Thursday, December 29, 2005

The New Year

Here we are, right at the door steps of 2006, knocking in zealous anticipation of what is in store! I feel hard pressed to end the year on a positive note at Clearway – it’s hardly been a couple of months or so since Clearway sprung up lazily in one corner of the vast expanse of cyberspace, evoking a lackadaisical response from some of the hordes of Netizens who are used to hard-core blogging– “Which Way? Clear What?” Getting back on track – of ending the year on a positive note!

So, this New Year, I define Clearway - if I haven’t done so yet! Clearway is the bus with seats that have no back rests, with windows that have no shutters. Clearway is the Machine gun that slays the scientist. Clearway is the currency that goes into their pockets, the questions they forget to ask; Clearway is the bill book that is never written, the taxes never paid. Clearway is the prison wall that is flattened, the border that is infiltrated, the Quarters that is overstayed in. Clearway is the society that muffles voices, the media that hypes up faces; the cricket that turns into politics, the politics that goes for a toss. Clearway is the blog that criticises persons, the person that reprimands the blog. Clearway is the pervert, the patriot and the perfectionist. Clearway is the rain, the flood and the famine. Clearway is fear, terror and the assassin. Clearway is the activity, the action, the activist. Clearway is India, Revolution and beyond!

I was never good enough to predict New Years; but Clearway thrives on element, energy and the ego! Wishing everyone, a Great Year ahead!

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Key is in the Mind!

“Very few of us imbibe Mahatma Gandhi's words: 'We must become the change we want to see in the world.’ Very few of us want to do more than criticise the state of affairs around us. Very few of us take up the initiative to change things. One Chennai neighbourhood is a glowing exception. Their little miracle holds the promise that if more of us think and do like they do, big changes are easy.”

I had read through these lines in the story before the thought struck me – ‘This is yet another Positive story! So, is it Shobha Warrier again?’ I looked up at the by-line and . . . Yes, it was her! This “Shobha Warrier – Rediff” combination has unleashed yet another account that tells us what ‘can’ be achieved, rather than lamenting on what is ‘not’ being done!

The story is good on more than one count; it’s about the way a bunch of lads decided to tackle a perennial problem – water! It’s about focus, commitment, and concerted effort. The way the SYMA people have decided to zero-in on one issue and the medium they chose for delivery of their message is worth mentioning. And it is, after all, about ‘being the change that one wants to see’!

"The moment we are back from office, we dedicate ourselves to social work. Similarly, mornings are also dedicated to community work." This comment by Mr Ramani, the SYMA President, makes it sound all too simple. The purpose that drive them towards their ‘way of life’ and the energy levels needed to sustain their actions over time are just what could mean the difference between our present and our future!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

"Expelbalm" - the Only solution for Chronic "Headaches"

Happy News! The Speaker of our Lok Sabha has fewer heads for aches now – the trouble-mongers have been packed off to a safe destination! And the Rajya Sabha is leaner by a digit as well. The media claims this an ‘unprecedented’ move! And Cobra Post is still alive, as of this minute. All this does augur well for our democracy!

However, our representatives are not unanimous about the issue. There have been protests against the way the members have been thrown out and the BJP has staged a ‘Walk-Out’. Mr L. K. Advani seems to have taken umbrage at this “Harsh” act! I fail to see much reason in his stand, however!

These folks have just earned a handsome amount and must no doubt be in a jubilant mood at having had their faces in the media. It would be "harsh" on them, only if we refuse to let them go on a holiday, touring around, spending their ‘hard earned’ money. And this is Christmas Eve and they have every right to make the most of a New Year bash! So, don’t spoil their moods through ‘Harsh’ protests. But, if you do want to express yourselves, please feel free to walk out of the House. It would definitely help the Speaker and give him a break, this festive season!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

This Day, That Age: Meerut

“So, you want to force yourselves on to the spotlight, huh? Welcome, gentlemen, I mean, gentlewomen, please occupy centre stage.”

They blink, and stare at me.

I ask the Chief, “Why do they stare that way?”

“Use simple English man!”

I clear my throat.

“I mean, you want to see yourself in the media, is it not?”

They look confused.

“Okay, you want to be in photo, in TV?”

They beam. I sigh of relief.

“Good. Could you move a bit on to the right . . . No, no, not to my right, your right . . . yeah, that’s right.”

