Saturday, February 07, 2015

Delhi Polls: Fool me once, shame on Kejriwal . . .

It's time for Delhi to mean business, again. It was last year that Arvind Kejriwal, the famous revolutionary who came riding on the shoulders of Anna Hazare, took the Delhi electorate by storm and took to the reigns with much fanfare. There were new ministers, new MLAs, a new Chief Minister, and Delhi elections gave a new formula for politics that the world was fascinated with.

Fast forward to the 50th day after the swearing in, and Kejriwal was gone - but not for good. After the cameo came another shot at governance - and this time, at the national level. And it was not too difficult to see the designs of "Aam Aadmi Party", the new kid on the political block that was powered by the disillusionment of the common man but was controlled and directed by hidden agenda and vested interests. Kejriwal took the gamble, and had not much to lose anyway - it was only a matter of time then before Congress found a reason to trip AAP down, and if he clicks, it could be a shot at the Prime Minister's Office.

It is history that AAP could not ride the Modi Wave, and was virtually left with just a hollow structure, with many prominent faces revolting, some jumping ships, and many questioning Kejriwal's leadership style and capability.

Back to the present, Delhi votes today. Many would have written the Aam Aadmi off, for the blunders that Arvid Kejriwal and his ad hoc team have done for self-serving purposes and to suit, obviously, personal ambitions and, not-so-obviously, vested interests. Could a political party and movement form, survive and sustain spontaneously unless it was deliberately and persistently directed? But then, here is AAP, apparently giving BJP a run for its money. The Aam Aadmi Party, after all, is the common man only in name - it is nether common nor honest when it comes to the sources of its power and the purpose of its promoters.

And if AAP does snatch Delhi again from the reaches of BJP and returns the national capital to chaotic status quo, there is no point blaming Kejriwal now. Delhi, you have had one full year to judge this guy and know what he is. And if you still vote for AAP merely because Arvind Kejriwal has the gift of the gab to twist facts around and give them political shades, could turn the questions back and deflect them on to the questioner, justify every atrocious stance and all the turns that he takes with unscrupulous sleight, stick to the same rhetoric without offering solutions, resort to blame game and tap into popular dissent with reality, stay in the media limelight and subtly play the communal card, please do not blame him.

There is one mistake that Kejriwal would not repeat this time if he does win the Delhi elections: you wouldn't see his back in 49 days, but you would have to live with his dramatics for five full years - and the cost that it would entail is anybody's guess! If that is what you want, that is what you would deserve. Fool me twice, shame on Delhi!     

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Pick of the Month: Conversions and Re-conversions! #Gharwapsi

Of all the tweets, this guy has created a gem! And given the spectacular nature of the tweet, and going by the age-old wisdom that a picture is worth a thousand words, let me keep this post to the minimum, and leave the rest to the reader's good judgement.

When the Indian parliament has been stalled by hopeless hapless opposition, raking up the spectre of "Ghar Wapsi", little did they know that Twitter is faster than mainstream media, or that social media, unlike its traditional counterpart, could not be bought.

For a country that has been a fertile hunting ground and an evergreen pasture for religious zealots from the world over, there is at least one honest "soul" that has announced to the world, what has been happening for well over a few centuries.

Keith Stevens, Pray for our Pastures, indeed!

Monday, December 29, 2014

The PK Controversy

My posts have been dwindling in number these days, and I hardly have time to blog about movies. But this movie did it - PK!

To begin with, let me make it clear - this is not a PK movie review. That the movie has had rave reviews is no news any more; nor is it anything strange that Aamir Khan's movie has been raking in the money for its producers. And it would be utterly unremarkable to state that Rajkumar Hirani has again succeeding in tickling the funny bone in an absolutely subtle way.

But is that the only feat that he has achieved subtly? Here are a few questions to ponder when you have come out happily after watching the latest Aamir Khan starrer.

The movie is named PK. Can you think of any country that is associated with the letters PK?

There are many instances featured in the movie ridiculing Hindu religious practices. The movie is supposed to be driving sense into people, against superstition and the negative tenets of religion. If this is a secular movie as it is projected to be, why have all religions not been equally depicted? Why is Hinduism being meted out special treatment in a movie that parodies religion per se?

We all know how neutral, genuine, secular and impeccable NDTV's reporting is. So, why would NDTV rate PK 5 stars?

Is every situation in the movie justified? One of the scenes that has stirred up controversies, for instance, features an artiste posing as Lord Shiva, getting caught up with the alien Aamir Khan in the loo, and trying to escape the menacing alien by running away from him, desperately seeking help. Would Rajkumar Hirani have had the guts to depict the divine messengers from other religions in this fashion?

The movie plot exposes a Hindu religious leader's chicanery. The movie also proclaims that not every Pakistani is a defaulter. So, why does it not take the pain to clarify that not every Hindu preacher is a conman? And how about preachers of other religions?

PK asks for answers from every Hindu idol and finds no response. Could he have also prayed to every other religious place and displayed his despair? Could he have also posted pictures of missing Gods other religions? Was that so difficult to depict in a self-professed secular, rational movie?

Yes, there are mentions of "building the temple", there are references to terrorism, conversion, etc. But they are fleeting, superficial, and lacking in depth. Of course, the entire story-line of PK lacks depth, with a simple agenda of maligning and ridiculing one cultural group, while seemingly embracing the message of love against separatism. But why has the message not been equitably distributed across all cultural / religious groups?

Is it because the reactions to such misadventures would be so enormous that the very release of the movie could be jeapordised if other religious practices were ridiculed to the extent that Hinduism has been taken on in this movie? Is it because Hinduism has become a soft target that could take any amount of beating and thrashing, or is it because of some ulterior motive?

There are many better ways of spreading the message of religious harmony than this increasing trend of Hindu-bashing. And it may not just end there. There is a depiction of an elderly Sikh man who lies for the sake of his wife's luxury, a scene that is complete out of context and unwarranted.

PK, when he discovers that not every Mahatma Gandhi's picture would get him the barter, throws Gandhi's pictures on the ground, littering it around one by one. Could there have been a better way of doing that than in a way that could be seen as desecrating the Mahatma?

