Progressive politics – India 2012


The Past 

It’s not vaguely under cover; how Indian politics shackles down progress. The budgets get weaker, the closer comes the elections. And a woman makes it her own right to change news and history to suit her taste.

I am a voter, but where is my choice? Or is it about living with a mistake? …One that I made last elections.

Questionably, is that what has become of what was meant to be a democracy – Of the people, By the people, For the people.

Somewhere in their hearts,people of India are burning of rage and are gripped by fear, a rage to change but in fear of the initial consequences. We have always had issues with the ‘Big Picture Perspective’ (Why else did the British manage to rule us?), haven’t we?

I know friends who did not vote – not because they were busy, but because they did not want to pick either of the nominees. With more than a billion people; that is how low we are on choice?

Frankly, it looked like dooms day for Indian politics about 3 years ago, misreported by the media(they need breaking news…), misinterpreted by the opposition (on purpose, just to slam), mismanaged by politicians (they only order in chaos is what makes to their bank accounts), misjudged by the voters (Fabricated facts can only create fabricated reality) and mislead by personal agendas (It is never about making India work, but about ‘Not’ upsetting a counted few).

The Present

Then a welcome change of wind came by, all of a sudden politicians were going to talk shows that were real and were asked the questions which the common man wanted to(E.g. The Big Fight). They were replying to e-mails and for the first time were answerable to the public. The public too was commendable and became assertive to a full. They asked questions now, not waited for the answers.

The RTI, Right to Information Act , 2005 – contributed tremendously in getting people to their own might. While it had been around for a while, people had now learnt to use it well.

That was the birth of progressive politics. A choice that all politicians are presented with in today’s world.

What is Progressive Politics?

In my view, the philosophy is about connecting with the real people even after the elections. Connecting for real issues and being responsible for solutions. It is about intention, a good one, for the country and it is very much visible.

The best I could define progressive politics would be: A state of politics were nominated members act as a medium of communication between the government and the common men and women of the constituency instead of being rulers, singular decision makers and power mongers.

How is Progressive Politics different from the regular politics?

The following factors should help you identify:

  • Priorities – The state of the nation, its growth and international sanctity is the more important than strategic development for coming into power the next term.
  • Decisions – Choices are created, shared and mutually decided on matters of importance between the nominated member and the voters with the overall benefit of the constituency in mind and not personal, regional or community based benefits.
  • Communication – The politicians make a genuine effort to communicate and connect with the people on a regular basis to sense their needs and expectations. They reach out to the people and people who reach out to them are answered well. Not the same as standing in a que for 8 hours just to get through to the peon or PA at a minister’s office. Social media certainly has helped.
  • Responsibility – ‘Under promise over deliver’ It is more like customer service than being in charge of your organization. Service is the key and the politicians understand that the public values sincere service, real and visible, more than the face value or the fact that they are in their centennial year in Indian politics. Work counts – age does not.
  • Support – Progressive politics both needs and drives, support. It is an interesting paradigm because it is self-sustaining. As long as the cause is potent and real to the masses, it will be driven through support from the masses. Anna Hazare’s movement against corruption was a good glimpse at this. Why have we never had a political movement to drive change at this level?
This is a welcome change in the way politics works in our country. I am certain, this is what the forefathers of democracy dreamt of.
Out of the politicians today in India, many have taken the route to progressive politics already.
The days of ‘we need change’ are gone and over. Now it is about supporting and standardizing this change. That is one area where I feel a lot work will be demanded.
But let me share with you why I feel this is the way forward – Change is constant. A lot of well established and repeatedly proved  management theories about change may give an insight to our situation. The situation of Progressive politics in India.
The figure on your left called the ‘Diffusion of innovation’ (Source:  Everett M. Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations (1962).)
Let’s quickly understand the model in context to Indian progressive politics.
The  bottom terms represent the way Indian politicians will take up progressive politics and the curve represents the number of people in each category.
The height of the curve also represents the majority of public commitment  that a  particular groups’ effort will drive.
Just to add some more perspective in terms of progressive politics in India, here are some examples of the politicos who are into the muddle already –
Opinion Leaders – Sashi Tharoor,  Narendra Modi, Agatha Sangma
Early Adopters – Meera Sanyal, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Naveen Jindal, Jyotiraditya Scindia
The names are my personal views only and may differ from yours. Another aspect of Progressive Politics is empathy and listening. A world where different opinions may live peacefully and co-exist. Feel free to share your views in the comments section below.
We are at a stage where the early adopters are still building up. The key here to understand will be, that social networking may be a good medium but is not Progressive politics.Social responsibility is. 
The public is smart enough to spot who is here to play politics and get votes on twitter and who makes change happen – for real – even if it is through Facebook.
Mathematically there may be a few flaws in this alignment and it calls for a lot of research to find the real trends and do it justice. However, for me this analogy is just a lot of hope.And hope does not have to be mathematically correct. 🙂
The good news still is that CHANGE IS HERE. Knocking on the door. Chetan Bhagat (@chetan_bhagat) Tweeted yesterday
  • “In reaction to the TOI column, Civil Aviation minister Ajit Singh called me. Commendable of him to reach out.’
  • “Had a long call with the minister. He shared his thoughts on making AI better, but reminded me of practical issues like unions/culture”
  • “Invited me to meet him. Will do. Must say good to know there are some politicians who listen and are keen to change things. Ray of hope.”
This was in response to an article by Chetan “Burning money in the sky,” in TOI 21 April 2012, , about the current state of  Air India.
While Chetan was heard from his article on the TOI, but a lot of us will not write articles or go out to protest. We could be next on the list of people who might be heard next.
Support progressive politics, politicians and processes. Support the change for those trying to be it!
– Abhinandan Chatterjee

