Wednesday, December 31, 2008

JUST COULDN'T RESIST SHARING THESE!!!

WISHING ALL OF YOU A VERY HAPPY, HEALTHY AND FULFILLING NEW YEAR.
MAY PEACE PREVAIL.
SHARING SOME INVALUABLE INNOCENT THOUGHTS WITH YOU!!!!




Source: Not known, received by email

Monday, December 29, 2008

ONE'S REALITY IS LIMITED BY ONE'S PERCEPTION!! - PART II

Disclaimer: This article is based on MY understanding - this writing draws heavily on the latest book that I have read titled, "What the Bleep (F---) do we know".
Dr Pert says, “Our emotions decide what is worth paying attention to…The decision about what becomes a thought rising to consciousness and what remains an undigested thought pattern buried at a deeper level in the body is mediated by the receptors” in our system. These receptors thrive on the chemicals released in our body depending on our emotions. So, of the 400 million bits/ second that we receive, some of it is discarded as unreal, irrelevant, and the balance is then prioritized based on our emotions. Only 2000 bits/ second of the prioritized data gets through to our consciousness, based on our emotions. Why are emotions involved in our perception process? Joe Dispenza says that, “Emotions are designed to reinforce chemically something into long term memory. That’s why we have them”.

Our emotions are also linked in at a low level of sensory perception. This makes sense from an evolutionary point of view. Imagine a tiger jumps in front of you while you are walking. Your eyes will process the information and you will start to run without giving it a second thought. Guess why? The emotion of fear has activated the ‘Fight or Flight’ reflex before you could even register the tiger in your brain, as emotions are a hard wired shortcut to perception. Emotions also give us the unique capability to not see what we simply do not want to see. (Guess why one never sees anything good in the person/ country/ system that one does not like). Now, imagine a dark alley and you see a shape that looks like a tiger. Guess what, the body will go in to the ‘fight or flight’ mode as the hypothalamus would release the chemicals in to the blood stream and your body would be conditioned to run. This is the trap. In case you could stop and reason that ‘how can there be a tiger here’? You investigate a little more and find that the tiger look-alike is just a garbage bag thrown into the alley. This is now a new possibility and the brain will start to re-program the neuro-nets. (This is just an example of how the system functions. One has to be careful any time emotions are involved). In case we do not deal with, and retire this emotion in to wisdom, then we would never evolve and will keep re-experiencing this emotion, and the pre-conditioned response, and this would then result in cumulative emotional history which would get further etched or hard-wired into our brain. This brings us to this question, ‘Do we actually need these emotions’?

Yes, we do. Emotions make life worth living. Remember your first crush in school? How did it feel? Coming first in class? First day at your dream job? The day when you felt very close to your Creator? 29/ 11/ 2008 - when the Commandos completed their mission? Etc. One can remember the incidents vividly even now – thanks to the emotions involved. Emotions are good but one must remember the trap too……. Imagine who makes use of them the maximum? Our politicians – listen to their rhetoric; BJP – Congress is soft on terror; Cong – BJP will be anti-minorities; MNS and SS – Marathi manoos; DMK – Tamil language; go through the non-issues that they get people all emotional about: Mumbai and not Bombay; Bengaluru not Bangalore, etc. etc. These issues are emotional, and help our politicians to side step the main issues of development, growth, job creation, etc. The advertisers are another lot – they give you facts, sometimes distorted too, along with a lot of emotional appeal; and others who want to imprint the message in the long term memory of your brain. Repeated appeals of this nature solidifies your neuro-nets.

My readings have convinced me that Jinnah was one of the most secular leaders (Advani was not wrong), but he still was the chief architect of a country based on religion. He did not believe in it, but he was convinced that with Nehru and Patel around he had no chance of becoming the PM. Personal power ambitions led him to mislead people. How did he do it? Emotions – Muslims will be slaves in free India. People believed him, and followed him. Emotions were involved and he was successful in giving a new paradigm to the Muslim population. Before departing Bombay though, on 14 Aug 1947, he wanted to reverse his propaganda and urged the Muslims left behind in India to be “Indians first and Muslims later”. Similarly after landing in Karachi, he urged people there to be “Pakistanis first”. Was he right about the state of Muslims in India? I do not think so. However, we still have this old baggage of the partition era with us – ALL communities have it. Why? I believe because we have still not “retired in to wisdom” some of the very same emotions that were experienced during partition. These are on display on the internet for any one to see, and the internet is only visited by educated people. Guess the state of the illiterate masses. Many more have been added thereafter – 1984, 1992, 2002 etc. etc. These are hardwired in our brains, to start riots at the slightest pretext. We still have politicians, like Jinnah, who use the same techniques even today. How do we guard against the long term damage they can cause to the citizens psyche?

How do we change our reality, which is based on our perception - that is dependent on our sensory inputs, our learning, our experiences, our emotions and our paradigm? The answer is in the question itself. We need to go beyond the box that we live in right now. We need to increase our reference library in the brain, analyse our experiences, make a paradigm shift and most of all, we need to QUESTION everything that has emotions attached with it. We need to believe in a new paradigm that says that all people born on this land are Indians, irrespective of their personal beliefs, and everyone has equal rights and responsibilities based on the letter and spirit of our Constitution. No one can claim lack of opportunities, based on one’s personal beliefs. I believe that India provides equal opportunities to all who believe, and behave, like Indians. How else could we have a person from the Muslim community from a small Tamil Nadu village become the President of India; a person from the Sikh community become the PM, Air Chief Marshal Idris Latif as the Chief of Air Staff, Mayawati and Antulay as CM, and so on.

Talking of equal opportunities, I am reminded of an incident that took place when I was doing the staff college in Montgomery Alabama. We had a Muslim officer who had just finished Air War College at the same location. We had a Christian Air Marshal who was on a visit to the US; visit us at the staff college. This led the wife of the Pakistan Air Force officer to naively ask my wife as to how India permitted a Muslim and a Christian officer to reach such high posts in the military. In Pakistan, she said, Hindus and Christians could only be employed as dhobis and domestic help.

I was in the Indian Air Force and saw India as it should be - a microcosm of what India can be. My perception and reality of India is vastly different from what people have in the civilian world, primarily because I have seen how people with diverse thoughts, beliefs, languages, cultures etc. can come together as Indians to enrich each other’s lives, and that is also the India that our founding fathers envisioned. Experience has widened my reference box. In case similar experience is not available, we need to get more knowledge to widen the box, other wise our reality will always remain limited, primarily because we cannot perceive beyond our limitations.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

ONE'S REALITY IS LIMITED BY ONE'S PERCEPTION!! - PART I

Disclaimer: This article is based on my understanding of my readings in the past few years - this writing draws heavily on the latest book that I have read titled, "What the Bleep (F---) do we know".
What is reality?

“What I thought was unreal now, for me, seems in some ways to be more real than what I think to be real, which seems now to be unreal”…..
- Fred Alan Wolf, Ph.D.


“I never questioned my reality. Why would I do something as silly as that? Then the reality I was in became a mess, and I began to question my reality – not necessarily the tables and chairs, but my perception of it. Once I realized that my reality was only the construct of my limitations, I realized I had to be willing to dream outside of them. What is it that I truly desire that I don’t believe I can have or become? The only thing “solid” in my reality is my perception of it. If I am willing to open my eyes to new possibilities, my reality can change”………..
- Betsy Chasse

We Indians have been very badly hurt after the horrendous incident of 26/11 at Mumbai. Our collective psyche has been bruised, and we want things to change. Isn’t our state quite similar to what is described above, by Betsy? How then do we help bring about the required change? The answer, as per Betsy, is to open our eyes to new possibilities. This would then help us change our perception of things, and this new perception will bring about a new reality for us as a nation. How do we open our minds to new possibilties, and how are new possibilities, perception and reality linked?

How many of us have heard the saying that goes something like this, ‘Sawan ke andhe ko, hara hi dikhta hai’ (a person blinded in spring can only see (visualize) green. Have you ever given this saying any thought? It is so true. Your reality is limited only by your own perception. Also, most of us must have heard the story about the four blind men and the elephant. Each of the blind man gave voice to his reality, as per his perception. Each of their reality was based on what part of the elephant they were in touch with. My spiritual readings always gave me a message that, "One see's everything in the colour that is based on colour of the glasses one is wearing". How does this perception come about?

Perception starts with the sense organs and ends at consciousness. Our sense organs detect, the nerves transmit the information on to the brain, which pattern matches the information, comes to a conclusion and our consciousness registers the existence of the object, as embedded in our brain. Heavy stuff?? Let’s get a little practical. Why is ‘A’ only written like this? It is because, when the English language was created, a few wise men got together and decided to give this shape to ‘A’; it could have been any other shape too. So, once a large number of seemingly credible people decide what is what, it is accepted by the rest of us, and it gets implanted in our brain as such.

