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The Dance Of Democracy

Cross-posted from Setu’s Blog.
Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote about my desire to do my bit for this country, and this world, to make it a better place. Considering how huge and important the impending elections in the world’s largest democracy, and my dear nation, India, are, it is befitting that I express my views about the state of it.

I’m not a member of any political party (not that I know of, at least). And I have strong reasons to admire and hate every party. Seriously. I have enough reasons on both side that it comes down to a very illogical, but personal choice for who I’ll end up voting for, during the “biggest festival of democracy“.

Festivals, from what I understand about the meaning of the word, are about celebration and for spreading joy and happiness. And since the day the longest elections in the history of India were announced (and much before) I doubt anyone has seen anything but. Not a single cheerful, hopeful emotion has been demonstrated by any candidate from any party. The elections seem more about showing why you shouldn’t vote the other guy to power than about why you should vote me. They seem about proving who is the worse guy, while we both are bad for you.

I turned 20 a couple of months back and this is the first time I’ll ever be voting, and already, I have such strong hatred towards the system that it makes me not want to vote. The state of politics and the legislative branch of the Government in this country makes me sad, and their antics make me wanna puke.

It sucks that elections aren’t fought on ideologies and policies but on name-calling and irrational promises. It is sad that most of the promises made in election manifestos are half-baked. It is frightening to know that we trust people who would give up their morals and sell their loyalty for the sake of a ticket to fight the elections.

Let’s be honest. Most of us know the candidate we want to vote for (yes, I’m talking about the white-bearded guy from Gujarat). But, does any one of us know what he wants to do for the country? He wants to wipe out corruption, great, but how? He wants to bring jobs to the poor and stimulate the economic growth, urm, what’s the plan there? And I can go on and on about every promise that has been made during every speech that doesn’t get even close to the action plan to achieve those.

I recently got done watching all the 7 seasons of ‘The West Wing‘, an American TV show that is about the life of the senior staffers to the President of the United States of America. During those seasons, they have beautifully shown 2 elections being conducted and how the Presidential candidates fight and win elections. And that’s actually what inspired me to right this.

I want to vote for Narendra Modi, only because he is the man who has put Gujarat in the fastlane of progress since the horrific 2001 earthquakes with its epicenter in Bhuj, Kutch. To bring Modi to power, he needs to win a majority, 272 to be precise, of seats in the Lok Sabha. And for the same, I should be voting for the Shiv Sena/BJP candidate in my constituency.

So, for getting the guy man who I wish becomes the PM, I have to vote for a random politician who only shows up 2-3 times every 5 years, and whose posters line up potholed roads which he didn’t bother doing anything about. That doesn’t seem fair, does it?

It gets deeper. I can’t really expect the Member of Parliament (hereafter, MP) to talk to me, or understand my problems and act upon them. I can’t express my opinions to him about the bills that are in the Parliament, or my issues that should become bills. I can’t expect him to go against his party, and vote for a bill that would actually benefit his constituents, while it may not make a difference to the rest of the country. I may not have voted for him, but, in the end, I am his constituent, and he represents me in the most powerful law-making body of the country.

Oh, and honestly, those are far-fetched desires. I can’t expect him to represent the party he is contesting from in the next elections as these, because the morality, being with a party whose ‘ideology’ you agree with, doesn’t exist. It is about how much money which party would throw at you, and which would give you the ticket to fight the elections.

Accountability, or rather, the lack of thereof, is the reason I think Indian politics is in such a terrible and pitiable state. That’s also the reason our opinions of politicians are the same as that of thugs and sleazebags. Of course, there are exceptions, and those exceptions are the very reason I have some hopes for the future of this country.

So, here’s what I think, and here’s what I feel underlines how this all changes. Here’s what I’m going to be doing for the next month, before I set out to cast my first vote on the 24th of April.

Get in touch with the representatives representing various parties, competing in my constituency, and ask them why I should vote for them. I want to ask them about my election issues, and what they’d do for them, during the next 5 years. Ask them for their contact details and if I can get in touch with them in the future when I need to talk about the bills that are under debate in the LS.

