Tuesday, August 14, 2007

INDIA AT 60


What is it to be 60 years old? Imagine you were 60 years old you would have been flooded with greetings which would be on the following lines:

  • Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.

  • Age is a high price to pay for maturity.

And the gifts that you could possibly get would include among other things – a 60th coffee mug and a walking stick.

Being 60 years is considered auspicious by many; there would a thanksgiving service at the local temple or church and a party would be arranged, were you will be reminded of all the things that you did for the last 60 years via a toast. (And or a power point presentation if you have tech savvy children or nieces/nephews) Rest assured only the good qualities and incidents will be mentioned, the goof ups will only remain in memory.

But when a country turns 60 it tends to be different. I am of the opinion that a country is a sum total of the people that reside in it. Hence, along with lavish praise some criticism, of us, is in order.

Sixty years on, we have an independent judiciary (I refer to the Supreme Court) before which no one is too high, a thriving economy, and an uninhibited blog-sphere where one can agitate for any cause whatsoever, a vibrant media and most importantly India has been a role model for multi-cultural democracy. (Though our elections resemble a carnival and we have an increasingly boisterous parliament). Today, the world looks at India as a super power. Every move that India makes is watched keenly. My friends in the academia world keep telling me that amidst all the squalor, things are looking up! India is rising!

In my earlier post, I had written:

  • India has an affluent middle class that has grown in just a few years.
  • We have more millionaires today than ever before.
  • We also have more poor people than ever before.
  • We have more street children & more missing young girls than ever before.
  • We have more rogues, ruffians, riff-raff and dons than ever before.
  • Eradicated diseases like Tuberculosis and Malaria are returning with a vengeance.
  • We do not have a single city with enough drinking water.
  • We do not have a single clean city; all our cities have garbage removal and disposal problems.
  • Our politicians no longer even pretend respect for the public.
  • The numbers of criminals who are MLAs have increased.

Well, one can add many more points. But I would like to concentrate on just two:

  • We are becoming increasingly intolerant.
  • We are becoming increasingly fundamentalist.

In India we declare that a teacher can be punished for calling a student stupid; but we allow fundamentalists, who declare that they will behead or kill an author, go scot-free. What gives? Where are we heading?

This, to my mind, is a serious lacuna.

It disturbs me. Religion and politics make sound bedfellows. But they also drive the sane to despair. Will we be able to break the nexus and rise above? What will it be when India turns 75?

Spare a thought.



“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high.......

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake”


– Rabindranath Tagore







Tuesday, August 07, 2007

FAREWELL.......


NITESH AGARWAL
1983 - 2007



NEHA SINGH
1984 - 2007

To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die

Last year at around this time, I was teaching a course in Financial Accounting for PGP I at the Indian Institute of Management, Indore. Among my students were Nitesh Agarwal and Neha Singh. Fondly, I referred to Nitesh as 'bitcom' and to Neha as ''lil one'. Nitesh was a vibrant youngster with boundless energy while Neha was prim and proper and a stickler for neatness. I had continued my association with Neha through an occasional call or a chat on the net.

It was with dismay and a deep sense of regret that I received the news of their passing away on Saturday, 4th August 2007. Two young lives were taken away from us. I could not believe it. One of their classmates sent me a scrap, which said "Bit com and 'lil one are no more...." and when another called on my cell to convey the news, it sank in. A tragic incident had snuffed out their lives.

They were both happy people and no one can take that from them. They saw the world as it was and were content to approach it with a practical mind.

They were both too young to have left this world. We may ponder and ask, why? Feeling helpless we cry out; "Why God? Why?" Even as I write this post, my mind cries out the same refrain.

Death comes like a thief, unannounced. Death takes away people whom we love. Perhaps this is the way God works - in mysterious ways. Perhaps there is a need for a Nitesh and a Neha in heaven where they will be happy. Perhaps God has some other plans for them?

As I grope for answers I get this message – This is not a time to grieve their deaths but it is our time to celebrate their life. Don't ever forget these two young people. I don't think they ever wanted people to cry. They would have wanted everyone to be happy. So, at this moment when we have laid our friends to rest, let's all think back and remember how Nitesh and Neha touched our lives. All the memories we have shared with them will forever be cherished and remembered. Nitesh and Neha will forever live in my heart… In our hearts. This is not the moment to shed tears but we should be thankful that we were given a chance to have known these two wonderful people.

For just over a year that we knew them, we reveled in their company. Happiness & laughter has flowed in their presence. Let not grief and tears wash away those sweet memories. There is no doubt in my mind that Nitesh and Neha are watching down on us from heaven right now.

Nitesh and Neha will forever be missed but I know in the right time, I will meet them again. We will all meet Nitesh and Neha again and then there will be happiness and laughter once again.

Adios, sweet friends, till we meet in paradise!

My thoughts go to the parents of Nitesh and Neha. Words alone cannot give them comfort for their loss is immense. I can only convey to them that our thoughts are with them in this hour of terrible tragedy. I can’t help but remember this wonderful poem, entitled ‘Ascension’ by Colleen Corah Hitchcock

And if I go,
while you're still here...
Know that I live on,
vibrating to a different measure
--behind a thin veil you cannot see through.
You will not see me,
so you must have faith.
I wait for the time when we can soar together again,
--both aware of each other.
Until then, live your life to its fullest.
And when you need me,
Just whisper my name in your heart,
...I will be there.

