Thursday, December 11, 2008

Divided as Communities but United as Individuals!!


The recently concluded Assembly elections in – Delhi, Rajasthan, MP, Chhattisgarh & Mizoram threw up rather interesting news. For BJP the election was a bit of a dampener given the ‘3-2 numerical defeat’ that it had been subjected to. More so, given the fact that it was widely predicted that the resulted might have been somewhat 4-1 or even a 5-nil drubbing of the Congress, the mood at the BJP headquarters was understandably subdued.

The Congress on the other hand, was pleasantly surprised at the long rope which the electorate seemed to give the GOP of India. Somewhat, akin to Rahul Dravid keeping his place in the Indian Test Squad, the reaction was more of relief than real celebration.

The causes and reasons for the defeat & demise of BJP … and the ‘resurgence’ of Congress have been widely debated and deliberated upon. And rather bemusing is the fact that the post mortem of these electoral results have bought the arch-rivals to a common perch – Development!   

Not long ago, it was the rampaging blue elephant of Mayawati’s BSP (Bahujan Samajwadi Party) which was supposed to have trampled upon both the Congress & BJP with equal disdain. While the Blue Elephant of the BSP was somewhat restraint this time! The sleeping giant that the Indian Electorate is indeed vouched for the BSP, albeit of a different breed – Bijli, Sadak, Paani (translated – Electricity, Roads & Water). All put together what is now hailed as the ‘Development Plank’.

A refreshing change which swept across all the constituencies was that the Electorate realized that everyone was just as good (or bad) in their track record of handling ‘national security’ or ‘terrorism’. A rath wielding, baying-for-Afzal-Guru’s-head LK Advani or a riot-wrecker-in-chief Narendra Modi was seen as equally bad as a minority-appeasing-soft-on-terror Sonia Gandhi or the-spineless-erstwhile-home minister Shivraj Patil. This election was a mandate not on political parties of a certain ideology, but it was a mandate on those leaders who worked for the state which they governed.

Sheila Dixit, as a CM of Delhi has had an abysmal record on the security front; in the 10 years of her tenure the city-state has seen several high profile security lapses, from the attack on Parliament to the twin blasts on the eve of Diwali a few falls ago… and yet when Delhi voted her back to power for the third straight term, it was in the grim background of the 60 hr Mumbai siege. The electorate seemed to have understood that as a CM of Delhi, you’re running a govt. which hardly has any say on Security Issues given the concurrence of geographical entities which the state & central governments lay claim on. More than ½ your police force is forced into a bonded labor of sorts by being pushed into ‘VIP Security’ ‘Bandobast Duty’ ‘Security Cordons’ and the like.

Also, the electorate understood that in Delhi is a Crowd of self-acclaimed VIP’s, leaders who were branded as those without a political base (thanks to the now-obscured Uma Bharti), seen everywhere on the TVscape and not on the ground, those who spoke big but had achieved little (Madanlal Khurana?? anyone..)… and given such a background it’s a welcome contrast that the Delhi Electorate has once again elected someone who is none of those ‘hi-profile’ tags. Sheila Dixit on the contrary has often been seen as weak, almost invisible, cant-remember-when-she-was-on-TV-last-time figure. And yet it appears the Delhi Electorate has recognized the work she has done; and has rightly rewarded her!

Similar has been the fate of the two BJP won states – MP & Chhattisgarh; both CM’s have a relatively low profile when compared to the Modis & Rajes of the BJP. And yet, the electorate has been dancing to the Development tune which they have successfully played.
Contrast these ‘small’, ‘low profile’ leaders against the high & mighty Vasundhra Raje… who ruled like she was an Empress, trampled upon her own partymen with a Mayawati kind of disdain, alienated her own allies like only she can, romped & pomped her way in her state sponsored private jet, and what you got was a royal drubbing when she was brought to the people’s court.

This election must have been a lesson to each of those political pundits and spin doctors, who thought of the Indian Electorate as just another emotive and fractured bunch of folks. Those whose support could be ‘bought’ by putting up gruesome posters of a terror attack; by promising to hang/let go those who have been convicted of crimes against the nation. 

If issues of caste & religion have divided us, issues of price rise, roads, electricity, education etc are good enough to unite us (for or against a government). If the former issues are a threat to our collective identity and ideology; the latter are the foundations of our individual existence. Politicians paint terrorists as Muslims (now they are painting some even as Hindus) to create a divide amongst communities; but a Hindu or a Muslim living on the same street will be more willing to unite and fight for the lack of proper drinking water nearby. Afzal guru might be an issue to divide different communities, but price-rise was issue which had a more direct impact on the lives of individuals – whether Muslim, Hindu or a Christian dearer Onions made you ‘cry’ more than usual. 

