Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Get your domestic act right, guys !

‘It’s very difficult to get rid of one’s behavior’, goes one of the sayings. Hence, after 7/11, when Indian administration didn’t point fingers ‘across the border’ it was kind of surprise to me. But the surprise didn’t last long. Something that was expected to happen – did happen. Only change being instead of it happening immediately, it happened a few days later – when our agencies failed to find any concrete clues.

My simple hypothesis is “It’s not possible to bring one’s home down unless there is a mole within.”

No way it’s possible for anybody to spread this kind of terror in any foreign territory unless it has support in that country. One can certainly press the button on the remote control from across the border, but somebody physically has to plant the explosives in this country for remote control to be used. Does our administration really think that people are coming from across the border, studying the DNA of our cities, finding loop holes and then trying to exploit it? No way. People from across the border can, at best, only facilitate the entire process but executing this entire plan with this kind of precision - I think, only fools would like to believe that it’s done by foreign entities ONLY.

This brings me to my second point. Before we call for international attention to clear problems stemming out of a foreign land or a disputed territory, shouldn’t we try to first set our own house in order. We have been facing cross-border terrorism since independence. Going by the above hypothesis, there has been domestic support to these acts of terror. Aren’t 60 years long enough to at least clean one’s own house before crying out loud about the neighbor throwing rubbish in our backyard? We have banned SIMIs of the world due to security reasons. But having established them to be anti-social elements, what stops us from uprooting them. Why do we allow its leaders to go to media and openly support and defend their cause? Why don’t we punish them so hard that forget claiming leadership, nobody would even dare to talk about such organizations? Just to save so called ‘secular’ face of India. Just to protect vote banks. What kind of wisdom is this? Administration is to protect us or to destroy us? Is our administration so thick-skinned and insensitive that it can jeopardize civilians’ lives to protect vote banks & come to power?

And then on one not so fine day, when the terrorism shakes the system, the security agencies go to the Muslim localities and round up the suspects. Suspects could be a local tailor, a grocer, a baker or a butcher. Most of them are later released, having found them innocent. What message is our administration trying to convey to this community? Have they ever thought of the possible implications of such actions on the consciousness of this community? What faith would this instill in the minds of this community? Even if they don’t harbor any love for our neighbor, these acts certainly give them reasons, sufficient enough to hate India.
They are made ‘suspects’ in their own country for doing nothing wrong. No wonder, our neighbor exploits these tender nerves to the maximum.

Noted lyricist & writer Javed Akhtar recently challenged these SIMI-types, who claim to be messiah of the community to contest elections. His hypothesis being they won’t garner even one percentage of the community’s votes for even the community doesn’t buy their philosophy.

So my dear Indian administrations, as per your records whoever these suspects are, please round them up for once and all. Put them through a thorough enquiry, and give the strictest of the punishment to those found guilty. And please let others live a life of an honorable Indian.

Before pointing your finger across the border, please get your domestic act right.


Live Tutorial for Indian Diplomacy

What we haven’t managed in last 60 years, Israel has managed to do it in just 6 years – “Win over US, and get it to one’s own side”. Nobody can undermine the role of United States in the global relationships and their is the way to go.

Since long, Israel has had only a handful of friends. However what we have seen over last few years is a systematic & continuous diplomatic policy to create its own niche.

9/11 gave the countries world-over an opportunity to re-establish the equations with global superpower, for it was for the first time the superpower had experienced terrorism at its home. And suddenly all that terrorism seemed very ‘real’ to US leading to ‘war against terror’ world over.

Recently I heard Shimon Peres, Deputy PM of Israel talking to an international news channel. In no uncertain words he said that “Lebanon is not our enemy. As a matter of fact it can be one of our best & closest friends. And it’s not too difficult. If the Lebanese Government stops the insurgency then we are more than willing to talk across the table and all the issues that we have could be sorted out”.

Just 10 minutes thereafter Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Seniora had to rubbish these words of truce. He claimed that this statement of Israeli Deputy PM is just a façade and he doesn’t really mean it. What happened in a few hours’ time is quite remarkable. For once, US issued the statement which asked Lebanon to take Israeli stance in a positive spirit and have the mutually agreeable resolution arrived at, at the soonest.