Amazing Life # 5 – Going to School


‘Amazing life’ is a regular thread about little things that make us happy. Today’s weird little thing is Going to school

‘What days were those!’ everyone out of school would gasp. No matter what the school was, big or small, urban or in a village or even whether you were the person who got picked the most upon.

Along with the fun, a school was still a lot more than a promise of future, a statistic, a job guarantee or a social obligation. For some it was life’s playground and for all it was hope.

Yet, what did we really learn?

Learning was about sharing and never about competition so sharp that could split a hair in two. It was hard to get up everyday and difficult to stay up before examinations. A lot would refer to that as hardship.

But, is that as hard as it gets?

I call myself fortunate to have been able to get education at a good school, though at a point in time I did not have money to pay the fees and believe it or not my teachers paid it from their pockets; it was a 30 km bicycle ride and a still a lot of upset relatives; but I would still call my self fortunate. This is still a lot better than a lot of others who had it worse.

Take APJ Abdul Kalam for instance; who had to walk miles to get to his school every morning or these girls who do even more to get to their school in Nepal which happens to be in a different, distant village .

What is it that drives so much effort to school?

What could it mean? What Does it stand for?

What does it lead to?

These questions have been with me since I was at school but  to my vain I haven’t been able to answer them yet.

The only thing I could figure is that I owe it to the school to give back to the world. I owe it to the school to get those to experience the joy of learning who do not get to.

Answer the above questions for yourself if you can. But answer one for me first – What have you given back to people, that you took from your school? Sounds too idealistic!

I genuinely acknowledge the people and organizations who have dedicated their existence to help this cause. However, lets face it … not all of us can and not most of us will!

Here are a few simple things that led to me believe that it is not as difficult as we may think of it to be!

1. Give it back – When ever you can, what ever you can, how much ever you can – I am no philanthropist, it did not take much to go to McDonalds ,spend 500 bucks on a few – well actually 25 – McVeggie burgers and drive around Gurgaon. Look for the kids, playing around and share it with them. What a weekend! I ate 5 of them burgers myself , over 3 hours of driving around but the shining eyes of those kids can make all the effort worth it. Here is ‘Appu’  with his sister ‘Rani’  and the little dude. Some of the kids i had lunch with. Try it if you can and see for yourself how fulfilling it is while being a lot more interesting than lunch with your colleagues!

