What do we truly want

What do we truly want

I am quite baffled by these elections as I do not think most of us know what we truly want. Early this year the capital of our country took a bold step and decided to vote for a new political party in spite of its being in its infancy. What was remarkable is that the support cut across caste, religion and social strata. I guess the reason was that they positioned themselves as a part that would fight corruption at all levels. Hence the overwhelming support they got form the poorer sections of society was understandable. But I was surprised at the kind of people who told we they were voting AAP: the  owner of a upmarket store, my doctor, my old friend known to be a long time supporter of a political party and so on. It seemed that everyone was fed up with the existing political system and wanted change. People believed in them and gave them their trust. The mood was euphoric. Everyone truly felt that the humble broom would transform into a magic wand at the stroke of midnight and solve all problems. One can understand the elation of the poor who saw dreamt of free water and cheap electricity and the hope of the perennially extended hand of the policemen vanish, but what about us who voted with alacrity, did we stop to ponder before believing?

What happened next is for all to see. Sleeping with the enemy to acquire power. Was it hubris or falling into a well honed trap? Perhaps a bit of both as power is the most potent drug on earth and when it comes so close, few if any can resist it and though they did not expect it, how could they resist. I guess we who casted our vote in favour of this new party, never felt they would come to power. It was a surprise for all. The wise thing would have been to desist from power and have another election that would have given a more definitive result.

The 49 days saw change that unfortunately was forgotten when the party demitted office. Few remember the audit of state run schools and hospitals of the simple fact that corruption at the lower end was contained. But we cannot cry over spilled milk. The reality is that an error of judgement at that time had brought a loss of faith in this party.

What we all forget is that this was a young party pitched against well oiled machines. We also forget that it was a movement that became a political party by force majeure and was perhaps not ready. An excellent article analyses the future of AAP and is worth reading. The author asks: The most important question facing the party is an existential one. It must define again, for its own self as to what role it seeks for itself in politics. Is it a third force challenging the Congress and the BJP or is it the second front challenging all politics? Does it seek power as an instrument of change or does it act as a political conscience keeper for the system as a whole? I believe most of us wanted it to be a political conscience keeper for the system in the first place. Once it had the structure, cadre and experience, then it could have pitched for power. Today it is at the verge of self destruction. The author feels it is important that the AAP experiment continue for it injects a vital element that has been missing in Indian politics. The AAP is attempting to redefine the very idea of democracy by making it a more participative practice. And just for that we must not write it off as such opportunities come once in a lifetime. One should not let it die.

The results are a mere two weeks or so away. Once the campaigning frenzy has died and the numbers are out, the party must do a sincere and honest evaluation of its journey and reinvent itself. Should they fail to do so, then they might just become a line in future history books.

Its India

Its India

The din of the elections is getting unbearable! More so because every day we are assaulted with speeches that sound more life a verbal warfare between individuals that often reach levels that are unacceptable. One would have hoped to hear about visions and plans for the future; about education and health as these are the foundations of any society; about employment and price rise; in a sod about how would things be better for us were to vote for one or the other candidate on the list. But what we are coerced into hearing/reading is personal and below the belt jibes about individuals or abhorrent remarks about communities. I do not care whether a man is married or not. That is his personal life and should remain so. You may remember that the world came to know about the existence of the love child of a President at his funeral and no one cared. Quite the opposite people were touched that all his loved ones were there.

Elections should be about what matters. It should not turn into a free for all where decency and basic courtesy are cast to the wind. I wonder if people really believe that these kind of shenanigans cut ice with anyone. Washing dirty laundry in public, slandering one another, bringing in family and personal relationships is in poor taste.

I am a little concerned about the hubris that seems to have permeated one and all. The nomination filing roadshow of one of then star candidates was quite something. It seemed worthy of Bollywood with a heart wrenching script, pomp and colour, and all the needed props. There was a dangerous frenzy in the whole show that reminded me of some of the worst event of past history where individuals were glorified and deified. It seems that one man has the magic wand that will solve all problems. This is what many think and to me this may just be this person Achille’s heel. If he wins, imagine the victory parade!

What is done is done and cannot be undone. We want to know about the future. How will each one address the matters that concern us as individuals and as a country. How long will we have to hang our heads in shame when we hear about children dying by the minute, rapes occurring each day or when we are asked the question is India safe!

I am also sick and tired hearing about models: the Gujarat model, the toffee model, the son-in-law model and God know what else may still come our way. Some want us to believe that Gujarat is a Shangri La within India and were its model to be projected on the whole country all our problems will vanish. Others want us to believe that this is not the case at all and the reality is quite the opposite and has the worst social indices. I as a normal being am uncomfortable with both views.

I was comforted when I read an article entitled Gujarat- Its Smelly, Its Dusty , Its Poor. Its India. It is worth a read. It shows you that  if  you keep your eyes, ears (and nose) open, Gujarat is just another   smelly, congested, dusty, inept  Indian state stuck firmly to India’s side to its West.

What we need is a model for India. Wonder who will give us that.

A big smile on my face

A big smile on my face

Sometimes all it takes to put a big smile on my face is browsing through my almost ten thousands pictures of project why spanning the fourteen past years of my life and finding the one that will lift the cloud of the moment. It can just be a happy face, a tender memory, a funny incident or simply be reason enough for a good pat on my back!