Have you ever seen a child learning the alphabet? We keep making him do it until it gets imprinted on his brain. We then go onto ‘A’ for apple and so on. He now starts associating the alphabet to an object. He can now pattern match a, b, c….. We do the same with words thereafter and so on. Fast forward now, to the present. You are that child, now grown up. You are reading this post on my blog. Are you reading alphabets, words or just pattern matching? In case I had put in something that you had never registered in your brain, like say a Greek or Arabic script, would you still be able to pattern match? No. You will discard it as a mistake on my part, a corrupt message, or to just your imagination, depending on the circumstances. So, you perceive only that, which is already registered with your brain.

This perception is also based on the paradigm under which one operates. “Paradigm is a set of implicit assumptions that are not meant to be tested; in fact, they are essentially unconscious. They are part of our modus operandi as individuals, as scientists, or as a society”. What are our paradigms about our own religion, and that of our neighbours? What are our paradigms about our country? How does this paradigm affect our view of our perceptions, and thus our reality?

We start the perception process with our sense organs, which in any case are limited. A dog can hear and smell better than us, and so on. Our radio, mobile phones and television, etc. operate on frequencies that are not discernible to us, and can thus not be perceived by us. It does not mean that they do not exist. Even with this limited sensory input, we receive “somewhere (to) the order of 400 billion bits per second” from our five senses. A majority of this information is screened out, and wasted; only about “two thousand get through to our consciousness”. So, as Dr. Andrew Newberg puts it, the brain has to “get rid of a lot of extra data in trying to create for us a story of the world”. Ever seen a wedding video and wondered why you did not notice all those people and events on the wedding day that have been captured in the video??

I had heard of cancer, but it was never a part of my reality (perception) until my sister in law was diagnosed with it. After that I found that nearly every other family had someone suffering with cancer. Has it happened to you too? The brain screens out a lot of information that is considered extraneous ( remember only 2000/ 400 billion bits/ second can reach our consciousness) by us. So we actually don’t perceive reality; we see the image of reality that our brain has built up out of the ‘not screened out’ sensory input, plus the patterns already existing in our brain, which are based on our past experiences. Dr Newberg says, “It depends on what your experiences have been, and how you ultimately process the information, that really creates your visual world. The brain is what ultimately perceives reality and creates for us our rendition of the world”.

In case we operate from the paradigm that, ‘In India no body does his job without being bribed’, then we will only perceive every system as corrupt. Our thoughts and our actions will then start with how to neutralize the system and get one’s work done. The system will then respond to us in the same way as we perceived it. When one looks in to the mirror and smiles, the mirror image smiles back. It cannot start to smile without your face lighting up with a smile first. What paradigm do you operate from? Have you considered another possibility? What will it take, for you to make a paradigm shift?

Just a few weeks ago, we had a classic case where people’s perception nearly got ICICI bank bankrupt. People heard about the financial crisis, heard about ICICI being hit by $100 million dollars, and decided to start pulling out their cash. The ATMs ran dry for about 4 -5 days, because people had perceived bankruptcy and nearly made it a reality. Thank God for the intervention of the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister that we still have ICICI bank as a viable banking institution even today. All that the FM and PM did was plant new possibilities in our brains and change our perception of ICICI bank and it changed reality – from sure shot bankruptcy to viability. Satyam, a 2 billion dollar enterprise, is now going through the same perception – reality situation. Thankfully we did not have any paradigm problems with ICICI bank, otherwise the FM and PM's exhortations would have been of no avail. Next, we come to emotions.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

TAGGED - MY PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE - SOME EXCERPTS

Renu has tagged me, because she did not find it appropriate to tag 20 somethings. I am not very good at all this but would definitely do my best, as Renu has put so much faith in AGE - and I cannot let her down. So, here is my take, without any further ado.

My Oldest Memory: The oldest memory that I can remember is when i was about 4 - 6 years old. We lived in an Air Force camp, which had a movie hall that used to get various kinds of movies, including 'Tarzan' and 'Zimbo' movies. I was very fond of these movies, and remember going to watch them initially with my father, followed by him picking me up from the hall after the movie and finally all by myself. The movie hall at that age appeared very far from our house. (However later when I was posted at Pune as an adult, I realised that the movie hall was just about 1.5 - 2 kms from our house). The shows would start during daylight hours but end up when it would just be dark. I remember enjoying the movie, coming out of the hall, waiting for someone going towards our house and then slowly follow him home. In case the person turned away in some other direction, I would wait under a street light for another person and then follow him in the direction of our house. Once i found no one going in the direction of our house. I waited under a street light for some time and then remembered my parents exhortation to be brave and not fear - 'any time you are afraid just recite the Gayatri Mantra and nothing will happen to you'. I remember reciting the Gayatri Mantra on that occasion and reaching home without any problem.

Ten Years ago: December 1998. I was re-employed with the Indian Air Force and living in our own flat in Noida. I had not applied for extension of my re-employment and was thus waiting for 31 Dec 98, to be out of the uniform. A neighbour of my in-laws, who is an astrologer had forecasted that I would continue in a government or government related job, as the Sun was sitting in my house of career until Sep 1999. I remember arguing with her that this was not possible and that I had not applied for extension and my term expired on 31 Dec 1998. She said that she did not know about all this and was just telling me what the planetary positions on my charts were indicating. It so happened that the 5th Pay Commission was on and they could not reach any decision on the re-employed officers and we were granted automatic extension for one month initially, followed by two more one monthly extensions, without applying. Later I did apply for extension in March for personal reasons and served until 31 Dec 1999.

I was dumb founded by this incident, and similar incidents before and after this one. Where do I fit in? in the scheme of things? if everything is pre-destined as per my planetary positioning. What do I control??

My first thought this morning: Yet another day! Actually I am down with some sort of a flu and have been having fever, running nose, sore throat, and bodyache for the past couple of days. Did not feel like getting out of bed this morning, as the back was also hurting today. They say this flu gets okay in 3 -4 days and i am on my third day - in any case, i donot give too much importance to all these illnesses - they come on their own and leave of their own accord. Poonam is not there to force me to have medicine. 'Bund naak, badan dard, Kuch lete kyun nahin'? I can do my own - gargles and rest. I hate medicines.

If you built a time capsule, what would it contain: It would contain magnificient nature - the hills of Kulu Manali where I trekked with the Youth hostel in 1994 and 1995 - those mountains dwarfed me and made me feel like a small insignificant speck of dust - these hills helped me meet simple folks who were willing to share what little they had, kids with running noses running behind us for one sweet, crying 'tata tata bye bye'; it would contain the mighty oceans over which i have flown at very low level and seen the massive tankers being tossed around like match sticks; it would contain war, philosophy and spiritual books - i was always a man of war and enjoyed serving with the Indian Air Force - however, i now realise the value of peace which only a military man can; i love war books though, because they bring out how spirit can overcome the body and also the selfless pursuit of an aim; philosophy to help answer the numerous questions that keep arising, and spiritual books to keep me grounded to reality; to help me overcome my massive "I"; and finally would love to have my dear wife who is the only one who could tame me, and the only one who helps me with the supply of my favourite music - some of it gets garbled though when she gets into one of her 'not so beautiful' moods.

This year: This year has been a mixed bag - some good and some not so good, but is finally dedicated to the little angel who adorns my desktop (photograph is reproduced below), my grand daughter 'Meher' who was born on 29 Sep 08. She gave us some very tense moments initially, but has given us much more happiness in return during the past 3 months approx, and would continue to do so in the years to come.
Unadulterated display of happiness.... when does one start loosing this ability??

I started the year recouping from my bypass surgery performed on 28 Nov 07. Got on my feet and fit i felt, only to be declared permanently unfit for flying and thus came to end an eventful chapter in my life - a chapter that gave me immense pleasure, helped me defy gravity and explore the third dimension where i had occasions to see the sun rising before lesser mortals could, where i could race with the setting sun by flying westwards - the sun always won though.

Sunrise at 37000 ft.... clicked as a passenger on 09 Dec 2008

I say good bye to flying, Chennai, and Blue Dart Aviation on 31 Dec 08. Our son settled into a job of his liking this year after completing his BA Hons from York University - he is enjoying himself with the Toronto Police. Our son-in-law and daughter bought their first house. My parents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. Many other events happened - it's been an eventful year.

