377 of the Indian penal code unconstitutional and decriminalized unnatural sex among consenting adults (gay marriage, to be precise), there have been heated debates on this issue. The country witnessed celebrations in some places following the judgement and also strong criticism from those who were of the view that the judgement was legalizing an immoral practice. Of course, the verdict of the Delhi high court has been challenged through a special leave petition and the supreme court has taken up the same.

Whatever may the fate of this issue, one cannot ignore an important and healthy trend generated by it. May be for the first time in recent times all the religious leaders have condemned the high court judgement, that too in a joint statement at a press conference in which they have, interalia said, “such unhealthy attempts are totally unacceptable in a country which has rich cultural and ethical traditions.” If the religious unity survives India will be free from communal tensions.