This statement means a lot, not only for Israel, but also for the world. It gives us the idea of the shifting balance of power and how Israel has managed to extract the most out of a tragedy. A tutorial in its own way for the Indian diplomacy.


From ‘3-Piece Suit’ to ‘Pajama’ to ‘Chaddi’

"I dont want Sales Managers. I want Business Managers".
Myself being in sales, this is one of the quotes that appeals me very much. I think the statement conveys what it intends to.

Salesman sells what sells. And salesmen are right in doing so.

Businessmen sell taking broader perspective of the health of business. And hence they are supposed to be taking a more long term, balanced & matured view of the opportunities that come their way.

And that’s why ICC’s recent decision to bring 20Twenty into mainstream surprised me immensely. For ICC is not a ‘David Dhawan Production’ that would bring out run-of-the-mill sellable commodities. We are talking about serious business here that’s going to have long-term repercussions.

I myself am a fan of entertaining forms of cricket like double-wicket, six-a-side, etc. But yes, there role ends at entertainment. That can’t be the mainstream cricket. Okay, what’s ICC is possibly trying to achieve through this new format.
1. Increase popularity in existing cricket playing nations
2. Spread cricket to other countries
3. Appease Mr. Money Bags

As far as existing cricket playing countries are concerned, I don’t think ICC needs to do anything special to push the game. Non-cricket playing nations – Yes. It’s a great format to popularize cricket in the non-playing nations. And I think ICC has been arranging events at places like Hong Kong, Canada, Europe, Gulf to popularize the game. Thanks to Mr. Dalmia, in the past Indian & Pakistani boards have readily obliged to play anywhere in the world.

What remains to be seen is the role of sponsors of the game. No doubt, they have deep pockets. And they are ready to put in any amount of money in a short, thrilling, speedy and quick-result game that has more entertainment value and hence greater ability to pull crowd. No wonder sponsors poured a lot of money when pajama cricket was introduced. ICC can earn even more bucks in this ‘chaddi cricket’ format. The big question is “should that be the only yardstick?”

No doubt, this format of cricket is very well suited for the likes of Dhonis & Afridis. But what happens to the overall health of game? What happens to the psyche of the bowlers who are butchered all over the ground? What happens to the class & elegance of the batsmanship? If I like only airy shots then I would instead start watching baseball.

I think BCCI, for once, was right in resisting to this format. We, in any case, talk about burnouts, injuries, niggles after playing close to 12 tests and 40 ODIs a year. Add to those bilateral, triangular & world cup tournaments of this format. What are we heading to?

Chaddi cricket is like fast-food. Great entertainment & popularity value but does more harm in the long run than good.


Hats off Kannadigas!

‘Wouldn’t Mumbai respond the Kolkatta-way if Sachin is dropped from the side?’
Asked most of the Bengal-based newspapers after Sourav Ganguly was shown the door. I don’t know the answer to this but Bangaloreans certainly showed a lot of maturity after selection of Indian cricket team for Sri Lanka.

BCCI has this funny way of behaving is no secret. And they are the way they are since they exist. In Mohinder Amarnath’s words – “Jokers”.

After the fantastic debut performance, if ever Ajit Agarkar looked settled, it was in the recently concluded India – WI ODI series. He knew the way pitches were behaving. He knew where to bowl. He knew what his role was. And despite of that he was dropped from the test squad. Most knowledgeable cricketers & critics found the verdict rather surprising.

Similar verdict was repeated couple of days ago in case of Anil Kumble. One of the best match-winning bowlers of recent times… in pink of his form… and part of the ‘scheme of things’ for the ensuing world cup.

When the reports came in that Rahul Dravid, a state-mate, is the person who’ll take a final call about his place, I was almost certain about his inclusion. Considering Kumble being in the reckoning for the world cup squad, his exclusion was a surprise to me.

However I was more surprised, albeit pleasantly, at the maturity & restraint that Bangaloreans have shown towards reacting to his exclusion. I think it’s something worth emulating by one and all. Rising above the local interests and thinking for the country as a whole.

Hats of Bangaloreans! Hats off Kannadigas!


A request to the President

Evening of Monday July 17th brought a pleasant surprise.

