Saturday, 27 November 2010

India is not corrupt

Scams, scams, scams. Wherever you look, there are scams. So many in fact that people are losing faith in everything. Unless of course, you are a cynic and say, as many do, that corruption rules India with a firmer hand than any Government, you must disgusted to see how everyone in power has been looting india. A report on Global Financial Integrity last week mentioned $462 billion has been siphoned out since independence, most of it derived from corruption and kickbacks.

Now, I am the kind of person who cannot even figure out how many zeroes exist in $462 billion but it certainly looks like an astonishingly large figure. In the mid-eighties, journalists went behind Rajiv Gandhi for the Rs. 64 crore Bofors scam and even though, we knew the actual amount purloined was much more, it was never in the league of today's scams. The Commonwealth Games scam alone is approximately Rs. 70,000 crores and growing. The 2G Spectrum scam is Rs. 170,000 crore. Yes, I am learning how to count but Maths isn't the issue here. It's probity. Has it finally deserted us? Is everyone a chor, as an unknown Indian tweeted the other day? His exact words were: Is khel mein, sab chor hain.

Now that's something I find hard to believe. I personally feel it is not true. India by and large is not a corrupt nation. The ordinary Indians are not corrupt people. No, this is not wishful thinking. This is established on the basis of people we meet daily. Most Indians are honest, hard-working. They try really hard to live out their lives in difficult circumstances; whatever our GDP growth may be and the stock market indices may show. Life is certainly not easy for most of them. Yet, they demonstrate exemplary courage, dignity and faith.

What lets the ordinary Indian is the ruling elite, the 10% of India which grabs all the loot. They are the ones in control everywhere and they are so supremely networked that is almost impossible for the rest of us to break into the club of bandits and robber barons. So much so that we have literally come to believe that corruption is a way of life today. Look around you and you will see it prevalent everywhere. It's this 10% of India that manipulates the foundation of politics and policy and protects each other when the chips are down. They are connected to each other as in a feudal protectorate. Even in rare cases where they are not, there are enough pimps around to help them schmooze. That's the reason why parties change, leaders change, voting patterns change but no one can break the nexus of the supremely corrupt. They are all partners in crime even as they throw much at each other in the Parliament. Occasionally, when they are caught with their hand in the till, they are allowed to melt away. They are never punished.

Supporting this exclusive club in politics is bunch of indolent, leech-like bureaucrats. They have no political affiliations. They switch sides in a blink. They sense where power lies and they inveigle their way there, to make their own fortunes as well as the fortunes of their Teflon-clad political bosses. Sure, there are many bureaucrats who are honest, upright and impossible to corrupt. But most of them live a difficult life. Some suffer silently, waiting for retirement or better postings. Others quit the service.

The same is true for businessmen. A large number of Indian businessmen may not exactly be models of great rectitude that the society can emulate but the exact opposite is also true. There are many hardworking enterpreneurs, many amazing professionals who have created world-class companies that do make us feel proud. But the tragedy is that the system, the netas, the babus compel them to make compromises that they could otherwise avoid. Some are brave enough to refuse and bear the consequences. Others succumb citing political pressure. Scared, many squirrel away their money overseas because they don't know when the next bolt from the blue may strike. As a result, illicit outflows from India today account for nearly 72% of the underground economy.

Everyone knows that if we bring the money back, every Indian will have a job, no one will starve, no one will have to pay taxes and not just MPs, we would get free medical facilities and pension. But the tragedy is unfortunately, this will never happen because the entire money is secretly banked overseas which belongs to that 10% of India that rules over us and they see no risk in keeping it there.

While we, the 90% of India may keep protesting and raising our voices against corruption, there is no clear road map as yet emerging on how to take on this 10% of India and seize back what is rightfully ours. After all, Mahatma Gandhi fought and died for us. So did Subhash Chandra Bose and many others. Why must we allow a tiny bunch of fellow Indians to take this nation from us? Why should we live with the disgusting monikers, who allegedly representing the common man of India?