14 years from now: God knows.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

INDIA - CHANGING MY PERCEPTIONS

I was lucky, and elated, to have been selected to undergo the Staff College course in the US in 1989. I was a 37 years young cocky fighter pilot who had his own perception of India, my country. This perception was built over time through schooling in English medium schools/ convents and having lived in urban surroundings most of the time (even when I was based in small villages, our camps had most facilities like a town). I reached Montgomery, Alabama and was pleasantly surprised to be a part of about 55o students doing this purely academic course (we do have academic courses in the military too), of which about 80 officers were from 55 different nationalities. I was the only Indian officer in this batch of 1990.

Our interactions were generally quite free and frank, considering the nature of the course. During the course of these interactions one theme always emerged and that was, 'India is a poor country'. I would get very hurt and would invariably put up a defence that India was not poor. I could speak English better than most others, I could think logically, I flew the Jaguar aircraft and could talk anyone out of fighter tactics etc. etc. I felt that I was their equal in every which way and yet they continued with their derogatory questions about poverty in India. I had never experienced poverty and was never really concerned about how poor India was. I got what I wanted in India, and was pretty comfortable with my perception of India.

One day when I could not take it any longer, I decided to start reading up on India with an aim of negating my tormentors. The more I read the more I realised how right they were and how wrong was my perception of India. These 10 months in the US staff college, with its very well equipped library, gave me an opportunity to try and understand my own country. The more I read, the more I realised that I was living in my own dream world; the more I read the more I became fascinated, and proud of India, even though I now realised that how backward we were economically. My perceptions of India started to change. I realised that urban areas in India were an aberration in the rural landscape of India. I started to read about our freedom struggle and how and why Gandhiji gave us the khadi dress - a dress used more as a fashion statement these days by our political class.

Why were we poor? I believe, the short answer is, we missed the Industrial revolution while under British rule. We continued to be an agrarian society plagued by disease, malnutrition and the rulers did not have any resources (that were of course ours in the first place) to waste on us. Gandhiji's Dandi march to make a pinch of salt was such a big issue with the British. Imagine we could not even make salt - a basic food item for the poor. We finally achieved independence. We chose socialism and non alignment as our core values following it up with nationalisation of assets. All this was based on our past experiences. We can complain about the political system but the system has not failed us. It has helped us to be self sufficient, grow, and also helped a diverse, plural nation like India stay as one nation-state, despite the pulls and pressures.

We are all very impatient with our progress and want India to reach its destined position in the comity of nations. Well, it is happening - 300 million strong middle class (approximately the size of our population at independence), and growing, will help us reach there. Once we have a majority middle class things would happen much faster, and more to the liking of the urban population. I have seen food shortages and the green revolution; I have seen milk shortages and the white revolution in my lifetime. I have seen India leap frogging from the agricultural era to the information era. We are now building our industrial base that will help provide employment to our rural brethren. Imagine we still have 72.2% of our population living in rural settings, as per the 2001 census. We have 34.3% (1990-2005) of our population surviving on less than $1.00 a day - this is an amount most of us donot even think about - I have paid many times this amount for one meal, at times. We have 28.6% living below the poverty line - defined by minimum calories and bare minimum medical aid for survival - not even roti, kapda aur makaan. Are we still poor?? Yes we are still poor (even though we are the 12th country in this world to cross a Trillion dollar economy mark) but are getting out of poverty much faster since 1991.

We have many challenges in the form of corruption, caste/ religion based politics, criminals in politics, poverty, etc. Who is corrupt. Not the poor. It is the haves who take, and give bribes. We want more - 'thoda hai thode aur ki zaroorat hai' attitude. We are willing to bribe our way to short circuit any system. We are responsible for the present impasse, and ONLY WE have the power to change this state of affairs by changing ourselves, individually and collectively.

As a start, let us be proud of who we are as a people. Let us start by getting to know our country. I have always felt enamoured by the material progress of the West but have been absolutely spellbound by the SOUL of India. Our nation is not perfect but WE have the power to make it one. Are we ready to do our part on this journey to achieve greatness where the pain of any fellow human being feels like one's own - specially the pain of people less fortunate than us. I never used to notice them earlier but with age I have realised that India can only truly prosper when no one is destined to lead a wretched life. How can we help change destinies? Once we reach there, we would be a participatory democracy in the true sense, as desired and thought of by our founding fathers.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

WHY DO WE NOT HAVE BETTER SYSTEMS?

Why can't we have better systems?, is a question most frequently asked by educated Indians out of sheer frustration at the way our systems function. Some of these educated Indians have been exposed to better systems in the west, and others have seen or heard about them in the media. Well, one thing is clear - we all agree that we need better systems. How do we get there is the next obvious question.
I believe, at the macro level there are two aspects to a system - the first is the most obvious, the design and implementation of the system and the second is the most important - the public acceptance of the system. We as a people generally show total apathy to any system, while living in India. I have seen Indians abroad meticulously follow all systems but once in India they tend to get back to their usual way. Their reasoning is that everyone else is doing it, so why not me? My question is 'what is the use of your exposure to better systems if you cannot help others less fortunate benefit from your experience, by leading the way'. What do I mean by this?
Let me start with an example. Lets take a mundane system like traffic lights. I live in Chennai and travel to other parts of the country too. The situation that I am going to describe is very nearly similar in all our cities. The traffic light system is installed to ensure that the traffic can flow smoothly & efficiently, and also to prevent accidents. In Chennai, I find that the traffic lights are world class with the added feature of time left for the light to change in a large LED display at most prominent cross roads. What is probably a design flaw is that the lights donot take into consideration the amount of traffic coming in from a particular direction, at various times of the day, leading to the red or green light remaining on for a period longer than required by the traffic. This problem is generally overcome by the traffic policeman controlling the lights manually depending on the quantum of traffic, specially during rush hours.
The other problem is that the lights continue with their red, green and amber pre-programmed sequence even during periods of minimal traffic, specially during the night hours. This causes most motorists to 'jump the light'. This is not desirable. All of us are aware of this part. Each one of us must have designed systems for our organisations or home. Did we take the time to study the specifications that the system should meet? Did we followup to ensure that the system is/ was periodically upgraded, depending on the usage pattern?
However, the other part is the more important and that is - how does the public respond to this system. Many a times I have been honked at, yelled at, while waiting at a red traffic light, sometimes by illiterate drivers, and sometimes by educated people. I never jump a traffic light. My family and friends joke about this and tell me that one day I am going to be run over by some one, while waiting for the light to turn green. I don't wish to change. I believe systems are made to be followed because otherwise no system will function, and we can keep complaining about the systems. I can reluctantly understand the illiterate driver honking, but find it absolutely ridiculous when educated people behave similarly. I thought education should help one understand things better, and also help one provide leadeship to our fellow citizens who are less fortunate than us. There are many nuances of how we jump the lights but that is not relevant to this post. There are many other systems like forming a queue - how many of us follow the queue - wait for our turn. These are just two mundane examples of systems in our daily life that we donot follow. There are many more besides these. However, to answer the question.
A system can only be as good as it's design and it's implementation, BUT more importantly, it can only function if we the people follow the system - whatever it be. In case the system does not meet the needs for which it is designed then as concerned tax paying citizens we need to take action to ensure that it is fixed, BUT short cutting the system is not prudent or desirable if we want to have better systems. Also, the more fortunate of us have to take the lead to instil public confidence in the systems that WE educated employed people have created, so that all citizens and our country benefits from better systems. It could be any system - the political system, the economic system, or the simple queue.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

WHAT AILS OUR POLITICAL SYSTEM: PART II: DEMOCRACY, POLITICIANS AND THE ELECTORATE

The only long term solution to resolve and reconcile differences in any nation, specially a nation like India with over 670 million voters (nearly double the numbers in the European Union - not to mention the diversity), is through a democratic form of governance. However, this form of governance comes with its own set of problems. At times some of us get a feeling that we would be better off in a regime under a benevolent dictator or under military rule for a while. The example of Singapore is often quoted. Can these ever be compared - a city state like Singapore and a large country like India? As far as the military rule is concerned, we need to look around in our neighbourhood, and around the globe, and one will get the answer. Are there any other forms of government that would help us grow faster, grow more equitably and help solve all our problems?? No, in my opinion. Democracy with all its warts and moles is best for India, I believe. What is your opinion??