While everyone in India has been portrayed in a bad light (apart from Anushka Sharma, who happens to be the only person to give money to PK the alien than take money), the embassy officials in Pakistan have been shown to be one lovely lot, peaceful and harmonious, sweet and jubilant.

So, that brings us back to the first question: The movie is named PK. Can you think of any country that is associated with the letters PK?

That makes us think further - who is funding Bollywood? After all, a director would want to thank his producer. Subramanian Swamy's tweet aptly questions the funding part of this controversial PK.

PK, the movie, is not just satire. It is not just cheeky in its stated message. It is not just subtle in spreading the message of peace and harmony. To the contrary, it has only stirred up religious sentiments, particularly among the Hindu and Sikh communities. PK is one more of those cunning narratives that camouflages as harmless expression of art, delivering a vicious stab at a culture and belief system, with a knife coated in humour and innocence.

So, Aamir Khan, Rajkumar Hirani, and the crew involved in producing PK, here is the bottom line: Spread the love, be equitable and stay positive. The world deserves better.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Prime Minister Narendra Modi - The Moment of Truth!

After ages of stagnation that was creating an atmosphere of suffocating toxicity, there is one ground breaking phenomenon that has taken the Indian political, and quite possibly its socio-economic, landscape by storm. Narendra Modi has been invited to be sworn in the 15th Prime Minister of this ancient nation. And the results of the Indian elections could not have been better for a country that has been entangled in the web of a seemingly irreversible route to coalition politics.

Narendra Modi as Prime Minister of India, holds much more importance in the larger scheme of things, to the way India has taken shape over its recent history. While a vast section of vested interests may want to hijack the turn of events by painting a picture of uncertainty, and possible gloom and even devastation, for the minority, it is questionable if squinted views and deliberate vilification could be justified by having such a narrow perspective of what the event signifies.

Well, let the world have its own view - here is what the turn of events mean for India, from the rather superficial vision of Clearway!


1. It is the beginning of the end of Dynasty Politics in India.

Would someone remind our lawmakers that India is not a monarchy and that it is supposed to be a democracy? If Narendra Modi can deliver on the promised and beyond, this could well be the beginning of end of one of the most nauseating features that could haunt a democracy - the dynasty. Nothing could be more unfortunate than a country of over a billion not being able to find its leader beyond one family.

2. India would now have a Prime Minister!

For the uninitiated, we have had a care-taker Prime Minister for an extended period of 10 years before Mr Narendra Modi fills the gap. Dr Manmohan Singh is an economist; what on earth did he have to do with leading a nation? Having said that, it is fortunate that India remained safe from external aggression for the two terms that India remained without a full-time Prime Minister at its helm!

3. India would now have a leader who could decide - and talk!

Since we did not have a Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh did not have permissions from the High Command to give detailed press conferences or statements. He occasionally broke his silence using terse comments such as "Mind your Negativity" when he sensed adversity in public mood. Modi, on the other hand, has been willing to take the bull by its horns. It is his humble beginnings, the hardships that made him rise to prominence, and the way he has had to counter criticism and bullying by vested interests, that perhaps give him the edge - he does not have to learn to be tough.

4. Vilification has its limits.

 After all, since Ram Mandir is no longer the core agenda for BJP, everyone else had to group around, and latch on to, the massacre in Gujarat. It did not matter that the courts found Modi not culpable; the negative campaign in the country coupled with the United States of America, along with other nations, virtually boycotting him. It is a different issue now as to how the US could extend its invitation to a person who was banned from its territories, while nothing else has changed apart from the fact that Narendra Modi is no longer the Chief Minister of a State but would shortly be declared the Prime Minister of a powerful nation. But then, when did the United States hold principles above political, economic and strategic benefits?

But the case in point is, vilification is not without limits. And there is only so far that propaganda could go.

So, is it all pleasure and no pain? Is there a flip side to the golden coin?

1. For the BJP, the enemy lies within:

It is now that Modi's real test begins. For a party that has been deprived of power at the centre for so long, and for an ideology that is made to look criminal by vested interests, it is easy to be carried away and be swayed by the force of the tide in its favour. The first job for Modi as Prime Minister would be to rein in his own cadre and restrain the over-zealous from needless adventurism. It is good to be vociferous while in the opposition, but governance is responsibility.

2. The country is different from a state:

What worked in Gujarat, or the way it has been featured and projected, would invariably be difficult to replicate in a large, diverse, and difficult country like India. If Modi has stood for development in his state, he would have to prove that it was not by chance, but by good intent and design. He has been blessed with an unparalleled advantage this time - not many leaders would have the freedom of absolute majority, without having to play to the coalition gallery. But then, the very nature of expectation is that it comes with massive scope for disappointments - and portraying larger-than-life images is much easier than living up to it.

 3. A leader has to be inclusive:

And Modi can be no different, especially in an era of information technology and communication, where a new generation of voters is claimed to have powered the BJP to an absolute majority in the parliament. From the looks of it, the electorate has changed - and suppression would no longer be tolerated. It is important for a leader to demonstrate that he stands for equality, and any form of discrimination has to be off-limits. Will Modi demonstrate an undeterred willingness to be inclusive?

4. Calling the shots:

So, Narendra Modi is able to make decisions, he could be inclusive, he would foster economic development, create jobs, appeal to the youth, rein in the rogue elements within, keep enemies at bay, and develop international relations. All good. But how independent would he be in calling the shots, despite the absolute majority? How much influence would the RSS have with time in issues of governance?

It clearly needs not just decisive action on the part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but also a fine balancing act to deliver what has been asked of him. Modi has certainly hit the ground running and set off in style by this extra-ordinary gesture of inviting foreign heads of states for his swearing-in on May 26th. If you are to set the ball rolling in the right direction in the external affairs arena, this is the way to go!

And if at all there was something that was evident from Narendra Modi's emotional speech in the BJP's parliamentary party meet, it was his sincerity of intent and earnestness towards his job.

Is governance much more than emotional speeches? Yes, of course it is. But here we have someone who has a track record to show, one who has had humble beginnings and not from the dynasty, has risen through the ranks, and promises to show earnestness in intent and decisiveness in action.


