Thursday, December 10, 2009

Luring IRMA


IRMA's made me crazy ever since I got to know about it. I dreamt of it like it's paradise. Numerous times did I google those 4 letters and wait to read something, more, every time. The very utterance of it puts me on an imaginary train to an imaginary world with some real looking distant villages where I'm just walking through smiling away and talking to simple villagers about development and the villages would be transformed to those idyllic pleasant paradises where everybody lived peacefully ever after. The last scene from Hazaaron Khwaishien Aisi plays out itself in my head.
I'm waiting so eagerly wanting to be there. How much books can do to me! It's like the purpose of my life was being revealed to me as I was leafing through each of those wonderful pages of text from those two lovely books which I would always remember. I Too Had A Dream and The Banker To The Poor showed me what I wanna do for the rest of my life. Verghese Kurien and Muhammad Yunus became my dreamfathers. They just led me through their books to a sign post which said "This way yours" and I saw IRMA and lots of villages beyond it inviting me.
I know there's a lot more to it. Some real work, some real situations. The reality too is a part of my dream!
But I had to wait for the Day. My fingers shook as I put the pencil on that sheet full of empty circles waiting to be filled by me. As I slowly transferred those layers of graphite from my dear pencil to the little circles, they beamed at me and cheered me up to fill more of them. And then I did so more confidently as I read through some of those friendly questions. And before I knew, there were lots of them and my watch asked me to hurry up while some empty circles glared at me. And the lady then came and took them away as they waved goodbye to me wishing me luck. I smiled back at them.
And now, it's been some time. My nails become shorter and I find lots of dead skin around them asking me to urgently dispose it off. My teeth are constantly at work. I wait. The day seems still too far. Will I make it there? I wait helplessly, desperately.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Dearest Night

Night
Up
Dark purple-violet solvent sky
Specks of stars almost dissolve into it and reappear and dissolve again taking turns
A grayish-white whitish-gray walking-along insoluble moon
Dark lines of cable, almost invisible against the dark solvent sky, join poles, like in a kids' column puzzle with numbered dots
A night coloured shed slopes over the platform adorned with a modest number of dim lights to satisfy the night and let it reign
The lonely platform looks deserted with its only inhabitants who retired for the day and blended into the background. A ragged old man here, a tea-coffee vendor there, its indecisive half-awake half-sleepy inhabitants like an audience of a boring movie, Should we wait till the intermission?, cheerful mice playing around the tracks, not minding the cakes of yellow shit which are in turn chosen by the flies for a late night family picnic
A young woman quietly washes her clothes under the leaking water pipe on the tracks at the end of the platform
An unnoticed goods train on a far away another platform moves unnoticed, slowly dragging its wheels over the tracks taking care not to disturb the night’s stillness
The digital time display hanging from the roof of the platform shows a red dotted 11:59. Its two winking red dots winking at their imaginary audience magically turn all the other dots to form 4 rectangular zeros. There’s no applause but the complacent dots continue to wink at their audience waiting to perform their next trick
Dogs on one side of the platform move carefully marking their territory and challenging those on the other side, barking once in a while for reassurance
A baby with her mother on a mat spread against a pillar wakes up from her baby dream and feels for her mother. The mother puts her hand familiarly around the baby and leads her back into the baby dream
An old song playing from some faraway radio of a nostalgic radio owner blends into the night


Night

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Being human, being me

I'm happy, I laugh
I'm sad, I plunge in
I cry, I let them fall and settle
I sing, I smile
I'm dull, I'm numb
I'm nowhere, I don't belong
I'm excited, I jump and dance my un-dance-like steps
I'm here, I stay
I'm there, I drift away
I love, I Love
I'm alone, I revel in me
I'm concentrating, I bite my nails
I'm free, I celebrate
I'm me, I accept
Is it easy? Not quite yes
Not quite no
I'm just human
Not an excuse
There's no single path
To choose and tread