Politics and politicians are part and parcel of any democratic setup. However, we are totally disillusioned with our political setup, specially after the latest carnage in Mumbai. Can we do away with politicians as is being suggested by some anguished citizens? I would definitely love to do so, BUT do not believe so. However, there are issues concerning this that need to be debated, and a solution found to the satisfaction of ordinary citizens of India.
First, like everything else in life, we have good politicians and we have bad politicians. Next, we can only select one out of the lot that contest the elections, and our grouse is that only bad people are taking up politics as a calling. What is stopping the good people? How can we encourage better people to contest elections? Most middle class people feel that politics is a dirty game, and are thus not inclined to join it. Is politics really bad? Working for common good is not bad politics. It is what you do with governance that makes it good or bad. Politics inherently is neutral and necessary for the functioning of a nation. As an example, the atom could be used to light up the whole planet, but could also be used to blow up the planet. In this world of duality, nothing is good or bad - its what you make of it.
At one time we had the cream of India in politics - Jawahar Lal Nehru, Dr. Radhakrishnan, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Maulana Azad and many more such luminaries. Times were different then - some may argue. Yes, the whole country was united against the British and wanted freedom and the only way forward was by selecting our best leaders to lead us. The leaders came forward and people of India followed. Once the British left, there has been no such uniting event, for an extended period. The best minds refused to join politics and we are left with a number of undesirable elements in our political establishment. There are instances of people lodged in jail on criminal charges getting elected.
In the absence of a national issue, local issues have come into the limelight. Politicians are not ones to miss an opportunity to fracture the electorate on divisive issues like religion, caste, region, ethnicity and what have you to take advantage of block votes - it is much simpler this way. This has ensured that regional parties have been gaining ground at the cost of the national parties. No national party is able to form a government at the centre on its own and looks to these regional parties to prop them up. This weakens the Central government because of the perpetual threat of withdrawal of support. Is there a way of strengthening the national parties so that they could work without the fear of mid term polls?
Have you ever wondered why most of our politicians wear typically rural dresses in public life? It is because these dresses represent the majority of the people who vote for them. Majority of our citizens are still agrarian, and live in rural areas. Urban areas are still in a minority. As per the 2001 census, we have 72.2% of our population living in rural areas and only 27.8% of the population living in urban areas. The outcome of elections is thus any body's guess. Once in parliament, all our elected representatives become urban dwellers but their constituencies still remain rural. This is the reason for the total apathy towards teh cities. However, with the economic boom in India, there has been a mass movement of rural people into urban areas in search of a jobs, and this has prompted the Urban Renewal agenda of the government, because the urban infrastructure is close to collapse in most cities.
With the economic boom there has been a noticeable increase in the disparity between the rich and the poor in India. Although the growth of wealth in the country has, through the trickle down effect, ensured that the number of people below the poverty line has reduced, this has still led to opportunities for the Communists to increase their tally in parliament. The communists have single handedly ensured that a large number of economic initiatives are thwarted. How can we ensure more equitable distribution of the wealth being generated in the country, while at the same time generating larger wealth?
There are many unanswered questions in this whole post. Do you have any answers??

Monday, December 1, 2008

WHAT AILS OUR POLITICAL SYSTEM: PART I: POLITICS - A DIRTY WORD???

The Mumbai carnage has angered most Indians, and rightly so. The events have so upset most citizens of the city of Mumbai, and elsewhere too, that a majority of them are expressing very negative thoughts and words about our political establishment ( I donot want to use the word leaders for some of them and thus find it appropriate to use the word establishment). The news media is now full of citizens expressing their anguish at the happenings in Mumbai, and utter contempt and scorn for the politicians and their dirty politics. This was expected as we the people of India have had enough of terrorism to last us a life time.
We have had organised and co-ordinated bomb blasts in various cities of India; we have had random shootings in Bangalore . Each time a large number of innocent people have been killed, beside other damage. The government promises action but nothing substantial happens thereafter, and the events are soon forgotten, so it seems, because there are other more pressing commitments that our elected representatives need to attend to. However this time, these were no ordinary bomb blasts. This was active warfare - guns, grenades, boats, knives and what have you. The city and the nation were held to ransom for an extended period without respite. Iconic buildings in the commercial capital of India were targetted in co-ordinated attacks, coming in from the sea. Pitched battles were fought between the terrorists and the security forces. The whole thing was watched live by a large number of people and the images and sounds of fires, gunfire, blood, helplessness, bravery, courage, and the utter ruthlessness of the terrorists are etched on the minds of most people. The mood of the nation has become very angry, and politics has become a dirty word. In the present scenario there is a need to think calmly about what should be our future course of action and to take some time to understand what is implied by politics and politicians, and who do we think should be an ideal politician in our opinion OR do we now surmise that we do not need politics and politicians. In our disgust for the present bunch of the majority of our politicians we should not shun the word politics completely before we have had time to analyse what is wrong with our system. Is politics really a dirty word??

Politics as defined in the Free Dictionary means 'The art or science of government or governing, especially the governing of a political entity, such as a nation, and the administration and control of its internal and external affairs'. This being so, politics is not only necessary; it is important for the governance of any nation, including India. India is the largest democracy in the world and comprises of about 1.1 billion people. The only form of governance that can reconcile the differences between this large (one-sixth of the human race) and diverse peoples is a democracy. Democracy is commonly understood to be 'of the people, by the people, for the people'. In India we follow a parliamentary form of representative democracy in which the government is exercised by the Prime Minister and his cabinet, which is subject to ongoing review, checks and balances by the legislative parliament elected by the people. Representative implies existence of a definite representative mechanism; periodic elections; political parties competing for political authority; existence of interest and pressure groups; and practice of Universal Adult Franchise. It stands to reason that elections are an inevitable process of a Representative Democracy. Right of the people to elect their representative is the fundamental feature of this system. 'A person engaged in or concerned with politics, esp. as a practitioner' is defined as a politician. Politicians are the people who stand for elections and get elected if a majority of the people in their constituency vote for them. Our politicians are our elected representatives. We have the politicians and the government that we voted for. They have not occupied the parliament by force - they have been elected by we the people. ...................... TO BE CONTINUED IN PART II

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

MY INDIA, YOUR INDIA, OUR INDIA

While blogging a few days ago I came across a poem in Urdu that had been translated into English by the blogger. This poem made a lot of sense to me. It said something like, 'I had no say, or control, over the place, family, caste, religion, nation etc. that I was born in and yet I am ready to fight and give my life over each of these issues'. This is what I took away from that poem, and it is so true, if you dispassionately sit and think about it.

I am also reminded of a story of one family that had twins. When young one of the children would fight with his twin over an issue like 'these are my parents, they are not your parents' and the other would yell back, 'no these are my parents, not yours'. This would go on for some time and they would finally end up crying and come to blows over this issue. A few years later when these two kids grew up, they realised that this was one of the biggest non-issues that they had been fighting over. Their parents belonged to each of them, primarily because they had given birth to both of them.

I was lucky to have been born in India. I grew up, completed my schooling, went to the National Defence Academy, joined the Indian Air Force and spent the better part of my life in a service where I never judged any body by his caste, religion, parentage, or state of birth. Everyone was an Indian who was ready to do what was needed to serve the country, even including laying down one's life in the line of duty. We represented people from all religions, castes, states, etc. and never felt that India was only mine. Each one of us stood by the Indian flag and the Indian Constitution, and that is how it should be. Our differences were personal but we all belonged to India, and this added to our strength as a nation. Our brotherhood was without any considerations for our personal differences.

We were lucky to serve all over this great and varied land, from the Siachin glacier in the mighty Himalayas to Trivandrum and Andaman Nicobar islands in the South; from Dibrugarh in the East to Bhuj in the West. Never once did we feel out of place in any part of this magnificient country. I have flown over nearly the whole of India and have seen the rivers, the deserts, the Himalayas, the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian sea. Ours is a rich and varied country with diversity in every conceivable way. I am not sure if one would find any other country with the diversity that we have. I will be writing on the diversity later.

My experience in the recent past has not been too happy. I find political parties trying to make Biharis, Marathis, Muslims, Hindus, etc. out of Indians. Each party is actually trying to send out a message that this is 'my India, not yours'. This is similar to the incident I narrated about the two siblings earlier. Can we the people grow up and realise that this India is not mine, or yours, but OURS. Why? Like the two siblings were born to the same parents, we are all born in this God's own country - India. This land has always through millenia given refuge to people persecuted anywhere else in the world. This country has always had a large heart. And now we are fighting amongst each other, amongst people who belong here and are not from an alien land. Please donot be mislead by some power hungry politician who is trying to carve his own constituency by inciting people against each other. These politicians are thankfully in a very small minority.

The only way to defeat the evil designs of these small minority of negative elements of society is through believing and behaving that this is OUR INDIA - as much yours, as mine and we all have the same rights and responsibilities as citizens as per the Constitution and nobody can take that away from any of us. Keep the Indian flag flying, even when you must protest - you could belong to any party, state, religion or caste. We are all Indians and our flag is the highest symbol of unity - keep it flying high always. Omar Abdullah hit the nail on the head when he said something like 'I am a Muslim and an Indian'. We have our personal identities and we have a national identity. Our dealing with each other in the public realm should always be as Indians. Our India would then shine, as it has always been destined to. I believe in it.........do you???