2. Teaching is the best way to learn (Yes, even the small things) – I remember, about 14 years ago, we had a person who used to do the cleaning etc. for us in our Jabalpur home. Her name was Sashi and we called her Sashi didi, she wasn’t too old – about 23, mother of two. My brother was in kindergarten and I never sat to teach him anything… it was boring.

One day I did, and her elder daughter (5) walked up to the book, picked it up and kept looking at it. She had a big smile. It was majestic, so I decided to teach her and my brother,that is the day, with very little help for me ‘Pooja’ wrote her name in English for the first time. My brother took another year to do so 😛 all in good spirit but he was just 3.

Pooja had then become the most literate member of her family and it cost me nothing to share those three minutes of joy and see her mother proud. Would do that again in the next opportunity I get.

3. Donation is great – Charity is good, but does not always cost. At least a simple thing that I have tried a last couple of  months works just fine. When ever you go out to buy some thing for yourself, buy something for others. Even if it is just a pencil. I refrain from buying food because it just doesn’t appeal to me. I would rather share some hope and if it costs 5 Rs. and can write, I sure don’t lose my savings over it.

All I am trying to say is that life isn’t the same for everyone and that is something I learnt at school. That is why it was such an amazing thing and now its my turn to return.

Just to get you started, here are some stats:

    • Less than half of India’s children between the age 6 and 14 go to school.
    • A little over one-third of all children who enroll in grade one reach grade eight.
    • At least 35 million children aged 6 – 14 years do not attend school.
    • 53% of girls in the age group of 5 to 9 years are illiterate.
    • In India, only 53% of habitation has a primary school.
    • In India, only 20% of habitation has a secondary school.
    • On an average an upper primary school is 3 km away in 22% of areas under habitations.
    • In nearly 60% of schools, there are less than two teachers to teach Classes I to V.
    • On an average, there are less than three teachers per primary school. They have to manage classes from I to V every day.
    • High cost of private education and need to work to support their families and little interest in studies are the reasons given by 3 in every four drop-outs as the reason they leave.
    • Dropout rates increase alarmingly in class III to V, its 50% for boys, 58% for girls.
    • 1 in 40, primary schools in India is conducted in open spaces or tents.
    • In Andhra Pradesh (South India), 52 upper primary schools were operating without a building in 2002, while in 1993, there were none.
    • In Maharashtra (West India), there were 10 schools operating without a building in 1993, this has climbed to 33 in 2002.
    • More than 50 per cent of girls fail to enroll in school; those that do are likely to drop out by the age of 12.
    • 50% of Indian children aged 6-18 do not go to schoolSource: 7th All India Education Survey, 2002

Going to school made me stop wanting help and taught me to take responsibility and stand up with dignity. That is exactly what these 8.1 million children need. The whole world can be a school if we choose to make it so.

After all, what does life have to offer if not a little hope?

For you to do, not just read ; Abhi

Amazing Life # 4 – Being Forgetful


‘Amazing life’ is a regular thread about  little things that make us happy. Today’s weird little thing is Being Forgetful

Sonia, my boss, mentor and very good friend once asked me ‘How come you always keep forgetting things? When ever I ask you, you seem to have forgotten it for one reason or the other.’

I did not have an answer but as usual – I had to say something ! The last word was mine, I said and I quote “I don’t forget by chance, I forget by choice” That fact that I had watched James bond in Casino Royale the evening before had nothing to do with it.

She looked at me with a rather peculiar look and said.’That’s the weirdest thing I have ever heard’

It wasn’t the first time she said that, it sure was not the last.

The question is why is this a good feeling? Something that happened today strengthened my belief in the idea of forgetting.