As usual, I was traveling in a slow train from Dadar to Goregaon. Standing in the door of the first class compartment. The city was barely rising from the trauma of 7/11. The train was still chugging into the Mahim station, and my weary eyes noticed something very soothing….. A reformed Mahim station!

And at once I was very happy. Spanking clean platforms. Freshly painted walls. Brand new neon signs to guide passengers. Refurbished ticket booking office. Working fans for passengers in the queue.

No paan stains. No beggars around. No out of order fans, clocks & indicators. No cobwebs on the ticket booking windows.

Everything was just so perfect. The entire station was so very nicely illuminated. I felt nice... I felt really really nice.

Mahim was one of the worst hit stations because of bomb blasts. I myself had seen broken roof of its platforms and the other stains of the disaster at the station. And this look of Mahim was certainly a welcome change. I kind of liked the urgency with which Railway Administration has got into action to erase those unfortunate memories of what had happened just a few days ago.

Thoughts were running, So was the train. And my mind was getting ready to see similar face-lifts at other stations as well. The train entered Santacruz. I was eager to see the station with makeover. However, the scene looked familiar. As it was for years. May be the blasts didn’t do much damage to the station.

Jogeshwari! Yes, that is the suburb where the blasts occurred right at the station. ‘I’m sure that station would have got the facelift’, my mind was telling me. Alas, that wasn’t the case. I was wondering why only Mahim has been singled out for the special treatment. Why not other stations that were equally hit.

I reached home, freshened myself up. But this question was still coming back to me as I unfolded the newspaper. Got it!

‘President visiting Mahim station on Tuesday evening’.

The entire story got unfolded in a moment’s time.
Mr President, for sake of Mumbaikars, please travel on Churchgate – Virar slow train just once and ensure that you get down on all the stations. You’ll be doing a lot good to the city!


Monday, July 17, 2006

Ruminations of an Honest Mind

Events over last few days have put me in a difficult situation.

I truly love India and would be really happy to see it growing in stature on the global platform. As an Indian, I think it’s my duty to contribute my 2 cents. This feeling has so far managed to hold me back in this country.

But then there are events which hugely let me down. Gives me a kind of feeling that am wasting my time here. Gives me a feeling that we are regressive rather than progressive. Gives me a feeling that those occupying seats of power have really nothing to do with the wellbeing of the country and they are merely interested in amassing uncountable personal wealth.

I feel lost. I feel helpless. I feel cheated.

These are the people who collect money from us and what do we get in return?
Lack of safety & Security. Unrest. Bad Roads. Waterlogged Conditions. Bomb blasts. Riots. Floods.
So why do we pay ‘honestly’. Just for administrators to make merry.

People talk about spirit of Mumbai. What spirit are they talking about? It’s a ‘dog’s life’. However kicked, the dog has to come back to his master. He just doesn’t have any choice other than accepting the things the way they are. Is that what you really call ‘resilience’?

Malls & multiplexes is no development. Good infrastructure & high quality of life is.

These are the times when I really feel like voting by my feet.
I feel like taking my whole family with me, just leave this country and settle abroad. At least there is some hope there. People apparently are ‘not rude’.

But to be frank, when I put together my balance sheet later in my life, what would I get. Would I have had done anything for this country? Would I have had done anything for its people? Would I have had taken any pains to correct any of the aspects of my country? And a negative answer would hurt me immensely.

I am torn between devil & deep sea.


Friday, July 14, 2006

Resilience & Indifference

Everybody’s talking about how quickly Mumbai has managed to get back on its feet. Like Citibank’s punch line, ‘this city as well never sleeps’. Kudos to all those Mumbaikars who showed the kind of resilience & fearlessness, as if nothing has happened.

But I think deeply and I wonder, is it really resilience or is it indifference. Like rest of the country, Mumbaikars as well have given up on administration. They don’t expect much from them. They no more believe in a long term solution to the problem. They have become numb. And hence they have chosen the next best route – Indifference.

Now that’s dangerous. Why don’t we see any civil uprising? As civilians we have some basic rights and our administration is answerable to us.

We are talking about corporatization in many areas. Let administration as well follow the suit. Let the administration come out with a time-bound program to restore the right to safety & security and publish a weekly progress report.

