Tuesday, July 26, 2011

PM = Puppet Minister?

Another thing that Saravana Kumar asked to write was about the failures of our Honorable Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. OK. Let's discuss about them as well. I am one of those who wanted Congress to win but didn't want Sonia to become the Prime Minister in 2004. I have somehow never been impressed with BJP as a political party. But, I could never digest talking about Sonia as a better leader than Vajpayee. I don't even like comparing her with Advani. I don't think she has any other qualification in Indian politics than to have impressed the right person. Like everyone else, I also accepted her as a noble leader and what she did as a major sacrifice when she refused to become the Prime Minister of this nation.

Even when I heard that it was not a decision that she took on her own and she was forced to take that decision because of the pressure put by Subramanian Swamy through the President, I didn't take it seriously. I don't think she should not rule us just because she is a foreigner. There is no point in talking about things like one's nationality unless the person is the most qualified one in all other respects. OK. She refused the offer. We were happy. What next? Who is the next choice? I thought, irrespective of whoever it is, this decision of hers would make Congress party look more democratic in people's eyes. Since Manmohan Singh was reasonably active as opposition leader in the previous BJP regime, I thought he had a chance and I also wanted him to be the next Prime Minister of this nation.

When things unfolded the way I wanted, I was very happy and surprised to see the dream of a common man like me coming true in such a high level decision of national importance. I thought someone who was the Governor of the Reserve Bank becoming our country's finance minister and then the same person becoming our Prime Minister were great things to happen to us. I also believed that the Indian politics had stepped into its next phase with that decision. From that day till almost a year back, Manmohan Singh was my most respected Indian politician. I also believed that he was the best Prime Minister India had ever had. Better than even Nehru!

On the other hand, who is the worst PM we have ever had? When I ask this question to my friends who are interested in politics, most of them say one of the two notorious south Indian names. I think, Narasimha Rao is the most hated and ridiculed Indian PM ever. He is one of the very few democratically elected leaders in Congress. His failure was a failure for democracy itself. Leaving all these aside, if there is one great thing that he has done to this country during his time, it was his decision to bring Manmohan Singh to spearhead the finance ministry.

Something like this was an order of the day when the country's economy was in such a bad state. Everything that happened after that has been good for us. Though some responsible politicians like the leftists are dead against his economic policies, considering the practicalities what he did was extraordinary to a nation that had lost its path midway. That is what has brought us here today to a state where we have started dreaming about becoming a super power. Because of all these, I always had great respect for him. I have always wanted educated - qualified people like him from middle class backgrounds to enter politics. That's what can educate people about what such people are capable of doing as opposed to the uneducated - money minded people with criminal backgrounds that we have today.

In the backdrop of all different innovative scams that were coming out every day, even when the whole country had started hating him in the beginning of last year, I was saying "How can 'he' be responsible for all these? He is a person of unquestionable integrity. He is stuck with bad people. He is a victim of the situation!". But, I am not able to speak like that forever. Even now I am not able to hate him. But, the hatred that we have developed towards his party in last few years have kind of started giving irritation about why he is sticking to this position despite all these.

It's true that he is a victim of the situation. But, why should he continue as the victim even after all these? That's what I am not able to understand. I don't think he is stuck with them in a way that he can never escape from them. Nor can we say that he has tasted the power of power and that is why he is clinging on to it so adamantly. Even his enemies know that he is not such a person. Then why? Why is he so fond if this position?

Even when Advani criticized him saying he brought down the dignity of the Prime Minister Office, I was more unhappy with Advani than him. When he said he was the weakest Prime Minister that the country had ever seen, I used to justify saying, "Yes. But, there are reasons for that and we should try to understand them!". There is a limit to anything. How long can we be patient and persistent? It doesn't matter if you are good or bad when you can't control bad people under you. Our laws and value systems say that if you are party to looting you are a looter too. You don't necessarily have to do it yourself to get that name.

There are many problems that wouldn't have been different irrespective of whoever became our Prime Minister, as long as it's a Congressman or woman. We can ignore those problems in our discussion today. But, there is another list of problems which would have been handled in much better ways if it was anybody other than him in his place. Let's talk about only those problems today. Finally, let's also see how he can handle them better going forward. Economic policy, Nuclear policy, Foreign policy and Defence policy are such things that would be the same irrespective whichever Congressman comes to power. One area where he has failed miserably is, his performance against the corruption (I wouldn't be surprised if there is a new policy called Corruption policy!).

As far as corruption is concerned it is the allies that played worse than Congress. Especially, DMK. He should have done something as soon as the 2G issue came up. Something means? He should have packed up Raja and replaced him with a clean Congress man (Hope 'clean Congress man' isn't an oxymoron!). Then, how to handle DMK? Who will ensure that they don't join hands with BJP to form a 'secular' alliance again? From Congress's perspective, 'It's better to compromise on few small things to stay in power instead of being adamant about every silly thing and indirectly helping the opponent to come back to power!". It's sensible stand indeed.

But, there is a limit to anything. You should know in what kind of issues you could compromise and be flexible. A compromise that indirectly helps the largest corruption in the world's history can never be justified. He should ensure that his subordinates listen to him. If they don't, he should call them and warn. Even then if they don't listen, he should either throw away his position or the ones that don't listen to him from their positions. People are only worried that they can't come back if they throw away positions. They don't realize that they could come back stronger by throwing them away. It's a risk, but worth taking it. It's worth only if you are in politics to serve the people. What's more surprising is, why is Manmohan Singh, who is not a politician by design, so hesitant to throw it away?

I have heard about his two conditions to Narasimha Rao when the latter approached him to take up the finance minister job. One - "You should never make me the scapegoat for anything!". Another one - "You shouldn't interfere in my job!". "If you violate either of these conditions, I will just walk out!". It seems keeping his words he also walked out once. I have read that when he hiked the petrol price and PVN asked him to reduce it, he fumed saying, "You are violating the agreement!". PVN had to convince him hard to keep him in job. Why is such a straight forward person not able to do the same thing with Sonia? That's the million dollar question most of us have today.

Had he thrown away his job and written an autobiography, he would have at least had the fulfillment of having lived with conscience till the end. What has he got now? Only bad name! As the weakest Prime Minister this country ever had and the owner of the most corrupt government that this world has witnessed! He has only given room for Raja to blame him repeatedly like a broken a record saying "The Prime Minister was aware of everything that happened!". He also repeatedly answers like a broken record saying "I don't know about anything!". If he still has the conscience he had ten years ago, he would have surely got an inner question many times, "Why the hell should I lead such a miserable life?". He should have lost his sleep many nights. Did you experience all these, sir? Or, Have you changed too?

Even now, it's not too late. When you wake up to go to office tomorrow morning, you just have to go with a resolute mind to face anything. It's enough if you just do the following few changes. Congress can start dreaming about coming back to power again next time. You can also spend rest of your life without any guilty feeling. It's not that he can't change like that. Someone who has been the Governor of Reserve Bank can't be so weak. It's okay even if he is not able to do any of these changes. He can just come out and write an autobiography with the details of what tied him down for so long. His book will be received better than his government.

OK. What are those changes that we want him to do? Here you go...
1. Get rid of DMK with immediate effect. If possible, you could even apologize for the seven years of anti-people relationship that you had with them. It would also help you expedite the actions against corruption. It would be good if the only guy who still remains in Delhi is sent back immediately to Madurai. He can't anyway run his mini government now in Madurai. It's Amma raj now, not his Appa raj. This would not at all result in Congress government getting toppled. There are many parties who just want to be part of UPA - nothing more. The only obstacle to this is the all powerful PC that is loyal to his savior MK for turning the table when he was losing in his constituency in the last general elections (Hope you understand what I am referring to!). If you just tell him, "My son, your seat itself is in trouble now!", he would keep quiet.

2. He should call Mr. Sharad Pawar, who floated his own party when his Prime Minister dream went for a toss and came back to join hands with Congress when he realized that he couldn't even become a chief minister again under his own banner, and advise, "My dear friend, if you like only watching Cricket matches, why did you come to politics? If you are so fond of games, take sports ministry. But, give all the rotting grains to poor people and give the rotting food ministry to someone who has some stuff!". If that sounds difficult, Congress has its own style of handling such people. Use CBI and media to bring out all his mischief and force him to resign on his own. If you want any help on this front, go to Sonia's house. There will be a lot of guys roaming around there. You just have to catch hold of them. They will take care of it for you. Your job will be made easier.

3. Please send back our Krishna to Bangalore and give his ministry to some capable candidate. Bangalore without Krishna is like Bangalore without ISKCON. Heard that his grandchildren are missing him too much too. Let him be peaceful in his seventies at least. Not only him. There are many of his colleagues who need such rest. Let them all take rest. They would say that the health of the nation is more important than that of theirs. But, we the people think otherwise. For us, their health is more important than the country's. So... please... leave them and bring some youngsters whose blood has not clotted yet.

4. Call this Kapil Sibal and give him some counselling. Tell him, "My dear brother, you worked properly for some time in between. But, I don't know what happened suddenly. You have started speaking too much again. Tell me if you need any additional support from my side to do your duty properly. It's not our duty to save anyone. Please forget that you are a lawyer by profession for some time and work harder!". If possible, give the telecom ministry to a youngster who understands it well. I mean, someone like Dayanidhi Maran, but should be a clean guy. Let Kapil concentrate on educational reforms. It's good for both himself and the country. If he is too fond of speaking too much, give him the law ministry with a simple condition saying "Speak honestly!". Even there, there is a lot of work for next few years.

