Saturday, 30 August 2014

Terror : The Guilty, And The Innocent...


"This ignored the lesson from Afghanistan (where the CIA in the 1980s ran, via Pakistan, the largest covert operation in its history) — that inciting jihad and arming “holy warriors” creates a deadly cocktail, with far-reaching and long-lasting impacts on international security. The Reagan administration openly used Islam as an ideological tool to spur armed resistance to Soviet forces in Afghanistan

In 1985, at a White House ceremony in honour of several Afghan mujahideen — the jihadists out of which al-Qaeda evolved — President Ronald Reagan declared, “These gentlemen are the moral equivalent of America’s Founding Fathers.” Earlier in 1982, Reagan dedicated the space shuttle ‘Columbia’ to the Afghan resistance. He declared, “Just as the Columbia, we think, represents man’s finest aspirations in the field of science and technology, so too does the struggle of the Afghan people represent man’s highest aspirations for freedom. I am dedicating, on behalf of the American people, the March 22 launch of the Columbia to the people of Afghanistan.”

The Afghan war veterans came to haunt the security of many countries. Less known is the fact that the Islamic State’s self-declared caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — like Libyan militia leader Abdelhakim Belhadj (whom the CIA abducted and subjected to “extraordinary rendition”) and Chechen terrorist leader Airat Vakhitov — become radicalised while under U.S. detention. As torture chambers, U.S. detention centres have served as pressure cookers for extremism.


Had the U.S. and its allies refrained from arming jihadists to topple Mr. Assad, would the Islamic State have emerged as a lethal, marauding force? And would large swaths of upstream territory along the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers in Syria and Iraq have fallen into this monster’s control? The exigencies of the topple-Assad campaign also prompted the Obama administration to turn a blind eye to the flow of Gulf and Turkish aid to the Islamic State.


In fact, the Obama team, until recently, viewed the Islamic State as a “good” terrorist organisation in Syria but a “bad” one in Iraq, especially when it threatened to overrun the Kurdish regional capital, Erbil. In January, Mr. Obama famously dismissed the Islamic State as a local “JV team” trying to imitate al-Qaeda but without the capacity to be a threat to America. It was only after the public outrage in the U.S. over the video-recorded execution of American journalist James Foley and the flight of Iraqi Christians and Yazidis that the White House re-evaluated the threat posed by the Islamic State"

At long last, someone from Mainstream Media has found the guts to publish what has been common knowledge; the World's best known and worst kept open secret. {If there have been any other articles, I have missed them}. Of note is the statement from 1985 - all the more so since that directly impacted India. Full marks to The Hindu and Mr Brahma Chellaney for this stupendous article. 

You can call these guys Jihadists, or Extremists, or Terrorists - or whatever else passes your fancy. You can now label them as an international threat, a threat to world peace, and what-not. You can now pass judgement on them, and plan their extermination and defeat - now that they are threatening you. You can now call yourselves as fighting against terror, now that the terror has come to hit your nations - I am referring to the USA and any other nations that helped these terrorists in the early days. 

Who gave these terrorists arms in the first place? How is it that these dangers to world peace are armed with the most sophisticated of weapons? How did they make the contacts and processes needed to procure these ultra-modern equipment such that they now sport? How did these weapons reach these terrorists? How is it that in this modern world, sophisticated weaponry is reaching these unsophisticated people? How did it all start? 




When we were warning of what is happening; when we were providing proof of the diversion of the arms to fighting India and instilling terror in India, these very same great Western powers placidly looked away. When blood was flowing in my country, no one cared; while the West continued in its myopic stupidity, supporting dictator after dictator; intervening in nation after nation. 

Then, the moment the monster turned around to attack the West, these freedom fighters became terrorists! And what do you do? Of Course, make the 2 nations  which were creating them the ringleaders in the anti-terror war; with the one nation that has paid a higher price for the follies of the West - My India - being ignored yet again. 

Dont get me wrong - I am thankful The Great West ignored me again. After seeing the price of "help" and "intervention" form the West, {Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan etc}; I would much rather be ignored than be a friend of such short-sighted and self-centered regimes like the USA etc! I would much rather have an arms-length no intervention relationship with these great helpers. 

Why should these Great Western Powers intervene in other nations? In each and every case, a people relatively at peace {albeit under despots} were ripped apart, their peace destroyed, their economy wrecked, their society in tatters, the future of their children completely destroyed, and all because one Western Power thought it would "help" internal dissatisfied elements in these despotic regimes.