This is not even day one, and he has a full five years to deliver consistently and try to beat the sky-high expectations. Given the controversies that have mired his past with views and counter views, given the mixed signals that RSS has managed to emanate over the years, considering the sizeable and complex challenges that lie ahead, and given the fact that there are more detractors hoping he would falter than any of the other recent Prime Ministers of India have had, Modi has to walk a long distance, and a tight rope in that!

But then, if you would not bet on this guy, who else would you bet on?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Murder at Farrukhabad: This is NOT about Arvind Kejriwal, Anna Hazare, Robert Vadra, Salman Khurshid etc . . .

Inspired by current affairs and needing a change from the boring realities of Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, Anjali Damania, YP Singh, Robert Vadra, Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, Arun Jaitley, Salman Khurshid, Beni Prasad, Laloo Prasad and Nitin Gadkari, Clearway wanted to produce an apolitical movie of a different genre. 

It had to be a horror movie, but should also have humour in it. It should be absurd, but should also be realistic. It should have no hero - but the audience should keep guessing who the hero is. And there should be many characters who may turn out to be positive or negative. There are no heroines, but there are many female characters. There are many comedians, and finally, lots and lots of bad guys - the villains.

Clearway approached some of the popular personalities in the Indian film industry with this mandate. Here is how the discussion took place.

(Disclaimer: All characters in this post are fictitious. Resemblance to any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental)

Name of the Film: "Who wants to be a Multi-Billionaire! (Kaun banega Multi-crorepati!)" or, "Murder at Farrukhabad"

Directed by: Arvind Bejri Lal
Producer: Anna Hazaar
Music composed by: YP Sing 
Dialogues: Samman Furshid
Lyrics: Samman Furshid
Locations: Farrukhabad; New Delhi, Haryana
Female Lead: Soni Aandhi
Female Character: Anjali D' Mania
Editor (and comedian): Man Mahaan Sinha
Villain 1: Rob Varda
Villain 2: Samman Furshid 
Comedian 1: Nitin Adhikari
Comedian 2: Aalo Prasad
Comedian 3: Veni Prasaar
Character Artist: Adun Jet Lee
Promotion Partners: India Tomorrow

Arvind Bejri Lal: Samman Furshid, I want a comical dialogue for a serious situation.
Samman Furshid: Is that a question or a statement? There is no substance in what you say.

Arvind Bejri Lal: No, it is an instruction. I want a dialogue before 1st of November, 2012. We will reach the location (Farrukhabad) by then.
Samman Furshid: Okay, shall I arrange for the shooting at Farrukhabad? I know some men in the street there.

Arvind Bejri Lal: No. You are the actor and dialogue writer. How can you arrange for shooting? It's so unbecoming of you and your designation to arrange for shooting.
Samman Furshid: You speak with much disrespect, Arvind Bejri Lal. I think you need to learn a lesson or two.

Man Mahaan Sinha: Why this mindless negativity?
Arvind Bejri Lal: There is no negativity. My wife is in God's hands, so I can go to Farrukhabad and work peacefully.

Samman Furshid: You can go to Farrukhabad. But how will you come back?
Adun Jet Lee: I strongly object. We should focus on the movie and complete the picture. The producer, Anna Hazaar, already seems uninterested in the film. How can Samman Furshid ask such questions?

Man Mahaan Sinha: Why this mindless negativity?
Anna Hazaar: You see, Arvind Bejri Lal, I already told you I do not want to produce this movie. You convinced me. When you print posters, please do not use my name as Producer.

Samman Furshid: Why should I give you the answer you want? What I say is the answer. You have no right to ask me. And I will repeat this 71 lakh times.
Veni Prasaar: 71 lakh times is too small for a dialogue writer. I do not believe you.

Arvind Bejri Lal: I will go to Farrukhabad and come back the same way. And Samman Furshid, isn't your home there? We will start the film's publicity from your home town.
Samman Furshid: You do whatever you want. I will write my own story. Since this is a horror story, I will fill my pen with blood and write it. 

Anjali D' Mania: I think we should also have a scene where the villains take away my land.
Aalo Prasad: Take away? Why can't we eat in?

Arvind Bejri Lal: Anjali, you be with me. We will work on the movie. Samman Furshid is more interested in shooting rather than writing. He has no idea about the legal formalities involved in the movie.
Rob Varda: Hey Mango People, why don't you eat some bananas before you work?

Arvind Bejri Lal: Rob, the whole movie is about you and your banana. We will finish the movie before we eat.
Rob Varda: Okay, if you have problems going to Farrukhabad, why don't you change the location to Haryana? I have some ancestral properties there which I bought two years back. I sold it again, but I have some remaining land also. May be you could use it for your film location? I also know some people in DLF Film City. Or you could go to Himachal. My wife has some properties there too.

Anna Hazaar: Arvind Bejri Lal, I told you movie is scum. Whatever you do, do not use my name as Producer when you print posters for the film.
Man Mahaan Sinha: Why this mindless negativity?

Samman Furshid: I think we should hold a press conference. I will conduct a reverse sting.
Nitin Adhikari: Reverse swing only Manoj Prabhakar can do. I do not know anything about it. I'm not even a businessman. I find it laughable. 

Anjali D' Mania: Nitin Adhikari, you should first give me my land before you give compensation to Adi Vasis, That's the first scene in the movie.
Arvind Bejri Lal: You hold all the responsibility, Nitin. You are the comedian, do not act like a villain.

Adun Jet Lee: Look Arvind Bejri Lal, we should get a U Certificate for the film, not an A Certificate or a Parental Guidance Certificate. So, whomever you expose, be responsible in the exposure. 
Anna Hazaar: Before talking of exposure, first bring an impartial Censor Board. I will fast till the Censor Board is ready. My path is different from Arvind.

YP Sing: Arvind Bejri Lal, we both planned the movie together two years back. But you started directing and left me to be the music director. I want to ask you, why are you giving such a huge role to a Comedian like Nitin Adhikari? You should focus on the main villain, Sarda Power.
Man Mahaan Sinha: Why this mindless negativity?