“Okay, this is an action scene. But, this is not the usual scene where you come after the fight is over. You come and start the fight here. Okay?”

They nod, suggesting they might have understood something.

“The name of this programme is “Uniformed Thugs” . . . I mean, “Uninformed Thugs” . . . or, “Lady Thugs”, or, “Rowdy Lady” – it’s your choice”

The Chief is not satisfied. I search for some action-packed code name and come up with a brilliant “Operation Laila”.

The Chief is delighted!

“Operation Laila!” The Chief repeats proudly.

By now, one of the lady thugs is about to doze off. Her buddy wakes her up.

“Oh, no, you can not sleep today. Yeah . . . I know it’s difficult. But, don’t you want to be in the media, I mean, in photo, in TV, in Paper tomorrow?”

They agree! They try to keep their eyes wide open . . . they try hard.

“Good. So, today, you can not sleep. You have to slap women.”

The intelligent Thief, oops, Chief, asks “Why?”

“What do you mean ‘why’? You are not P*****men, you are P*****women! You can only slap women. You can’t do anything else to them, I guess!”

(My Editor censored some obscene words that were recorded; can’t help it)

I question the Chief: “Further, how else can you make news? Taking bribe is old fashioned. If this is a male team, may be we can try a grape scene. But, you want to make this woman squad popular. I think this is the best way.”

The Chief agrees half-heartedly. “Whatever, just make us popular. All the time, the men are in news. We want to prove we are equal to them.”

I sigh, and continue with my direction.

“So, we will have the cameras ready. When I say “Action”, you must go and slap the first woman you see in the Park. When you see the second woman, you must pull her hair, and if you see a couple, I mean, a man and woman together, beat both of them. If you see a lady in saree, pull it off. Then, you drag them out of the park and shove them in front of the cameras. When I say “Cut”, you stop. Is it clear?”

The team looks dumb, with an odd expression. The Chief seems bored.

I decide to break the instructions into parts and I repeat them, sentence by sentence. I point out to and mark people in the park and give roles to each uninformed woman, allotting victims in pairs to the stouter ladies in the crew. I make sure that every Rowdy Lady is allocated with a victim or two.

I get back to my place; make sure that cameras are in position, and then, “Action”!

It being late afternoon, normally sleeping hours for them, they amble lethargically into the park. The ladies walk up to their designated victims and start acting out their roles, lazily. However, the unexpected happens. The crowd in the park seems larger than expected. While initially taken aback, shocked at the arrival of the thugs, the crowd decides to take on the assault. In a sudden turn of tables, the crowd get together and bundle the uninformed ladies into one lot and start beating them up!

I shout “Cut, Cut . . . Stop it!”

The crowd keeps beating the Lady Thugs up. In a while, they are badly beaten up! The Chief is shocked!

“Abort! Abort Laila!” The horrified Chief screams over the microphone.

Our cameraman, whose wife’s name is Laila and who is on her family way, is shocked and momentarily drops the camera before he realises that they are discussing “Operation Laila”.

However, the Lady Thugs are in a bad shape by now, in no position to hear the commands, least of all to obey the command.

The Chief calls for emergency rescue teams and ambulances to the spot. The Bloody Ladies are taken by stretchers into the ambulances. The whole episode is, however, shot in cameras, thanks to Mr Majnu, our cameraman.

Later, Operation Laila screened in the P***** Head Quarters, is analysed and the reasons for its failure are debated, discussed and found out!

“We should have chosen some other venue, not Meerut!”

However, this incident in Meerut in 1857, which was the very first spark in India’s Struggle for Freedom from the Thugs, never seems to have been reported in the media. And such a revolt is all but forgotten, ever since!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Clearway Focus: MSM

Let me bring to the attention of readers, a link on the sidebar of this blog: Clearway Focus. I have been expressing my views on issues relevant to India through Clearway. The issues chosen are random, in no specific order; the flow of this blog depends solely on events in the country.
However, I felt the need to focus on some elements that have beocme part of our social fabric. These are strong enough to rock the lives of people, yet receive scant or skewed attention in the media; instances that should have been isolated incidents but have become patterns, because of the lack of will by the Legislative. They reflect, in my view, fundamental flaws in the way we define and deal with crimes. I do not mind repeating what I have stated earlier: Laws are meant to make people balk before they take that first step towards crime; to let people indulge and then award them with sentences that make no difference to their attitudes is, childish.
In the spate of rape cases and crimes against women reported in the media, we have a brand new entry: Call Centre employee murdered in Bangalore. And we can be sure this is not going to be the last. The list will grow on and on unless we, as a society, learn how to react to acts by people who never deserved to be alive at all!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

