Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Is President rule at the centre a solution?

I confess that I read just the headlines of news papers and skip cable tv's endless discussions by smart alecs of every hue. But today's innovative article in TOI by Jug Suriya 'Punch Drunk' caught my eye. He extends the advice given by Anna Hazare to deal with alcoholic drunkenness to other forms of drunkenness.

Some nuggets from his article: Anna Hazare wants to beat up people who get drunk as he has done in his village of Ralegan Siddhi.

 Manish Tiwari has said that if Anna's method were to be adopted, "You will probably have to flog half of Kerala, three-fourths of Andhra Pradesh and about four-fifths of Punjab." Tiwari forgot to mention Gujarat, where despite - or because of? -total prohibition, the consumption of booze is said to be amongst the highest in the country.

Others, including his supporters, have suggested ...not go off on irrelevant and impractical tangents which will give his critics an opportunity to dismiss him as a crackpot.

Such fears are groundless. For the sober truth is that drunkenness is a very serious problem in India, ..The people in question are not high on alcohol, .. And that intoxicant, so much in evidence today in India, is power. Power intoxicates, and absolute power intoxicates absolutely. And we see such absolute intoxication everywhere, starting with our Parliament.... Drunk on their own sense of power - a power bestowed on them by the electorate which voted them into office - they seem once again hell-bent on stalling all legislative business while they engage in verbal fisticuffs with each other, like drunks in a bar room brawl. If people can - and should - be jailed for the dangerous practice of drunken driving, what should be the punishment for those who, drunk not on alcohol but on the more addictive intoxicant of power without accountability, recklessly drive an entire country on a collision course with potential disaster?

The intoxicant called power is evident in all spheres of officialdom, be it political office, the ranks of the bureaucracy, or a judiciary which includes members who appear to see themselves as being above the law that they dispense to others. Should Anna's prescription for drunkenness be extended to all such cases? The many victims of such drunkenness - ..might feel that Anna's rough-and-ready remedy is an appropriate antidote to the intoxication of power without responsibility.

Come to think of it, has Anna - who holds no public office, yet wields an increasing amount of power - proved susceptible to this particular form of intoxication? Like charity, can flogging for drunkenness also begin at home?

Joking apart to start with, can the parliamentarians, the top of this ugly pyramid, be taught a lesson? If  states can have a president's rule why can't we have one such in the centre? I am not suggesting a change in the the form of our government modeled after USA but a short term solution, for two years. I know it has been done in a neighbouring country. Thailand did it once. When the politicians and the army were at loggerheads, the constitutional monarch, Rama the 9th, prevailed upon the two factions to accept a very respected personality Anand Panyarachum as the prime minister and he ran the country with a team of experts till new elections were called.

Hopefully it will work to cleanse the system or tell us that India is beyond repair and  we continue to accept the realities and with our present system and proudly declare, we are Indians and this is how do things.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sometimes exposing people has a negative effect.

Often I walk in the park with a gentleman who is 80 and we talk mostly of cricket. Reasonably  neutral subject. Then one day I asked him what he thought of the Anna Hazare movement, he kept quiet for a while and said something to the effect this too shall pass. In his opinion all this expose' and other actions will not really help as hoped. It may make things worse. People who are corrupt will get more shameless and brazen with more exposure. It is similar to the advice one gives to parents  who are too harsh. They are advised to go a little easy on punishment. The word used is that they will become 'mondu' (Hardened!).

I think I have told this story before. As it happens in some companies an undesirable element somehow slips thru the screening process and by the time they find out, he is already a union leader and practically 'untouchable'. And as I was new to the company, one such guy was quietly transferred to my department. Actually he behaved well but always a little grim. Then I got to know thru grapevine that he was a known criminal and he was barred from entering Bombay!

Once he drove me to Ahmednagar from Pune on work and on the way back I saw that he was totally drunk and I had to drive back the Jeep, the first time I was driving a left-hand drive vehicle, that too on the highway in the night. I deicded not to report this incident, but I called him the next day to my office and gave him a lecture about drinking on duty and that while I should report him, I would not do so, if he promised not to repeat it again. He became emotional and then he said something very unexpected. He said he was very thankful and would not hesitate even to murder for me! I took it as a joke and said it was not so easy! That is when he admitted that he had actually killed in the heat of the moment as he was provoked. He had no signs of remorse as he had probably justified his action in his mind. Anyway as I changed my job, I had no more connection with him. But I can never forget his clouded eyes as he confessed his dark deed.