This "Help" has created a cesspool of misery, compared to which what these nations had before intervention was decidedly better and preferable. At least they had a life, an economy, a society and a future for their children. The disenfranchised too, had  a hope - that their struggle will ensure a future for their children - if not in their current country, then elsewhere. Now, as things stand today, all hope is destroyed for everyone in that part of the world. 
  
All because one Great Western Power {or a few powers} decided to "help" things along by "empowering" the dissatisfied elements, setting in motion a chain of events that has now come back to haunt everyone. A chain of terrifying events that now has  control; that has grown into a Frankenstein.  So tell me, who is responsible? Only the terrorists from the Middle East? 

Would the ISI be such a threat if it werent for the training of the CIA? Would the Pakistani terror factory be so efficient were it not for the free instructions, training and arms received during the Afghan campaign? Would so much blood have flowed if the West had kept its noses out of places where it did not belong? Would the Jihad factory  be what it is today without all this? 

So  tell me - who is the Guilty Party? Who is the real Innocent Party here? I can see only one innocent party - The Sovereign, Secular, Democratic Republic Of India. That is it. If the monster is now attacking Pakistan, and The West, it is only turning back on its creators. But in all this, My India has paid a heavy price. 

And, till date 2014, not one Western Leader has appreciated what India has gone through ever since The Afghan Covert Operation began in the Mid-80s. A knife at our throats, drawing blood every single day. Each and every single day; a price paid in blood by our citizens numbering in thousands. But why should they appreciate? It isnt their blood...


Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Do We Have Our Priorities Right?

Do We, As A People, Have Our Priorities Right?


This seems, at first glance, a strange - if not outright stupid - question to  ask. Especially considering that we together have just voted out a Government that hadn't covered itself in glory. With the way events are seemingly coming together into a whole, an undivided and clear whole with a clear direction, giving the nation renewed hope and vigour, and driving up sentiment in nearly every sector that we care to examine; any question of misplaced priorities seems far-fetched at best, and pessimistic thinking at worst. 

I do not deny that the steps taken by this Government have been, by and large, excellent and welcome, despite a few worries here and there. We seem to have in place a much better Government than the previous one, for which we should be thankful. Credit where credit is due. This article does not intend to cast any aspersions on the Government at the center. The point is not the Government; it is we, the people. 

How do we set our priorities? How do we collectively prioritise the importance of things on a national scale? Do we actually place the correct importance on the most vital aspects that need Governance? Or do we get distracted by the non-essential, or sub-optimal, or less vital matters? I wish I could state that we set our priorities in the right order. But that is a statement that I must deny in its totality, based on current and present evidence. 

Among the challenges facing the Indian Nation are Education, Health, Defense Preparedness, Economy and Governance. On each of these parameters, there is a clear absence of the proper perspective and priority, based on the national discourse in Media, Social Media, Newspapers and Discussions with the Person On The Street. To be frank, not one of these topics is on the discussion or even attention of the populace at large. The standard statement I run across is "Achhe Din Aayenge, Intezaar Karo". But very, very few people I have met have attempted to analyse how will these good days come about? And what needs to be done to realise them? And fewer still realise the power of a national discourse on these matters, and its ability to impact the national policy in these matters. 

We tend to eulogise and go gaga over some simple changes, and blow them out of all proportion. A case in point is a recent headline of how the Government staff is now coming in on time. This, a matter of basic discipline in offices, is touted as an achievement by the people and the Media; something NaMo, the Man Himself,  finds ludicrous. I understand the frustration and the sense of elation that is inevitable, that at last we have a leader who is now thinking of accountability among the Governmental staff. 

This, and other such cosmetic and minor changes, are hyped up; which is not bad - a nation that was used to uncaring public servants needed this elation and this sense of liberation. That is beyond  question. Positivity drives positivity. Similar are other streamlining measures that have been taken by this Government - each decision and step being in itself a generally highly laudable and praiseworthy step. Similar is the case in the economy, or most other sectors. At last, there is a sense of direction and a feeling of hope, which is frankly vital. 

The question is whether we should remain satisfied with such unimportant and cosmetic changes, and continue with our lives - or should we now set about raising the bar a notch {several notches, in fact}, and begin demanding what is ours by right : Education, Health, Defense etc? We have a Government that is set on proving its superiority over the previous one, and has taken some right steps. Rather than allow it to rest on its laurels, we should raise the level of our expectations, which does not seem to be happening. 