5. I know that you don't like speaking much. However, being the 'Prime' Minister of the nation, it's your duty to be in touch with your people. I understand that you are trying to avoid some embarrassment by avoiding meetings with media. But, please do understand that you are also allowing some problems to become larger than life (the life of your government!) by avoiding them. So, just keep meeting them and allow them to speak themselves even if you are not comfortable doing it. You would at least get to know what is happening around you. They know about all gimmicks that your ministers do, which you yourself do not know. Because, your ministers are meeting them more often than you do. You don't have to be worried about getting exposed. Because, you anyway don't do any gimmicks, right?! And, yeah, I don't think you don't do anything at all though most of my friends say so. Maybe, you 'are' doing a lot of things. But, what is hurting us is not the things that you do, but the things that you don't do.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Tamil Nadu: Bad 10! (Part 2 of 2)

6. Narrow-mindednessThis is one of the biggest complaints that all other Indians have on Tamils. Where did such an opinion root from? I think, it all started from the anti-Hindi movement. "When everyone else took it as an opportunity to learn another language, why is it that only these people play politics with it?" is the question they all have. We know that some were genuinely concerned about the problems that the people of the state would have to face later if they joined the Hindi bandwagon while others just used it for their political mileage.

But just for that reason can you call the entire group narrow-minded? It's ironic that we are okay with a foreign language (English) when we could not accept another Indian language (Hindi). But that had a reason. It was just that they wanted to have a common language which didn’t handicap the majority non-Hindi speaking people when they competed with the native Hindi speakers. Everyone is reaping the benefits of it today. What the history says is that when it came for discussion in parliament all south Indian states had the same opinion. Even some of the other non-Hindi north Indian politicians stood for English fearing that it would lead to Hindi-chauvinism later otherwise. Nehru formed two committees to close this issue. Both the committees ended up with exact 50-50 split verdict. That means there were also others who didn't vote for Hindi. But why is it that even people from those states think Tamils are narrow-minded? Maybe because it's only the Tamil politicians who took it to streets. Or, there may be other reasons.

One of those reasons that I have come across is that others believe that Tamils don't mix so well with others. I know the justification that comes from my people: "When I am in a group that speaks a language that I don't understand, how can I feel part of them?!". Then they go back to square one and ask, "When all others were able to speak our language, why is it that only you are unable to do it? What is your problem in doing that? That's the reason we call you narrow-minded!". But one thing that others have to realize is, even those who used to scold all the Dravidian parties and their movement for not being able to learn Hindi in Tamil Nadu, change their mind after coming to cosmopolitan environment. It was not their decision to not learn Hindi. They couldn't learn it because they had no opportunity. When they come and try to mix with people, they feel out of place just because they don't know Hindi. Then they find reasons to justify their politicians’ stands while cursing them inside. In the process, they get narrow-minded or start sounding so. It could be avoided if they knew the knacks of gracefully dealing with the situation like the other south Indians do. Unfortunately, some of our guys behave awkward in such situations.

The only way to avoid this allegation is, Tamils should let the world know that it's not Hindi or those who speak Hindi that they hate but it's the imposition of one language over all other languages of the land. In fact, they should be all the more affectionate with the Hindi-speaking people and mix with them more to take their point across. They should just say, "Tamil people are very nice people. It's just that they don't like speaking in others' language in their land!".

I have a friend whose family migrated from Kongu region in Tamil Nadu to Mysore in last generation. He used to be little restless during his marriage time. He used to say, "I grew up in Karnataka throughout my life. My parents are looking for a Tamil girl. I have always had problem with Tamil girls. They are so narrow-minded. I don't know how to handle!". What a pity?! I never thought there could be problems like this in one's life. When a Tamil boy himself thinks like this, there must be something. I don't want to rule him out saying, "he doesn't have self-respect" and all that nonsense.

Even our girls are like that. It’s very common in other places for men and women to sit next to each other. 15 years back itself, I wrote a short story about this after seeing a woman shouting at a boy of her son’s age touched her by mistake in the bus. There is a reason for that. Our culture is like that. When the world is changing so fast we can’t remain static. That wouldn’t help anyone.

Not only our girls. Even our boys don’t mix with other people with open mind. As soon as they come in they will look around for Tamil boys and mix only with them. It’s not that only Tamil boys do that. There are others who do the same thing as well. But somehow it doesn’t look that awkward when others do it. Maybe because it’s too much in Bangalore I feel it this way. Maybe the same thing could be done in a much better way… a way that doesn’t irritate others’ eyes. I think, our boys should at least learn those techniques. It’s such a basic human trait to mix with everyone giving the same amount of importance and respect. We certainly have to improve on this.

This is not only in Bangalore. I have seen this even in my native place. Some people mix with people from their community only. They won’t even have business dealings with people from other communities. They wouldn’t help others like the way they do their own people. In fact, they would even go to an extent of screwing up someone’s business if he doesn’t belong to their own community. People from one community won’t even watch movies of the actors from other communities. It’s so funny and idiotic.

Caste is omni-present all across India. In fact, we have made much better progress compared to other states when it comes to shedding caste and community identities. When we are so advanced in many other aspects, it really hurts to see people being so narrow-minded only on this aspect. It’s generally done by the communities that are in majority in most places, which in turn spoils others as well. For that matter, even our politics is still largely driven by caste calculations.

Another complaint is that we don’t learn others’ languages easily. Imposing a language on anyone is wrong. But, when you go out to earn your bread and butter it’s very basic that you learn the language of the land. One can’t justify not doing that. There are reasons for that as well. Ours is not from the same family of languages like most of the other Indian languages. Our structure is different. Tamil is neither a child of Sanskrit nor did it allow Sanskrit to influence its structure as much as other Dravidian languages did. That’s the reason our pronunciation is different from that of the others. However, it’s imperative that we join the global mainstream. There are symptoms of change in the next generation. Let’s hope they change these perceptions successfully.

7. Hygiene / Public Etiquettes Malayalis call us ‘Pandi’. Kannadigas call us ‘Konga’. It’s not that every Malayali and Kannadiga calls us like this. I haven’t come across people with decent backgrounds using such words. It’s just like how some people in Chennai call Telugus ‘Golti’ and some people in Coimbatore call Malayalis ‘Ganji’. Pandi and Konga don’t mean anything more than the lands that touch Kerala and Karnataka. The region adjacent to Kerala is called ‘Pandi’ region historically and the land adjacent to Karnataka is called ‘Kongu’ region. But when these terms are used by Malayalis and Kannadigas, it means something more. Anyone can understand what is loaded within these terms. When I tried to understand with an open mind why they hate us so much, what I understood is that they think we are little different. ‘Different’ meaning?

Some of my Malayali friends have even told me that we don’t even take bath every day. We are not clean. We are not hygienic. When I tried to understand more, I understood two things. One, they may be thinking so because most of us are dark-skinned unlike them. Since we are naturally darker than them and darkness implies dirtiness they might have thought so. That’s not something in our control so we can’t do much about it. Let’s talk about that as well in the last point. The amount of cultural mixing up with others and Europeans is not as much as in other parts of the country. That’s the reason we have remained dark. Two, the representative sample they had to arrive at these conclusions is so. They judged the entire state by looking at the labor class people who went there to do god-forsaken duties like construction, farming, etc. Let’s leave that. Those who work hard can’t be “fair and lovely” like movie actors. They would stink with sweat. They won’t use body spray and cologne as their job doesn’t require them to do such things. They may not be taking regular bath as well. I don’t think we should talk much about it. I have seen people from other regions who work in even air conditioned rooms but don’t take bath regularly so we shouldn’t talk much about this.

When I tried to understand why Kannadigas look at us differently, I realized it is because of our coarse behaviors in public. They call us by another name “Katpadi”. Katpadi is a town in North Tamil Nadu. When they call us by this name what they roughly mean is - “wild”. It’s just because they think we don’t have refined public behaviors. It’s the same answer that I have for them as well. Most of the Tamils that went to Karnataka earlier were all working class people. They went to lay roads and do construction work. So one can’t make a big issue out of it. At the same time, we can’t ignore it just like that as well. Kannadigas also drink. In fact, they even drink along with their families and enjoy. But they don’t get drunk and misbehave in public like how our people do in Tamil-dominated areas. All these influence their perception about us.

A scene that I saw in my initial days in Bangalore – a Tamil man (the same working class man) was drunk beyond limits and creating a bad scene in the city bus. Everyone is scared and stands away from him. Nobody is questioning him. He uses all bad words. I couldn’t even see an insect objecting to whatever he was speaking. One, nobody would have understood his language. Another, I am not sure if he could have done it anywhere in Bangalore. There are areas where it would have been handled differently. But, the question here is, can a Malayali or Telugu man do the same thing in Coimbatore or Chennai?

Another time, there was a family fight happening on the streets. The drunk husband was going to hit his wife with whatever he collected on his hand. The wife was scolding him with all bad words in Tamil and resisting him as much as possible. My half-Tamil – half-Malayali Palakkad friend was saying, “This happens only in Tamil Nadu and Tamil areas. Come to Kerala and check. You can’t see this scene anywhere in Kerala”. It was very painful digesting it that night.

More than all these, I have had a fair opportunity to see the villages of all south Indian states. I haven’t seen the village roads being used as public toilets as much as it’s in Tamil Nadu. I have seen them but not so much. Maybe I haven’t seen enough or my sample is not the right sample. If someone could share the list, I can verify and confirm before being judgmental.