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Speed Math

Late Jakow Trachtenberg, a mathematical genius, found simple ways of understanding and working with numbers, which, as we know conventionally, look like they're entangled in a complex web of calculations. Calculations tire us and make us shun math because of their nature and the dullness that sets in, especially while dealing with long numbers. This attitude towards math, he says, is primarily due to the lengthy procedures conventionally used for calculations, which do not present us with any direct way to understand numbers and the way the numbers are used to arrive at a result of the mathematical operation performed. For example, if we have to multiply 2 three digit numbers, we cannot do it without putting pen on paper, which is work, and then, we need to know the tables right, at least up to 9 times 9, and then, the carry over values which we need to remember to add. What more, we are very likely to have errors at the end and checking the whole process all over again leaves us frustrated. However, Trachtenberg shows us an easy way out by simple methods, more number-centric than procedure-centric so we know exactly how we are getting a result out of the operation performed on the given numbers. One can write down the product of any 2 numbers, however huge they may be, just by looking at the numbers and performing the required steps mentally using his system which he found through algebra. When I got my hands on this book explaining his work, adapted by Ann Cutler and Rudolph McShane, I was delighted to know math could be so easy! In this book, he gives simple ways of performing basic mathematical operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, squaring and finding square roots along with interesting ways to multiply any number with the first 9 numbers in the introduction. It presents a wonderful alternative to teach basic math to children and comes as a relief to anyone who has been bearing the burden of performing lengthy calculations till now, ignorant of this system. Happy Calculating!

Friday, May 22, 2009

~Dev D~


Easily the best movie I have ever seen, integral in every way possible, with a flavor of its own. Nowhere, throughout the movie, are we reminded that it's an adaptation of a well known story, adapted thrice on the screen. Apart from being a movie with an identity, it has brought out the subtle things in life which are often smudged by popular dominant opinion even in a modern society and are made complicated even though they could be seen with great clarity if only one looked within oneself. More than anything else, it left me with this floating feeling, a dreamy one. Ever since I watched it, I haven't stopped thinking of it, be it humming its tunes or remembering the feeling of it. It has a mood and I dwelled in it, drowned in it and dripped with it even after the movie was over, each time. I have been wearing it around like a perfume. And I keep suggesting people to watch it and even make them watch it and I give myself that excuse to watch it again with them. I might have watched the movie more than 10 times by now. Even if you played it everyday, I would sit down and watch it with the same mood. Because, the mood's not mine. It comes as a package with the movie. And this mood is something you can get addicted to(I did). It's a feast for one's eyes and ears and comes out so alive that you might as well feel it with all your other senses. Never has any piece of art or music or cinema appealed to me this much. Appealed is a very small word. All aspects of cinema, be it, story, actors' performance, music, art, screenplay and everything that comes into making a movie, all of them fit together brilliantly here and it gives you a feeling that this was the only way it could have been and as perfect as perfect can mean. If I was a film maker and I had made this movie, I would have told myself - I have made this. Now, I can die feeling content if I had to die the next moment.
Kudos to Anurag Kashyap, Amit Trivedi, Abhay Deol, Kalki Koechlin, Mahi and everybody associated with the movie.

Friday, April 10, 2009

You are a clear "majority" in the voting community

I learnt this when I heard one of those amazing speeches of Dr. Jayprakash Narayan and I'd like to share with you the same. The popular misconception among people like you and me who can make an informed choice of whom we should vote for is that we are a "minority" which is a self-fulfilling prophecy as long as we do not go and vote. I would like to present some rough estimates on which my argument is based. Till today, among 100 people who are registered voters, roughly 45 go and vote. Among these 45, 15 vote for those who give them money or liquor and so forth. The remaining 30 who may or may not have got anything to attract their votes, didn't for sure vote for those who tried to get their votes by these crooked means. This is true because, otherwise, the ruling party which spends maximum to get back into power should go on winning every election, which doesn't happen. So, the remaining 55 people among the 100 and these 30 people present us with a clear majority of 85% of the voters who can make a clear difference! So, your vote does matter. We are the masses. Our opinion can bring about change that we want.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Microfinance, micro-credit and micro-entrepreneurs

Right to credit should be a fundamental right, says Nobel Peace Prize Winner, the founder of Grameen, Prof. Muhammad Yunus.

Poverty, a major barrier to the growth of the world, is no longer a problem without a solution. Poverty doesn't belong here anymore. The puzzle is over. All the pieces fit.