There have been no real reforms undertaken, or even indicated, by this Government as on date. If they are in the pipeline, I as a public member am not aware of them. Be it the Economy or the Education sector - nothing has been heard of real change. The major economic reforms are still stymied; in education, there is no hint of a focus on primary and secondary education. There is no hint of a war on corruption, with only the odd mention of an investigation or success in Swiss Banks or such like. Police and Administrative reforms are still not mentioned, while interestingly, the Government shows haste in Judicial Reforms. And we accept all this in silence. 

More worrying is the status of the Armed Forces. Report after Report has clearly pointed out the worrying state of the Arms and Ammunition of the Armed Forces of India. Several Armed Forces officers have spoken about it in no uncertain terms. We are short on Ammunitions,  Arms, Weapons Delivery Systems etc in a range of areas. This is public knowledge, well reported and covered. 

And yet, there is no hint of concern in the public, no hint of questioning the Government, or telling / informing our political leaders through various means available to us. There is no hint of any pressure on this Government, which has shown precious little signs of taking the much needed basic corrective measures, and seems to be by all reports on a fire-fighting mode, ignoring the structural corrections that need to be taken - like increasing GDP spend on Education and Health, Defense; Appointing the CDS, Reforming MoD, and many other basic structural corrections that are needed. 

I have heard conversations,  read WhatsApp messages, read social media updates and posts, read articles on mainstream media on any number of lesser important issues, but precisely nothing on these matters. I have read and felt the pride and joy of The Ganga Arti {Yes, I liked it, too}, I have felt the pride and joy of a Prime Minister kneeling on the steps of the Parliament, and touching his head to the ground; I have read  about how good days will come, I have read reels about the PMs  good deeds, and so on and so forth. I have read right-wing Hindu messages, which focus on the frankly peripheral matter of a Hindu revival; I have read pages upon pages of the discipline in public servants; I have read volumes on how Pakistan and USA have been put in their place. 

But I have heard nothing - repeat, nothing - on any of these vital parameters identified above, or indeed any number of other important matters that need national attention. Why dont we circulate messages, updates, write articles etc on what our nation really needs? Why are we as a people abdicating our responsibilities as responsible citizens? Why is being a Hindu PM deemed more important than being a performing PM? Why not circulate messages on these vital parameters, as we do other messages to "awaken" people, say, on WhatsApp, of the kind we normally send? If we can send messages on say, something offensive to our religion {which we do}, why cant we also send messages etc on these vital parameters? 

Our sad and unfortunate penchant of focusing on the unimportant and the peripheral over serious matters is a cause of worry. Do we prioritise, say,  protecting the tenets of our religion over that of the nation? Do we prioritise  simple basic discipline over hardcore reforms? Why doesnt the status of the Armed Forces create much passion in our minds and hearts as do other less important things, like religion, or an Arti, or tackling a foreign nation, or kneeling in front of parliament? Is this right? Do we have our priorities right? 

Sunday, 24 August 2014

My Journey Back To My Culture : My Favourite Marathi Songs

The 12th Article in the Culture Series

As I noted in my previous post on this , Marathi Article : Pull Of The Mother Tongue, "It is still early days - but technology is working its wonderful way in more ways than one..." The advent of various channels of communication, technological platforms and solutions, like Gaana, Hungama, Youtube, Nokia Music, Television Channels, Mobiles, Bluetooth, affordable memory cards etc   alongwith easy availability data connectivity at decent speeds is leading to people outside the native cultural spectrum to experiment with their culture and its nuances, arts and music. This is driving a reverse trend, with an increasing number of people coming back to the Mother Tongue, an interesting backlash to the increasing westernisation of our society. 

This :is how my experimentation started; A friend introduced me to a song on his mobile that stunned me, brought tears to my eyes; bluetooth ensured I got a copy of the same on my mobile;  This song which almost stills my heart whenever I listen to it is : Damlelyaa Baabaachi Hi Kahaani Tulaa



The introduction led to me surfing to find the first part of the above song {Door Deshi Gelaa Baabaa} I first saw this song as it starred my favourite Marathi pairing of Mukta Barve and Swapnil Joshi - and fell in love with it : which fast became my top favourite across all languages. This song now stands as the single best number I have ever heard in any music, in my opinion : Sar Sukhaachi Shravani Ke Naachraa Valiv Haa, Guntanyaa Atur Phiruni Aaz Vedaa Jeev Haa 



The list of videos on youtube guided me to another Swapnil Joshi starrer : a song with a powerful rhythm, and a quality, a haunting quality that draws you into the song, making it a near-unforgettable number with awesome music :  Devaa Tujhyaa Gaabhaaryaalaa Umbaraach Naahi, Saang Kuthe Theu Maathaa Kalanaach Kaahi...