The polity thus far failed to realize that we were a nation not of divided communities, but of united individuals! This realization, I believe is the biggest joy of this electoral season… hopefully, the same continues come Apr-May and the general elections!

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Reagan Written Obituary That Went Wrong!!


The fall of 2008 would be remembered if not for one of the great presidential campaigns and the possibility of the first colored president of America; it would surely be recalled for the economic turmoil that the world has seen. Stranger things have happened in the world, but not in the recent memory has anyone known the United States as helpless and clueless as it seems today. Many believe it was the un-quenching greed of the so called Wall Street 'Masters of the Universe' that bought about this downfall, and then there are others who think that it was callousness with which the politicians de-regulated the markets resulted in this mayhem.

But I'd like to believe that reasons for this loss of face for the US is more in their attitude and psyche as much as it is in their actions. A little over a couple of decades go, the then President of USA, Mr. Ronald Reagen announced

"The West will not contain Communism, it will transcend Communism. We will not bother to denounce it, we'll dismiss it as a sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages are even now being written."

The United States, which was the beacon of capitalism, assumed that in the post-cold war era there was nothing which could stop its economic and military supremacy. Their obsession with their own capitalism was dwarfed by their hatred for communism. Their desire to impose their will and supremacy on others left them unguarded at their own turf. No one imagined that it wouldn't need an enemy to topple them off the perch, 'cos they've been digging their own grave all along. Two decades on from that quote from Mr. Reagan, it doesn't appear that communism has been quite transcend by the West. On the contrary, whats transcended everyone is the National Debt in America. Couldn't have been more ironic when their own 'Debt Clock' ran out of digits to reflect the numbers.

The last pages of communism which were written at the time of Reagan, were in fact a great work of fiction. China has shown everyone that Communism is alive and kicking, and the glorious Olympics which the Chinese hosted only seem to contrast the glorious achievements of China against the dirty mess in the US. If Communism once seemed sad and bizarre to Americans, its no cruel coincidence that its the same Communist China which is one of US' biggest trade partners and holds trillions of dollars of American treasury bonds.

I am no prophet of Communism neither am I any anti-American preacher, what I am though is someone who expects a leader to be more caring than condescending. A super power to be equitable rather than selfish and self-centered. Leadership often comes with responsibility and somewhere, the American leadership let go of this.

Iraq war for instance, they went ahead with their military actions without a clear mandate to do so from the Security Council. Saddam Hussein was a dictator and so was Pervez Musharraf, and yet while one was attending State Luncheons with the American President the other was hung by the gallows. Both Muslim states, if the Bhaat party was breeding terrorists so was the ISI; and yet while one was showered with missiles from B-52 bombers the ISI was gift-wrapped F-16's.

Surely, a country has a sovereign right to support or oppose, but not in a manner which is blatantly arbitrary and smacks of injustice to the others. If they had chosen capitalism as there way of life, congratulations to them; their democracy is well appreciated and their supremacy well regarded. But the sad part is that they faltered in their judgement of others, and it is this failure of judgement, a direct cause of their unwarranted & exaggerated pride which has brought their Treasury Secretary to his knees.

Two decades on from Ronald Reagan's Obituary of Communism, a new chapter in American Capitalism is taking the very same color which their former president declared dead. The $700 billion bailout, is the biggest, most costliest and shameless form of communism every to have seen!

The Americans might be feeling bitter right now, but what we sow is often what we reap. They have to go through this painful process, but by the time they stagger back to their feet the contours of the power landscape would have been changed for ever. China, India, Brazil and many others would have cemented their place on the high table by then. Though we cannot deny back the US its rightful place, surely it would not have the top slot for granted anymore.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hong Kong in a Banana Split!!

Recently, I wrote about Hong Kong and something I completely missed out was their political system. And as though to remind me and everyone that it does exist much like it does is most countries, some politicians pulled a mickey (or rather a banana quite literally) out of the hat at the HK Chief Executive's Policy Address (similar to the US' State of the Union Address). As the Chief Executive went through his speech a few legislatures created a ruckus at the end of which a banana was thrown at him, promptly red-carded out of the arena. The banana missed the target, but the legislator later remarked that he had made it point nevertheless. Phew!