Memories:



Eternal rest grant unto them oh Lord, let perpetual light shine upon them and may they rest in peace, Amen.

Photo courtesy: Shalin Shah & Manas, IIM Indore

Monday, August 06, 2007

BONNIE, A DOG, A LADY


BONITA
1996 - 2007

It was a pleasant day in November 1996; my wife was on the phone. She sounded excited. Her parents had just brought home a pup. Would I like to come over and see her? I left the office a little early and headed to see the pup.

There she was, a bundle of fur, cuddled in my wife’s arms, peering cautiously at me. She was of the German shepherd – Alsatian breed. I reached out and scratched her head and ears. She licked my hand. The rapport was instant. I christened her Bonita; which in later days was modified to Bonnie.

She was a constant companion to my wife’s parents who reveled in her company. She was an extension of the family; present at all family get together and meetings. I was her masseur. She loved her head being massaged and scratched. It was one of the rituals that she did not miss. My reward was a warm lick on my hand.

Dogs can teach you a lot. And so it was with Bonnie. She taught us:

  • When loved ones come home, Always run to greet them.
  • When it's in your best interests, practice obedience.
  • Let others know when they've invaded your territory.
  • Take naps and stretch before rising.
  • Run, romp, and play daily.
  • Eat with gusto and enthusiasm
  • Be loyal
  • Never pretend to be something you're not.
  • If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
  • When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.
  • Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
  • Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
  • On hot days, drink lots of water and lay under some shade.
  • When you are happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
  • Delight in the simple joy of a long walk
  • No matter how often you're scolded don't buy into the guilt thing and pout …. run right back and make friends.

Then in the November of 2006, tragedy struck. Ten years to the day that she had invaded our world, my father-in-law succumbed to a massive heart attack. He collapsed in the garden right in front of Bonnie. From that day onwards she wasn’t her self. We could sense that she was grieving. Age too was catching up with her. Her movements had slowed down and her liver was acting up. Frequently she would be listless. The vet wasn’t too optimistic and her condition slowly but surely deteriorated. Patiently but knowingly she bore the anxious ministrations of my mother-in-law. Finally, on Saturday, July 28th, she could not stand up anymore. Her condition worsened through the day. She knew that her time had come, to leave those she loved. She made her last heroic efforts at trying to stand up, once when my wife entered the gate around noon and once more when I entered a few hours later. It was as if she was waiting to say her last goodbye. Around 5.15p.m. that same evening with my mother-in-law and wife beside her, with one last sigh, she was gone.

She is buried in a corner of the garden under the shade of a tree, which constantly blooms and sheds little pink flowers.

She must be in a happier place as I write this post.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

LAGE RAHO JUSTICE KODE

By now, Mr. Sanjay Dutt, a convict, must be settling down to life in prison; at the same time his battery of Lawyers must be machinating to get him released. An appeal to the Supreme Court would be on the cards.

The verdict pronounced by the Judge of the special court evoked mixed reactions. There were some who said that Mr. Dutt deserved it and there were some who were upset with the verdict. That Mr. Dutt was a film actor of reasonable repute, threw different hues on the case.

Mr. Sanjay Dutt, has made history of a different kind. Born to illustrious parents, much was expected of him. After all, his mother, Nargis, was a popular actress of the Hindi Cinema and his father, the stoic Sunil, was firstly an actor and then a politician. Pressure was surely on Sanjay to perform and perform he did. His initial foray into the film world wasn’t a great success. That, in a way, might have led him to be lost in a haze of drugs and alcohol. The loss of his mother when he was 22 years old must have added to his woes. He was lost. And so at 34 an immature Sanjay got involved with an AK 56 automatic rifle and a pistol, which was to be his nemesis.

In later years he was lucky to don good roles; especially as Munna Bhai. He touched a chord in the heart of the cinema crazy Indian and thereby earned some amount of sympathy from the population. Also, he always maintained that he repented the offence committed. God may forgive; but law punishes and protects – and that is what is important. The law of the land prevails. Law isn’t flexible. Law doesn’t consider your occupation, your social status & your popularity. The fact that crores of rupees are hedged on the acting prowess of Sanjay is lost on Law. It considers all of us as equals and that is the way it should be. Had it been anybody else, instead of Sanjay Dutt, then too the law would have treated him or her in a like manner.

Mind you, if Sanjay was tried in 1993-94 and was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for 6 years; people would have accepted the verdict. The verdict has come 14 years later. Some of the supporters of Sanjay may have been tiny tots or adolescents in 1993 and would not have been aware of the gravity of the offence that Sanjay committed. Their support stems from the fact that he is their star.

People’s memory being short, Sanjay will be forgotten in a while. He will be released; I make it, in 4 years from now. If the Supreme Court intervenes and releases him, then he would be incarcerated for just a few months.

There is a lesson to be learnt here by every citizen of this country. The Law is supreme. Nobody can be above the law. Sadly, dispensers of justice have forgotten this adage especially when it comes to dealing with our political masters. Dispensers of justice have succumbed to pressure and avarice. It is commendable that the Judge of the designated court has reminded us that nobody is above the law.