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Inspiration

The word "inspiration" evokes so many definitions. There is inspiration to be absorbed from every individual. May it be from the way they carry themselves to the way they speak to the way they lead their lives. Some people lead very carefree, laid-back lives and some have an almost "to-hell-with-the-devil" approach to life. They face problems as they come, never stress and smile even in the face of adversity. It is an amazing trait in my opinion to see people emanating a positive side even in difficult times. Some people push their luck to the best possible limit, burn the midnight oil and personify the basic essence of "hard work".

One such story that never fails to amaze me is by the leaps and bounds of Sudha Chandran. The much-acclaimed dancer who later became an accomplished actress who had not just a humble beginning, but a very tragic one. At the age of fourteen, when most of us were riding cycles or daydreaming of making our parents proud, Sudha lost her leg. Picking up the pieces of her life as much as she could, she plunged on and battled it out with every living day and nightmarish night. She definitely isn't the type to lose hope and remained steadfast in her capabilities as a survivor, Sudha took life by the horns and swung it around.

Sudha resumed her career as a dancer after she got her a prosthetic foot which was highly appreciated. You can call it luck, but to have got to the point where she actually collided headfirst with luck was her own doing. She stood by her beliefs, most essentially her belief in herself and she had it in her to make a point to the world. Her story of willpower went on to inspire a Telugu movie by the name "Mayuri".

Now with almost half of a decade of emotionally connecting with not just Indians but all of the film industry, Sudha Chandran is a force to reckon with. She's the ideal woman--capable, inspiring, strong, morally sound and above everything else--an icon, a role model. Her work ethics which border obsessively on a virtuous and truthful establishment is something that we can seek to instill in our daily lives. Fame and luck are transitory. What you do to stay up there, is the real story, the grit in the grime and the one factor that will take you a cut above the rest.

Rose-tinted glasses are a thing of the past! Take them off and look into the sunshine! I have multiple role models--people whom I look up to and they are not the same person. Look for people who inspire you and if you cannot connect with anyone, look within. Your own strength and your own abilities are inspiration enough!

Movie Review: Vaaranam Aayiram

I am not a very big fan of Tamil movies since most of them defy the concept of logic. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I came across filmmaker Gautham Menon's Vaaranam Aayiram. In English, the title of the film means "a thousand elephants". It is an ancient verse in Tamil written by saint-poetess Andal denoting the love between her and Lord Krishna. Vaaranam Aayiram is definitely one of those few movies that have the ability to touch your heart.

The story begins with a 63 year old Krishnan (Surya Sivakumar), getting his hair trimmed at a local saloon. He dies due to throat cancer on reaching home. The news is conveyed to his son, Major Surya Krishnan (Surya Sivakumar) who is on his way on a rescue mission. Remembering his father's advice that life should go on irrespective of whatever happens, Surya decides to go ahead with his mission but he is overwhelmed by emotions.

In a flashback Surya goes down memory lane. He reflects on his metamorphosis from childhood to adulthood. Constantly moving back and forth from the past to the present, the film is a compelling look at the forces that guide one's life and how one eventually plays the game of life. Right from his childhood, Surya (Surya Sivakumar) derives his inspiration from his father Krishnan. He wants to emulate his father in all walks of life.

His father Krishnan, without being too preachy, imparts important human values to his son. As Surya grows up, Krishnan plays a meaningful and an important role--making his son Surya a man of character and courage. Surya's rise comes not as a result of a grand plan or ambition but as a result of his responses to a series of challenging circumstances that arise as his life unfolds, his father being the guiding force.

His real test is when Surya meets Meghna (Sameera Reddy) on a night train and falls madly in love with her. In his efforts to woo her, he follows her to the US and eventually wins her heart. Life takes a 360 degree turn when Meghna dies in the Oklahoma City Bombings. Surya goes wayward and takes to drugs and drinking.