Sunday, November 23, 2008

WARMTH AND SNOW IN CANADA - NOVEMBER 2008

God gives couples a second chance to enjoy the bliss of becoming parents once again - of course, this second chance comes with the 'GRAND' title. You get the perks and privileges, without the responsibility of bringing up the young ones - I am sure about this.
Another way of looking at it is that God gives a chance to one's offsprings to witness first hand what their parents had gone through to bring them to their present state from their birth. Is it God's way to make one value the contributions of one's parents to their well being? Enough philosophy......now about the most important and recent addition to the family of our daughter and son-in-law - Meher Mandyam.
Narsim and Medha were blessed with our grand daughter 'Meher', who was born on 29 Sep 08. Poonam was in Canada for the event and I reached there on 02 Nov 08. I am back in Chennai, much against my wishes. Poonam continues to enjoy Meher for another two months. Meher has been the centre of attraction for all of us. She brought a great deal of warmth into our lives even in the bitter cold of Canada, at this time of the year. We even had 7 cms of snow just before I left - rather early this time.
So it was the warmth of a new addition to our family, and the cold weather and snow that greeted me in Canada on this occasion. A glimpse of my trip follows.
Happiness.......a warm feeling. It makes you smile too!!!
Narsim, Medha, Self with Meher (sleeping beauty), Chaitanya, Poonam and Leia

The dreaded snow......you need to clear the driveway and the sidewalk.

However, Leia loves the snow......frolicking in the snow in the backyard

Canadian winter is not only dreaded by the humans.......

Southward bound migratory birds airborne from the lake

Poonam and Meher (Not too pleased, but resigned to accept the attention)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

DEMOCRACY, HOPE AND INDIA

Barack Obama's victory in the Presidential elections has given a lot of hope to people all over the globe. I had written about this yesterday in my other blog. How can an American election bring hope to people in our country??

Our's is the largest democracy in the world and the US is the most powerful democracy in the world. Democracies are, as so aptly described by Abraham Lincoln, 'of the people, by the people, for the people'. The American election gives hope to all the people who had resigned themselves to be second class citizens in any society based on caste, religion, colour or any other form of human prejudice. It has given the underdogs the hope that anything is possible in a democracy.

However, there are pre-conditions to the anything happening and these pre-conditions are as follows:
- One has to believe in democracy
- One has to have faith in the power of the ballot
- One has to instil the same faith in as many people as one realistically can
- One has to play by the rules
- One has to rise above narrow considerations of caste, religion, colour (crc), and have a vision that encompasses the hopes, aspirations and problems of all ordinary citizens
- One has to work tirelessly to achieve the desired goal
- One has to build bridges and, more importantly, bring down walls built by the others
- One has to believe in him/ herself
- One has to believe in the goodness of the human race irrespective of crc
- One has to have an inclusive agenda

Can you think of any other pre-requisites??????

I know of one Indian politician who is working on some of these principles; who also comes from the underdogs, and is presently the Chief Minister of UP - Ms Mayawati. She started with an exclusive agenda but has become most inclusive after coming to power this time. She has got a number of things right, if you think about it.

Can we Indians realise the Power of 'unite and rule' rather than 'divide and rule'???

Will the underdogs in India HOPE to steer the destiny of OUR country??? What agenda would they like to follow??

We have seen a roadmap in terms of the American elections.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

LORD KRISHNA, GITA - KARMA AND RESULTS

I have always been attracted to Lord Krishna. I do not know the reason why. Maybe because He is one who can be imagined in any role of life - as a son, as a friend, as a lover, as a husband - one has the choice to take a pick based on one's personal inclination. There does not seem to be any rigidity in how you want to relate to Him. I can visualise Him in many different forms and stages of human life depending on my mood. I love to chant His many names and just enjoy listening to His bhajans, specially the ones sung by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi; His many exploits as a child (mythology). I am not the temple going kind but always have Him close to my heart.

I always had the desire to read the Gita but could not do so until I was hit by a life changing event. I was in Ambala at that time. I remember picking up my 'Hamara Bajaj' scooter and driving straight to Haridwar/ Rishikesh. On that day in Rishikesh, I bought a pocket edition of the Gita, Sanskrit Shlokas with literal English translation. I remember sitting down under a mango tree on a concrete bench in the backyard of Gita bhawan, i believe. I finished that pocket edition in one sitting - a very major feat for me - without even being of aware of what was happening around me. When I looked at my watch, i realised that i had been there for a just over 3 hours. This reading relieved me of all that i was going through and I was ready to take on the world once again. I have never been able to read the Gita after that event in 1992, although i am convinced that the wisdom in that little book is way beyond words. Why? I don't know - His wish, maybe.

Gita says 'Do your karma, do not worry about the result, leave the result on God. I have always understood this intellectually but have not been able to implement it in my life. This morning I saw an article in the Times of India credited to Swami Tejomayananda. The article brought a new meaning to my understanding of the above philosophy. I am going to reproduce Swamiji's words below, as I may not be able to do justice to the interpretation given by Swamiji if i try to put it in my own words.

"People must understand that joy lies in inspired action and not in material gain. When happiness depends on the result, we postpone our experience of happiness to the future. There is contradiction here. We want happiness in the present but have, by depending on the result, delayed the experience of enjoyment to the future."

"The secret of enjoying life is to understand that joy lies in the very performance of the action. Action is always in the present and so too is happiness." Unquote.

Karma is always in the present, and happiness can also be only in the present. We perform karma in the present, and start thinking about the results which will come sometime in the future. We always hope for the results to be in our favour, which will give us happiness - if the results do not turn out to be to our liking, which it may, then we are saddened. So, if we can just enjoy the perfect execution of our karma, which is in our control, then we can be happy always. Wow...this makes sense but will i be able to implement this in my life? Will you be able to??

Let me try. At least the thought and words have come......action will follow if we are earnest in our desire.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

THE INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE

This post was triggered in response to an article titled 'Latest export: Arranged marriage' in the Times of India of 19 Oct 08. Also, I have been reading a lot of posts in the blog-world with respect to this sacred (dictionary - 'made holy by religious association') institution of marriage. Sacred, because as far as I know every marriage, except maybe some civil marriages, are solemnised in the name of, and in the presence of the Divine as Prime witness - whatever name one may associate with the Divine.

Some of these posts are written by people who have never been married - but they sure do have opinions about it, and sometimes very strong ones too. So, I thought of key boarding my experience and understanding of marriage with a snap shot of our marriage. Looking back........

Poonam and I were married over 30 years ago, by Hindu rites. I believe all marriages are arranged - the difference being who arranges them - the family or self. In our times, and even today in majority of the cases, one does not marry only an individual, one also marries into a family. In our case I had an understanding with my parents that the family would be of their choice and the girl of my choice and that both of us, my parents and I, would have veto power. In essence this implied that I trusted them to decide on the family with the right values and I would decide on the girl who I would like to spend the rest of my life with - parting never even came to mind, back then. I liked Poonam, and my parents liked her family. We were thereafter engaged in 10 days and married after 8 months of courtship. So what do you call this marriage - arranged or love??

The Times of India article quotes a new type of marriage besides the two that I had heard of (love and arranged), and that is forced. I suppose forced implies marrying people against their wishes. Love marriage is when you fall in love, and then marry, with or without the involvement of the families. Arranged is when you marry without any knowledge about each other , with the parents deciding on the match. Would this change the quality of the marriage?? Would it change the significance of the marriage? Marriage is what you make of your relationship after the event. Nothing before the event can ever come close to the relationship that evolves after the event. Imagine two people from different backgrounds, values, upbringing, experiences etc. etc. coming together to live under one roof 24 hours x 365 days a year through thick and thin, hopefully 'till death do us part'. Living at such close quarters exposes one's ugly sides too. We all have them - part of being human. These could have been kept under wraps before marriage, as one always puts one's best foot forward when one is meeting someone for a few precious moments only. The article starts with 'Madonna may be divorcing her husband Guy Ritchie seven and a half years after marrying him for love'. Back to us.........

Poonam and I have been through a lot together in the last 30 years - years in which besides other things, we have been blessed with two of God's most precious gifts - our daughter and son. Years in which we brought them up to be good human beings and gave them values that we thought and felt were important. Our daughter is now married and has a family of her own - a caring husband our less than one month old grand daughter 'Meher'. Our son is 23 and living out his dreams of cars, guns and everything else that can tickle the senses at his age. We are happy and proud parents. We can say that our journey of 30 years of marriage has been very eventful, like all other marriages.