I will vote for the man I want to see as my MP, not the man who is a member of the party whose PM nominee I want to see at the center on 16th May. In the end, what the MP does, with regards to my constituency, in the next 5 years, will matter more. Because pothole-filled roads, higher electricity prices, incomplete infrastructure projects, street-lamps that don’t work, and errant auto-rickshaw/taxi drivers are the things I can talk to him about, and expect him to do something about.

That doesn’t mean these are the only things that bother me. I want to be able to talk about conducive economic policies, trade practices, military funding, education, healthcare, security forces, para-military, environment, major infrastructure projects, scientific research, and a million other things that deserve a national debate. Someday, I want to be able to discuss these with my MP as well as the PM candidate, but, that’s not possible today. Change is slow and time consuming. But, it must start somewhere.

So, this is where it starts. This is how the uneducated lot that serves and frames the laws that govern the educated lot, learns they need to be responsible to govern the 10 crore new voters. The voter of today is more well-read and aware about everything that matters to him, and he deserves more than a guy who relaxes in his extravagant holiday home, except when he is directed by his ‘party leadership’ to go to the LS to cast his vote for a bill. This is to show the politicians that the voter today actually gives a damn about who governs him and how. This is how the PM candidate 10-15 years down the line will know to be more humble, and understand the problems that plague constituents, and bother to listen to their problems before deciding what his next speech is about.

Until today, we the people have been dancing at the behest of the lords who are intolerant to our questions. Not anymore. It is time to do the right thing and make sure the laws of this country as stated in the revered Constitution of India, are upheld.

It’s time to make the politicians dance, The Dance Of Democracy.

Parting notes:
1) I have used the masculine (guy) while referring to the politicians all along because that represents the majority of them, and my current MP. That, in no way, is meant as a bias, but is only a very general linguistic usage.
2) I have written most of this post as what I want, but, in most cases, I think it becomes obvious that it’s about each person who will vote.
3) This is something I really am going to be trying to do. And, if you agree, I want you to do the same. It’d be great to share what actually the result of this is. If so and you want to contact me, there are a couple of ways you do so as detailed here.

An Apology, and a Promise.

Around this same time of the year, 2 years ago, I and some of my blogging friends contemplated starting a co-blog that’d help us make the society we live in, a better place. I remember the strings of e-mails we shared about the name of the blog, the content, the policies that we’d follow, the theme of the blog and how it’d look. And all the while, I couldn’t wait to see this dream come true. I couldn’t wait to get done with the pointless crap that stopped me from doing my bit to help in making this world a better place.

Sadly, much has changed since then.

Of those who were a part of the original group, one has left and been untraceable (she was a cyber friend). And the rest of us, that you see on the ‘Authors’ page have been knowingly ignoring and pushing posting anything for this blog, pertaining to our claims of having ‘other commitments‘. Needless to say, we’ve failed. We haven’t been striving as hard as we promised. Err, sorry, we haven’t even been trying to strive.

Considering that I was a major reason why NJTT started in the first place, I have a guilty conscience for this event. I feel sorry for those who pledged their support to us when we started because we’ve wronged them. We didn’t see the KONY 2012 event through, like we wanted to. We didn’t push for the ‘Your Turn Now‘ cards and make them mainstream. We didn’t speak for what was right, in our eyes. We let our own dreams fall apart, without any sort of a try to save them.

But, it doesn’t end here. It can’t.

I just read this blogpost today by someone about what has happened to Meru Cabs, because of the political clout existing in Mumbai and Maharashtra politics. I also read Meru Cabs’ appeal letter to the citizens of Mumbai whom it has rightfully and honestly served (yes, I agree, I have used them on multiple occasions and have never had a negative feedback) for the last six years. And reading both of these, made me extremely sad.

I’ve been contemplating writing a post for this blog for a while now, about what I can do to make the General Elections that’ll occur sometime next year, more transparent and help those who want to vote an informed choice. I would have written a very positive post about what NJTT is going to do for you and how amazing it’s going to be for us to help you all. But honestly, I can’t convince myself of it.