Finally, the Tamil debates that happen on internet are of so much of bad taste. I don’t think any other Indian race would use so much of sub-standard language. I haven’t read such bad conversations in English (maybe they are moderated better). I speak a fair amount of Kannada. I can read it a bit. But I don’t know any other languages. So I am not really qualified to compare with other languages. But I checked with other friends. Everyone says that they haven’t come across such conversations in their language. Are they lying? I don’t think so!

Last week when I was on my way to my native place I had an experience. It was 4 o’clock in the early morning I was getting into the bus. I just got in and chose a seat. Most people were sleepy just like me. A guy sitting behind me started playing music in loud volume. In the next few minutes, another guy starts playing a Telugu song beside me. It’s an answer to the other guy’s song. This guy increases the volume. That guy also does the same. I don’t know where this is all heading. A request to the enemy countries that may plan to bomb India – please leave Tamil Nadu if you really want India to suffer. That’s the best thing you could do to teach India a lesson.

8. Publicity Craze: Just travel on the National Highways (NH-7) from Kanyakumari to Kashi once. I have traveled till Hyderabad on that road. Tell me in which part of the country do they keep huge wall posters with all those scary faces. That’s the region that is most crazy about publicity in India. Someone’s birthday, someone’s daughter has attained puberty, someone’s wedding, someone’s death… whatever it is. The first thing they do is, 50 to 100 people join together, collect some money and print wall posters or put up a flux board with everyone’s passport size photo. The amount of funny things they do on these posters are unbearable. One guy would be stamping on a lion, another would be riding on a tiger and so on. Some rogues are even treated like demigods. The kind of photos they put up would be all the more crazy. Their leader will be shown like a roaring lion next to which there would be a replica of this guy. In reality, they may not even have the courage to face cats.

It used to be for party leaders, movie stars and caste-community leaders. It has gone to the next level now. Anyone who can afford to sponsor drinks to these guys on the weekends will have their photos shown like roaring lions in one of the street corners in their place. Some people give more importance to these fellows and end up sponsoring them more drinks just for these posters. In the last regime of the state government, there were few gods and goddesses for the entire state and then there were local deities in each area. That has changed now. In this government, there is only one goddess for the entire state. The local deities shouldn’t expect any such gestures of respect. They should just focus on what they want to loot silently. Even if they breathe louder, they would have to read about loss of their minister post in the newspapers the next morning.

Maybe, I think Tamil Nadu would be a close second next to Mayawati’s UP in this regard. There, only she does it for herself. Here, everyone does it for their leader. That’s the only difference. Whichever temple you go here. There would be presents with the presenter’s name written in bigger fonts than even the god’s name. They present tube light but their names are written so big that it doesn’t even do its basic duty of giving light. They present a mirror but the names are written so big that nobody can use it to see their face. What is funnier is that they don’t just write their names. They would also write about their native place, the current place where they are living, whose grandson, whose son, their children’s names and their grand children’s names. So funny and cheap! May be it’s because of these people that the number of atheists are increasing by the day.

I am not sure about the other regions in Tamil Nadu. There is a group in my region. Their marriage invitation would look like a book in itself. I can almost say anyone whose name is not on an invitation will surely not come to that marriage. Every invitee’s name will be there. The invitation will have as many number of names as the number of meals that need to be arranged for the marriage. Even if a single name is missed, the host would be gone that day. He will be out of everything in their circle for his life. Even if the disrespected guy is not attending the marriage, he will send his kith and kin to spoil the function in whatever possible way they can. I somehow can’t understand this phenomenon. I have heard of problems even after including the name some times. It could range from “it’s not in right order” to “it’s not in bold enough or big enough font” to “it’s not put under the right classification”. Have you come across this kind of uncivilized behavior in your region too? Then I will have to take back my words.

I have seen four or five elections in Karnataka. But I have never seen the amount of drama, scene and noise that I used to see in Tamil Nadu here. I see that it’s increasing here also these days. Just like the auto-rickshaw drivers, looks like even this is being copied from us. Luckily this time in Tamil Nadu itself it’s controlled by the election commission. It’s a good thing that has happened in Tamil Nadu politics after almost 40 years.

It’s very important to talk about Madurai at this point. They will print a wall poster even if a guy is going to piss. All they need is, the guy who goes to piss should throw them a few 500 rupee notes for their liquor expenses. I have never seen a place where there are so many cut-outs of a movie star kept so generously. Not just in streets, during the earlier regime, they used to put up a politician’s photo even in houses and shops and on T-shirts, vehicles, bags and everything. That’s just a licence for them to do any atrocity anywhere. Looking at the photo of this guy, the public will keep quiet. It’s all history now. I had been to Madurai recently just after the election results. Within four days, I don’t know where his photos disappeared. If they were so scared, why did they have to behave so earlier?! And, why do they hide like this now?! Madurai is supposed to be the capital city of the mighty Pandiyas. Oh my goodness! I am sure it wouldn’t have been this horrible then. I can’t believe now that a person like Nakkeeran lived in this city once.

9. Money-mindedness / Inhumanness The legend has it that our forefathers used to go all around the world for trade in ancient times. They say that the Malayalis and Tamils are known for their migration to unimaginable places. When the Malayalis were entering into the countries on their west, we were traveling to the countries on our east. The nature was never friendly to us. So we had to go out to look for our dreams. That is what made us experts in money making. But over time that money mindedness has started swallowing us and our character. Be it our politics, our businesses or our education or whatever it is… everything has become completely commercialized now. All the values have been thrown out.

I have heard that there used to be a trading style called “Madurai business”. Any businessman in Madurai those days would sell everything for the original price without profit once he has earned the profit that he had fixed for that day. It’s just like what they do in vegetable markets in last few hours these days. In the same land, the amount of coning that is done for money today is too much. Anyone who goes to Madurai to visit Meenakshi temple tells me only bad experiences after coming back. They read a big list of cheating experiences - this guy cheated me, that guy cheated me, got cheated on this, got cheated on that.

I read about a popular Tamil writer’s account on what he saw in Madurai bus stand between a guy who sells tickets and a north Indian elderly couple sometime back and was disturbed for many days thinking about it. The couple comes from Chennai to Madurai in order to go to Rameswaram from Madurai. This guy sells them a ticket to go back to Trichy by a Chennai bus. Why does he do that? All he wanted was the few hundred rupees for his night liquor. It’s not that it happens only to north Indians in Madurai. It happens to us also. It’s not that they have classified different behaviors for strangers and locals. They would even do this to their own family members.

I remember in my college days I read a story about a parents who killed their own daughter by setting fire suspecting that she had stolen 10 rupees. After killing her, they realized that she hadn’t stolen it. I couldn’t sleep for many days after reading this. Is a life not worth 10 rupees?!

The mushrooming engineering colleges in every street of Tamil Nadu don’t indicate the advancement in our education standards. They just tell us how money-minded our people have become these days. There is a Tamil politician from the grand old national party who speaks politics like an intellectual. He was licking the yellow towel old man more than even his own high command in Delhi. I couldn’t understand why this guy was behaving so earlier. Then when I heard about it, I felt like spitting on his face. Can you guess what could be the reason? Just because this guy got approval for his college from the then chief minister without any questions, he has been paying back his dues like this. Now he is minting in his education business. Then why won’t he be that loyal?!

Likewise, I used to wonder why many politicians across party lines praise the old man like this. When I get into details, the common thing across all these cases is that they get financially benefited by this man in some way or the other. There was a time when people used to justify poor men who commit crimes out of desperation to make money. But it has become so common now that people justify all sorts of corruption and crimes by even the well-to-do people.

Whichever jungle I go to in Tamil Nadu, people there will show a nearby land and say “this land was snatched from this guy by that guy by force”, “they threatened him to grab this land”, etc. I don’t understand the craze for land of late! Though it’s a global phenomenon that people think they can buy anything if they have exorbitant money, it’s too much in Tamil Nadu if we compare with the rest of India. After the recent elections, I feel as though I have been proven wrong partly. But I will need to see few more elections before conceding my defeat.

10. Nature Though we are not directly responsible for this, it’s a big problem for us. All of the above problems are due to the nature as well. Most of our land is dry without water. It’s not possible to build any business in our land. Because we are close to the equator we look dark as well. It may sound very silly and cheap but I strongly believe that the not-so-pleasing appearance of our people also leads to a lot of hatred from some sections of our other countrymen.

We just heard of the name Tsunami recently. But we have been suffering a lot due to Tsunami from time immemorial. It’s this Tsunami that wiped off our Lemuria legacy. It’s this Tsunami that wiped off all our literature and history. Mr. Kalki has written in detail about how Tsunami spoiled our coastal towns and villages every now and then. Just in the time of our parents’ generation, Dhanushkodi near Rameshwaram got wiped off by Tsunami. I have heard that the current Nagapattinam has come too far from the original Nagapattinam that was established first on the east coast. Every Tsunami pushes the town many miles further away from its original place. They say even Vallalar made a comment about Kadalur becoming Vadalur and Vadalur becoming Kadalur. That means, Kadalur will get pushed till Vadalur (which is far away from the coastal Kadalur) and Vadalur will start getting called Kadalur. Tsunami hits us at least once in every generation and wreaks the entire coastal region. No state in India would have got affected so much by this Tsunami.

Another problem that we have is the strategic location of the Lankan Island where Tamils are subject to unbearable atrocities from the day mankind was born. When outsiders invaded the Indian peninsula from all other directions, the native Indians ran down south. They can’t run down any further below. There is only Indian Ocean beyond that. This is where they were forced to fight back. That’s what has given them the fighting spirit that most others don’t like in them today.