I called up an old friend just to say hi (Got a friend request from her on FB.) ! She picked up the phone and we spoke for almost an hour… I just did not realize somehow that she dumped me when I was 14 and it sure did hurt back then. Life moved on and I forgot, and it was really okay when I remembered it today. Forgetting just takes the edge of things. Maybe it is the the little  bit of Emotional intelligence that we all need.

One secret to happiness is to be able to forget, forget what is not necessary or relevant to being constructive. Forget the regrets, grudges, opinions and mistakes if you can. Forget any superstition, rumor, allegation, frustration and worry and see, there will be so much more to remember.

A feminist friend of mine always says – ‘Women remember more! They are smarter’ …Sure they do ( I am not trying to be biased, if you take offence on this – get some humor hormones!), Its maybe because they remember more, they always have reasons to sound worried and men forget and see how happy they are:).

Of course it is easier said than done and it has massive disadvantages against people who remember… the conversation we had last year in summers about how bees fly and the conclusion of what makes the zzzzzzzzz sound. huh??? I don’t remember the conclusion, the conversation or even the weather – all i remember is that I met a buddy because that is what made me happy.

It is also a choice between being good and being happy. Memory is good, forgetfulness ( If that’s a word) is happier and that is just my personal opinion.

Look at it like a computer – What happens when too much of data is stored on the hard drive. Slows down the computer? and what happens when there are too many programs running together – Crash and burn?

All the information we collect, important and un-important is the data. Pick what you need and forget the rest ( Make notes if you like). The multiple processes are the emotions – the negative ones specially have a tendency of auto-start. They keep going on and on unless you forget about them.

So, how do you forget – Three things that I always do are :

  1. Get busy – Find something else that occupies you mentally and do it passionately enough to skip your lunch once because you did not realize the time.
  2. Get creative – Creating things from scratch is a great feeling and drives passion( Does not apply to creating babies) through the roof. It is this adrenalin that works as a pain killer.
  3. Get adventurous – Do something that you have never done before like Bunjee jumping. Personally,I feel it will be a great remedy for mid-life crisis.

These are just distractions, memory loses itself  and people forget what is on top of their head.

Some things that feel really good once forgotten are;

  • Forgetting why you fought with your spouse and end up bursting out into laughter
  • Forgetting to  watch a match where the team you like lost anyway
  • Forgetting to lie where you had planned to and end up saying the right thing with benefits later
  • Forgetting to say bye or express your love to the one you love only remember later how much you love them!
  • Forgetting to eat when you are putting on weight
  • Forgetting to do something nice in the first place only not to regret it later
Comment on this thread about ‘What can you forget and feel happy about?’

Live well and go forget… Cheers. Abhi

Amazing Life # 3 – Being happy for strangers


‘Amazing life’ is a regular thread about little things that make us happy. Today’s weird little thing is Being happy for strangers

It is just amazing how a smile can be contagious. It is one thing I would love to be contaminated with.

This is an old story about a day that happened to be pretty gloomy and dead. It was the day when it didn’t go too well in the office. Friends didn’t have time. I did not want to spend time with family. It was hard to focus on anything and window shopping was the only shopping because it was free and affordable.

Even on that day, stuck between 5 people, hitching a ride in a bus, when I saw that little girl hitting her nose with her hand, almost with the expression ‘Where did this thing on my face come from?’ and her mother looking at her in aw and disbelief, redefining beautiful; that split second of magic made me smile for a night and even the next morning.

That is the power of happiness and it comes in strange packages – correction! – stranger packages.

I am sure you would have had those moments in life when you look at something really everyday, in a different way, connect with it and end up smiling ear to ear. A little hard to explain, but it’s not  laughter, not a humorous smile, neither sarcastic,  nor sadistic, its not bound by the axis of being real and artificial; I feel neither English nor any other language has an adjective for it – its just a smile.

They come by at traffic signals, at bus stops, on silent evenings, on really really early mornings and with good news – even when it has nothing to do with you, good or bad.

In times when winning a race about creating strategies that ensure others fall so that even if you are not the fastest – you can win, its funny that such a feeling can exist.