In India, we've seen politicians pull out all sorts of stunts in the legislature - from fist cuffs to the most recent 'wads of cash' dumped in the parliament. But to find something similar out in HK, couldn't help a chuckle. First it make me feel a lil better that our guys aren't the only ones who are this unruly, and then I cheekily reminded one of my Chinese friends that at least Indian politicians who traded fist cuffs in a state legislature at least managed to land some on the opponent unlike the ill-directed banana-missile :P

This self-congratulatory mood wasn't gonna last long... after all in a sense I soon realized that my chuckle at the Chinese friend was pretty much a banana on his face. Just like those maverick politicians, for a personal and selfish feel good factor I choose to find a 'positive' and 'we're-better-than-you' factor in the whole ludicrous affair. Such politicians, I am certain, pull off such dirty tricks just to keep themselves in news and not an ounce to register any real public disapproval. These guys must first watch their own back. Acting with decorum, dignity and a sense of responsibility are the fundamental duties of a public servant more so a public representative.

Throwing a banana at the head of your state is by no means a legitimate way to protest. Neither is it a rational and humor evoking one!

For sure, the falling approval ratings of the Chief Executive in HK are pointers enough to say the public is unhappy with him, a banana on his face does add anything to it. Though, it might have given the Chief Executive unasked for banana facial. I am certain, that a sensible and rational Hongkonger never wants to get into such a trash with his neighbour forget the Chief Executive's. I regularly have disagreements - from my colleagues to friends to family, never did I wish a banana treatment for them.

I'm plainly aghast and deeply saddened to see such distasteful acts... I firmly believe - that "Disagreements" and "Disrespect" are not to be synonymous with respect to a political opponent. Disagreements are part of the political arena but and clearly such an incident shows a clear lack of respect. And such a trend cannot result in a healthy and desirable progress... its dangerous and surely avoidable for a wonderful society as Hong Kong as for every sane and civilized society on earth.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

McCain - Maverick Politician or a Modest Statesman!!


We Indians are quite used to the rethoric and venom in an election campaign, and quite honestly it shouldn't come across as a surprise that our politicians can be utterly ridiculous to totally no-holds-barred. In a land where quotes such as "Merchants of Death" are a common place, the current vitrol in the US Presidential Campaign might not quite be as high voltage din as our own politicians can create. 

John McCain's running mate recently accused Obama of "palling up with terrorists" ... now as much as I know, the BJP has for the four and half years accused our UPA government of the same - "being soft on terror" is their catch phrase.

However, what politicians call one another nasty things isn't my concern... after all, cynically speak you don't expect them to sign peans of one another... for the otherwise meaningless theatre of politics but then be bereft of its color and fun. What concerns me is how politicians can be blatantly shameless at acknowledging the good aspects of their opponents in the heat of the election battle. 




When John McCain, the GOP presidential nominee was faced with a similar choice at a campaign rally at Minnesota. A lady said to McCain "I don't trust Obama. I have read about him and he's an Arab." Now McCain, could have been a regular politician and gone hammer and tongs, giving more reasons to the lady why indeed she should not trust him, and I guess the Arab factor needn't have figured much. He could have repeated how "naive and dangerous" Obama could be... how Obama "doesn't understand", how Obama is a "liberal" and all those things about Obama & Ayers which Palin has already been shouting her head off with!

But surprisingly, to me and certainly to a lot of those in that crowd, McCain trugged off saying - 
"No ma'am, no ma'am. He's a decent family man...[a] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. That's what this campaign is all about."
Ah... I had to double check that twice before I could acctually believed what I read. I crossed with the same news on a few other websites to ensure I got those lines right. Indeed, McCain has those very words. Words which well and truly make him a Statesman in my book... How often have we seen such a stance in our times?? How often, do we hear a politician call his opponent "a decent family man". McCain made his point in those four words... not having to eulogising about in a manner which makes its obvious that he hardly means any of it, McCain addressed it in the most simple, personal and effective manner.

Goes on to show, that the Oldest Democracy in the world has indeed learnt a few good lessons in these two centuries of its existence. True political tolerance is indeed in being able to stand the guy whom you call an opponent, stand the fact that he is just as good. 

Sure, this doesn't stop the campaign, the disagreements, the barrage of ads, nothing... but what it does is that it makes you stop and think. Cos its not often as you would hear an opponent say the following about a guy without whom he is bitterly fighting for the most powerful office in the world (though the credit crisis might have shaved billions of dollars worth power off it already)

"But I have to tell you, I have to tell you, he is a decent person, and a person that you do not have to be scared as President of the United States."
Though, the crowd at Minnesota booed McCain, I cannot help but Salute this great American War Hero!!