Soni Aandhi: Man Mahaan Sinha, you shut up. You can't say anything more than that. Now onwards, you don't say that too. It's only because of my efforts that the film has come to this stage. 
Rob Varda: Everyone is forgetting me. This Samman Furshid came up with stupid dialogues and stole the show. For once, I was in the news. Now, no one is talking about me. Should I go back to Haryana?

Samman Furshid: I can show you photos of my previous works. My wife maintains the complete report and records.
Veni Prasaar: Samman Furshid, I will believe you if you say that 71 crore times. 71 lakh times is small change for you.

Nitin Adhikari: I agree. Small change.
Arvind Bejri Lal: I object. It may be small change for you. But for me, this movie is a big change. After Farrukhabad, I want to go to Delhi.

Samman Furshid: You can go to Farrukhabad. But how will you come back?
Soni Aandhi: Samman Furshid, you go ahead and arrange for murder at Farrukhabad, er, I mean, shooting at Farrukhabad. I have asked Man Mahaan Sinha to keep quiet from now onwards. If possible, finish the shooting at Farrukhabad itself. 

Arvind Bejri Lal: My wife is in God's hands. And there will be a hundred Arvind Bejri Lal's after me.
YP Sing: I am one of them. But I will expose more than what you can, even if the film gets A Certificate. Where is Sarda Power?

Rob Varda: Soni Aandhi, shall I go ahead with my call sheet? I had only fifty films two years back, but now, I have 500. I have to increase it to 5000 films.
Soni Aandhi: Samman Furshid, you take care of Arvind Bejri Lal and YP Sing. Do you have enough blood, er, ink in your pen for two?

Samman Furshid: Why not? I can get more if I need. I can import from Oxford. You go ahead, I will finish the shooting at Farrukhabad.
Anna Hazaar: Arvind Bejri Lal, I told you not to start the film. Whatever happens, do not put my name in any poster. I'm going to fast from tomorrow for a proper Censor Board. Vande Mataram!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Mind Your Negativity: From Bofors to Robert Vadra, All is Well!

Sorry Prime Minister, it's our selfishness to blame, not your incapacity!

The national mood has not slumped to such negativity in recent memories. Clouds of gloom have descended on the sensitive citizen who is aware, on the responsible person who cares. When the Prime Minister talks of mindless negativity, he does have a point. 

India against corruption has become larger than life. And the nation is beleaguered, if the Government were deemed to represent the nation. But then, it's been a long while since the government assumed responsibility for the nation. At least, that's the popular belief, and the message that goes out to the common man. Corruption in India has long been an issue, with publications accounting for corruption in British India. But that was perhaps because the state was in a state of flux, with changes rampant and things transient at their best - the British rule was challenged by Indian patriots who were determined at winning freedom at any cost. Friction creates room for negativity. When the rule of autocracy is established, there would be forces that undermine the rule, and there would be insiders who would indulge in profiteering from the resultant friction.

But it's been 65 years since India got its freedom from colonialism. And democracy is no autocracy. It is supposed to be representative of every citizen, give shape to every dream, and provide a common vision for progress. Did the Indian state achieve such lofty ideals in a period of over six decades? Forget lofty ideals, now it is a question of mere ideas. Does the state have ideas? Does the government have a plan? Is the system functional at all?

To be able to run a government and manage a country is not a joke. It becomes an even more serious affair, when the country in question is India, with its tremendous population and population density, enormous languages, diverse religions, various philosophies, and intense politics. Any issue that is discussed in the parliament has the potential of turning into a sensitive issue. And any party that dreams of forming power at the centre has to be 'mindful' of this reality. Is the government mindful of it, or is it mindless?

While it is difficult to manage a coalition of partners who have their own individual agendas, and their own personalities, what could be said of a government that is relegated to a minority and is literally held to ransom by its allies? With the queen from West Bengal, a former ally, having openly declared war against the ruling coalition, you would expect a skilful politician at the helm to manage the deteriorating state of affairs. Is there any hope left at all?


Surprise! The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was branded an underachiever, well before things turned this bad. "How does it matter?" ask the Congress. "We would brand Obama an underachiever", retaliates the Indian media. The immediate question that arises is, "Does it really matter? Why this mindless negativity?"

Dr Manmohan Singh is an academician, a bureaucrat, but not a politician by any stretch of imagination; and far less is he a leader by any standards. Are we a leaderless country?

"That's fine", some may say. "There are advisers to the Prime Minister, who would guide him through". An article refers to the "Chanakya", Ahmed Patel, personal adviser to the Congress President, Sonia Gandhi. When a country is whacked badly from all sides, eaten by the pests within, rotten by the "mindless negativity", and well in the process of going to the dogs, who is on the lookout for a Chanakya who could help the politicians cover their back sides? We need a warrior who could fight for the nation, not for the politicians. It's War!

And that's what Arvind Kejriwal and Company are up to. When the system is corrupt to the core, when the leadership is drained of its intellect and resolve, when the allies have all but deserted, when the government has been a victim of its own making, all that we could look up to are people like Arvind Kejriwal and his "India against corruption" movement to become the saviour - somehow. This is not the time to measure Mr Kejriwal, to study his personal ambitions, to reflect on his credentials. Salman Khurshid may be more interested in knowing what Arvind Kejriwal's background is, and how he gets his funding. However, that, in reality, would be "mindless negativity".


The ruling coalition once looked like a pack of buffoons. Now, they look like ominous forces in sheep's garb. The list of corruption cases never seems to end, making even Bofors look dwarfed. (By the way, does anyone know Ottavio Quattrochi's whereabouts?) One scam after the other keeps pouring out of the closet. If 2G Scam was huge, the mining scam was monumental, the alleged nexus between Robert Vadra and DLF is phenomenal, the entire "politician-bureaucrat-real estate industry" network that seems to be unravelling in Haryana is only picking up steam, and the alleged wrongdoings of the law minister, Salman Khurshid, is out of this world! Kejriwal did pull a coup in the Robert Vadra episode, what with "Mango People Banana Republic" having become iconic. Would the Congress use the slogan for its election campaign? But then, hey, are we not verging on mindless negativity again? 