Today I read in the news about Mohammad Aamir – spent 14 years in Jail for being wrongfully accused and finally freed to a dead father and and paralyzed mother. At least he saw the world outside of brick and mortar before his sun set far east. A touching account of how truth triumphed finally – better late than never. That put a smile back on my face in the middle of thoughts about how to handle the very-ignorable  problems that I, just like rest of us, was crying over…I was happy for a stranger and it felt great.

So my tip is:

Find such moments when you can smile for others. Close your eyes and think about that moment because smiling for others is certainly better than smiling at them.

PS- You can read the full story about Mohammad Aamir here – Its motivating!

Story @ The Sunday Guardian

Cheers to that one smile; Abhi

Amazing Life # 2 – A little game called life


‘Amazing life’ is a regular thread about  little things that make us happy. Today’s weird little thing is A little game called life

Me: ‘Man you are dead – I will make sure you fall.’

My best friend : ‘We will see when that happens but for now I will kill you’

No, it’s not a fight, it’s not a misunderstanding and it is definitely no ‘Getting back at each other’ session. It is a part of life at school when in between periods and sometimes even during them there was nothing much to do, and we managed to use our writing instruments for a worthy cause.

It was ‘PEN WAR’, this simple game has some simple rules and many names – ‘Pen-Ne, Pen Fight, Pen battle and if we ever had a full day free in the school (which we unfortunately rarely did) it could even be a world war or maybe a world cup.

Playing was the fun part and a loss or to win was merely a way to the  next game. For the first time we were keen on buying pens and our folks looked on in astonishment. We were looking for bigger, better, heavier, edgier and preferably free.

All this game needed was two weapons (pens), two warriors (We), one arena ( The top of a desk or the teachers table), A referee ( Cricket team captain) and without fail this game gathered an audience. The rules were simple:

  • You hit the pen in any direction like you do in ‘Carom Board’ (You are not allowed to drag your hand)
  • Both ( Or all in case of more players) will get only one turn at a time.
  • The objective is to push the other people’s’ pen off the table.
  • Last man standing -Wins!

But as it is – this game had a lot of ‘Happyness’ to spread. It taught us to compete without jealousy, fight with ferocity and fall without fear. That is when we learnt about ‘Fairplay’ and that made us happy.

Upon wonder I find these elements to have left our system as we came of age. ‘Fairplay’ is obsolete and we play now only to win and earn and never to ‘lose and learn.’ Where did that ‘happyness’ go? Go find!

 

 

Amazing Life # 1 – Finding Stuff


‘Amazing life’ is a regular thread about such little things that make us happy. Today’s weird little thing is Finding Stuff

It mostly starts with a realization ‘What am I missing?’ develops into a feeling ‘I am missing something’ and grows into a frenzie with a mad rush and a constant question ‘Where is it?’

We have all lost things, some important and some not so important, some deliberately and some accidentally and yet the sorrow of loosing is not even half as strong as the joy of finding.

Keys top the list as the most lost object, its ironical as there is only and only one hole where it can aptly fit. I mostly realize that that I don’t have them 30 seconds before leaving for work. And then I turn the house upside down in order to find them.

I most cases I either find them safely tucked in my office bag, on the key rack or in my jacket pocket. When did I keep it there?

But the fact that ‘I found them’, is a great positive start to the day. Success!

Other ‘Happyness’  causing lost and found objects are :

  • The second part of a pair – Socks, Cuff-links, Ear-ring pin, A suit’s trouser that never came back from dry cleaning. ( Because it never went)
  • Money – Who doesn’t want it and who doesn’t like it? It is found under the couch, hidden in a drawer, tucked in a book, in the Wallet’s secret pocket when you forgot about it. Tucked away, forgotten and re-found is the best money mostly.
  • Old objects that we never looked for – old toys, letter’s of a certain kind, pictures from the bottom of the hard drive that you thought were deleted, old clothes that still fit !

This list can can go on forever and feel free to add your own thing on a comment; but remember; every time you loose something – its only a step towards the joy of finding it!