Every human has an instinct to survive, be one poor or rich. No human is born with money. But money is essential to survive on this planet. To attain this basic essential, to enable one's survival, every human should have access to credit which would provide an equal platform for the test of survival. This credit, to serve its very purpose of being a tool for income generation, shouldn't be a part of any charity as charity is quite contrary to what the concept of credit is meant for. Credit shows a path towards empowerment unlike charity which is but a temporary solution or no solution at all. When credit is made available to all, no one needs to teach anyone how to survive nor help anyone survive.

In this context, today, we have examples of this successful credit phenomenon in the poorest localities of the world where growth would've seemed impossible a few decades back if not for some brains who understood how credit could be used to deal with poverty. We have Grameen (Bangladesh) and its replications across the world, Casas Bahia (Brazil), Cemex (Mexico) and many more.

Micro-finance refers to the wide range of financial services provided to the low-income(or no income or inconsistent income) groups on social collateral, through which the risk of the finance extended to these low-income groups is transferred from the financier to a group of people, bound together by mutual trust and need, who then work for themselves. Micro-credit is one such service under micro-finance, which enables loans to the poor in order to help them help themselves through self-employment. This has led to the conversion of the so called poor helpless people into a force of micro-entrepreneurs who can now fend for themselves.

If democracy is the end product of the evolution of ideologies for the states, if that's what we are talking about, then the evolution of the ways in which it needs to be implemented leads us to a path called empowerment of individuals. And credit is an essential tool to empower those who have no money. It is no charity.

The credit offered is not lost on anyone. It is converted into a force of growth and employment with returns. Micro-finance has been adopted in many places across the world today and is seen as a profitable business.



For further details, refer to
-> Banker to the Poor, an Autobiography of Prof. Muhammad Yunus
-> Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid by Dr. C.K. Prahlad

-> www.grameen-info.org

Or just ask me :)

Friday, March 20, 2009

LSP's campaign in a train

What a way to reach out to people! This man is a genius. When I saw the news, I was like, "What an idea Sir jee!" In a train, during a journey, passengers have nothing much to do. They tend to open up and talk to co-passengers in spite of being strangers. They are most relaxed and in a ready to talk mood. Dr. JP, a man with scientific solutions for problems and lots of ideas, along with the party members, making sure that all of them bought tickets for the 2nd class coaches of the train to Nellore, took this opportunity to reach out to people and talk to them. He sat with people on the train, listened to them and made a note of their problems. It's easier than conducting roadshows and more effective at the same time. Change is here. Change is now. You don't need crores of rupees to campaign. A healthy and effective election campaign can be conducted with an affordable budget following the rules and regulations of the ECI. This is new political culture. It's possible.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

LSP's 1st Public Meeting

Lok Satta Party's first ever public meeting was held on the shores of Ramakrishna Beach, Visakhapatnam on Saturday, 14th March, 2009. It is the first ever political meeting of its kind which attracted citizens, optimistic about a healthy political future of this country, many of them from the middle class, and young students, who eagerly waited for Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan to complete his roadshow and meet them. A young girl, you would be surprised to know, the Lok Satta Party candidate contesting from Araku, Ms. Manikyamma, came onto the stage along with her friends to present a tribal dance for the audience before the event started. Before Dr. JP reached the venue, many ordinary citizens came onto the stage with enthusiasm and shared their views on the party. They all had this message for their fellow citizens, "take active part in the politics of the country or at least encourage those who are; only then would we be providing a solution; not by refraining from voting and calling politics of India a horrible mess." Once Dr. JP reached the venue, everyone stood up and cheered him. No chairs were arranged on the stage. Everyone expected him to go onto the stage and speak. But before he spoke, he introduced the candidates contesting in the upcoming elections for Lok Satta Party and gave them a chance to speak. They were very clear about what the party stood for. They all stood together on the stage and once they all spoke, the mike was handed over to Dr. JP who spoke continuously for 45 minutes, explaining what the party stood for, its agenda and its pursuit to bring in new political culture to this country, taking examples of the great leadership India was once proud of. He also mentioned that Lok Satta Party was not desperate for power. Their mission would continue whether they won the elections or no. And if Lok Satta Party won the elections, he said, it would be the victory of healthy politics in this country. Further, he guaranteed proper education for all the children (with provision for learning English, and computer education) and good health for all the people (treatment for any disease in any hospital they chose) of the state if elected to power. LSP would establish local self-governments where-in funds would be allocated to every such local self government according to the population of the place and locally elected representatives of the people would run them. He expressed his belief in the ability of people to think, unlike other political parties who considered people to be fools. While the speech was going on, people who attended the meeting donated money to the party. Everyone from the audience reached for their pockets and took out money. This isn't a familiar sight. An old man, with a long beard, in orange robes, who hardly had any money on him, fetched some coins from the folds of his robe and donated the money to the party while a tin covered with the LSP flag was passed around. This old man sat through the entire speech. Dr. JP finished his speech saying that 2009 would prove to be an year of revolutionary change in the politics of India. Once the meeting came to an end, the national anthem was sung. Everyone dispersed with a beam of hope.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan and Lok Satta Party