Not just that. There are proofs of early migration of early human beings to India just after having taken birth in Africa. Do you know which part of India they migrated to? It’s the southernmost land of Tamils where they migrated to (I know there wouldn’t have been a language called Tamil by then or it wouldn’t be in the same format as today!). If I have to be even more precise, it’s in the current Madurai or Theni district to where researchers have traced the first migration from Africa. It has been confirmed by the DNA tests performed on a sample from Piramalai Kallar community. So it’s not our mistake that we look and behave like Africans and tribes yet. It’s a problem with our DNA. So it may take us some more time to get refined like the rest of the Indians.

Another injustice meted out to us due to our presence on the southernmost tip was that most of the times we were ignored by the rulers in Delhi (it’s a different story that it all changed later). It’s not that only we were ignored. Even those from North East were ignored more than us. It’s natural that one gets secessionist thought when ignored like this. It’s natural that the ignored groups will start feeling that they are not part of the mainstream and different from the rest.

When I think of the abnormal craze that our people have for movies, this is what I conclude. As we were hardworking people basically due to the nature of our dry land, we needed entertainments to celebrate ourselves forgetting the physical and mental pains, which is what would have led us to the drama theaters first and then the same interest to the movie theaters.

It’s our strengths that have become our weaknesses in many cases. That’s how it is for everyone. Whatever it is, this is what we are. Having said that, we should sincerely try our best to change behaviors that need improvement. I know, even here, there may be someone who will argue, “No, that’s not what our ancient literature Tholkappiyam says, we have to remain what we are forever!” I have no other go. I just have to agree with them! :)

If you are someone who is getting angry like mad reading this, please read my post on the ten good things that I like about Tamil Nadu here - http://bharatheechudar.blogspot.com/2011/03/10.html. Even after that if you are not able to control your anger, please ignore me as another man without self-respect in the land where there was a political movement in the name of “self-respect”. But I beg you to kindly not drop a comment that proves us to be race that is worse than even what I had written of. Otherwise, I am open for your decent criticism.

Likewise, if you are someone who is feeling very happy reading all bad things about Tamils, I recommend you to read the above post too. You may find a reason to scold me! :)

Tamil Nadu: Bad 10! (Part 1 of 2)

When I wrote "Tamil Nadu: Good 10", I had promised that I would also write "Tamil Nadu: Bad 10". Here is a Tamilian who keeps his promise. :)

I was so proud of being a Tamilian when I wrote the last post. I feel so ashamed of being one when I write this one. I always like sincere introspection. Just exaggerating the strengths and turning a blind eye to or justifying the weaknesses just gives a momentary and illusory self-satisfaction, which wouldn't help anyone in the long run (be it as an individual or as a group!). So, it's very important for groups as well as individuals to be aware of their problems as well. That's what would help them rectify their problems before it becomes too late, which is what would help them realize their true potential at the end of the day. Awareness of the problem is the first step in any rectification process. This exercise is an attempt towards that.

I know you are growing impatient. It's always interesting to hear from the horse's mouth, right?! Especially when he talks about his own problems! So, I don't want to bore you with any more introductions. Here you go... These are the top 10 things that make me feel so ashamed of being a Tamilian:

1. Our Politics:
We have produced the worst lot of politicians in the last 40+ years. I am sure no other state in India has been so consistent for so long in producing so many third-rate politicians. Some of you may have strong statistics to prove that your state has produced even more horrible politicians. But, that would just be a 'one-off' or 'two-off' case. When it comes to consistency, we are the undisputed leaders. In the last 40+ years, we could never see a ray of hope. There was... and, there is... no light at the end of the tunnel. We don't even know if our tunnel has an end. Or, let me put it this way, we don't even know if what we are stuck in is a tunnel or we have got buried alive under ground.

We don't pick our leaders from grassroots. We don't pick them from our premier education institutions. We pick them from our movie studios and drama theaters. Then what can you expect from them?! No other state in this country is so obsessed with its politicians as Tamil Nadu is. No other state in India would have witnessed so many suicides and deaths following a politician's death as Tamil Nadu has (Andhra Pradesh might come a close second with YSR's death and the things that followed it reminding almost what happened when MGR died!). No other state would have seen so many political self-immolations as Tamil Nadu has!

It is Tamil Nadu that has made "cash for vote" such a successful election formula at this scale. No other state would have seen so much of cash-flow in elections as Tamil Nadu did in 2009 General Elections and 2011 assembly election. Ours is the first democracy in the world history to have voted for freebies like Television keeping everything else at bay (As a developed society, Entertainment is more important for us than Education and Healthcare, you see!). I should put it this way if it wouldn't hurt my fellow idiots: We are the only idiots in the world to have voted for the idiot boxes!

Though the standard of politics has hit the rock-bottom throughout the country, it's our politicians who have been the pioneers in all sorts of corruption. Always! The biggest corruption in the history of the nation has been committed by our own fellows (at least in what has been caught so far!). It's only in this godforsaken place, people openly justify corruption. It's the same old theory of leaders being as good as their people. Our leaders haven't changed because we never wanted change or we never wanted them to change. We love to be ruled by rogues because otherwise we can't remain rogues ourselves. So, the simple conclusion is, yes, you are right - We don't deserve good leaders!

As long as the murder and rape happen in the neighbor's house we support it and find weirdest of weird reasons to justify it. We don't call a spade a spade - a wrong a wrong! The world says, "Innocent until proven guilty". In this part of the world, you can walk around freely calling yourself an innocent even if you are caught red-handed provided you are generous enough to share with us a fraction of what you looted. In fact, you would have die-hard supporters to argue for you, fight for you and justify what you did.

No other state has so much nepotism in its veins. Again, you may feel offended for having taken away the credit for what is actually the birth right of all Indians and not just Tamilians. But, please listen to me patiently and try to understand my point of view fully. With all fairness and due respect to all my fellow countrymen, I would like to remind you all that it was we who taught nepotism to all of you. You are just followers. We were the pioneers.

Having said all that, I seriously wonder at times, 'How can a society be so foolish for so long - being so indifferent about its own well-being? Even the most illiterate and ignorant people lose patience at some point in time and start revolting. How can a society that claims to be one of the most intelligent ones on earth be so numb and dumb for so long?' Long story short: "Are we basically a society with no values?"! An honest answer to this question would perhaps answer all the other questions as well.

2. Cinemania:
The previous point and this one are related in a way. It's good that we celebrate an art form. But, the amount of undue importance and attention given to our movie stars is way too much - maniac. There is too much of nonsense that is going on in the name of "respect for talent": naming the children after movie stars, cutting a finger to show one's love for his favorite actor, getting into fatal fights with the fans of other heroes, building temple for an actress, all the madness that happen in the name of fan club, wasting all the hard-earned money in setting up cutouts for movie stars, deciding whom to vote based on movie actors' advice, addressing actors and actresses as the future chief minister even while wishing for their birthdays... the list is too long. Sometimes I really go mad looking at all this madness. Where else can you see this kind of madness in this country? Again, Andhra Pradesh might come a close second - but not first! Even there, it's not this much!

What is all the more disgusting is the insanity of mixing up politics and movies. We have been ruled only by people who are related to the film industry in some way or the other in the last forty years though they are no way related to each other. Can you show me one other state that is so mad about movies in this country? You may ask an intelligent question - "Are they (the movie stars) not part of the system?". Who said that they are not? Nobody said that they shouldn't come into politics. But, it shouldn't be only them who become our leaders. Most of them don't even know how to speak. They manage the show with their movie dialogues and lyrics. Nobody understands that their real life characters are different from their reel life characters. Our extraordinary people truly believe that they are all powerful supermen who can solve all our problems within two and a half hours like how they do in their movies.

We were at the peak of mindlessness fifteen years back. It's okay now. But, those in Kodambakkam should realize that Kodambakkam is far away from St George Fort (Those of you who wonder what Kodambakkam and St George Fort are: Kodambakkam is the place known for movie studios in Chennai; And, St George Fort is the place where our Chief Minister's office is!). If they would continue to think that they are near to each other or the shortcut to St. George Fort is through Kodambakkam, that's a bad news for the state that has had enough.

Next, have you ever heard of any other place on earth where people built temple for an actress? It happened here. Have you seen people performing milk abhishekam on an actor's cutout like the way it's done for gods? It happens here. On one side there are people who argue that doing it to gods themselves is wrong. On another side there are people who do this to normal human beings. I used to think in my childhood that it was only the uneducated youth who were mad about movies and stars and the educated lot was not that bad. It was only after seeing more of educated people did I realize that this madness had got nothing to do with education. There have been incidents of arguments on movie stars leading to attempted murders in college campuses. What I saw in the corporate world later was all the more surprising. Even there, I could see plenty of mad followers of movie stars. I just couldn't believe that our people were 'so' mad about movies and movie stars.

Television mania could also be added to this. In most houses, in the peak hours when TV serials are going on, everything comes to standstill. Absolutely nothing happens! No work! Most people talk about the TV serial stories as if it's some personal problem that their family is going through. It's this madness for Television boxes that made our people lose five valuable years to a corrupt gang of rogues five years back.