It’s the politics around me that makes me sad. It’s how pathetic it has become and how foolishly we accept the fake political promises made to us, at face value, that hurts.

I want to promise you that NJTT will do everything in its power to help you make an informed decision and to take a stand against what’s wrong. But, the past and what has happened holds me back today.

I can’t say for the other authors at NJTT and for NJTT as a whole, but, personally, I promise that I will try to do everything I can, always, to make this world a better place.

In hope that there’ll be another post that I pen down for this blog…

Yours truly,

Setu Shah.

It’s Your Turn Now.

It has been almost 3 months since my last post. And a lot has happened since. But today, I write this post for a reason. Because today, it’s my turn.

I came across this initiative (by someone who I don’t know personally) called Your Turn Now (referred to as YTN hereon) less than 3 hours ago, and here I am, writing a post promoting the same.

Each and everyday, we come across hundreds of people, have conversations with may be a fifty, and are thankful to almost a dozen. Similarly, there are many who are thankful to us, for something or the other, day in and day out.

What do we do to them, except say a ‘Thank you’? How do we express the gratitude in our hearts?

The gratitude is the goodwill we have. The goodwill someone else has for our actions. And YTN is an effort to spread that goodwill.

You don’t have to pay a penny. You just have to spread smiles, and these cards. What cards, you ask?

This is a 2-sided, visiting card style card which you pass on to someone who says ‘Thank you’ to you, for your goodwill, requesting them to do the same. The colours haven’t been reproduced as well as I would like on my scanner, but, they’re good cards. Not cheap quality, printing paper-style cards. Real, durable cards.

And the best part, these cards are available for free.

This is a start. A start to live in a better society, to live in a world where thanking someone isn’t a ritual, but, a happy and graceful choice. Why not take part in an initiative someone else is willing to pay for, just for those smiles, just for the sake of a happier society?

I am going to begin spreading these tomorrow onwards (I got a pack of 5 cards before 3 hours when I came to know about this effort). If you think it makes some sense, get them, spread them.

Until the next post…

‘Tis All In The Mind

by

Grrrr…
Wait. Somebody just let out an angry grunt.

Who is it? Businessman? Teacher? Student? Salaried staff? Roadside vendor? Common man?

Ah! I should have guessed in earlier. The common man!

So what is this whole fuss about? Rise in prices? Rise in standard of living? Delays in commuting? Corruption? Scams? Black money? Or for one sole reason that you are fooled again?

A few days back I was same like the people around me. I had to go through the same painstaking process like most of us normally do. Wake up early in morning. Race against time to complete daily chores. Skip breakfast in order to catch the regular train to report at work. Miss the train. Report late at work. Bear the brunt of the senior for being late. Hunt through the list of clients. Strive hard to please them by compromising with ideals. Crawl back home in a tired state of body and mind. Miss the dinner with family while they wait eagerly to have my company and drop dead on bed with a hope that the new day shall be less worse than the current one. But the cycle hardly changes.

Who is accountable for this? Who is to be blamed for it?

The milkman, who has to compromise with the quality of dairy products because in no circumstances can I afford the increase in prices?

The newspaper guy, who delivers the newspaper filled with cynical headlines on front page?

The driver of the taxis, rickshaws, buses, trains who somehow don’t provide the sync that I expect from them to help me report at work on time?

The fellow commuters whose sweat makes the stench unbearable?

The boss who expects me to deliver results for the company even though I don’t see a scope of increment in salary, promotion?

The client who has his own battles to fight with rather than paying attention to my hardwork and asking me to come next time?

The canteen guy who delivers me a bad tea?

Or should I blame my family for unnecessarily irritating me when I am passing a bad day?

I observed my pattern of thoughts throughout the day. Most of them were totally cynical and pessimistic in nature. I kept complaining and ranting about most of the things that I saw around. The garbage in my neighbourhood. The price hikes. The scams. The bribe asking government officials to get my work done. The exam paper leaks. The killings reported in newspaper.