These are the 3 songs that made me fall in love with Marathi Music, and make it the top-listened to language in my repertoir. I do not know why this is so, why does my mother tongue gel  with me so much... is it because of its freshness, as I have been away from the culture and the arts of my mother tongue for years; or is it because of the perceived purity of the music, which is devoid of western influences? Or is it something much deeper, relating to how my brain responds to my mother tongue? I do not know... but I have chronicled my journey just as it happened; The rest of the songs that are my top favourites, that lead to my continued attachment to my mother tongue's music  are :



Saang Naa Re Manaa : from the film Zenda



Malaa Ved Laagale Premache - Timepass




Man Aaz Naa Maazhe Raahile : Davpench




Malaa Saang Naa Re Manaa - Sharyat



Saazni : 



Kaa Kalenaa Kontyaa Kshani Haravte Man Kashe : Mumbai-Pune-Mumbai





And this one : making a list with a stunner at the start, and a stunner at the end : 


Nirbhay Manaane Zagnaar Mee : Satyamev Jayate : 



The point is not that these songs are the best: these are the ones that have pulled me into the matchless beauty - or what I perceive to be the matchless beauty of Marathi Music. Each has something unique, some individual quality to it; together they cover a range of emotions; further - there are other songs I have heard, but these stand out; these are the ones whose tunes I hum daily.  

What is most interesting is that I am not alone; I have met others who are closer to their culture, thanks to the pulls of Modern Life, and the exposure that technology gives. This may be a slight repetition of my previous article; but in my opinion it bears reiteration, given the exposure to westernization, and the hype around increasing inroads of western culture that is prevalent. The reverse also seems to be happening : Indians are coming closer to their parent culture, to their roots... aided by the tools of Modern Technology...

Saturday, 16 August 2014

NaMo : Excelling on Independence Day; But....

It is rare indeed when a political leader truly connects with the masses; it is rarer still when he both connects with, and rips into the masses and their habits, holding them singularly responsible for a number of habits... This is what Shri Narendra Modi achieved on the 15th of August 2014 from the ramparts of The Red Fort, New Delhi...


At the outset, let me concede that I was extremely lucky on 2 counts : first, I happened to read the speech before I listened to it; and two - I was extremely lucky to see this day with my eyes, and listen to it with my ears. Not because of what some people say - "Vande Mataram, Hindi Speech etc"; but because of some other reasons that I shall detail in this post. I started listening to it on youtube,, but stopped midway - around 14:00 - when the sheer power of his skills in oration began clouding by ability to judge. Our PM is a truly magical persona, indeed... proud to be Indian at this moment...

I subsequently listen to the entire speech, and was truly glad that I did both - read it first, and listened to the speech as well. It was one of the most original, brilliant single pieces of oratory one is likely to see; it was combined with a genuine approach towards the subject matter - at no point was it contrived, or made up. The effort seemed genuine!

Before we go ahead, let us take a look at the bullet points of his speech from www.livemint.com : PM Speech 15 Aug :

  1. Pradhan Sevak
  2. Nation built by people; Respect Indian Constitution 
  3. Ancient Heritage; Consensus - Not Majority
  4. Dysnfunctional, infighting Bureaucracy
  5. Selfish Masses - I-Me-Myselfism
  6. Rape : Why not ask men and hold them accountable at home, in place of {or in addition to} protecting women?
  7. Nepal example; shed violence; connect with Democracy
  8. Shun Communalism
  9. Sex Ratio; Societal Imbalance; Contribution of Women
  10. Development, Good Governance, People should be service oriented
  11. Bank Account For All
  12. Skill Development
  13. Made In India
  14. Indian Image transformed by our professionals
  15. Cleaniless, filth everywhere; Drive to clean it up
  16. Model Village; schemes not by personality names, but by Sansad
  17. Active involvement of States, Federalism, No Planning Commission
  18. Defeat Poverty by SAARC together

Looked at it in such  a dispassionate manner, bulletted and enumerated : a few points become immediately visible even to the untrained eye. But more of that later; first  let me concentrate on the PM's delivery skills a bit more. I dont profess to explain it: not possible for me; but he does have almost  a magical pull, a charm about him that forces people to listen to him - that is beyond contest. The way he went about it, and his presentation was tremendous, and well-thought out.