Sorry, Prime Minister, but looks like we have been conditioned into negativity. It's not your fault; it's just that we have not been fortunate enough to have a strong leader who could reign in the negative forces. We have not been savvy enough to elect an honest government. We have not been educated enough to read the differences among the good, the bad and the ugly. We have not been responsible enough to say no to corruption. And we have been too busy with our own lives, being so naive to believe that elected representatives would look to our interests, not theirs! It's our selfishness to blame, not your incapacity.

Finally, the Robert Vadra saga seems to have taken a back seat for now, with Salman Khurshid's scandal coming into the limelight. But hey, wait! Is it indeed a scandal, or it is a spectacular display of Salman Khurshid's loyalty to Congress and its President? The law minister has said he was ready to die for the Congress President. So, perhaps, Salman Khurshid and his wife decided to distract attention from the on-going all-out attack on the Sonia family by manufacturing irregularities in their NGO accounts so that the media could take its eyes off Robert Vadra! Should the CAG focus his investigation from such an angle and probe if the irregularities were intentional? Bravo, Salman Khurshid, you have passed the test of loyalty, and your services to Congress would stand the test of time. 

For once, Mr Prime Minister, we have been able to see the positive side of a scandal, and get done with our mindless negativity!

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Molestation of a Woman - You are your Weapon!


Have you ever thought of pepper spray? Has it ever occurred to you that your kitchen knife may prove another useful purpose away from home? Have you given a simple piece of blade, a good, hard look?

What would you do when you decide to walk through a jungle, leaving the safety of a Safari ride, out in the open? Well, that is a question that should follow a decision to walk through the jungle in the first place. After all, when you are on a Safari to watch the wild in its home turf, why would you leave the comfort and the protection behind and put yourself in harm's way?

Reality, however, was never designed to be safe. The society that we live in is a jungle, where the laws of the land are only a farce. The rule of the jungle prevails, and the rulebooks are nothing but an academic pursuit.

It was hardly a couple of months back that a girl was molested in Assam. The incident was caught on camera and it was good fodder for the news bugs for a while - and the culprits were caught. But, how many cameras could present themselves at every such juncture? How many such incidents get reported as and when they happen? What justice do girls like Ritika Rupali have when they decide to walk into the wild, unprotected, ill-equipped, and caught completely off-guard? How many of the girls who get molested in the so-called civilised society would dare to come out in the open like she has? And how would you, your sister, your mother, your wife, your daughter, your girlfriend or your friend react when they find themselves being groped and raped in public by unknown beasts who know they can get away? 

You are part of this society - and you are not insured against risks. You do have a choice to make, however. You can hide away from the dark and pretend to be safe, or you could afford to stray into the wild, armed and protected.

Being forewarned is being forearmed. If you lived in an illusionary world that made you believe that all was well, do a reality check. The world is bad. Period. It's good to be optimistic, but it is wise to be realistic. And it is even better to have your armoury ready, for you would never know when you may need it badly.

You do not get into a battlefield without protective gear. Even sportsmen do not enter the arena unless they are covered for their risks. How covered are you when you walk through lecherous arms and lustful eyes?

Have you ever thought of pepper spray? Has it ever occurred to you that your kitchen knife may prove another useful purpose away from home? Have you given a simple piece of blade a good, hard look?

What could you do with these when you get caught in a crowded train as the girl was caught in? Well, pierce the skin of the hand that touches you. Wield your knife to cause a little friction when dirty arms look for a smooth pass. Spray some pepper in the air to show them there are bad things in life even for bad souls. Let there be some blood!

Yes, you would hurt the wrong guy too when you use your weapons indiscriminately in a crowded place. But that's the cost the society has to bear. That's the lesson that the society has to learn. Why should the victim bear all the cost? Why should the loopholes loom larger than the laws themselves? 

Girls, be gentle and kind to those who understand your language. For those who would listen only to action, do not waste your words. You do not have to scream your lungs off or beg for mercy. Swear words have no meaning for those who know they deserve them. Go on the offensive, and you would have space around you. 

And walk away. Do not stay on to confront those whom you have just fought. This is a jungle - and your safety is never secured unless you are out of it. If it were you on the train, you ought to have wielded your weapon, demanded your space, and walked away at the next opportunity when the doors opened, through the space that your armoury created. Let the beasts fend for themselves after they realise what hit them.

But then, you cannot fight to perfection unless you have thought over it. You cannot win unless your mind has prepared for the battle. When you step out of your comfort, realise that you are never too far from danger. You cannot have the system protect you wherever you go. There is no Super Hero out there waiting to launch himself into action, take on the villain and protect the vulnerable. 

You are your Weapon!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

President Pranab, 2G Spectrum Scam, Dynasty Politics and Democracy

It is not about scams, it is not about corruption, it is not about Dynasty Politics - it is about the system - a system where the few privileged can have their way and rise above the majority.  And in a country with more than a billion people, you could easily wade through the few brains that raise uneasy questions. The rest are mere heads that have been conditioned to nod.  

President Pranab Sworn In. Image: Economic Times
President Pranab Mukherjee has taken office. As an Indian citizen, I am expected to respect the post of the President of India, the first citizen of the Republic. And why wouldn't I? The Commender in Chief of the Armed Forces of the mighty institution that a country is, naturally deserves respect. President Pranab has been chosen by the legislators who have, in turn, been chosen by the people of India. When I, as a citizen, have chosen my legislators, who have chosen the President, it turns out to be my own choice. Shouldn't the respect and regard be spontaneous?

Despite all the effort to be convinced of the grounds to respect the President, despite the expectations surrounding an average citizen to hold the post in high esteem, something seems skewed. I wonder why there is no spontaneity in the way I look upon the 13th President of India for inspiration. And I find that there could be many reasons why something seems to be out of place.

Mr Pranab Mukherjee's experience as a politician cannot be taken lightly, by any stretch of imagination. As a seasoned politician, Pranab has been a key player in the political landscape for decades, having served in ministerial capacity under different leaders over the years. But, when the question is that of the highest office - though the role is more of a figurehead than that involving actual leadership of the nation - the need is not for a politician but for a statesman.