And then I came across A speech by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. Before moving forward I would request you to read the speech.

It made me question myself quite a few things and I am sure that the same questions will arise in your mind too. Why do we whine? Why do we complaint? If we do have issues with our system then why can’t we make our system better? It reminds me of one of the famous dialogues from the movie Rang De Basanti where R. Madhavan says to the other heroes, “Koi bhi desh perfect nahi hota… Usse perfect banana padhta hai!” No country is perfect by default. It is us who have to strive to make the country better.

All I read in the newspapers is Lok Sabha sessions being interrupted. Public services disrupted due to strikes. Self proclaimed social workers and politicians going on hunger strike and fasts. Political parties declaring nationwide shutdown. Is this helping us to progress in any way? Or are we dragging ourselves backward towards being a third world nation?

Did you feel offended when I termed our nation as a third world country? So did I. It is us who can prove the critics wrong by showing them our capability to be a superpower. It is us who can bring the change in our political system by actively making efforts to bring changes. Somebody has rightly said (I can’t remember the name of that icon), “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

It is our actions that can decide the fate of our system. And it is upto our minds to develop ideas that can help us develop as a first world country.

There are two options that you have after reading this post:
1. Whine around as always and laze around waiting for somebody else to bring the change and rule over us AGAIN.
2. Make up your mind to bring the change in a positive way.

Afterall, like the title says, ‘Tis All In The Mind.

Peace, Poetry and Power
Bhavin Shah
http://www.bhavinshah.in

Kony 2012. Actions have spoken; louder than ever.

Allright people, time to get this done. As a part of the STOP KONY 2012 Movement initiated by the Invisible Children organisation, the world is to be painted red on 20th April, 2012 by spreading as much awareness as possible. Kindly show your support for the movement by downloading the posters from Not Just The Talks. facebook page and better still, print them and post them around the neighborhood; be a part of the rebellion!

Kindly read posts published by co-bloggers Setu and Bhavin regarding the revolution.

Also, we, Not Just The Talks.(Link directs to blog) are making it happen🙂.
KONY 2012 t-shirts at Rs. 350/piece (inclusive of shipping).
Promised delivery by 19th April (max) to make sure you can boast it on the D-day, 20th April.
Go, order people :)!
Fill up the form by clicking here and we’ll get in touch with you about the payments.

Once again, the posters can be downloaded from the NotJustTheTalks facebook page.

Set them as you wallpapers; let the parents, relatives, siblings ask whats up; no matter what, keep spreading the word and let the awareness magnify to no limits!
Here is your chance to be a part of a movement that has united the world against one massive violator; incase you wish to learn further on the movement, do watch the video below! BE THE CHANGE!

KONY 2012. Time for Action.

It’s been almost a month (29 days, actually) since the day I saw the #KONY2012 video first. And since then, this movement has had my support, whole-heartedly.

And it’s been more than 10 days since my photo was published in the ‘Times Life!’ supplement of the Times Of India, for my efforts regarding the same.

If you’ve seen the KONY 2012 video, by now you know that the D-day is 20th April, which is less than a fortnight from today. And thus, it’s time to begin the preparations.

Posters, bracelets, sign-boards, t-shirts… It’s all rolling and travelling through the world!

We may not be in USA and our actions might not count as much as theirs will, but whatever we do, in our little ways does count.

We can’t see injustice befallen on the people of Uganda. We can’t see them going through pain while we live our lavish lives in a much more peaceful country. We feel for them. We feel their pain. We feel their agony. And we understand their anguish.

Today, I request you, to do what you can, everything you can, to support us at NJTT to make a difference and stand up for humanity. On humanitarian grounds, stand by us. Do what the world expects you to do, the right thing.

It’s now or never.

If your choice is now, go ahead and pre-order a t-shirt, with us, boasting the KONY 2012 graphics and taglines, and wear it on the 20th April, to show your support.