I have always believed that marriage was an institution that was created by our very wise ancestors to help God's creation survive the rigours of day to day living. Humans are the most evloved animals and differ from the other animals in the development of the brain. The human child is very fragile as compared to the other animals. It has needs beyond the needs of most animals, and these needs are more in the department of the brain than the physical needs, which normally get taken care of early in life. To ensure that there is balanced growth of the brain, the human child needs both parents - parents implying a man and a woman (the original definition of marriage - may change in the near future though). The only way to provide this facility to this child is through the sacred institution of marriage. Every marriage starts with I, me, mine, you, your, yours etc. Somewhere down the line the 'ours' creeps in silently. In case it does not happen earlier then this most definitely happens when the child comes along. The child is always 'ours' in a marriage and has the commitment of both parents. You can have everything that you have in marriage outside marriage too - including a child, but then the commitment will be found lacking.

In marriage thus the most important ingredient is commitment, as per me. It helps a couple ride the stormy seas of marriage, and also enjoy life's blissful moments with some one you are married.

I have always felt the next in line is duty, whereas Poonam believes it is love. My logic is that duty never changes and if one looks after one's karma, love is bound to follow - deep love, not the superficial variety. I believe love keeps changing like the moon - goes through the cycle of new moon and then full moon in 28 days. You never have a new moon, or even a full moon all the time. Duty never changes - you may not do your duty, but that does not change your duty. I have a hard time mouthing 'I love you'. My wife and kids complain 'why don't you say it' - sometimes it needs to be said' they tell me. I always felt that love is something to be felt, not said. Everyone expresses love differently - we are all different.

Many springs ago, a friend of mine got married. Six months later he came to me with a very confidential query. I was a one year married veteran at the time. He did not know how to broach the subject and I could guess what he wanted to ask. So, I answered without him asking me formally. My answer was 'Some days you feel on top of the world and the other days you are in the bottom of the pits' and he said 'Yes' excitedly, surprised at my mystical powers. I then gave him the wisdom of my one year of marriage and said to him 'Continue, you are doing well, but if you ever reach a plateau of indifference, then you need to worry'. I believe marriage is a roller coaster ride - the crests and troughs are part of it - they too have a role to play - a role to help the soul evolve - a role to make one larger than one self - a role to overcome one's ego - a role to commit, and learn how to honour commitment. Besides, what thrill is a roller coaster without the crests and troughs. Why does one ride a roller coaster anyway?

During this journey of over 30 years of our marriage, we have witnessed a lot - from very good to very bad - many things we would do differently if we were to re-marry with the wisdom that we hopefully have now. One thing that came to light during this journey is that in marriage you need each other most when the children are yet to make their presence felt and also when they leave you for greener pastures. The in between years are consumed in tending to the needs of your offsprings. Marriages they say, and I strongly believe, are made in heaven, but they have to be lived on earth - and the earth is no dull place with us humans around. So it goes without saying that marriages on earth will go through many excitements.

We have had a good marriage - we have had our fair share of 'made for each other' moments as also conflicts that seemed irreconcilable at those moments. We are happy to have lived up to the sacred trust that we swore before our Prime Witness. We are also happy to have been blessed to deliver two of His gifts to this planet. We are proud of our kids, and best of all - after thirty years we have come out much better as human beings and value each other's company as friends. Marriage is an institution that we believe is good for humanity.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

WHY???

Why do we humans not learn that what is happening to a majority of the people senior to us in age will also happen to us when we reach their age?

Why do we think that things would be different with us?

Why do we think that what we do to others will not happen to us?

Why do we think only about short term gains?

Why do we fight for our rights and forget our responsibilities?

Why do we go through life without a worthy aim?

Why? Why? Why?

Friday, October 3, 2008

MY FIVE ADDICTIONS - TAG REQUIREMENT

I have been tagged by Balvinder and have been asked to spell out my five addictions on my blog. I have just done a study of the human memory system and the study tells me that when you want some information from your long term memory, you need to pre-activate it to get results faster. So, ever since I got the message from Balvinder, I have been trying to pre-activate my memory. The results have not been very encouraging. Can only think of two reasons for this state of affairs - either no memory or no addictions? Maybe I donot have any addictions? So, I asked my wife who is sitting 11000 kms away, and she was better at this memory thing and told me the following, and I seem to concur with her. So here goes.
Morning and Evening MUG of tea. Thanks to NDA, as a matter of fact even before that, this habit has stayed with me and has sort of become an addiction. After I get up, I can just about finish brushing my teeth and then I get this urge to have a hot mug of tea. It has to be just off the stove, or I need to warm it up again in the microwave. I have burnt the inner portion of my lips on many occasions, but just cannot get over this addiction of this HOT MUG OF TEA (these are jumbo mugs that can really hold some tea). It is the same in the evening. Come back from work, sit down, loosen up and then start itching for this concoction brew discovered by the Chinese. We have always loved a blend of Lipton's Green and Brooke Bond Red in a 50-50 proportion. In 1988, a friend introduced us to Nonsuch tea from the Nilgiris. Enjoyed the flavour of this tea too for a number of years. Could not get it in Canada, so switched back to the Lipton - 'Wah' Taj combination. (Reminds me of Zakir Hussain every time - that is the beauty of good advertisements). On coming back to India after six years, and to Chennai, I found Nonsuch again in the Nilgiris store but the standard is not the same now.
Newspaper. This is another addiction that I have not been able to shake off since school days. These days I read two newspapers from cover to cover - The Times of India - love it for its wide coverage, and the Hindu - love it for its indepth and very conservative coverage. Imagine 'The Hindu' is not very happy with the Indo US nuclear deal. I personally feel India could not have got a better deal than this one - to get defacto recognised as a nuclear weapon state, in addition the 5 duly recognised nuclear weapon states; without signing the NPT; split our nuclear research facilities into civilian and military use and yet come out of the denial regime. This the best Manmohan Singh could have done for us. Thank you, Sir. Newspaper and the hot MUG of tea make a deadly combination in the mornings. Love this combination.
Lately, my blog. This blog is becoming quite an obsession and I am wondering if I would need treatment to get over this phenomenon. Like Amitabh Bachchan said in Namak Halal, I can talk blog, sleep blog, eat blog....... Can any body help me with what is the next stage? I do hope it cools off sometime soon.
The Stock Market and NDTV Profit. Thank God for the blog, this has cooled off a bit. I now spend more time blogging and so donot have time for the TV. Also, the stock market has gone into a crazy nosedive and I donot want to do anything except watch and ....... wait. I have always believed that I follow the stock market because it gives me intellectual satisfaction. They say, stock market is the barometer of the economy and if you can predict the stock market, well you are good, since the market gets affected by politics, economics, and just about anything. Predicting the stock market is the toughest thing one can do. However, no nation can advance without a stock market...... you need capital besides other things.... this one is for my wife. She hates the stock market........ She is happy with a 10% return on FDs when the inflation is ruling at 13%.
Reading. I love reading books and magazines. As can be made out in my blog, I love reading about war, aviation, religion, management, leadership, and just about anything else that helps me understand why people do what they do in different corners of the world. Why are we the way we are and why are they the way they are? I would love to visit all the places that I read about. Would love to visit Japan once in my life time. I had heard about the Japs from a friend in 1975. They had visited Japan and had some very complimentary things to say about the Japs. Read about Japan a bit and have a great desire to visit specially after I saw them in aciton in India. In 1994, saw the Indo-Japanese bridge being constructed over the Yamuna, while I was living in NOIDA. I used to cross the Yamuna everyday, twice a day during the period the bridge was being constructed. What amazed me was that the bridge construction started on time and on the very first day itself a board was put up to say that it would be completed on a particular day, two years hence......... well, the bridge was inaugrated on the fixed date....... although it was ready about two weeks before the date. The contractor was L&T. The other bridge on the Yamuna was being built by Gammon India - started much before this bridge and took more than double the time.
I suppose that finishes my tag(ged) assignment. Hope I pass Balvinder. I am not sure as to what was expected of me - I have just done what I am capable of doing.

Monday, September 29, 2008

THE ARMED FORCES OF INDIA

India has been blessed with an apolitical, all volunteer, and professional military establishment. This is the biggest boon that any country can ask for. The Defence forces also happen to be the last relatively untouched domain in our country, where our politicians have not been able to practice their scientifically perfected art of divide and rule. Defence forces stand out as a model of 'unity in diversity', and as a disciplined force that, unquestioningly, takes its task of protecting the Indian nation state, and its core values, very seriously. In return these men in uniform expect the nation and its people to understand what it takes to pledge one's life for the country, and as a sign of respect for this ultimate pledge they expect that their fellow countrymen would ensure that their genuine demands are considered, and accommodated, at the appropriate level.