So, the question is if President Pranab is a statesman of stature worthy of the post of the President of India. And, if the President is someone who can inspire young minds to unite under the institution of a Nation by his sheer presence and personal charisma.

Pranab Chidambaran 2G Note Joint Statement. Image: The Hindu

The 2G spectrum scam, one of gigantic proportions, rocked the country last year. In what was known as the 2G note controversy, the note from the Prime Minister's Office was more of a document implicating the then Finance Minister, P Chidambaram, of his tacit approval of the way the 2G spectrum was auctioned off ,than anything else. And it is this 2G scam that led to the scapegoat called A Raja, the Telecom Minister, being arrested and jailed for months together, among others, before being released on bail.

The 2G note controversy was 'resolved', if the verb actually translates into how the ugly situation was handled, after a string of emergency meetings and clandestine discussions led to the trouble-shooting exercise of a joint statement by Pranab Mukherjee and P Chidambaram, stating all was well in the Government. Following the statement, Mr Chidambaram seemed to have patched up with Mr Pranab Mukherjee, with a terse response saying "I am happy with the statement made by my senior and distinguished colleague" 

It is tough to believe, from the perspective of an average citizen that I am, that a scam that rocked the nation, which saw heads rolling, which threatened the very sustenance and survival of the Government, and which led to the uproar that translated into the movement led by Anna Hazare and his team, has fizzled out into nothingness in a year's span. Some of the influential names who were seen behind bars are now out in the society, on bail. Mr  Chidambaram, who was literally living on the edge, with activists like Subramanian Swamy falling just short of going for the jugular, is back to work as usual. And Mr Pranab Mukherjee, who was at the centre of the 2G note issue, has been sworn in as the President of India. 

Political Families - Nehru Family. Image:

Questions remain. The 2G scam is the mere functional part of the equation. The questions lie deeper, at the systemic level. There is ample proof, over the years, that the system called democracy can be held to ransom if you are powerful enough to reach the top echelons of the political and social circles. Fortunately, the positive aspect about democracy is that you wouldn't be held to account and penalised for criticising the system - if democracy is a farce, I could call it so. 

But that doesn't make it fun to be part of a joke. It was never mentioned, in any of the books that taught me as I grew up, that Dynasty Politics was part of the democratic system of running a nation. Rabri Devi, wife of Lalu Prasad Yadav, would rank high in Dynasty Politics, when she had to morph from being a petite home maker into being the Chief Minister of a State, overnight - and she is all set to introduce her children into politics. But then, Rabri Devi is by no means the exception. Every corner of the society smacks of politics having turned into family business. 

So, it's no wonder that Sonia Gandhi wields all the influence that she can in the Indian political arena. What would Sonia have been, had she not been wedded to Rajiv Gandhi - Son of Indira Gandhi - Daughter of Jawahar Lal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India? 

Well, there is no point asking hypothetical questions, when the reality is that she can manufacture Presidents and Prime Ministers. And Pranab Mukherjee is yet another manifestation of her absolute powers. 

That brings me back to the original aspect of Pranab Mukherjee, the politician turned President, who was the insider to the 2G scam, who was party to some of the crucial details about the scam being pushed under the carpet, and who has been hand-picked by Sonia Gandhi, the King-maker of India, the largest democracy in the world. Dynasty politics has implications that go deeper than just the dynasties in question.

We the People - Sheep. Image:

When I look back, I realise that there is much more to it than just a lack of spontaneous regard for the highest office in the Republic of India. There is much more to it than what Anna Hazare sees as things that ail the nation. It is not about scams, it is not about corruption, it is not about Dynasty Politics - it is about the system - a system where the few privileged can have their way and rise above the majority. 

The kind of games people play depends on who the people are. When you have risen above the threshold, beyond the political atmosphere, you would no longer be under the cloud. You could manipulate what the satellites pick up and reflect the distorted image that you would want the people down below to see. And in a country with more than a billion people, you could easily wade through the few brains that raise uneasy questions. The rest are mere heads that have been conditioned to nod. 

London Olympics 2012. Image:

And yes, in other news, the London Olympics 2012 have kicked off in style.  

Friday, July 13, 2012

Young Girl Molested in Guwahati, Assam: No Country for Young Women

Welcome to India, the land of Goons and Thugs, where young girls are molested in highways and city centres!
Image: India TV

You would be considered our special guest if you came with your young wife, sister or girl friend, because we like you that way. And you would be treated even better if you chose a night out along some of the busiest areas of the city, say, along a pub.

And if you are a woman who has dared to come to the country without any male escort around, we would be delighted. You could feel the elation that we feel for you, if you chose to go for a walk alone at night. No, you would not have to walk through some of the shady areas of some remote corners of the city - we would just be fine as long as you strode along some of the busiest areas of the city, and particularly so, if we guys are present in a gang then.

We tease, we ogle, we glare and try to make you feel at home in the first place. Once you are comfortable with us around, we try to grab you as gently as a bunch of hungry dogs would get to a helpless chicken caught alone in their midst. Yes, we would try not to hurt you as much as we could as we first grope you by your shoulders, but then, when it's at night, when we are high, and when you are alone, you see, things may just be off the mark. 

Image: FirstPost

If you are minor and are yet to be officially labelled an adult, we would be pleased at it. Yes, we do realise that you may be a bit tensed up seeing all of us, well set to hit the mark. But do not worry, we do not indulge in gang rape - at least, not yet. And we only help to ease you into the process. If we strip you when we touch you all over, it's just to let some fresh breeze in when you may already be stressed up. But at the end of it, we would make sure you have been blessed by all of our filthy hands. 

Image: India Today

If you thought you would receive this treatment only in Guwahati, rest assured, we are everywhere. Every city is the same for us and every girl that we see is a treat for us. We encourage you to step out alone at nights, but if you would prefer the day instead, we might just consider your request and cooperate.

Do not worry about the cops. They would have been bribed already and arranged to stay away from the bash till we have all had a taste of you. And they would most definitely arrive late, but you know the kind of cops we have, don't you? If you are still in doubts, you may want to check out an illustration of the way women are handled, safely and securely, by our dutiful policemen in the picture below.