We’ve designed a t-shirt, especially for NJTT supporters of KONY 2012 and we’d be glad to get it to you at the rates it gets to us to get it printed. A comprehensive post, regarding the same, will be posted by someone from the NJTT team, tomorrow, specifying the price, delivery and other details. If you are not sure, don’t post it till then. But, if you are sure you want that t-shirt, help us get the count and we’ll make sure you get your t-shirt well in time.

If you still want to do more, then get yourself a copy of the posters from here, unzip the folder, read the ‘Guide’ file, and get those posters printed. (You can also get these posters from our Facebook page.)

Paste them wherever you can, how many ever you can on the 20th. Reach out to the maximum number possible for you to, what you think would be a great number, achieve it.

I’ll be doing both of these and will expect all of you to, too. It’s the world we live in, the world we love, we’re talking about. Let’s make it a better place to live in, for ourselves, for the generations to come.

Paint your town/city red! Make Kony famous!

Stop at nothing. KONY 2012.

Update (09.04.2012): We are making the t-shirts happen. At 350/piece (inclusive of shipping). Order them here.
For more details, check this post on our FB page.

Education & India: Part 2 of 2

Like I’ve said earlier (by that, I mean in Part 1), my life revolves around the state of education in India today, being a student. And I lead from where I left, in the first post, in this one.

1) Colleges: The basic requisite for a successful post-education life-in-the-real-world, as I’ve heard so far, begins from colleges. Schools are those parts of our lives, when we’re shaped and also protected during the process. But, in colleges, we have our first interaction with the real world. So, it wouldn’t be immature-ish of me to say, that ‘That’s where it all begins…’.

There’s not much to say, except that what I’m (by that I mean everyone in their respective colleges) taught is purely theoretical bullshit. Something that has been in the textbooks since ages. And, even if it has been ‘revised’ lately, I’m assured, when I open the first page, that all I’ll study, will be something that isn’t even present in real day life.

For example:

a) I know that Intel 8051 microprocessor is an entire semester worth of subject for a specific brach(es) of engineering. Something, many of us who had vocational subjects in Junior College (11th and 12th), have learnt for a whole year. Besides, it has been out of the whole tech-world for ages now, since it was the first microprocessor ever built. The ones in use now, are much more advanced.

b) I’m truly tired of performing titrations of acids, bases, and everything that can be neutralized. I’ve been, since 4 years. And yet, my chemistry syllabus, since 9th, has a considerable amount of the same very thing.

I’m a student of science and thus incapable of being able to prospect what other branches are like, but well, I know for one, that they’re not apt to the industrial standards of what a professional should know. They lack practical knowledge. They lack the need for understanding and emphasize on the answers to be rote-learnt and puked into the answer booklets. 8 pages of random scribbling, even if it’s the story-line of a Bollywood movie, might get you more marks than someone who actually knows the concepts well enough and explains the same, more precisely in 4. And the most of all, having the inclination towards daily technology that I have, I hate that we don’t have technology dwelling into our educational lives.

Tech is all over our professional lives. A CEO without a tablet, a BlackBerry, an iPhone, would be like a CEO without a suit. A mall without free wi-fi access, would receive brickbats from the goers. We have courier guys who ask us to sign on a touch-screen with a stylus, before receiving our deliveries.

But, we don’t have simple amenities like free wi-fi access, projectors, etc. in colleges. We don’t have the permission to take notes on our laptops, tablets or smartphones, or getting them mailed to us, instead of having to pen down every single thing.

Just two questions. Seriously? And how long more?

All of the fore-mentioned, may not be necessary upto school level of teaching, but, beyond that, I redeem it to be the need of a student.

Another thing that makes me pity myself for studying in India, is the quality of teachers we have.

2) Graduate & Post-Graduate institutions: The lack of infrastructure, for the all-round development, in such institutions, beyond what I mentioned above, is something that I hate the most. And most of the infra provided, is out-dated, aged. The same applies to events occurring within the college premises. (A request to anyone from any college’s faculty or management reading this, a student’s graduation years are those which he/she memoirs the most, make sure you give them something to remember. Be it festivals, shows, competitions, workshops, what not! Make sure they have a memory of a lifetime, everytime.)