It has been called an extempore speech; I dont think so. It was delivered, or rather - it seemed to be delivered extemporaneously, and spontaneously; but the thought and effort was showing. It was not apparent in the speech; but when you read it - it jumps at you. A good deal of thought, effort and planning went into it; which makes it all the more impressive - as it means that Shri Narendra Modi was intent on sending a message to all Indians on the occasion of Independence Day; He was also sending a clear message to the world as well as Indians. He was blasting his citizens for their ridiculous habits - and I can only feel a tinge of sadness. No pride, just shame and sadness at some of the content...

It is a sad day indeed when the Prime Minister of a nation has to exhort the country for such mundane items as Cleanliness, How to treat Women, Selfishness of the masses, Rape, Sex Ratio... how far have we fallen? How far indeed? I do recall Modiji also saying the same words, or words to that effect. Those words jolted me;  indeed he is right. What have we as a people become? How sad a condition it is if the Prime Minister is having to talk of such things? He held up a mirror to the masses - and the image in it was ugly. 

The good part is that it was nice to see someone of his stature stand up and rip off the mask of propriety from the citizenry in no uncertain terms; it felt good to see Modiji rip off the mask from the farce of Governance we had earlier, and showcase attempts to set things right. Best of all, prima facie, based on current evidence, this is being done by simple tactics without a witch hunt. Will it have an impact? I hope so, given his fan-following and his oratory skills, his tremendous connect with the masses. I am keeping my fingers crossed. 

For the rest, the speech focused on Skill Development, Manufacturing and Industry, & Bank Accounts for all; reams have been written about this in other articles, so I shall not dwell much on this, except to make a couple of observations on Made in India dream - this addresses a significant issue in our economy, or set of issues, rather - if we pull it off, it will be great; and there is no reason why we cant. 

Moving on, I dont agree with other analysts on the lack of substance. Sure, he could have been more specific, and focused on the nitty-gritty : making business environment simpler, introducing GST, etc etc. It has to be remembered that this is not a planning meeting; this is a national address. Such sessions have to, perforce, be high on ideals and goals, and low on the practicalities and the nuts-n-bolts.  This was a vision statement for the nation, as well as a not-so-gentle reminder of our faults from the Head Of The Family. And like it or not, Shri Narendra Modi is the Head Of Our Family, our Prime Minister : whether or not you voted for him. 

And that is where the problem lies. In Skill Development, there was no mention of primary and secondary school education or its quality - let alone plans to address this. The focus lay elsewhere. There was no mention of this serious issue. The vision statement was  totally silent on health issues, and lack of facilities in rural areas. It made no mention of these vital parameters, and related aspects - schools and PHCs in villages - taking education and Health to the masses; this is where the real concentration should have been. It made mention of Bank Accounts and Toilets - but no hint of education and medicine. This is worrying. No mention of rising prices : the single biggest issue facing us in the near term. 

It was totally silent on Corruption - not one word. Not one single word; not even a homily to the masses to stop paying a bribe. If you can exhort the masses to treat women better, clean your cities etc- why cant you attend to this as well? It would have been a relatively easy thing to do; and yet - it was totally ignored. It made not even one observation on the quality of politicians who govern our nation and on the criminalisation of politics. Nothing, nada, zilch. I wonder why? 

Corruption, Education & Health  plus Prices are all as important as toilets and Skill Development; in such a fantastic speech that was genuine and hit all the right notes, these omissions were jarring, leading me to wonder - are we going wrong in our single minded chase to become a developed nation? What about inclusive growth? For, one thing is clear : The focus was development as a people, and development as a nation. Poverty was both mentioned as well as focused -  but the specifics and the practicalities touched upon in the speech did not gel with the goal of poverty eradication. True, these might be taken up later on in the real world - but nevertheless the omission was a jarring note; it needed a mention of these 3 aspects as well... as these are the biggest issues facing India at the moment. 

The reason - there is simply no way or earth that poverty can be reduced without good schools & hospitals where the people need them, at a price they can afford... these, along with corruption, are our biggest problems. And our Prime Minister was silent on these points, which struck the only jarring note in an otherwise flawless speech that was loaded with pertinent and excellent content.. I can only hope that these are on the radar, and will be attended to alongwith the other practicalities... 