I was reminded of  this story when I saw this headline a couple of days ago.
The 80 year olds' killed were not people but trees. I think it is the same as killing a human or worse.

I saw this a couple of days later right on my street and thought that while a few branches were cut the tree was safe. As in my opinion the tree was no threat to the buliding being built. But I was wrong!

I was shocked to see that the tree was murdered and the body was spirited away the next morning. I don't think anyone noticed or cared. Even if they had cared it was too late! So my 80 year old walking friend was right. All of us have become immune to murder.

 Paper rules are created and papers continue to publish wrong doings with the hope that some action will be taken and that these wrong doers will be punished or shamed and all this will stop. But unfortunately they all remain as just that. Useless paper! 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Trying to learn to believe. The path is not easy!

My friend Raghu commented on my blog on Mahabharata: 'Dear Nidhi, Are you getting converted to being a believer. Mahabharata seems to be doing the track!'.

Track could be a typo for 'trick' or he meant to say the epic was 'putting me on track'! Either way it makes sense.  It is all about how we interpret! Actually we come across many variances in  the interpretations of our scriptures. I admit this used to frustrate me. As a hands-on executive I wanted things to be made clear in a few short sentences, bullet points is what I looked for!

I saw Raghu's comment just after I returned from a satsang by Sri M on Kathopanishad.  Sri M is the founder of satsang foundation and his autobiography, Apprentice to a Himalayan Master, is a fascinating read. Sunnad group sought his guidance when they put together 'Swar Katha Upanishad'. (Words in bold are linked to the website! Tara says it is not obvious.)

Sri M is different, very unassuming, without the usual frills we usually associate with spritual gurus!     I enjoyed listening to him. He is soft spoken, so even though the mike was good, I had to concentrate . It was the best compromise possible as the word upanishad actually means, sit close and listen.

 Sri M began the satsang  right on time without any preamble, except for the request to 'Please turn off the cell phones'. I thought I was in an ideal situation, the best possible way to learn our scriptures. But I had chosen a seat not too close to the stage and nearer to the door, a throwback to my student days! And it was not easy to concentrate as we were tested in many ways.

First we heard a baby babbling somewhere. The father took the baby out. Then the cell phone rang right behind me, and the person who received the call was my clone. He did not know where his phone was! May be the reason why he did not switch it off earlier.  Anyway he did manage finally to turn it off.

Then another baby wanted to go out. But that was not as irritating as the noise the springs of the push back seats made. Each time someone moved forward or back, the chair groaned. And there were many chairs! 

As I was sitting near the door, the noise the warped and tight door made, each time a person entered, was loud and disturbing . The satsang began at 6.30 but people kept coming in till 7.00. Each time there was a tap on the door, the volunteer struggled to open the door and again shut it. She tried her best to close it softly, but it was still noisy. She could have kept the door slightly ajar, but she did not!

Sri M continued to speak calmly. He did comment on the latecomers but with a smile. I really admired Sri M, as he did not show his irritation even once. He waited for the latecomers to get in and picked up the thread of his thoughts again, but it was not that easy for me to connect again.

 He spoke of Yama testing Nachiketa about his sincerity to learn and I thought we were also being tested, our ability to concentrate and  our patience!

The next day was better, they had closed the middle door shut as soon as the satsang began. Of course a baby babbled and the father walked out, but it did not distract me as much and I suppose I got used to the music of the chairs.  I had chosen, cleverly, a row closer to rear of the hall. But it proved to be a bad move, as people entered from the door at the rear and closer to my seat . But luckily the speakers were a little louder or I had learned not to get irritated.

You might ask what did you learn? It is not easy to put it in a few words!  I think I have made a good start. Nachiketa in Sanskrit means one who does not know. I think I can claim to be one with him there.
Then we were asked to start with a clean slate. It is not  easy, especially at my age, but I could get there.

Next, the ability to listen and  learn, think through and the burning desire to keep at it.  Well that will be a challenge. Now I understand why the rishis taught on  one on one basis and they wanted the seeker to sit close and listen. It is so easy to get distracted. Tough to find a guru who would teach you this way. Even if you find one, it is a must that both the guru and shishya switch off their cell phones!