These pictures were taken by a young photographer who posted them on FB – God bless FB – and were snapshots I have never seen. I just could not help smiling and grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat. It is true that I see these kids, but not as often as I would like in recent times, put I always prompt a hurried and harried: say good morning to Ma’am by the teachers and dutifully the children rise and chorus a rehearsed and droning Good Morning Maaaa’m. Some smiles, but their smiles seem contrived, others – the new ones- look frankly scared. As I am always short of time I beat a hasty retreat.

I sometimes wish I could be a fly on the wall to share real moments with my 1000 kids. As things stand today this seems a pipe dream. But maybe, if I can conjure the miracle of ensuring sufficient funds for pwhy and am still not too old and creaky, I will spend my last days on earth with these kids.

When I ask my staff to get photographs because I need them, they dutifully do so. But not being professionals, again the pictures seem stage managed.

So it is pure delight when a kind photographers offers to offer his/her time and gifts me these precious snapshots and the smiles that go with them.

Thank you Aditya.

An open letter to the Prime Minister to be

An open letter to the Prime Minister to be

Respected Prime Minister,

I chose to write to you today as we still do not know who you will be, though the guesses are few, but somehow writing to a yet anonymous person is easier for me. Let me too remain anonymous though I can tell you that I am a child, who remain anonymous and voiceless. I was born in this city and live in a small shanty house with my family of 6. Our room is so tiny that after fitting one bed there is no place to move but my mother does everything to make it feel like home. Like many others from our village, my parents came to the big city to look for a better life, if not for themselves, at least for their children. They thought that in the big city their children could be educated and have a better chance in life. My parents are illiterate. My father is a daily wager and my mother looks after me and my siblings. 

My home has a tin roof and one small fan but at night we barely fight in it. There are mosquitoes as our slum is tucked away in between factories and a dirty drain goes by it, and we spent many sleepless nights. Last year my brother got malaria and as there is only one quack in our area, he did not treat him right and by the time we rushed to the hospital which is faraway, it was too late for him.
The house is lower than the road so when it rains the room gets flooded. My mother had to fight every day to get enough water and we have to go to the toilet in the open. But at least I can walk and run not like my friend Radha who has a bone disease and walks on her hand. Her house too is very small and when her little brother walks over her, he limbs get broken. In the 12 years of her life she has had more than 50 fractures. Were her house big, this would not have happened. So I guess I am lucky. On my way to school, I see little children begging and looking at them, I feel I should stop complaining. But Sir, do you see them too, and if you do, why don’y you do anything for them?

I do go to school but Sir, how can you study in a class of 80 children and learn anything. My parents cannot afford private tuition and the teachers do not teach us anything. I am lucky because I go to a project before school and they teach me, but my friends move from class to class without learning. I know a boy who is in class VII and cannot even read. I am told that every child has a right to free and quality education so Sir how come I do not get my right. But then at least I go to school. What about the child that begs at the street light. Do you ever look at her when you stop at a light but I forgot big people like you do not stop at lights, you just whizz through. Maybe you should stop at lights and see these children.

I know there have been many schemes to help the poor as we are called, though I do not consider myself as poor as I am better than the beggar child, but they do not reach us. We do not have the papers needed and my parents do not know how to get all that is required to get some cheaper food. You see you need to know people or pay money and we have neither. There are days when my father does not get work and we go to sleep hungry. My mother makes us drink some chilli water and then we have to drink more water and somehow our stomach gets filled. And this goes for every programme that is made for the ‘poor’. The ones who really deserve it remain invisible and anonymous. The reservation you made in good schools for 25% of ‘poor’ children will never reach us.  Wily people become ‘poor’ as they know how to get papers and their children study in these good schools. I see all the nice buses that pass by as I walk to my school which is very far from my slum.

When we sing patriotic songs at school and salute the flag, I do feel proud of being Indian even though my life looks miserable. But what if I told you that my mother always smiles and tells us that there will be better times and I Sir, am determined to beat the odds whatever they may be. I will make my dreams come true.

But Sir, when you come to power, will you give a thought to us invisible people who are part of this society and give it our best, even if we remain unseen. 

I hope you do. Maybe you could just start by stopping at a red light and looking deep into the eyes of the little girl who will knock at your window. And if you, open the eyes of your heart.

A child of India

Toffee model

Toffee model

These elections have been a reality show in the true sense of the word, unscripted and immensely entertaining. One of the surprises it sprung was the toffee model, where one of the contestant alluded to his opponent having sold land for one rupee, the price of a toffee. All this is jest and bantering but I  would like to share a real fact which would make anyone cry ion despair.

I have recently written about the sports programme the husband would like to initiate for the 2500 children of the nearby Government school. I do not know if he will succeed or not this is one mean obstacle race that may even need at the doors of Justice! I just hope it works

I simply want to share a thought that come to my mind this morning. The school has an annual sports budget of eight thousand rupees for 2500 kids: that is 3.20 rupees per kid per year or 0.26 rupee or 26 paise per child per month. Not even the price of a toffee. Wonder who makes these absurd budgets.