Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Why we should all wake up to 2015

2014 is the election year.

In 2004, when Congress came to power, I was naive. I was not eligible to vote that year, but I followed the elections closely.  I was a teen, with high hopes and was still oblivious to 50 crore shades of grey in politics. Of course, the highpoint of the election was Sonia Gandhi's antaratma ki awaaz which asked her to sacrifice her chances of being the Prime Minister and letting Manmohan Singh become the PM.  He was instrumental in bringing in 1991 economic reforms and I was glad that at least we will have a bunch of well educated ministers in the parliament. 

Gujarat was still not that widely hated.  Of course, the wounds of 2002 riots were still raw.  My only complain at that time was people calling from other states and countries and wondering if it was safe for them to travel to Gujarat even after 2 years of the riots.  It saddened me then, but now that I'm wiser, I kind of wonder which place in the world is truly safe anyway?  Maybe State Bank of Travancore branches, because seriously, who goes there?

Anyway, coming back to elections.  5 years got over in 2009.  In a country as diverse like India, 5 years is too less a time to bring about any major change.  One of the important aspect is a stable government.  And the elected members who actually work instead of staging walkouts.  I think most of these ministers stage walkouts/uproars only because they don't want to fall asleep.  Or get caught watching porn.

Also, another reason I personally didn't want BJP to get to power was Advani was their prime ministerial candidate.  Had he not incited the 1992 Babri demolishion, the 1992 riots wouldn't have happened.  The 1993 blasts wouldn't have happened.  2002 Godhra carnage wouldn't have happend.  And the riots which followed wouldn't have happened.  BJP's 2009 agenda was Hindutva.  One of the promises Advani made was construction Ram temple at Ayodhya.  With all due respect to religion, looking at the way people have played politics over alleged Ram Janmabhumi, if Lord Ram were actually born there, he would probably pay Rs. 100 bribe and fudge his birth certificate.

I was most happy when 1/3rd of the land of disputed property of Ram Janmabhumi was awarded to Nirmohi Akhada.  Mostly because I never knew something called Nirmohi Akhada existed.  (apparently, it is a sect that owns temples across India, and not a place for pehelwans.

Anyway, to make matters worse, Advani was contesting from Gandhinagar constituency.  My constituency.  I, for one, did not want someone I hold responsible for 2002 riots representing me in the parliament. I'd rather have Mahesh-Naresh Kanodia singing garba there instead of Advani. (funfact: Mahesh Kanodia mimics Lata Mangeshkar)

But the level of corruption the congress government was sitting on was not exposed yet.  Not denying the existence of corruption in previous governments, but I'm sure it was not of such staggering amount.  I remember in 2004 how 1 ltr petrol was somewhere between Rs. 33-35.  It has gone more than double in 10 years.  The other day I refilled my petrol tank and I consoled myself that at least coffee at my favourite coffee shop is still cheaper than 1 litre petrol. And I can enjoy that 1 cup of coffee for over an hour, while this 1 litre petrol will be gone in under 15 minutes. :(

But last few years have made me angry.  I was angry when the Prime Minister kept his mouth shut over every issue that needed us reassurance that it's gonna be okay.  Corruption, dwindling economy, terrorism (no, condemning attacks is not an answer. at least show us you're angry, and that it affects you as much as it affects us and that you *will* do something to make things better), safety among other things.

And now it is election season again.  One thing that has changed is social media.  Easy access to twitter and facebook and the veil of anonymity lets people get away with almost anything.  And not just anonymous, abusive trolls, even the people who we have elected are not leaving any stone unturned in showing us their worst side.  They've taken mudslinging to a whole new level.  And I don't see this getting any better.

Oh, but social media doesn't really influence anyone's votes. Right? Well, I'm not sure what influences, but it angers me and saddens me that there is so much hatred all around us.  And no, Twitter/Facebook is not just limited to those with internet connection.  Whatever happens on Twitter gets picked up by mainstream media and appears in next day's newspaper.  My mother, who thinks the laptop will explode if she tries to unplug it, knows about Mallika Sherawat wishing Modi on his birthday.  My dad, with his flawed concept of how Twitter works, regularly sends me "hi" on Twitter. (He deactivated his Facebook profile because he couldn't understand how it worked). So, no. Everyone knows about what is happening on social networking sites. And they only know one side of the story, depending on the political inclination of the newspaper they read.  It just gets messy.

I don't see the situation getting any better.  Feku and Pappu are the least offensive terms till now.  Things are only going to get worse.  Do we really want to stoop to the level where we do not respect the elected Prime Minister? I, for one, have lost respect for Manmohan Singh.