Image: The Australian

That was Pinki Pramanik, one of our athletes, who was being escorted by the policeman with all the responsibility that a father would have towards his daughter. They can't get gentler or more sophisticated than that, could they? 

And to add to the cops' credit, of the 30 plus male predators who descended down heavily on the hapless woman in this news post on Monday night, four days later, just four have been arrested. Isn't that encouraging enough? After all, the police have long been our friends, and they let us act the way we wanted. Money speaks, honey!

The media may call it 'Girl Molested'. Let them be whatever they want. But we are just proud volunteers of this Great Nation that has traditionally worshipped women in the names of Goddesses. We are the representatives of Indian culture, in a nation all geared up to take a shot at the G8 and label itself a Super Power very shortly.

Image: NDTV

Keep watching this space for further updates on how India unveils itself in all its glory on the global stage. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

The President of India, The Common Man and The Perspective

It's confusion all over - fire in Mantralaya at Mumbai, the way the Presidential Polls are poised with differences among political parties, the in-fighting among UPA and NDA cadres with regard to Presidential nominees . . . things do seem to be heating up, aren't they? 

Clearway has not yet got into the serious mode that it is used to - after the break, that is. Is that a reflection of some strategic re-think, or a new-born realisation of the futility of being serious about serious issues? After all, how has the office of the current President of India, for instance, under the able leadership of Prathibha Patil, affected the life of the common man? And how would the growing ranks of the middle class and the lower strata of the economic society respond to withdrawal from the Presidential contest by Dr Abdul Kalam, or to the choice between PA Sangma and Pranab Mukherjee? The common man may, perhaps, even be reluctant to invest his thinking faculties into the fate of the Prime Minister's chair, leave alone the President. Is this disenchantment with governance going to turn on its head with the arrival of the new President on to the arena? "Hope"! The essence of life that costs nothing!

Well, I never wanted Clearway to get this serious right away. Isn't it time to warm up and stay cool, taking a leisurely stroll in the early morning breeze with a cup of steaming hot coffee? It takes a different perspective of things to appreciate what goes on in the backdrop of what is normally on public display. That brings me to the lighter note of what it looks like to be behind the model. We are all so used to looking at the ladies through the lenses that it makes one wonder, 'is it time to look at the lenses through the lady'? This picture of Katherine Jenkins caught my attention, though its appropriateness to the post is definitely questionable. In any case, this post was supposed to be a different take on serious issues - and that allows for anomalies to be the norm! And she does look more graceful than all the men in blue and grey put together . . . 

A Different Perspective

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Privacy in the Virtual World

To what extent would these online advertisement folks go?

I was working on a writing project that had to do with Finance and Insurance, more specifically, health insurance and investments. Content writing takes research and references, from books, journals and from the web. And when I had opened a page for my references, I found a couple of advertisements, one of them static on the left and the other, flashing across the monitor before it settled in its allotted spaces, one at the top and the other at the side of the page that I was visiting.

The surprising aspect was that one of the advertisements was about an investment plan, while the other was about 'health insurance'. Apparently, the advertising folks have been at work. Talk of the bull's eye! However, as an individual, I had reasons to be bothered about, with the kind of precision that on-line advertising has been able to achieve.

It would have, perhaps, been fine had the page I opened had something to do with finance, investments or insurance. But that was nothing but a humble, harmless dictionary, where I was checking out one of the correct forms of phrases to be used. To find two advertisements, one on Finance and the other on Health Insurance, when I was writing an article on Health Insurance and Investment, obviously could not be brushed aside as mere coincidence.

I could understand if it were one of Google's Advertisements within my GMail inbox, or perhaps one of them among search results, or even one of the associated advertisements in a finance journal, producing advertising messages relevant to the webpage content. But how about the exact advertisements related to the stories that I was working on, in a webpage unrelated to the subject and where the search term was not related to finance or insurance?

Yes, I would like to have related content suggested, but how would you feel if you had just been walking down a street, discussing your favourite food with your pal, and being served exactly that the very moment you enter a restaurant even before you had considered what to order?

Hello virtual world, would I have any privacy at all?

Friday, June 08, 2012

Back from the Ashes

It would have had to wait till the 26th of June, 2012, if my idea was to make it a '6-month' hibernation. But I have never been fussy about such intricacies, so decided to break free earlier than the scheduled resumption after the break.

So much water has passed under the bridge in a span of over 150 days. And nothing has changed because Clearway refused to record the flow of events during the course of the break. What a shame! 

This post is not to recall every event that went unnoticed by Clearway, starting with New Year 2012 through Sachin's 100th century, Baba Ramdev, Mayawati, Dravid's retirement, recession, more bad news, Viswanathan Anand, petrol price hike, IPL 5, down till growth in Australia and Spain's bailout. These events shall be revisited as and when deemed fit in the posts to come.

This post is sort of an appetiser, so to speak. And a brief re-introduction, not on the lines of "Clearway Defined" and "Clearway Explained", though. Those were, I should say, looking back, days when the idealists were marching forward, with their engines firing on all cylinders. So, what transpired between now and then? Well, the sun beamed across the horizon.

I have three remarks to make in this post:

1. To do justice to my remark about a 'brief re-introduction', I have become an acknowledged 'Freelance Business Writer' these days. So, what do I do? Well, management Guru's invented theories - I re-invent them! Will post some of my stories in this space, or elsewhere, when I find them fit.

2. The second remark in this post is sort of worldly wisdom. For people who are searching for Justice in this bad world - Good Luck! 

3. And my final remark in this 'Re-born - Yet Again' post: Thanks to 'Lak' and her prodding me to swear publicly, I resolved to write16 posts in the year 2012. Well, that was one of them. And I waited till there was another comment to the post (how logical!) - and here I am! (If anyone is really out of work and is interested to know if I lived up to my own words, please do the math when it's 31 Dec 2012.)

And they changed my url from to Bloody Bloggers!

So, let's catch up! 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Anna Hazare, Indians and the Political Class: A Reality Check

Anna Hazare's Fast against Corruption Fight against Corruption may not be an earth-shattering change in the political landscape, but is a milestone nevertheless. 