3. Hero Worship:
The common aspect in both the above problems is the madness of hero-worship in excess. Not only in politics and movies, you could see the extreme level of hero-worship even on the wall posters of local associations and trade unions. If you get me a meal or a bottle of liquor, I would praise you in whatever way you want - calling you anything - comparing you with anyone. This culture of meaningless flattery is not just spoiling the people; it would end up spoiling the language as well. Words would lose their meaning when people are meaninglessly praised, right!

Nobody likes or hates a political party based on its ideology  It's all individual-based. In fact, I have been trying to figure out the difference between the ideologies of DMK and ADMK from the day I came across these acronyms. I am not successful yet. Most of us do not like or hate a movie based on any of its other aspects like story, screen play, direction or music. Mere appearance of a star can decide that. Appreciating the talent is different from worshiping an individual who possesses it, right?! Unfortunately, most of our people don't understand this.

There are two types of hero-worshipers. The first lot blindly follows their hero with no conscious reason for being so forever and waste their valuable lives running behind their heroes. This kind of followers is more for movie stars and less for political leaders (still sizable!). The second is a better lot. They follow their leaders with a vested interest. They give what their leaders want in order for them to take everything that they want from their leaders. What their leaders want? Mad followers! These people would be that. What these people want? Something in return! In return, their leaders would allow these people to loot as much as they want and enjoy. That something would be mostly public money (in the form of contracts, commission, profit-sharing, etc.), in some cases favors from government or any of its organs such as police, in some cases good government or party position to be safe from all legal troubles. They would follow their leaders only until there is some use in doing so. They would abscond as soon as the leader is dumped. This type of hero-worship is more in politics.

It's this hero-worship that is the root cause of all the dynasty politics that the country is witnessing today. It's because of this even those with extraordinary talent are watching all these silently without taking part in the game themselves. It's this hero-worship that is not allowing our leaders to become better. This is what makes them so self-centered. It's this hero-worship that makes some of our stars spend more time doing all the politics around becoming bigger instead of becoming better as artistes.

4. Selfishness
Just look at the stands that we take on every political issue. That would explain how selfish we are. The war in Sri Lanka was at its peak. Innocent people were being killed in thousands. On the other side, 2G spectrum scam was making news every day and a new refreshed number was getting published every next day. It was very clear that Congress and its bedfellow DMK were responsible for both the problems, the genocide and the scam, one anti-human and another anti-national. We could have saved thousands of lives in Sri Lanka and brought the guilty to book in 2G by voting out the anti-human and anti-national duo. What did we do? We sold our votes to Congress and DMK for just 150 rupees per vote. Would the same thing have happened if it was Kerala or Karnataka? I don't think so!

Leave all that. Let's look at some of the simple things that happen in the lives of common men like us. Look at the way people travel in General compartments in train or Government buses in Tamil Nadu. In my last 13 years of stay in Karnataka, I have not seen the kind of uncivilized behavior that I have seen in Tamil Nadu. I have heard that this is nothing compared to what happens in some parts of North India. But, if I just compare with the other South Indian states, I think, Tamil Nadu for sure would be the worst. Everywhere else, the attitude is, "My comfort is more important than yours!". But here, it is, "Only my comfort is important and let others go to hell!". What is it called? Is there any other name than selfishness for this? This is just one simple example. There are too many such experiences to prove this point. 

5. Shortcutism
New word? Wondering what the hell that is? Let me explain it to you in simple words. As some of you would have understood it correctly, yes, it is nothing but looking for shortcuts to everywhere and everything. Some call it smartness. I call it with this name - a decent name for dishonesty. It's the early stage of corruption. Corruption is matured stage of dishonesty. That's the reason why the biggest corruptions in the world have all been done by our own people. That's the reason why crores of money is being spent in elections by our politicians in the world's largest democracy. I have observed this from my childhood. In every town in Tamil Nadu, there would be one guy who cheated the entire town by promising abroad job. Every year, there would be one chit fund cheating case but even then people wouldn't stop investing with them. Every now and then a new swamiji would come to spotlight for all his scandals with black money and beautiful women. Even then our people don't stop going to them for solution for all their worldly problems.

The hearsay is, most of the crimes in Bangalore are committed by two groups of people. Tamils are one of them. An advocate friend of mine in Delhi once told me about the pickpockets in Delhi. He said the Delhi police caught 52 pickpockets in the city once and every one of them is a Tamilian. Not even a single exception. What do these all say?

First time, when I went to Chennai, looking for a job, I used to spend all my days trying to meet some relative - relative's relative - friend - friend's friend - relative's friend - friend's relative, etc. One of my friends who was born and brought up in Chennai asked me, "Why is it that all of you who come from other parts of Tamil Nadu always look for someone to help you get a job? Why don't you use this valuable time to hone your skills so that you become more employable or visit some companies to inquire about openings, etc.?" It hurt me first. But, when I sat back and thought about it, it hurt all the more. Because, I realized that there was some problem with the way we approach life. Thanked Chennai for enlightening me with that feedback. Later, few years down the line, after coming to Bangalore, a colleague who came from Chennai asked me on the very first day, "Who are the big shots in this company? Who all do I have to impress or please if I want to become big in this company?". I introduced them to him. From the very next day, he stopped coming out with me and started going out with them for tea. This looked worse. Some people look for shortcut to get a job and others do it even after getting one! That's the only difference. Otherwise, the attitude is the same. It's the problem with our genes! And, thanked Chennai again for this enlightenment. :)

Go to any wedding, house warming, death... there would be a few senior citizens who would be talking about their son being a big shot in a software company in Bangalore or Chennai and how they could help solve the unemployment problem in the entire region. Ten people would be sitting around them, listening to all the bullshitting they do, requesting them to share their son's email id and contact number. It just irritates me to death. I just wonder, 'Why don't these uncles simply keep quiet and leave that job of finding jobs to their children who are in need of it instead of wasting all their time in doing this kind of lobbying?'.

OK. How about this? Even if the Government changes thousand times in Tamil Nadu... Even if the world ends and gets recreated... Do you think the auto drivers would charge the right fare or even use the fare meter in Chennai? Have you seen any other city on this planet where auto drivers are so dishonest and greedy? Ask them about it. They would explain why it is difficult to be not greedy in Tamil Nadu. When I came to Bangalore in late 90s, the auto drivers wouldn't speak a word. I would just get in and tell the place. They would drop me in the place and take the amount as shown on the meter and give back the change even if it was 50 paise. Then, at some point in time, the guests from Tamil Nadu started asking, "How much?" as soon as they spot an auto. From then on, no looking back. The drivers here also have got corrupt. Now they argue and explain us - "Why don't you see how bad the auto drivers in Chennai are? We are far better!"

Last one - a north Indian laborer who came to do some minor plumbing work in our house was trying to cheat us by asking for some huge unreasonable amount. The local big shot who passed by intervened to solve the problem. He asked the north Indian friend, "Man... Do you know who you are trying to cheat? These guys are Tamilians. They cheat the entire country. You are trying to cheat them?! Very bad!". How would you feel? Proud? Ashamed? I felt ashamed! Some of my friends felt very happy about the mention. It may be a bad stereotype. But, someone somewhere has done something to make some people believe so. Otherwise, what smoke with no fire?!

Contd in Part 2 of 2...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Good to be Good?

One question that has always been haunting me from very early days of my life is - "Is it good people's planet or bad people's?". Both of them get success, happiness, peace of mind and all good things in life. There are people who remain good against all odds till the end and don't enjoy any good thing other than a good feeling that they would go to heaven. Likewise, there are the worst of the breed people who enjoy every good thing possible in their lifetime. Having seen all such lives, I have also told my loved ones, "You can't live in this society if you are too good!", just like how my well wishers told me.

At the same time, you can't say that life is good for only the bad ones and bad for all good people. If you do bad things, you would surely get caught one day. Instead, it is better to be good though you may have to compromise on a luxurious life. You will never have to get caught and feel embarrassed. And, you can't say all bad people get caught, too. There are some smart ones that never get caught throughout. Even if they get caught, they don't find anything embarrassing in it. There are also good people who get caught for things that they haven't done.

We don't need philosophies such as "There is nothing called good or bad. It all depends on how you view things!", "Good for you is bad for me and bad for you is good for me!", etc. The ones who generally don't hurt others for their livelihood and do something good to others whenever possible could be called good. Additionally, you can say that the ones who obey the law of the land and don't commit anything that is considered to be a crime. Those who spoil others' lives for their livelihood could be called bad people. You could say, once they get out of their house in the morning, before coming back home in the night, they would spoil a good number of families' livelihood and get whatever is required for their family. They don't care about law. They do everything that is considered to be unlawful by an average human being and have justifications for all of them.

I also get a question - Is there a possibility that this world would have only good people some day? Or, is it not at all possible? As of now, I think it's not at all possible. Why? I believe that good habits and behaviors or ethics should come in heredity or should be taught right from infant-hood. That means the current bad people can never send good things through their genes to their children; nor will they teach them after birth. They would only teach that it's of no use to be too good on this planet.

One of the recent thoughts that is gaining momentum in the corporate world when the businesses are becoming big is that only those who do business with good ethics would last long and others would get lost soon. I don't know if it is right or wrong. But, it is good to speak like that for the benefit of this planet. That is the basis on which all mature societies teach their kids. That is the reason many big companies speak such philosophies outside and do something else inside. This is what I say often. Even the bad people have to pretend to be good if they want to have a smoother life. Isn't that enough to prove that being good is superior to being bad?