Instead, there has been a slow but sure attempt to marginalise the defence forces by the bureaucracy with the help of political bosses who are too busy trying to hold onto their seats in the new India that is emerging - an India where national political parties have taken back stage to regional political parties. These so called national parties are in disarray and are being propped up by groupings of regional parties. In return for their support, these regional parties thereafter demand their pound of flesh. In such a political situation, the politicians donot have time to devote to national issues or to think about national priorities and institutions. The Indian Defence establishment is one such institution that is facing the neglect by the people of India, and their duly elected representatives.

The VI pay commission has been a watershed event, and will be long remembered, because this is the first time that all three service chiefs defacto questioned the actions of the government, by apprising the government that they want their grievances looked at by the political establishment rather than the bureaucracy, and that is how it should always have been. The defence forces need to be controlled by the civilian establishment. This is well understood by the defence forces, and implies controlled by the people of India through their duly elected representatives, and not the bureaucrats. The services have been cutup that they had no representation on the Pay commission, despite the fact that this was brought to the notice of the government and was also a long standing demand of the defence. In addition, the defence forces comprise a large chunk of the Central Government employees and it is thus appropriate to have a representative from their ilk too - some one who understands their needs.

The government did not consider it necessary to have a member from the armed forces. This was considered grossly unfair. The service chiefs brought up some genuine grievances with the Defence Minister. A committee of secretaries was appointed to look into the grievances, and as expected, this committee did not do justice to the representation made by the three service chiefs. The service chiefs then had no option but to go back to the government and seek resolution from the political establishment and not the bureaucracy, which has a very personal agenda in lowering the status of the armed forces. The chiefs personally had nothing to gain from this. They had already been looked after by the Pay Commission. By representing to the government they were only trying to serve the interests of the people placed below them, as the men in uniform have no other means of representation, unlike their civilian counterparts. They cannot form unions, cannot protest or indulge in any other activity. With so many restrictions, it was only fair that their highest commanders speak up for them, which they did. For this, it is being felt that they may loose their chance of getting a plum post after retirement. However, their stand has been to the highest traditions of the armed forces where one's self interest always comes last after country,which is always first, followed by the men placed below you. So what? What's the big deal in all this?


The big deal is that there is an acute shortage of officers in the defence forces and young people are not joining, as the defence is not seen to be an attractive career when compared to other avenues available to the younger generation. The defence forces have a number of serving officers who are ready to quit, but are not being permitted to quit due to 'service exigencies', an all encompassing term that can mean anything and everything. It may be pertinent to mention that once you join the defence, you serve and leave only at the pleasure of the President of India. These officers are demoralised and likely to spread this disease to others around, and below them. This is not a healthy situation. We have a shortage of officers and we have serving officers who are not being allowed to leave, as there is no one to fill their vacancies. The morale is likely to be affected under such circumstances. This will definitely have an impact on the hands-on leadership of the military. Without good leadership how will these forces provide the requisite security to the nation, to its strategic interests, and to its core values?


We have not had a war for a long time now and this may be a reason for the present state of affairs, where it is being felt that we could do with a smaller military and the money saved could be better utilised for development and other social schemes. One thing that we need to learn from history is that no nation can prosper if it does not have the capability, and the will, to protect its interests. A professional defence force may never have to fight anyone, but the mere fact that it is capable and the nation has the will is enough to deter any other nation from imposing its will. Can't we do with a smaller military force?


With the economic growth that we are experiencing, and with the expansion of our overseas trade, it is vital that we have a larger, and improved military capability to cater for our strategic interests beyond geographical boundaries too. The defence forces are like an life insurance policy - you need it for that one eventuality and you cannot take it after the event. A professional defence force cannot be recruited and trained when the need arises. Therefore you have to maintain this institution as an insurance policy against foreign designs.

There is a need to settle all the issues post haste, although a lot of damage has already been done. In case the issues are not amicably resolved soon we may not be able to boast of an apolitical, professional and all volunteer military force. In such an eventuality we may have to legislate to conscript our citizens, whether willing or unwilling, to provide security to our national interests and that will be a very sad day for our nation of 110 crore people. Hope the people of India realise the importance of not letting this institution down at this critical juncture. A wise government would also uphold the actions of the three chiefs as in the best interests of the country and this only relatively corruption free institution. JAI HIND.

Monday, September 22, 2008

MILITARY RULE IN PAKISTAN?????????

The news from Pakistan this evening is not very encouraging on two counts. Firstly, the Americans sent in helicopter gunships into the Waziristan area in Pakistan to hunt down the terrorists. These were fired upon by the Pakistani troops. The President, the PM and the Chief of Army staff have all made announcements to the effect that they would defend the territorial integrity of Pakistan. This is probably the fifth US incursion in the month of September. This is worrying.
The second count, even more worrying, is the demand from a certain section of Pakistani society for ending the chaos in Pakistan by bringing in the Army. This is a very delicate scenario. The civilian government's future looks very uncertain. Military has ruled Pakistan successively for many years with brief interludes of civilian rule. The last army rule ended with General Musharraf hanging up his uniform after over eight years in office. Military rule has ensured that Pakistan has no viable civilian institutions that can govern the country. The coalition of the PPP and the PML(N) suffered a blow with the Presidential election announcement and thus the civilian government lacks legitimacy in the eyes of the people themselves. The people of Pakistan have only seen the corrupt face of the politicians. They seem to trust the military more than they trust their politicians. In this scenario, it is quite possible that the military may make a comeback with a new General incharge.
This would not be a healthy situation for Pakistan, and for India too. Pakistan and India both need a stable Pakistan, governed by a democratically elected government. Army rule may seem to be the most expedient at this juncture but would not bode well for Pakistan and India in the long term. Hope the situation resolves soon, before the people lose faith once again although I have my doubts that it would do. Hoping and praying that it does, for the sake of humanity on both sides of the border, and the world at large.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

THE PEOPLE OF INDIA AND TERRORISM

After the depressing post about the bombing in Pakistan yesterday, I was looking for something good to talk about and this came to me this morning in the form of an article written by M J Akbar in the Times of India. The paragraph that really verbalised my own thoughts is, and I am going to quote it verbatim as I could not have expressed it as well as Mr Akbar. "Terror is testing the resilience of the Indian government and the sagacity of the Indian people. The first is in shambles, but the second is holding up. The will of the people has become the safety net protecting the Indian state from the wont (a slightly archaic English word for normal behaviour) of Manmohan Singh and Shivraj Patil". Very well said Mr Akbar.

The government of India has failed to protect the people of India not only from the sinister attacks of the terrorists but also in providing them with the basic law and order, which is the primary function of the Executive branch of government. What is our government waiting for? The next elections? With their track record, even that seems to be a very distant dream.

However, what stands out as a model to emulate is the wisdom of the people of India who have not taken the bait thrown by the terrorists to drive a wedge between the communities. Well done India - I love you.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

BLASTS IN PAKISTAN

The breaking news this evening is about the blast at Marriott hotel in Pakistan, killing more than 40 people, critically injuring more, and injuring many more. The blasts have been so powerful that the hotel is still burning and it is suspected that the hotel may finally collapse. The crater created by this blast is more than six metres deep. This hotel happens to be in the high security zone of the capital of Pakistan. Before this blast, India has had its own set of blasts in Jaipur, Bangalore, Gujarat and Delhi. Many blasts have taken place all around the world since the Sep. 11 incidents. Notable amongst these have been the ones in Indonesia, Spain, UK, Philipines. This shows that the extremist elements of society today have the capability to hold the entire human race to ransom. What is it that drives these extremists to commit suicidal attacks and kill other innocents in the process? Who are they fighting against? Ordinary human beings or organised society at large? Is it religion, or religious intolerance? I heard a Pakistani gentleman speaking with a TV reporter. His innocent complaint seemed to be that 'the terrorists have not only killed foreigners, but our own Muslim brothers, kids and women'. Does it imply that it is okay to kill foreigners, but wrong to kill Muslims. Which is this religion that preaches this? As far as I understand it is religion that protects humans, and not the other way around. Every religion teaches one to love and respect God's creation - the God could be called Allah, Jesus, Krishna, Ram or whatever name one can call Him by - The Omniscient, The Omnipresent, The One and Only God who is responsible for this beautiful creation. In that sense we are all inter related - Vasudeva Kutumbam - one big family.
President Bush framed a phrase 'War on Terror' after the Sep. 11, 2001 incidents, and now everyone is using this phrase. In staff college, I was taught that 'wars are fought in the minds', not on the battlefields. Which are these minds that we are fighting this war against - they have been variously described as Islamic fundamentalists, terrorists, extremists etc. Who are these people? These are young people, often with advanced education these days. What is it that is in their minds? Who is responsible to have put such poisonous thoughts in their minds that has led them to destroy themselves, and others - always innocent people. What are they trying to achieve? There are many questions, but hardly any answers. Who has the answers? God only knows. Is He going to show us a way out, before it is too late. When I was young, I was told that God helps those who help themselves. I believe, God gave us a brain and intelligence to discern what is good and what is bad. I believe, what is good for His creation is good. His creation encompasses everything that we see around us. Irrespective of religion we have no right to destroy His creation. Religions are meant to unite, not divide. Intolerance can only beget misery for everyone. Let us all resolve to become tolerant of diverse thoughts and persuasions because that is what was probably our Creators intent.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A CITIZEN OF INDIA - RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