A physician turned IAS officer turned president of Lok Satta party, Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan is a person who's inspired and inspires all who know him through his modern ideas, logical solutions to problems, his knowledge, clarity of thought and expression. He is a personality to emulate. In his speeches on politics and governance that I recently came across, he explains the problems of our country, how they have originated and how they should be solved with a scientific and logical approach. He says, today, people complain, people are angry with the government more than at any other time after India became an independent country. India sure has made progress along the way after independence but with the potential that we have, we can do much more than that. Compared to what we can do, what we have done is very less though significant. This makes us angry and complain so much today, he says. And more awareness among us today also surely contributes to it. We are going through a second freedom struggle for a true democracy with new politics, he says.

I'd like to present some of his ideas here.

1. Local Self-Governments and decentralization of power: If the per capita amount that the government is supposedly spending on each citizen today is given to locally elected bodies, who are given all powers to use this money for their local development issues, without the interference of the state or the centre or some far away minister, the development work would happen at an accelerated efficiency. This simply means a power shift from ministers to citizens. No longer would citizens need to depend on some far away government and go through all the red tape or indulge in bribery to get things done. This is a solution that can be practiced effectively to prevent corruption or in other words, remove it from its roots. We have Local Self Governments in a couple of places in India like Kerala and Jalandhar.
2. Autonomous public service organizations: The police services or the municipalities, for example, should have autonomous powers to carry out their jobs. They shouldn't be puppets of the ministers anymore. They should only be accountable to the people they serve.
3. Participation of Industries: Industries have a role to play, to encourage healthy politics, not looking for easy short-cut solutions, he says.
4. His take on sops: He has expressed his anger against those who offer sops as if public money was their own money, making beggars out of people.
5. Education and empowerment: The poor, instead of being treated as a burden, should be empowered and given a chance to contribute to the economy. This can be done by proper facilities for education, employment and credit for farmers and small entrepreneurs. On reservations based on caste, he said, today, reservations are dividing people further and the original objective is lost. Instead of reserving seats for people based on their caste, these people considered to be backward should be made capable to achieve these positions through relevant facilities, providing proper education and training. He also suggested establishment of 10000 small towns in the villages of India with urban amenities and infrastructure.
6. On civil society organizations: Today, a large no. of civil society organizations can be found all around and they're doing what the government should be doing. The proper way of addressing the problems we have is to act from within the government and take part in the politics of our country.

Dr. JP is optimistic. He says, we need new politics for a new generation. And the party, which was actually a civil society organization, established 10 years back, was made a political party in 2006. Lok Satta Party is contesting the elections for the second time(the first time, it contested in the by-elections in Telangana) now with more awareness among people about it.
Lok Satta Party is the only one of its kind in many ways. It is democratically run. Elections are conducted at various localities for positions in the party through secret ballot. Also, within the party, elections are conducted through secret ballot. In this context, Dr. JP says, he doesn't own Lok Satta Party. LSP is the only political party in India to which one can make donations with 100% tax exemption. Recently, a Mumbai chapter of Lok Satta Party was also started. The symbol of Lok Satta Party is a blue star against white background. Its detailed agenda can be found on its website.

For more details, log onto www.loksatta.org
Also, you may listen to his speeches on politics and governance on you tube, the first part of which can be found here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MPl-ayS-7E
Here, you can find an interview of Dr. JP: http://www.loksatta.org/images/The%20first%20completely%20customisable%20news%20site%20on%20the%20web.pdf

Monday, February 23, 2009

Oil Independence

Throughout the world, people have made themselves heavily dependent on oil to keep the wheels of their economy in motion which is a situation that resulted from the developments in the yesteryears. But the world changes fast and today, we have a wide range of alternative sources of energy or fuel, I mean non-conventional sources of energy such as solar power, bio-gas, geothermal power and the kind. These non-conventional sources are being utilized well in some places while in others, they still aren't popular or popular enough.
But I don't see this situation continuing in the next few years. The world would soon become oil independent in the wake of non-conventional power which is by it's very nature cheaper, easily available to all (cannot be controlled by a few hands as is in the case now with oil), more efficient, environment friendly and sustainable. I would further say, the adoption of these non-conventional sources is democratic.