As a result of this kind of a thought, not just the people who pretend to be good, even people like us who believe everything that we hear is right, have started living like that hoping that that would get a lot of returns. As the science, technology and philosophy mature more and more, what would happen is that even the ones on the other side of the fens would start coming this side hoping that that would help them grow faster. Mind you - We would do it because that would give us faster growth. Not because we want to remain good just for the sake of it. Are we fools to change ourselves with no expectations? If at all it's proved that that is the formula for success, there is a possibility that this world would become full of good people after many centuries.

Leaving all these aside, there are people who remain good till the end just for the sake of it and to have peace of mind. According to them, "I don't have the abilities to handle the problems that I would face if I become bad. I am comfortable handing the problems that I am facing for being good. So, let me remain good forever!". Or, they say, "I don't care about what the result is... what the benefits are... etc. I have been taught to live like this or I believe that a human being should live like this. So, let me be like this!". Isn't it a good thought too?

"Why should I waste my life thinking about a problem that I would face sometime later or may not even face? If it comes, let me face it then. That too, only if I think it's an embarrassment it's an embarrassment. If I am mature (!) enough to see that also as a part of life, I wouldn't have any problem!" is the other lot's thought process. Even that sounds attractive, right? Though we can't call it a 'good' strategy! They are asking, "Why would you want to lead a miserable life if you could lead a luxurious one by being little more flexible?"

There is another problem. Many people are good only when they are surrounded by bad people. When there are only good people around, some of them take up the role of bad people. Some people say, "It's too bad to be too good. If you are too good, you are the one who gives room for bad people!". That's right too. They would start thinking, 'When he is so foolish himself, why should I not cheat him?'. When the foolish ones realize that, they get alert. Then that becomes a cycle. When the whole world strives to become good, there could be a setback in this form also.

I don't like generalizing things. Even then, on an average, you can say that people from a particular family is better or worse than people from some other family, right? The same could be applied for a street, town, area, state and country. You can't say that all people from a street, town, area, state or country are better or worse than all people from another street, town, area, state or country. But, on an average, one could be better or worse than the other. It's acceptable as per the law of averages.

It is on that premises that we talk about Indus valley civilization, Mesopotamian civilization, Greek civilization, Western civilization, this civilization, that civilization, etc. Another irony is that the people who were so civilized many centuries back are like barbarians now and those that were like barbarians are very civilized now. So, you can't say if all would remain like how they are now. If there could be such huge changes in civilization, you can't rule out the possibility of even those who are getting civilized going in reverse direction after some time.

If it's proved that human beings could live in Mars, those who relocate there first, should ensure that all those who are accompanying them and those who are going to join them later are good people by conducting enough tests. At least their planet would be free from all problems, crimes and sins of ours. At a time when the terrorist activities are gaining momentum everywhere, most of the western countries are doing the same thing now in the name of visa verification. If the all those who go to Mars also do the same thing, they wouldn't have to deal with the difficulties of multiple personality issues, i.e. being good with good people and bad with bad people.

Otherwise, it's also a good idea to send all the bad people to Mars. Those who remain here could be peaceful. That's how people were exiled to Andaman and Australia those days, I guess. Only now do I understand the rationale behind that idea. Those who have an alternate lifestyle to the average people should be in a different place, which is what is safe for the majority of averages. One doesn't have to die to see the hell. It is on this planet itself in different names. Even prisons are such things, right?

I am reminded of an Aldous Huxley's quotation that I read long back - "Maybe this world is another planet's hell!".

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Education - The Policies and Politics!

A friend of mine (Saravana Kumar) had mailed me asking, "Why don't you write something about our education system... the policies and politics around it?". Good thought. Should surely do that. But, when I sat back and thought about how qualified I was to talk about it, these are the qualifications I have... I have got an education, which is higher than the average education level of this nation. I have a lot of educated people around me. I have a lot of uneducated people also around me almost in the same number. So, I know the importance of education. I have thought many times about what would have happened if I hadn't studied like  the latter. As an extension, I have imagined myself in the roles of, say, starting from shop keeper to daily wage laborer.

I have been attracted to different professions in different times. It is a huge list! One of them is the teaching profession. I thought it was one of the noble jobs. Then I have dreamed of getting into the education department and doing a lot of revolutionary stuff. I still think that I should build a lot of schools and colleges if I earn too much in future. But, when I look at some faces that are calling themselves the educationists, I am afraid that I would lose interest in that idea soon. The distance between them and education is the same as that of truth and lie. They are neither educated nor do they educate anyone. They just build buildings with their black money, which are used for educational purposes. That's it. I even wanted to become the education minister at some point in time.

Once I had to write an essay in school days about what I would do if I become a minister. I wrote different things under different headings. I had also written about what all I would do if I become the education minister. What I wrote under that heading made my teacher lose her peace of mind and complain about it to the head master. She handed over the evaluated answer paper to the head master and asked me to take it from him. He also lost his peace of mind when he read it, called me to know if I would hang everyone if I get a pen and paper in hand and warned me to mind my language from then on. He had to do that because I had expressed my frustrations very openly. I had even written that I would sack the head master if he did so and so things. He should have taken it very personally and as a challenge to his job. So, he had to prove to me what I was actually capable of. I started minding my language in all essays I wrote after that. In school essays alone! :)

I don't remember all the complaints that I had at that time. But, I do remember some of them. Here are the vital few...
1. I would send home the teachers that are not able to teach in an easy and understandable manner.
2. All science lessons have to be taught with appropriate practical examples and tests.
3. There shouldn't be bias among students.

You may leave the first two. But, the third one still seems to be a major problem for us. My understanding now is that the "common school system" or "common education system" (It is also called the "uniform education system" or "uniform school system"!) that the previous DMK regime wanted to introduce in Tamil Nadu is trying to address the very problem of bias in education. But, I am not sure. Let me understand that first and then we shall continue our discussion.

I was just reading an interview of Mrs. Vasanthi Devi, who was the Vice Chancellor of my university during our time. She was saying, "The disputed thing is not to be seen as common education system. It is just about having a common syllabus across the state instead of having multiple boards and each one having different syllabus. Common education system means everything should be common. The facilities, opportunities, fees structure... everything, which is not the case now!". Wonderful thought! I am not sure if everyone that supports or opposes this system understands this difference. Because, as usual there is a lot of politics around this. What is all the more surprising is the caste politics being played here.

It's not that all articles have to pass judgement and everyone that writes such articles should be qualified enough to pass judgments on the subject. It's all unwritten rules of last generation writing. I am just starting this article with a belief that even bringing all views about an issue to one place and making them available for all to see could be a good writing. Let's see how much sense it makes...

No one was surprised that this madam stalled all the progress made by the previous regime on this front. She has always been someone that doesn't have any principles of her own or for her party. At the max, her policy decisions would be based on any of the below - 1. Things that came on her dreams on the previous night, 2. Suggestions by her astrologer, her close friend, or her relatives, 3. Or, simply doing the opposite of what the previous person did. So, we can't decide anything based on her decision.

One such announcement that was made by her has attracted a lot of criticism from her opponents. It is the induction of two new people into the committee to study the suggestions made by the previous regime. Their complaint is that the ones that are called educationists are not really educationists. They are the ones who do education as a business. The new system is trying to correct that. How would they be able to objectively judge whether the new system is good or bad? I don't know about these two people. But, is it good to have more and more businessmen coming into the education sector? Surely not! How did the governments allow them? Is there a rationale behind it? May be. One of them could be that they might have thought that building educational institutions is not as easy as running wine shops and bars and hence left the former to private parties and decided to run the latter on their own.

All the supporters of madam are also the ones that support her blindly and oppose the previous man more blindly. Even I have started hating him like that. I never even used to call him by his name. I used to respect him so much. Now, I don't even like to use his name. I hate him so much these days. I am more adamant than Jayalalithaa herself in not giving him a place in our history books. But, we don't have to oppose all his policies blindly for that. When he wanted to introduce a noble idea like the common education system, he also smartly inserted his name and some of his writings in all books. This is what he has been doing every time he comes to power. This cheap attempt has handicapped his supporters also while defending him. It would have been easier if he had not done all these. At the same time, I can't say that this madam would not have done whatever she is doing now even if he had not done all that.

The experts on the subject say that the common education system is an attempt to ensure social justice and it would eventually ensure equal opportunity for everyone as noted in the constitution of the nation. Thinking that it would go against them, the upper castes are vehemently opposing that. "How can it be uniform for all? How can it be common for all? How can all be equal? Inequality is natural. You shouldn't do anything against the nature!" is their point. "Should you not do anything against nature? Won't you ever like the word equality? The might is right in jungles. The mighty creatures kill the weaker ones for food. That's natural. Do we allow that to happen in our country as well? Why do we have laws preventing theft and robbery then?" is the counter-question. I don't know how to handle this as caste has come into this as well.

Those who oppose this system ask me - "You didn't get an opportunity for good education. Your child has got it now. Will you say 'No' to that and admit your child in the same dubba school where you studied?". We realize things only if we are asked such personal questions. We easily speak aloud about anything if you have to speak generally. If someone says, "It would also impact you!", we shut up. This question shuts me up too. Isn't it natural for a good dad to get his child the best of possible education so that at least he or she gets to places where we have not been able to? The places that the children of the ones that are less talented and more privileged than us have reached! But, none of us who speaks like this gets even a feet outside our circle and think about the rest of the world. It may be good for a dad of one or two children. How about a government? All children are the same for the governments. All their parents have only one vote each. It's its duty to ensure an equal environment for all. What I see more in the argument of "against the nature" is the selfishness than the public interest. Do you agree or not?