And seriously.  How worse can Modi be? (I do not want to debate on 2002 riots, because I honestly believe that people died, irrespective of religion they followed, both in Sabarmati Express carnage and the riots that followed, and those responsible should be punished.  And while Modi may not be completely innocent, I still do not hold him personally responsible, just like I don't hold Manmohan Singh personally responsible for terrorist attacks in India)

Just give him a chance, he has a lot to prove, a lot to clear, a lot to live up to. I'm not saying economy will improve overnight, or that terrorist attacks wont happen in his leadership, but I'm hopeful that some corrective steps would be taken.

And honestly, I'm just tired.  Tired of all the dirty politics.

Let us all just wake up to 2015 where we have already chosen a new Prime Minister and things are on its way to recovery.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

How tolerant are we?

Religion is a sensitive topic.

Most people don't like their religious beliefs being questioned.  Especially when they are atheists.

In fact, the more I interact with people, the more I have noticed that there are more atheists who insist that God doesn't exist and ridicule those who believe in God than theists who want to shove their religious beliefs down my throat.

I am not sure of my religious beliefs.  I want to believe there is someone who is watching. I want to believe in Karma. I want to believe that no hope is lost and we are not entirely dependent on human race to save ourselves.  That there is justice in universe which is stronger than our judicial system.  At the same time, I do not visit temples regularly.  I fast on certain festivals only because I don't want to get into argument with my parents.  I'm probably one of those sitting on the fence waiting for some enlightenment to strike me so I can hop over to one side of religious beliefs.

I met a bunch of people earlier today who were having a discussion on religion, faith and superstition.  Interesting topics. Yes.

There were different viewpoints.  A very vocal group of people, a rarity in Ahmedabad.  It was like a breath of fresh air in this hot, humid, dusty city.

Unlike the parliament, this discussion didn't see anyone hurl any chairs towards the other.  More or less, everyone thought superstitions suck.  But when it came to religion vs spirituality/other forms of beliefs, the common undertone was one believer trying very hard to prove the other person how his beliefs were misplaced.  More than anyone else, they were atheists who tried too hard to prove how religion/God is not worth all this.

And ironically, everyone wanted a society where no one forces his/her views on others.

So, basically, you want to force your views on others that they should not their force their views on you.

Okay, then.

In my opinion, to each his own.  As long as your beliefs do not cause any kind of harm/discomfort/injury to others, and does not make you a criminal, an extremist or a terrorist.

I really wish we were more tolerant to other people's beliefs.  At least as much as we expect others to be for our own beliefs.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

My Experience at Mahatma Mandir

So I have been to Mahatma Mandir twice.

Mahatma Mandir is an exhibition/convention centre in Gandhingar where the Vibrant Gujarat investor summits and other meets happen.

If it were not for the profession I'm in (OMG. I'm a financial journalist!), I wouldn't go to Mahatma Mandir.  Mostly because it is in Gandhingar, and who goes to Gandhinagar unless you're out on a romantic drive (or in my case, a solitary drive to clear the head).  And why would anyone go to something called Mahatma Mandir if he/she is on a romantic drive.  So, for normal people, it is like a mystical structure you only read about in papers.

Anyhoo.  The point I was trying to make is, the layout of Mahatma Mandir sucks.  It is so badly planned that I will dread the day I have to go to MM again.

First of all, parking is almost as far as Ahmedabad.  I usually end up parking on the roadside nearby and hope no one tows away.  Anyway, after that, from the main entrance, you are almost always directed to other end of the premises for entry.  Even if you show your Press I-card.  Because people who are guarding the gate have no clue.

"I'm here to talk to the delegates"
"Call them and if they tell us, we will allow"

Yes, Denmark ke minister mere padosi hai.

Then you go to general entry, where you don't have to show any kind of identity proof.  Which is light years away from the main entrance.  And while walking till there is not an issue, it is noon and Sun is particularly unkind towards us Amdavadis.  So, a shed would've been better.

And that's not all.  You walk for like good 30 minutes around the gigantic exhibition halls and come back to the main gate, where the above conversation of calling up Denmark delegate took place.  Just that this time, you're standing inside the gates.

So, the moorkh shiromanis standing on the gate won't let me inside without a "pass" (despite my Press I-card), and I walk all around the structure and stand inside without showing my identity proof to a single soul.  No one even checked my bags as I strolled in the mid-day scorching heat.

I cannot believe how incredibly stupid that is.  The barricades and the structure which make you walk endlessly when you could just cut the distance to 50 mtrs are insane and annoying.  I really don't see what is the point of such badly designed layout.

And walking is fine, but it's just too hot - put some shade yaar.

Oh, and all this walking around wouldn't have been that bad an issue had I not been suffering from the ridiculous mysterious virus making rounds of the city which gives excruciating pain in the joints.  All this walking today has put my healing back by a week.

So please, get rid of those chain barricades and stop making people walk long distance for no reason.  Or if you can't do that, cover the entire MM premises in some sort of tent.  Like Great Golden circus or something.