I'm not making predictions or trying to preach by saying so just for the sake of it. It's a logical conclusion. If we look at how the world has moved in the last few decades, this seems the direction it should take.
Of all the ideologies we know, through evolution, democracy remained and prevailed. Today, if we observe carefully, every process that's democratic is widely adopted and stays for good.

Examples:-
->Internet - It's democratic in the way it has opened the doors to information for all, resulting in equal ground for competition, without the interference of power or control from governments of states, which was previously the case.
->Free market: It is democratic in the way that entrepreneurs are free to expand, innovate and improve and thereby, compete with all the players around. This has resulted in better quality of life and most importantly, growth.
->Further, democracy as an ideology entered into many other fields such as banking, formation of co-operatives among the ones I know and some areas where we cannot just imagine it possible.

What I'm trying to indicate through these examples is non-conventional sources of energy will soon become dominant players in the energy market by virtue of their democratic nature.

I'm not an anti-oil activist nor am I saying, lets give up oil because it's noble to give up oil. It's not easy to give up oil given lots of things have been designed to use oil and for other such reasons. However, the use of oil and dependence on oil could be comfortably reduced for obvious advantages with alternative sources.

For further details, you may refer to

->"The Lexus and The Olive Tree" by Thomas Friedman (regarding democratization and democratic culture)
-> www.indiasolar.com (It's not just about solar energy. It covers all non-conventional energy info.)
-> www.gshakti.org (Grameen Shakti, a Grameen sister organisation which supplies non-conventional power to the poor at affordable prices. You would be amazed to see how the poor of Bangladesh are more modern in their lifestyles than most of us.)
-> http://mnes.nic.in/akshayurja/sept-oct-2008-e.pdf (here, you can find the list of manufacturers and suppliers of renewable energy resources)

Democratizing Public Institutions

Democracy can be achieved only when all sorts of power lies immediately in the hands of people. By this, I mean, people run all the public institutions directly. This can happen through the establishment of Local-self Governments. Today, we have government officials at all levels working under the ministers("people's representatives") whom we have elected. Though these officials are meant to work for the people, they can't do so as they're under the government i.e. the ministers and they work under them and consequently, for them. The flaw is in the structure we have adopted for democracy. When we want officials in public institutions to work for the people, these officials should be under the control of people and not the ministers. To enable this, we need Local Self Governments which are formed by people locally and which govern all the local public institutions directly such that all public institutions of a place are under direct control of the local people and they do not need to depend on a far off government for getting things done. This would be more efficient for obvious reasons. And corruption would be eradicated as a by-product as, when people control their own institutions, why would they harm themselves through corruption?

Empowering People

A democratic nation cannot grow by simply calling itself a democracy while it doesn't have a structure that is suitable for implementing democracy.


Empowerment of people is the key to growth in any field in a democratic country. This growth, as a result, is healthy, inclusive, sustainable and justified in every way by virtue of its mere nature.

We have the example of the White Revolution. India is the largest producer of milk today. How did this happen?

This was possible through the number of milk cooperatives formed by milk procuring farmers across the length and breadth of the nation, who owned them, managed them and shared the profits among themselves. There was no government or private or corporate interference. These farmers didn't depend on the government nor did they sell their milk to any private firms. They formed cooperatives and sold their milk on their own to people.
The milk revolution happened by replicating the Anand pattern of milk cooperatives(more specifically, the Kaira district milk cooperatives who formed AMUL) of Gujarat throughout India, carried out by Mr. Verghese Kurien(through Operation Flood) who later formed the National Dairy Development Board and other national dairy related bodies and received many awards.

If this phenomenon is replicated in all fields i.e. when people own their stuff instead of working under a government or a private organization, be it agriculture, be it any sort of business, be it media, you name it, only then we'd be talking growth as a democracy.