Then, I don't think the common syllabus is asking me to join my kid in the same dubba school where I studied. It just says, "Join in any school; But, if your kid is more talented than the rest, your kid also has to bear the same amount of load that the other kids are able to. Nothing more; nothing less!". As of now, I don't understand what problem I or my kid would have in that. I can understand if someone explains. As of now, what I think is - It is good. In general, it's good to make education a lighter affair. Less burden can never be an obstacle to good education. The same thing could be studied more deeply. Despite all these, if at all I am very adamant about loading my kid with more stuff, I can as well do that outside the school in different forms. No law will prohibit that. Even if there is perfect common education system in place, no one can remove this inequality. It's just an attempt to reduce the gap. Why should we hate it?

It's a vast area. We have to start from scratch. From 'whether privatization is right or wrong'!

It's right - When? When the condition is such that "The government can't do everything. When there is job security till 58 years, there is no fear factor. They would not do their duty dutifully. They would only come to streets for salary hikes every year!". Why can't the government do everything? Democracy is such a model. I can't pressurize the same voters that have to elect me to work harder. Then they would change their voting preference. They would always like the government that doesn't ask them to do their duty and just hikes the salary year after year. So, if privatized, they would ensure that the job gets done properly by having proper checks and balances in place and by hiking the salaries for only those who perform and by showing the right way to  the ones that don't perform. They would ensure that the quality is maintained. If you maintain quality, you would get more customers. Only more customers would mean more business. The fear factor will be there. That's the reason we do not have the same quality of private schools in government schools. Another reason for the deteriorating quality in government schools is that even the governments that came one after the other were horrible. Only good people would get good governments. So, we won't get it so easily. So, that way, privatization is good for us.

It's wrong - When? When the privatization done with good intentions go out of control. I mean, when the governments think, 'Once we privatize, our job is done; Our job then is to just loot the country!'. What is happening now is that the approval is given to everyone that gives money or flatters the chief minister in public meetings or if you are a minister. No one checks if there is building, if there are classrooms inside, if there are labs, if there is a library, if water comes in, or if there are toilets. Even after they start functioning, no one audits or checks their way of functioning. Because of that, while only a few improve the quality and do a good business, all others just don't worry about anything because there are enough people for them in the country of billion people with everyone wanting to make their children engineer. Just as they think, all the below-average kids of rich parents come and pour money to save their businesses. Is it good for the nation?

I have to talk about an important thing here. Like how we say the private schools are much better than government schools and private arts and science colleges are much better than government colleges, we can't say that the private engineering colleges are better than the government engineering colleges. Why? Because, they are being run like business. Uncontrolled business! Many of them are golden goose for the politicians, too. We should stop it at all costs.

Next, free and compulsory education for all is one of the greedy aspirations of our constitution. Is it possible? Yes. If the government has many more aspirations in addition to looting the nation. Is it possible? I don't think it is possible in near future because I believe that I am mentally alright. So, does privatization help here? Surely not! The very word privatization means there is nothing free and nothing compulsory. Will you not doubt my sanity if I say, "You have to compulsorily pay so many lakhs and educate your kid in my college!"?. If free education and compulsory education have to become reality, the government has to more ownership on education. If everything becomes so governmental, then there have to be proper checks in place to ensure our teachers do a decent job. Are there different options other than privatization then? There should be. Privatization is just an escape route. Not a solution to our problems. "If it's difficult or if you are lazy to correct the problems, better privatize that sector!" is the modern day mantra of our governments. It's just shirking one's responsibility and not handing over to the right hands.

What are those options? One of them - The relationship between schools and the parents have to be strengthened. Everything including the pay has to be decided based on performance and result as in private companies. Parents' feedback should be given utmost respect and importance. Unless we shake the job security that assures job and salary on time irrespective of whatever I do or not do, we can't create sincere workers. You may even laugh at this. You may even say, "These boys are always like this. They would never talk about what is practically possible!". If you think so, for your information, these practices are already in place in private companies. If I don't do the job that is given to me properly, I can be assured that I won't even have access to my work place tomorrow morning. If my customer has a complaint on my working style, I would be sent out even quicker. It is this fear that makes someone like me who is a lazy bone by birth a hard working professional. Only this fear can make every lazy bone in this land work for what is paid to them. Ironically, the government jobs make even the active ones lazy. So, what we want is a new approach - to see the parents as customers. Not just while collecting fees, but also after the results come - before promotions to teachers - to take feedback from!

There is another thing that we have to do - Like in many western countries, children should be allowed to get admitted only in schools that are in the same area. That would ensure that the quality of all schools in all areas are improved with the help of all big shots in all areas. One complaint that the ones who oppose common education system have is that it would never bring up the downtrodden; it would only pull down the fortunate ones. That's right too. Like the communist governments did in their countries, we should not make the hunger common instead of making the money common. There is an advantage in saying that let's all be in the same place wherever we are. Then whatever the rich parents do will be good for all. Unknowingly all would think for all even if they don't want to. Otherwise, the ones on top would go further up and the ones in bottom would go further down.

There is another issue adding to the list. It's the medium of instruction. As someone who studied everything in mother tongue throughout, I am one of them who have cursed the system for the irreparable inequality it has created. I would take years to achieve what an English medium guy could do on the first day. It becomes almost impossible for some of us. I strongly believe that I could have been little more successful if I had studied in English medium from the beginning. However, I can never match the ones that speak English at home with their parents, too. You can't have a law prohibiting that as well, right?

If we are talking about mother tongue as the medium of instruction, it should happen across the nation. Otherwise, that would again create huge amount of inequality. We are a nation that depends mostly on English speaking countries for our bread and butter or say, rice and rasam. In fact, that is the only advantage we have over others on the global arena today. If we lose out on that as well, then there is nothing that we could rely on. Even if the whole nation adopts mother tongue based education, the kids that speak English at home would have an edge over the middle class and low class ones. How are we going to handle that?

The only solution that I have for this problem is - Studying everything in two languages right from the beginning. I mean, Maths, Science, Social Science... everything! It may seem like over burden. But, it could be compensated by reducing the overall burden. I am not sure if I could implement this idea even if I become the education minister. If at all it could happen or this idea could reach the right ears, it would be a great thing for our kids.

We should also talk about Right to Education here. Whenever I see Kapil Sibal, I have always wondered why this guy talks so much. This is the law that proved he looks smarter when he acts than while speaking. We don't know what all problems it would have when it comes to implementation phase. Even then, it is a historical thing to have happened to us. We all want it to get implemented smoothly. But, if there is something called Right to Corruption law, then he would get busy making noises in TV channels to justify that and this would go for a toss. Or, if an educationalist with plenty of black money comes and says, "I would take care of your next election expenses!", that is a problem too. Let's see what happens.

We have had enough committees and enough reports. It's time for action now. Though I know that I don't have enough knowledge to speak like an educationist, I could understand that this common school system is a good attempt. This is just the beginning. We should only try to resolve the problems around it and move ahead instead of using them as reasons to stall the whole progress. I somehow get a doubt that that's what is happening here. Another thing, our governments have always been playing to the tune of big businessmen. Luckily, the businessmen in this sector have not become that big yet. It's easy to implement now. Otherwise, if they become so big to say that they could take care of election expenses, then nothing could be done to reduce the ever-increasing gap.

For them, the common education system would spoil their business. We can't expect them to accept their losses wholeheartedly. It's up to us to talk louder than them and get things done. Otherwise, the lessons added with vested interests by the previous regime could be removed and the ones that were removed could be added back. They are no way related to the education system. It's like saying burn all black buses. We should only talk about changing the color and not burning the buses.

One word that most of our country men don't like is - Equality. Right from the hospital where a baby is born till the burial ground, the place where one is buried, we can't accept equality. All in all, I think the root cause of this problem lies in how good or mature we are as a society. When there are problems in the basement itself, whatever we try to correct on the upper part would shake everything including the basement also.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Diary - A Deary!

The complimentary diaries that I used to get in childhood introduced me to the habit of logging my day-to-day experiences in them. As far as I have seen, most of them who got complimentary diaries like that used to just scribble something for few days or few weeks or at the max for a month and forget that habit until the next new year. One of them who did like that was my uncle Mr. Natarajan, who used to be my childhood hero. The other uncles who used them as just account notebooks actually filled more pages of them. Natarajan uncle also used to use his business diary till the year end - up to its last page though he would forget the other diary (the personal one) within a month or so.

In one of those diaries that made me interested in the habit of diary-writing, he had written a slogan which said something like 'confidence and perseverance are the two most important things in life' on the first page. Even today, I unconsciously look for that slogan on the first page of any diary that I open. Every time I get a new diary, I feel like starting with that slogan on the first page. If not the same line, I always started with a slogan that talked about such important things every year. As I grew older, I realized that I had too many important things and there was not so much space to write down all of them. So, had to discontinue that habit of writing slogans on the first page. If not anywhere else, I wanted to use his important things at least for the habit of diary writing. And, I did that for quite some time. Even that had to be discontinued at some point in time later. Let's discuss about it later.

Though most people didn't have lasting relationship with the diaries, there were two exceptions. One - My grandfather who stuck to that habit of writing diaries till the end, that too in English at a time when literacy in mother tongue itself was a big challenge. He used to write his day-to-day experiences as well as his personal account details in them. I have always been believing that he would be my hero forever. If you find time and find it interesting, please read my post about him in this link - Mr. RV - A Freedom Fighter! Having heard from everyone that one should learn from him how to live a systematic life, I decided to adopt that habit alone from him.