To put pressure on the administration to come out with a time bound program, we may have to call for a bandh that is “by the people – for the people” or may want to take a peaceful march. And no, we don’t want participation of any political outfits here.

For sure, water is about to go over the top, engulfing all of us in that resilience-cum- indifference. If our politicians are inactive, let’s get active ourselves to put state machinery into action.


Heroes of 7/11

One of the management lessons goes as: “if you are wondering why a ‘useless person’ has got promoted, almost always it is due to his subordinates”.

World over front line people hog all the limelight while backroom boys are relegated into oblivion.

Something similar happened few days ago in Mumbai. When the entire city of Mumbai was in the grips of panic & shock, these were the people who worked relentlessly to ensure that normalcy restores before sun rises the next morning. In true sense they are “Heroes of 7/11”.

As we all know trains are the lifelines of the city. And on that fateful evening, all trains in the peak hours getting cancelled meant around 1.5 million people traveling on WR towards Borivli / Virar were stranded at different stations. They had to fall back upon alternate mode of transport. Now the question is how any city can offer an alternate transport medium in just an hour’s time to such a large number of people.

BEST, Mumbai’s local bus transport system, took up the gauntlet. Almost all the buses which were doing their last round of the day were put back on the road. Buses are machines. But what about drivers & conductors. They are human beings like you & me. As tired at the end of the day they were as anybody could be. These were the same drivers who had driven buses for whole of Tuesday. They turned into angels that night. BEST had its entire fleet on the road as soon as possible. This really proved to be boon for all those working in south end of the city, staying in northern suburb, and for whom cab was an unaffordable option.
A point not to be missed is that all regular buses were plying on Wednesday morning as well.

2nd hero was the Western Railway staff who ensured that normalcy is restored at the soonest. They had to clear debris, wheel away the affected rakes, correct the cabling, set right the station roofs and lot of other things. Since police had to collect 'suraag', they had very little time to do all of it. The pressure to put trains back on track before dawn was always there. And I must complement them to do all of it well in time. No wonder Mumbaikars could travel on the same tracks the very next morning.

While the above two were organized efforts to restore normalcy, there was an unorganized individual-driven effort that once again demonstrated the spirit of Mumbai. The spirit to help fellow citizens, the spirit to put the best foot forward in crisis, the spirit of “if it is to be, it’s up to me”. These were the people of Mumbai. Especially the ones in Dadar-Borivli stretch. I myself left office well past midnight and waded through residential lanes of Shivaji Park / Mahim, only to find people on road distributing water / biscuits to travelers. At every corner I found children, ladies & men, most of them in their night suits, offering something to eat & drink. They very well could have gone for a good night's sleep, but they stayed put to help us. But for them, the long journey back home could have been agonizing.

The very fact that there is somebody to help you in case of need makes one’s journey all the more comfortable & satisfying.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Mumbai 7/11 & Media Coverage

Last 2 weeks have been one of the most difficult weeks in the life & times of Mumbaikars. It all started with heavy deluge, followed by desecration of a statue. As if these speed breakers were not sufficient, it was culminated by one of the worst tragedies in the form of serial bomb blasts on local trains in Mumbai.

While I’m let down by our administrators & intelligence agencies, I’m more saddened by the way in which media has approached the events.

On that fateful evening of 7/11, I was in office and since 6.30 PM was glued to TV. To my utter surprise & shock, TV Channels were just trying to sensationalize the things. They were busier dishing out those “exclusive bytes” rather than really helping the cause.

The questions being asked to the administrators (read bureaucrats, police) were like "how do you compare these blasts with '93", "what’s the material used - RDX or TNT" etc. Passengers were being asked “who do you think are behind these blasts”, “do you think Mumbai is safe any more”.

Not that these questions were utterly nonsense but they were post-mortem questions. These questions meant nothing to those who were stuck at that point in time. People wanted to know whether they should stay back or proceed. If proceed then what time, which route. Where could they find first aid and essential help. This would have really helped.

While I understand they being in the ‘business’ of news-making and any seller would sell what sells, they are times when media is expected to take onerous responsibility.

We want media to be ethical, reasonable & responsible section of the society which can act as a fourth pillar. I sincerely hope that TV channels, being the fastest & most influential of the media, would in future behave more responsibly and make constructive contribution to the issue at hand.