This is one issue that we, the people of India, need to understand, if we wish to make a mark as a nation. Every right that the Constitution has guaranteed to us as citizens comes with its own set of responsibilities. It is thus important for us not only to safeguard our rights but at the same time live up to our responsibilities that come with those rights. We have a right to speak what we have on our mind, and so does every one else around us. It is our responsibility to permit everyone else to exercise the right of freedom of speech. We cannot judge what other people are speaking. We have a law that should be allowed to function to ensure that nobody tramples on the rights of others.
The provocation for this outburst is the behaviour of Raj Thackerey and his goons. They have become the custodians of Maharashtra and Mumbai and have taken unto themselves to decide who can live and work in the city of Mumbai, what language they can speak in etc. It is a sad state that they can engage in hooliganism, damage private and public property without anyone trying to control them. The police has the means to prevent this kind of shameful behaviour but does not do so. You can see images of Mr Thackerey's goons tearing up posters of the Bachhan family, damaging property in movie halls displaying Bachhan movies. This is wholly unacceptable behaviour. The reason for this atrocious behaviour is Mrs Bachhan speaking in Hindi at a function, and then in a light hearted manner seeking apology from the people of Maharashtra. Mrs Bachhan has thereafter apologised, her husband has apologised, although an apology was not called for. The whole episode has snowballed into such a controversy that the premiere of a Bachhan film had to be postponed. This is really sad.
I wonder how can Thackerey decide these issues when the constitution of India gives every citizen the right, including him, to speak and do things freely anywhere in the country. Who is Thackerey to decide who can live in Mumbai and what language he needs to speak. I was born in a Punjabi family and am thus a Punjabi. I studied in English medium schools, and thus English became my thinking language. I joined the Indian Air Force and swore to protect the integrity, and core values of the country, as enshrined in the constitution. I learnt Hindi, as this is our national language, as per our constitution. I travelled all over India while I was in the IAF - from Siachin glacier to Trivandrum and from Jamnagar to Dibrugarh. I have lived in most states of India but could never learn more than the three languages that I know. Am I not eligible to settle in any part of the country, if I donot learn the local language. I vowed to protect this land, irrespective of what language the people spoke. I am aware that my constitution celebrates pluralism and recognises the immense diversity of India and thus never question what someone does or speaks as long my rights are not violated. There are many Maharashtrians who are living outside Mumbai and Maharashtra. Are they now required to learn the local language, as per Thackerey's thinking. In such times it is important that Maharashtrian people speak and reject this kind of a gimmick by Thackerey. Shiv Khera's saying is very apt for such acts. I believe the saying says 'Protect your neighbour from atrocity because if you donot then tomorrow it may be your turn'. This is our country and we need to protect our rights without trampling on the rights of others.
I served in the IAF, and like all other transferable Central government jobs travelled all over India. The constitution guarantees that I could live and travel anywhere, practice any religion, speak any language and many more such guarantees. We have a government that is expected to safeguard the guarantees given to the citizens. Why does it not act? What stops our executive branch of government from enforcing the laid down law? I have no doubts in my mind that the government has the requisite authority, and capability to deal with such situations. However, the will seems to be lacking everytime a political party is involved. Why? I see the same police lathi charging ordinary citizens who stage a protest or insist on meeting their political leaders. A TEACHER died in such a lathi charge recently. The merciless beating of teachers and the blood made a gory sight. Why can't the police do the same with political goons?
Law and order is a state subject and so the centre cannot intervene. This is one problem area that needs to be addressed. Our national parties are in decline and the political space is being occupied more and more by regional parties. These parties donot care very much for what the constitution says. They try and incite people on local issues and create more and more centrifugal forces politically, and this is likely to worsen in the coming years. We would need to find some way to safeguard the rights guaranteed in the constitution, specially if these outward pulling parties come to power in the states. As citizens, we must safeguard our rights and also those of our fellow citizens, because we all have the same rights - nothing less, nothing more.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

LET KASHMIR GO????????

68% Indians say NO to the above question, as per the Sunday Times headlines today. This survey was conducted by Times of India in 9 cities across India. The highest in any city - 88% of those surveyed in Hyderabad said no. This proves that Indians want Kashmir to continue to be a part of India. Why is that so?

A similar question was asked to me by a Pakistani Doctor when I was living in Toronto, Canada. We met on a number of occasions and became intellectually attracted to each other. Normally we used to avoid anything controversial in our conversations - he was aware that I had been a fighter pilot with the Indian Air Force. One day out of the blue he asked me about Kashmir. He mentioned that Kashmir was a Muslim majority state ruled by a Hindu ruler at the time of partition. He also said that Junagadh and Hyderabad were exactly the opposite and that the rulers had wanted to accede to Pakistan, but India had forcibly annexed them. By the same logic, Kashmir belonged to Pakistan. I kept quiet, not wanting to get into a debate with him. He again asked me 'Will India ever give up on Kashmir, because if India gives up Kashmir, then the two nations can come closer'. I had to respond this time and the only answer that I could give him was that this will never happen. 'Why?' was the next question. The answer was that Pakistan was formed as a Muslim majority country, and has since become an Islamic country, as per the wishes of M A Jinnah, whereas India was formed as, and still is, a secular country, where every religion was practised and there was no state religion. In case India gave up on Kashmir, it would be a big blow to secularism, and our democracy. Pakistan wanted to prove that religion was the basis of nationhood and that is the reason why Pakistan cannot give up on Kashmir. It had become even more important for Pakistan to prove this after the formation of Bangladesh.
The formation of Bangladesh in 1971 was the major event that proved that religion alone cannot be the basis for the existence of a modern state. A modern state needed some more rational and practical reasons for its existence. Religion was a very personal matter and governed only one's own connection with one's Creator. It taught us values that are very dear to our Creator. However, we still needed practical laws to govern our day to day life in this widely diverse universe. This part was provided by the modern nation state - the more liberal, the better. Why? It is only in a liberal setup that we can reconcile the widely divergent views and opinions of ordinary humans. Indian democracy has proven that diversity can be best managed, and governed, through a democratic setup. I do hope that our neighbours see the benefits of a democratic form of governance. This will definitely help them govern their own citizens better, and will also indirectly benefit India too.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

INDIA AT 61

On the 61st anniversary of our Independence, I got this sms from a friend that very nearly summed up my thoughts about my India, in 2008. The sms duly adapted, read........H_indu, Musl_m, S_kh, _sa_, Ja_n, Pars_, Buddh_st, Punjab_, Bengal_, Madras_, Marath_, Kashmir_, etc. etc. See how we loose our _DENT_TY and UN_TY when we forget the 'I' for Indian. Happy Independence Day 2008.
India stands out in the world today as a country that celebrates pluralism and multi-culturism. I believe India is the only country in the world that comprises of many nations that have come together as a civilization and formed a modern political state. Our constitution gives us all the rights of a free country. These rights are very important to each one of us. However, with each right come a number of responsibilities. This is a lesson that we are learning, but very slowly. Some of us, including myself, get exasperated at our attitude towards rights and responsibilities. We tend to quote our experiences in the western democratic world and want India to be fashioned in the good that we have seen there. Well I hope that it would happen, but I also do know that it won't in my lifetime. Why? Simply because we are 1.1 billion strong with a diversity in every term that would terrorise any administrator. We have the poorest and the richest, we have all shades of black, white and grey, we have people practising all religions of the world, we have the most illiterate people and the brightest stars in the world, we have the cleanest homes and the dirtiest surroundings, we value our property and also our encroachments on public property, we question every rule and law even though we know why we need it when it does not suit us and at the same time we throw the rule book at some one who breaks the rules if it does not suit us, we teach honesty to our kids and are dishonest in our lives, we have political leaders who preach patriotism but are not patriotic.......the list goes on and on. Inspite of this, India is a unique country. It is, I believe, God's own favourite creation in which he wanted to showcase the ultimate in diversity and how this diverse humanity, and other life too, can co-exist in ways that are uniquely Indian. I love this creation of God. Long live India, my India. It has many faults; I don't like many things about it, but I love its majestic acceptance of God's will, always and everytime.