Friday, October 10, 2008

HK - Life and Times of Hong Kong


Please note: This is an article which I wrote for the Times of India, Dated Oct 9, 08. The online version of the newspaper article can be seen here

"Hi, I am Venus, I work for SMSCountry Networks in Hong Kong. SMSCountry primarily is a Hyderabad based SMS Gateway Provider and I am currently deputed at our Hong Kong branch. 

Hong Kong – the government here likes to market it as "Asia's World City" and it is every bit a world city. Something which strikes you right as you get off the plane and set yourself into the city is the order and panache everywhere. Almost everything your eyes rest upon here is larger than life, oozing with style and made to work in seamless and perfect order. 

Hong Kong is predominantly a bunch of tiny and hilly islands, the city centre is a concrete jungle, but one that is sure to get you gasping at the beauty of its skyscrapers. In fact they say, these skyscrapers by night give HK the title of being the “Most Beautiful City on Earth at Night”. The further you go away from the city you get so much closer to the natural side of HK, lovely green hill, plenty of sea of course and a zillion spots for hike enthusiast.

The city has long been a British Colony, in fact until as recently as 1997. HK has managed to flourish under the British Crown like no other colony of this empire. And just as much as it has flourished it has imbibed into itself so many of the attributes of the Western World. From their dressing sense to lifestyle to work environments, almost everything is as ‘westernized’ as you get!!  However, from an Indian perspective for first time visitors it can come across as a bit of a culture shock! Surprisingly though for such a Westernized place English not much understood and is much less spoken. Going around the local markets and especially the taxi drivers can really be a big problem. On the other side, the public transport is excellent with locations and directions mentioned in both English & Cantonese (the local Chinese dialect).

Just going a bit further on the Language issue, I’d say as Indians we often find ourselves obliged to help a person who is unable to communicate with us because of a language barrier. If someone can’t speak Hindi, then we try to find someone across who could help that person. However, often I found in HK, that not knowing the local language was seen more as ‘my problem’ and not many actually feel our kind of an obligation to help. 

Having worked now in HK for almost four months now, I can say it’s really is now of the best places to work. People's are known to be hugely enterprising, hardworking and having a great work ethic. HK has for long been voted as a place which is the Best Place to Do Business, by a host of agencies and publications. And my personal experience says it is indeed true. The government processes are swift and sharp. There’s almost no red tape, and you get things done in a jiffy. The tax system is fairly low and simple. As far as governance goes, HK certainly is a dream.

Food is a huge part of people’s social lives; it’s by far the largest social activity you would get across. … Restaurants always teeming with people are a microcosm of the HK Life. From the exotic to wild … when it comes to food then HK is as good as is it get.  For many an Indian though, who are used to our spicy stuff, food in HK might not always be a welcome thing, and soon enough you start craving for the stuff found back home.

Life in HK, has given me so much more of a world perspective. You come of people of many different nationalities, it’s a very cosmopolitan place, it’s obviously a global financial hub, anything and everything that happens across the globe finds a resonance here. Living in such diverse environment, has opened up my mind to know, understand and more importantly appreciate the various perspectives of people. And as such it’s not a difficult thing being an Indian as plurality in society is not new to us!

Indians as everywhere can be found here in a sizeable numbers. There are a lot of Sindhis, Punjabis, North Indians here. In a region known as Tsim Sha Shui, you find scores of Indian eateries around and walk into any of them, dozens of Indian faces would make you feel very much at home.  We Indians have been known as warm people, and I have to say a thousand miles away from home it only gets better. 

There are quite a few Indian Clubs here where community specific get together’ are a commonplace. The Kowloon Cricket Club is another place where a lot of Indians are seen. The ordinary Chinese guy, in fact, respects Indians for their Knowledge Prowess much more than the Westerners for their financial muscle.

Though the average cost of living in HK is much higher than a lot of other places, people still find it lucrative given the impressive pay packages and excellent living conditions. Owing to this a lot of Indians have in the recent past made HK their home, and this number is only increasing by the day!

A tiny island in itself, HK is a shining star on the global financial universe!"

Thursday, October 9, 2008

View Frm Venus


Just like everyone I have my views... on just about everything I see, feel and come across... Just about everything in this expanse of the universe... Just like each of you who might read this and equally as much as those who won't... I have a view... in fact I have more than one view... Often intervined and influenced, largely uncluttered, fairly liberal and somewhat conservative... Sometimes accepted, often rebuked and scoffed.. yet they never stop and I guess they never should... So here we ago... finally I find a place where I can just about put forth all of them... in a tone and manner I'd love to, in a fashion I'd want. Raising a toast to every view you ever had... a toast all of our thought, knowledge and actions... for all views and thoughts are intervined with one another and are a consequence of the each other...
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