All may not be in the game

I tried hard to see the rationale behind the selection committee's decision to drop Ganguly for the third test. Kiran More may have been at pains to talk of the future of Indian cricket. But what would a future hold when the past is humiliated and trashed?
The former captain could have been dropped for the entire series. Or, the selectors could have closed the doors on him, once and for all. To dump someone who has contributed significantly to Cricket, after a decent performance at a Test, right in the middle of a series and to go on and say thet he could be considered again for the forthcoming series might make sense to the wise men who get to have their say over issues that matter; it definitely leaves me wondering if I have to work on my logical reasoning abilities to get in line with their thought patterns!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

This is NOT a Political Blog!

Heck, is this turning into a political blog? If three successive posts can be political, then a blog could well be termed one! And I hate my blog being classified under an abominable terminology. I author this blog and I decide what this is all going to be about.
So, if some mad men create havoc in the Parliament, I am not going to give a damn about them. If a mentally challenged psycho attempts suicide in the Assembly, I will dismiss the news with utmost contempt. And if some mean creatures, under the veil of MP's, can stoop so low to make it to the front pages of the News Papers, I refuse to post on that. I don't want to waste this space in talking of hardened criminals who are so much accustomed to 'under-the-table' dealings that they accuse the media of making a 'mountain of a mole hill'. Is this one remark not sufficient to hang them in public, right in front of the Parliament?
Unfortunately, it's not my job to do that; and even words about this breed of infected lumps of flesh may well spoil this space. No more of them here!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

He 'Speaks' but is Seldom Heard: The Parliament

The post of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha is one of the most prominent positions in the Government of India. The Speaker is supposed to steer the sessions of the Parliament in a way that would give an aura of respectability to the proceedings; in effect, he conducts the debates and discussions that decide the fate of the Nation. When he observes that he is “ashamed” to be in the position, it means that he has, in reality, been reduced to being no more than a desperate constable trying to regulate traffic in an utterly chaotic, totally unregulated market place.

Parliament is no market place but; it is a representation of a nation that prides itself on its cultural values. However, the nation is quite diverse in its constitution indeed. Perhaps, it is this diversity that reflects in the chaos in the House. Possibly, the Speaker hasn’t been equipped with the relevant powers to deal with representations from the variegated backgrounds that the members have come to project.

So, dear Members of the Parliament, we do not blame you. The authors of our Constitution might have merely skipped the sections that were supposed to spell the powers of the Speaker out. We only request you to have some consideration towards the poor chap that keeps yelling at the top of his voice, who is never heard amidst the constant uproar that you create. After all, the people who elected you are under an illusion that you would, one day, make them emerge stronger, healthier. They may be heart broken to find that your Head Master has marked you all with red ink as being below average. And in this Information Age, your school is not a closed room as it was till a few years ago. Your behaviour and your teacher’s remarks are being aired live and your Progress Report is being made available electronically to the whole world. While we do appreciate your enthusiasm in expressing yourselves, please have some respect to the helpless man who has nothing but a chair and a microphone at his disposal. He is only trying to streamline your opinions, helping you grow in the process. Please do not make him feel guilty of doing no justice to his salary.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Assembly suspends suicide victim

Our laws are intended to punish criminals after crimes are committed. That is baffling, in a few cases. Consider, for instance, the laws that dictate that no one has the right to kill oneself. I don’t have a clue as to what the punishment is for those, who somehow do manage to kill themselves! Would the best possible punishment be to bring them back to life?

Let’s not get into the habit of ridiculing the laws of the land. But what of those who wish they were dead but never manage to enact their wish? The law has no problems with them. After all, they merely wish they were dead! Wishing is no offence, as long as nothing is done about it. Many people wish others were dead; and our laws have no business with them either! However, this is no universal truth. In Iraq, for instance, Mr Hussein might have merely wished he had Weapons of Mass Destruction – and that amounted to a war crime. But in the United States, Mr Clinton wished he had done some sensational stuff, and he almost did it too; well, almost! So, that doesn’t really get punished. The point here is that countries disagree when it comes to the ‘wish’ to do wrong.