How he overcomes his problems and finds his true self and life's charm are narrated in the remaining part of the story. Surya successfully bears the burden of the story's emotional and psychological baggage. As an adolescent, he bubbles with energy and as an adult, he portrays the inner scars beneath the tough guy with sensitivity and as a father he turns in a mature performance.

Simran as the mother/wife is an absolute delight. Her younger days are like watching a Shammi Kapoor movie of the 1960s and the heroines in them. On the technical side, the cinematography by Ratnavel and the music by Harris Jayaraj are of very high standards. The editing by Anthony and art direction by Rajeevan take the film ahead. The locales, the army flight, the dual roles, special effects, the painful sets like the interior of a train compartment, everything is very well-projected.

The movie is definitely for people who seek plain entertainment since most of the characters freely speak in English during their conversation. The length of the film is a deterrent but it could have been cropped up further considering many scenes are really long. On the whole, it's worth a watch and on the ratings scale, three out of five.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Master Dialogue

An enterprising urchin caught the attention of female commuters on a Churchgate-bound local recently when he started mouthing Bollywood dialogues each time someone to spoke to him. When a commuter asked the boy to alight, as "men" aren't allowed in the compartment, he announced, "Abhi toh mere khelne-kudne ke din hain. Bada ho jaaunga tab rok tok lagana" (These are my days to have fun. Stop me when I grow up)."

As commuters giggled, he looked around when smiled like a veteran actor. When someone threatened to report him to the authorities and warned that he could get beaten up by cops, the boy dramatically stood with one hand firmly on his waist and said, "Waise mard ko dard nahin hota (Men don't cry)."

The final gem tumbled out as the train was leaving a station and a commuter had to run some distance to catch it. Our young hero cried out, "Aise toh aadmi life mein doich time bhaagta hain. Olympic ka race ho, ya phir police ka case ho (A man only runs twice in his life--during an Olympics race or police chase)."

Needless to say, the women in the compartment roared with laughter. Some even offered him goodies, which he readily wolfed down. This time, without uttering a word.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Celebrations

I was walking home last night on a dark night and suddenly it dawned on me that the otherwise dark lanes were brightly lit. Though most of the shops were shut owing to the time I was returning home, the trees at the end of the roads were wrapped up with string lights. My first thought to this--what's happening? Is someone getting married? I continued to walk and noticed all lanes were beautifully done and lit up. Finally, I realized it is the Deepavali week!

As a child, this was the week I used to look forward to throughout the year. Back then, it was all buying clothes, firecrackers, meeting the family and extended family, prostrating at the feet of all elders in the hope of getting Rs. 100 from them. Festivals such as Deepavali used to be the only excuses where we got opportunities to meet my extended family.

Being born in a typical Tamil Brahmin family, we had days planned for specific rituals. The first day starts with the holy oil bath meant to commemorate the triumph over evil associated with the battle between the demon Narakasur and Lord Krishna. Being the only son, I was woken up at 5 am and made to sit on a platform and my grandmother used to oil my hair and give me a bath in cold water.

After I completed my bath, my grandmother would come with a puja thali and put vibhuti on my forehead and shoulders. As the day progressed, it would graduate to be more of a show-off because I had the habit of flaunting my clothes and bursting crackers. My grandmother used to feel no matter which coloured clothes I used to wear, I was still like a clown. I realized it very late that she was right.

Afternoons used to be a big family lunch along with the members of the extended family being together. It would be an event as all the members sat together laughing and eating. Nights used to be most eventful--lighting up the "diyas" all over the place and bursting firecrackers and eating to the fullest. This is what a typical Deepavali used to be in my childhood.

In 2005, after the demise of my cousin brother, I lost interest in bursting firecrackers and then the craze for them wore off as the environmental aspect became more obvious. Finally, I dedicated myself for celebrating Deepavali at the local temple organizing a "Deepolsavam" where we used to switch off tubelights and light the temple with diyas so as to spread the light.

Happiness is where your heart and family is. Wishing you a very Happy Deepavali. Remember, safety first!!