The much anticipated week is on. Anna Hazare has had his destiny written in red, and is all set to fast, again. Anna hazare's fasting has been getting so regular that some may wonder if it may not make news any more - just like corruption was accepted as a way of life in the ancient, culturally rich country, before Anna Hazare decided to take on the bad guys. 'Ancient' alright, but 'culturally rich' may get a few eyebrows raised, especially among those caught among the many different 'cultural' forces that are in operation in India these days. But then, that's beside the point. It's time for Anna Hazare to steal the limelight again, by occupying centre stage and foregoing his meals.

Of course, it is much more than just a matter of foregoing his meals. Of late, the youth have had the opportunity to get a glimpse of history, with some of the terms traditionally referred to, recorded, and read about only in history books, coming to life. "Quit India" and "Jail Bharo" were the bastions of Mahatma Gandhi, weapons in his armoury of non-violence, which he wielded strategically to get the huge country together, mobilise their strength and channelise the public anger towards a common cause - to gain Independence from the British Rule. Till a few years back, the country had largely relegated these historic events to the libraries and the public archives, with the terms having gone out of common usage and having been accorded 'cultural heritage' status. 

The youth, who were deluded with a whole lot of inputs, claims and perspectives from diverse channels and had been verging on disillusionment, getting caught in the run of the mill, searching for a career and an identity, and caring a damn about whatever happened in the dirty sphere of politics, got a shot in their arm. Till a few months back, if anyone had asked what united the diverse lot of Indians, separated by States, languages, cultures, traditions, castes and religions and a whole lot of geographic and demographic factors, the unanimous answers would have been 'Cricket' and 'Bollywood'. That changed with a series of terrorist attacks, blood baths, security lapses, gory visuals, and profuse losses of lives, when terrorism came into the agenda and started to touch a raw nerve in the Indian psyche. But there has not been anything as electrifying as Anna Hazare and his 'India Against Corruption' movement that redefined protests and made heads turn. 

There is no dearth of intelligentsia in the country, nor is there a leadership vacuum. In fact, there has been a problem of abundance when it comes to leadership and cult figures. The issue, however, was that there was no figurehead who could mobilise the intensity and the heat that the youth were capable of generating. The energy was frittering away in non-productive or purely economic pursuits, when the politicians had a jolly good time, abusing their powers and making hay while the sun was still shining. Getting back to the initial claim that Anna Hazare's role has been much more than just that of foregoing his meals, what he has done is to show the way forward to the youth who were getting increasingly disillusioned with the status quo and were growing increasingly indifferent to the gross abuse of power and the deteriorating standards of living of the middle class and those who struggled below the poverty line. They almost started believing it when the Government promised through its propaganda machinery that India was actually shining!

So much for what Anna Hazare and Team Anna has achieved. What about the team's original objectives? 'Eliminating scope for and eradicating corruption through Legislation' - that would be like pumping out the bad blood and filling the system up with good blood. That is an ideal motive beyond any scope for argument. The question is about feasibility. To quote from a previous rant on the same subject, "Without the last citizen in the queue educated, informed and empowered to deal with their life on their own terms, the political machinery, with its artificial intelligence that it has now got used to, would take every opportunity to strike back - with vengeance." 

The keywords here are "Political Machinery" - and it is no ordinary structure that Anna Hazare and his team are dealing with. The Indian political system is a beast, and a wild one in that, which has been having its way for decades now - and has got deeply addicted to power and all the goodies that come with it. Team Anna has been out to tame the beast. Unfortunately for the team and for the old man, however, they have set out to tame the beast with a leash and a cage that the beast itself has to provide them. In effect, Anna Hazare and company are fighting to get a legislation through by the political bosses, which would sanction the design and formation a cage to get the political bosses locked themselves up in. He could as well have asked them to file FIR's against themselves, try themselves in the courts of justice, line up behind bars, and hang themselves! And they are talking of the mere act of getting a legislation passed. Getting the system up to speed to the new reality, cleaning up the system, clearing the filth, and getting in the 'good blood' are in the distant horizon. It makes one wonder, how many times Anna Hazare might have to fast before he sees that day when corruption is actually eliminated and eradicated by the force of a piece of legislation!

Well, Anna Hazare will fast on the 27th of December, while the political bosses would debate the Lokpal Bill. And debates are nothing new to the power mongers who have made their way to the top through bickering, quarrelling, clambering, plotting, and cutting their teeth in the system using every trick in the book. And the show will go on. Anna Hazare may have had his dream and his objectives, But in Clearway's view, it is the by-product that is more important. Someone had to channelise the youth and orient their powers towards a tangible, credible objective, to make them get genuinely interested in the political process and in the state of affairs, and more importantly, to make them think. Team Anna has achieved the objective with flying colours. Discounting the lack of coordination that an ad hoc team is naturally expected to experience, and the negative publicity that some events involving the team have generated, Anna Hazare has done what no one else has managed to do ever since Mahatma Gandhi was shot. The only exception would, perhaps, be Kamal Hassan in Shankar's 'Indian'.

Image: 88 Reviews

It's unfair to ask much else out of the patriot who has put his life on the line for the greater good. His destiny was to keep fighting and to light the fire in the hearts of the youth. Change had to begin somewhere  - and it has begun in all flamboyance, from a spark in Ralegan Siddhi. As for the political class, the fighting has just begun for them too. But they would do what they do best - to play politics and stay afloat. And yes, they would definitely succeed in that. Anna Hazare is not the first challenge they have faced in their political career - nor would he be the last. But at least, they now have something to take serious note of, in an otherwise one-sided game, where the system has been the defending champion and its people, decidedly underdog. People would still remain so for the foreseeable future - what they have now is a ray of hope, an awareness that corruption could indeed be a dirty word, and some sense of direction in the dark world defined by the ruthless political class.

Related Posts:
Corruption in India, Lokpal Bill and Mahatma Gandhi
Anna Hazare: Lokpall Bill and Beyond
Anna Hazare, India Against Corruption and the Political System: A New Beginning