Back in India, our friend, Shiv Sena MLA from Akot, Mr Gulabrao Gawande tried to kill himself in the Assembly! It was not merely a wish (and we never would know what he really wished when he did what he did). Had he merely been wishing and did nothing, our laws would not have taken notice of him. But, he suddenly moved into the well (no, it’s not the well that has water in it – so, that was not the suicide attempt) with a bottle of poison and a bottle of kerosene! (Why didn’t anyone tell him that he needed only one of them, and not both?) Perhaps, he wanted to be doubly sure that he got the results. (On second thought, he might have wanted to spare the state of some expenses, by using the poison first and kerosene next.) But, as it turned out, his was an unsuccessful attempt that was merely a ‘wish’.

Since his wish was backed by some action (the Speaker Mr Babasaheb Kupekar might have even suspected his intentions as that of attempted murder rather than suicide and would have had his heart in his mouth for a moment – from his view, Mr Gawande would have sprinted with the poison and kerosene towards him!). Well, it didn’t matter if the idea was to use poison or kerosene – it was attempted suicide and many MLA’s who were alert and awake were eye witnesses to the attempt. Since this happened in India, Mr Gawande was just suspended.

He was unfortunate not to have been in the US. For, had he been there, he could have easily argued that he only wished to do that, he almost did it, but never quite managed to ‘complete the processes’. He could have just got away with the incident and not have been suspended! On the other hand, I’m glad for him that he was not in Iraq. Otherwise, the judgement would have been to “Jump on him, grab his poison and the (expensive) kerosene, put him behind the bars, try him in a special court, convict him of his offence and hang him!” The result would have been the same anyway.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

"Myth" has three Stripes and a Wheel

Schools take the onus of inscribing young souls with reverence towards the National Flag on themselves. Other social factors aid in developing a sense of pride in the minds of children, a feeling of ownership, of belongingness about the symbol that flies high.

But by no means does this fable get reflected along the dusty road in a village in rural India. The national flag stands just as tall as a couple of other flags with political colours, with one of those occupying the centre stage. Rested on the base of the pole is a metal bar that seems to have been forsaken from the remains of some ancient building. Right next to the Flag post is a tea stall where people gather to discuss local politics. Apparently, one of its customers has parked his bicycle right there, where in schools, students would witness their Physical Training instructor help their Principal hoist the flag. At the backdrop adorns an abandoned bus stop that has somehow managed to survive the vagaries of nature. At the other side of the flag pole is a broken bench, claiming its rightful place – the garbage collection point ranges for a few square feet around the flag pole.

Talking of students, hundreds of them pass along the road on their way to and from schools. Quite possibly, the folks in the schools do it right when it gets to the tradition about the tri-colour. But the myth is busted by the abundant evidence to the contrary, out of the school campuses in the ‘real world’. I can imagine a child scorn at the idea of the ritualistic assembly where he/she is made to toil for an indefinitely long period in the scorching heat, only to witness a weird, funny episode that culminates in saluting a dirty piece of cloth that the child gets to see everyday on top of the roadside dustbin.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Way Forward: Rediff tests "Positive"

We all . . . okay, most of us . . . at least, some of us . . . alright, I accuse the media of focussing on the negative most of the time. Money-minded, business in every breath, scant sense of social responsibility in any of its reporting aspects – and they do deserve a significant part of the blame, don’t they?

But Rediff has set out to redefine “Positive. It was an impressive take on the life of a woman who decided to remove the initials and live the Positive! Almost Everything about the article is positive: its focus, the way Kousalya is projected, Kousalya’s fight against the grave injustice meted out to her, her perceptions of the society she finds herself in and its attitude towards affected people like her, the influence of Ashok Pillai on her, her outlook and strategy towards life, her love for children and the joy that she extracts out of simple moments like riding a two-wheeler – it’s been a confluence of everything positive! The way she recounts the “advantages” of being HIV positive is amazing! If at all there is anything negative in the whole article, it’s Kousalya’s view of men - "Because I have not seen any man who is different. I find them still the same” is what she has got to say. And what else could one expect from someone who drowned to the depths before surfacing after all the strife in life!

Rediff and Shobha Warrier have done a great job in telling the world what being positive is all about in Rediff Specials on World AIDS Day!