They say, someone who can’t be anything else, becomes a teacher. That, seems like the truth. At least in the colleges I’ve been in, and the one I’m in right now. A guy (I’m poor at Indian mythology, I don’t remember the name, sorry) learns the art of archery when Dronacharya was teaching Arjun, by just observing. That’s the kind of teachers I want to learn from. Those whose lectures I would want to attend. Those whose lectures I wouldn’t want to go to sleep in, sitting on the last bench. Those, in whose lectures, I wouldn’t want to keep texting because I’m bored. Enough said.

Every college has a policy (at least those that I know of) to restrict teachers from taking external coaching, anywhere. And well, we all know what the truth is. Most college lectures, all through the country, are not conducted. Teachers get their salaries. And they earn further-more because of the minting machines that coaching classes are. In purview of better grades, parents making students machines which run on a typical home-college-classes-home schedule. I don’t even know what to say, anymore!

Professors’ involvement in research, and industrial funding for the same, is something I root for. It’s necessary for learning what textbooks don’t teach us, in every institution. That also adds a second income for the faculty involved, the college and adds to the students’ knowledge.

3) Reservation: I was hoping I wouldn’t have to talk about it. But, a post about education, without pulling the strings of this sensitive topic that reservation and quota systems in education systems are, is incomplete.

I’ve a dual-side opinion on quota system. I think that quota should be there. But, I also think that this reservation of education seats, should be fair, to those who aren’t in the reserved categories.

Discrimination on the basis of caste, and giving unfair advantage (read: reserved seats with lower cut-offs) seems unseemingly wrong to me. Most of them, don’t even need it. Reading in newspapers the cut-offs for SCs, STs, OBCs being less than half of those for the general category, just punches a hole through my heart.

That’s how unfair we are, that for political votebanks and the divide-and-rule tactics, we give up everything we’ve ever learnt.

All our life, we’ve been taught to treat everyone as equals. Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, among others, gave up their lives fighting for equality. ‘Right to Equality’ is one of the fundamental rights conferred upon us the by the respected Constitution of India. And even then, when it comes to admissions, we just forget all this and fight about equality.

We’re in the 65th year of independent India, and I think it’s high time that we eventually got rid of this indiscriminate advantage given to those who are supposedly of lower castes. May be they didn’t have the facilities like we, of the general category, do. But, things sure should’ve and would’ve changed now. Reduce this reservation by 3-5% every year, or every 2 year, and reduce it till it reaches a 5% mark. Let them face the competition too!

Instead, in my opinion, reservation for those from financially weaker classes, should be actually implemented. The same way, the reservation for women’s seats, seems acceptable to me, considering the number of women who actually attend schools and colleges in India.

Solutions, I propose:

1) Syllabi : The syllabi of every stream of education, needs some incredible amount of shaking and revision by a whole panel of industrial experts, including top-level exeutives CEOs, CTOs, CFOs. Sorting and preparing a list of what should be, from what is. And the guidelines from what these experts conclude, be sent to the Universities over the country, and then let them formulate their own syllabi.

2) Teaching Staff : A mammoth-sized re-arrangement in terms of the rules and who-ends-up-a-teacher is necessary.

3) Extra Credits – There are students who are great at sports, writing, art & craft, playing music, etc. Why are they not given a fair hand over those others who are only good at vomiting out what they’ve read in the textbooks? To be a human being, and to graduate from college, are 2 different aspects, and every institution in India, by the virtue and very nature of it, is responsible for both of them. Undeniably. Thus, the inclusion of this, is something I feel necessary.

Education should be the arsenal of a country. The smart minds it produces, should lead and be led. I’ve said enough, in 2 posts. But, now it’s time for action. And that’s only possible, if each one of you reading this, reaches out to your ‘contacts’ and convinces one person of the need for these reforms and the solutions proposed. Of course, only if you think they are fair.

Until the next post…

P. S.: I may appear biased, forgive me. Use your fair judgement for that part of the post.

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