Another one - Another uncle of mine, Mr. Chandrasekaran, who is Natarajan uncle's younger brother. He was a first generation achiever in his family too. He had had the habit of diary-writing right from his college days. I personally liked this habit of his for a special reason - He had noted the date and time of my birth in one of his diaries. From the minute I saw that, I became more fond of the habit of diary-writing as well as him. It seems he believed that it would sharpen his English. But, he also discontinued that habit later. There are so many things that you discontinue after getting married and having kids. It's only natural to lose something when you get something new in life, right?

At that age itself, I wanted to see some more diaries that were filled till December 31st. I know I was too greedy at a very young age. Having realized that it may never happen, I decided to make one myself. Conventional wisdom says "find a way or make one!", right? So, I made one. I don't remember very well. If I am not wrong, it should be in 1992 when I was in my tenth standard and was 15 years old. My friends used to admire me for that. They used to read them when I was not around and irritate me by making fun of me when I come back. I wholeheartedly accepted the school of thought that said using the mother tongue is the best medium of communication to express one's feelings and thoughts and started writing in Tamil. But, I also wanted to improve my English so I used to insert a few English words here and there. Not all words that I wrote would be apt to that place, but it would just serve as a reminder to me that I knew those words.

What are the benefits of this habit? One - I got a dust bin to dump all my frustrations and anger at the end of the day. What was more interesting was that when I would look at the same bin after some time, it would look like a treasure. I think, the blogs are doing the same job now. Aren't they? I was impressed when someone said it's the best outlet to send out all your unwanted emotions. So, I kept on telling everyone outlet... outlet... outlet... for a long time. Though it was an outlet to send out the unwanted emotions at that point, the same thing acted as some other let when it brought back the same emotions in a purified form after some time and it also acted like a tank to store all wanted memories and feelings. I was a pleased customer!

I am not someone who is very adamant about not talking about someone else in his absence. I don't have any such hard and fast sentiments. If someone has done something to me that has hurt me, I would just go to someone else and crib about them. I like doing it, because it reduces the frustration. Since I was too sensitive about everything, it was unavoidable. Likewise, I also don't make it a big issue when I come to know about someone cribbing about me to someone else. I just feel bad. I never go to that person and ask, "How can you talk about me in my absence? You should have come to me and told me directly!". I don't have any such personal governance principles (just tried copying corporate governance!). It's not that you have to dump on me the same wastes that I dumped on you. If you find someone else to dump them on, it's okay. At the end of the day, we just have to dump it somewhere and move on instead of carrying forever, right?

This habit of catching hold of someone when you are frustrated with someone else and cribbing with them invited a lot of troubles. It put in spot many times to answer tough questions. It brought back too much wastes. This habit of diary-writing put an end to all that. I could crib to it every night just like how I would do it with any other fellow human being. That also would listen to me coolly. It would never question me back. It wouldn't share my frustrations with anyone else and create further troubles for me. It wouldn't laugh at me.

We observe numerous things throughout the day. We think too much about some of them (more than how much is required!). If you go to someone to talk about every such silly thing every day, wherever he sees you, he would start running away in fear, after few days. Diary-writing put an end to that also. Not this thing or that thing. You can talk about everything with it. You may also try and check. You would agree with me. Had I not met this guy (diary), I would have been a notorious gossiper.

Then, the next thing is, I was also interested in writing from childhood. Natarajan uncle used to write poetry for all his friends' marriages, print them and distribute to everyone in the marriage hall itself. That was the only opportunity he had to use his writing skills. When he writes such greeting poems, I used to help him with few words. He would appreciate. The interest that was born in Tamil classes through the old stories was watered by the poems of Natarajan uncle and got intensified when another uncle Mr. Elango (his pen name is Konangi!) came and presented a pen to me. By the way, he is a very well known writer in the Tamil literature circles.

What to do with the intensified desire? The diary gave a good platform for that also. Wrote about every silly thing in an immature style. I used to try playing around with words by placing them in unconventional places in sentences thinking that a good writing was all about that. I would also pat my back myself for having made such literature! :)

In the same diary, I would also write accounts like my grandfather did. It would give the break-down and break-up details for every 1 rupee that I got as pocket money every day. You can see the complete details of how each 1 rupee drop became a small stream and then a river and finally which ocean it joined. I also used to write the accounts of Musmal Cricket team in it. Not only that, until I put a separate notebook for all Cricket related scribbling, the same diary was used for all other statistics of Musmal Cricket team, statistics of all international Cricket teams, my dream world team, my Indian eleven (like board president's eleven!), etc.

What is that Musmal? It's the name of the Cricket team that was born in my street, which was called by two names - Muslim street and Perumal kovil street (which means Vishnu temple street!). Concatenation! Since it was named by me, no one other than me used that name or took it seriously, I guess. I am not sure if it was present anywhere other than in my diary. By the way, ours is such a beautiful street with a temple, mosque and church next to each other. Right from those days, I have been taking care of the accounts business wherever I go.

Then, whatever I liked while reading, I would record them in my diary. Even the ones that I heard from others and liked! Everything including philosophies, proverbs, slogans, opinions of the important people, my views on all national issues, birthdays of kin and kith and other important days and many other notes. Noting down birth days was a best practice learnt from Chandrasekaran uncle. Though personally I have never been fond of celebrating birthdays, even now I am the first person to wish many people on their birthdays. I am also trying to reduce that. 'Crazy... Only you are doing all these!' - I keep hearing this inner voice these days.

In between, got confused by someone and decided to stop writing diary for one year (1996). I didn't stop there. I also burnt all diaries that I had written till then. I had another reason to do that - they sounded very immature when I read them later. As if I had become mature by then! As if I have become mature now!? But, now I regret that. Now I feel, maybe, if I read them now, I would appreciate myself for having been so mature at that age itself. Now I have all the diaries that I wrote after that. I started this post with an idea to publish all such notes that I had taken down in my diaries. Introduction itself has taken so much space now!

One of the biggest motivations I had to write diaries was that I strongly believed that I would have to write my autobiography or someone else would want to write my biography one day like all big shots do and there shouldn't be shortage of information when needed. See how high headed I was. Then there was another contradicting thought. What is that? Autobiography should have things that remain in the hearts and minds of people beyond time and it shouldn't be just a collection of information from the diaries of eighty years. 'How can it be an eventful life?' was the internal question. Even that fueled the fire when I burnt the diaries. :)

Continued to write even after marriage for an year or so. It was very difficult to be adamant saying I would go to bed only after writing for an hour every day. It threw different challenges. Waking up on time the next morning became difficult. Writing while travelling was not that easy. And then there was another philosophy that said, "Only do things that you enjoy doing!", which was very attractive for some time. So, I bowed. Have no idea of restarting that habit for now. Let's see if I get back that interest again sometime later. We do the same things on blogs now, right? Then why do we need one more place?

When I started blogging, found two benefits. You could write like how you would do in a diary. You don't have to be worried about how interesting it would be for all those who get to read. 'If you are interested you may read. Otherwise, you may ignore!' kind. You may ask, "How would you say things that are so personal which can't be shared with others?". How would I say such things? It's an invalid question as I don't have too many such things. So no problem, right?

The second benefit? I love writing, right? I just love writing, but I was not interested to become a full time journalist or in spending my valuable time in buying new A4 sheets, writing my articles on them, then buying envelops, searching for addresses, sending them to magazines and waiting anxiously to know whether they got selected or rejected - whether they would be published or not published, biting the nails and the flesh around nails. There is another problem. If the first few articles are not good and get rejected, you would never get the interest or confidence to write any more. When there are already enough people to judge my abilities and decide my future, I was not interested in giving that privilege to some more people.

Even if they select, they may find some lines that are very important for us not so interesting to them. They would edit them and throw some tasty flesh. That also would join the number of things that are already there to spoil the peace of mind. Just to avoid all that, I have been just writing in diaries and on one-sided pages.

Leaving all these, I also have a funny belief. What is that? For example, I am interested in politics and literature. I am also very confident that I would become very big in one of them or both of them some day. Then, does it mean I should leave whatever I am doing now and focus my full energy on things that I love to do in order to reach the place where I want to be? "No" is my opinion.

If I am doing it for my own livelihood or fame, I can fix targets and work towards them. If the reason for me to get into them is just serving the society, I should just do what I am supposed to be doing at this moment. I mean, I should first focus my energy on what I am given as my job today. This society thinks that this is the right place for me considering my abilities, strengths and weaknesses. In parallel, I should also spend some time every day to do things that I love to do keeping the long term plans in mind.

If politics or literature wants me or if the people out there think that I am qualified enough to be there, I would naturally be landing there. This is my strong belief. If I don't reach, either I don't deserve that place or this society doesn't deserve me. It's not going to be my loss alone. So, there is no question of being disappointed for not getting what you want also.

People are so fond of their positions and don't want to give up on them even if they lose in elections these days. What is the reason? It could either be that they want to stick to their positions for their own selfish reasons or they want to serve people at all costs even if people themselves do not want their service. Tell me how many such people do we have today in the second category? If I am not needed, I should just get out of the place accepting people's verdict or I could even say that the society doesn't deserve my service or it doesn't know how to make use of me. That's is how a mature individual in a mature society would think.

So, all I want to say here is that until the right time comes I would just use my blog like a open diary for now. If I get an opportunity to play better roles - if they come my way naturally, will do them, too. That's it.

I will start doing from tomorrow what I planned to do when I started this post.

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