Please do update me in case I have missed something, and the negatives were also mentioned; I have no intention of being wrong

Friday, 15 August 2014

Book Review : The Karachi Deception


THE KARACHI DECEPTION : SHATRUJEET NATH


THE PLOT
The Karachi Deception is based on a seemingly simple plot to "take  care" of India's most wanted man, a certain runaway gangster and terrorist going by the name of Irshad Dilawar. Dilawar is being serenaded with some glee by our next door neighbour and enemy Pakistan, which makes the "take care" bit a more than slightly demanding operation. An Army General and an intelligence honcho come together to craft the aptly-named Project Abhimanyu; not only that, they manage to convince a vacillating Government that this needs to be done, and it can be done. The Instructions are crystal clear : "Dont Do It. Permission Denied. What I dont Know Wont Hurt Me." Well, The General and The Honcho sadly {or happily, depending upon your POV} catch onto the last sentence, and consider it excellent actionable advice... and thus starts the saga of the Karachi Deception...

3 commandos are selected to carry out the mission, under the command of a Colonel. Highly trained and decorated veterans... but wait a minute. What's a newbie doing in this august company? A totally new face who is unknown to everyone, and who seems green and over-eager to boot is not exactly the confidence-inspiring tough-as-nails soldier you need in a mission  that is carried out deep in enemy territory. So what is going on here? And who informs our "friends" the Pakistanis of the incoming commando raid? What is going on? And more to the point, why is it going on  in the first place? 

To top it all, Mr Dilawar has managed to win friends and influence people in his host nation just the way he did in his mother nation. This includes everyone's favourite Uncle - Uncle Sam, also known as Unka Sammy, Mr Bully and USA, who {which????} has again been  treated to a most unfavourable portrayal. Wow, Mr USA does know how to win friends and influence people! These new friends of his are so happy with their guest, they pool in to gift him a Lead Sandwich, if you get my point. Now why on earth would you want to do away with the single greatest insult to India if you are a Pakistani is a question that straightaway occurs to everyone! As I observed above, what is going on? And more to the point, why is it going on  in the first place? 


THE CHARACTERS

Major-General Dixit : Best keep him to the war-front; but more than capable elsewhere as well
Colonel Mohan : Tough, period. Extremely capable. 
Major Shamsheer : Team Leader, with a 24th sense
Captain Imtiaz : Pure Gold
Lieutenant Rafiq : Question Mark
Haider Nazir : ISI, Diplomat in that order

Some people  are best left discovered by yourselves... 


THE ANALYSIS

This is one of the most, if not the most, slick and superb intelligence capers I have read  in my life; sleek, swift and superbly crafted together. The story is a decently paced narrative that is not too slow, nor too fast - giving ample space for the proper buildup, detailing and background descriptions. These have been skillfully done, and add to the overall mystery and suspense. The charactarisation is adequate for the story, and is a vital aspect of the plot. The entire book is a masterpiece,  and I rate it 5 stars. One of the best fiction books I have read, to be precise. 

There is a total absence of obscenity and vulagarity in the book, unlike some other authors - both Indian as well as Western. There are no diversions of any kind, not even the female kind. This makes for a taut narrative, and a tightly knitted story with a powerful punch. The focused approach is a thing of sheer beauty, making for a thoroughly  enjoyable read, and a book that can be re-read any number of times. This is a book  that belongs in your collection....

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The Curse Of Poverty - 4

The Date : Today - The 5th Of August, 2014
Place 1 : Kalyan Railway Station, Foot Overboard 8:10 AM
Place 2 : Kalyan Railway Station, Snack Counter 3:30 PM
Place 3 : Kalyan Railway Station, Auto Line 18:30 PM

These are the thoughts that flow through my head on some occasions when I see a beggar {not always, to be frank}. It may seem disjointed, but these are the thoughts that have streamed through my brain yet again today... as always, I document these thoughts in "The Curse Of Poverty Series". This is the 4th Article in this series.

It was just another day for me; just another day. It was just another day when I was rushing to catch my local train to my office; as is usual in Mumbai, it was rush time, raining hard - and there was a genuine fear that if I miss my local it meant being late by a considerable period, given the possibility of stoppage and cancellations - or delays. I was {unusually for me} almost running, when I was halted in my tracks. 

An old lady had spread her "padar" in front of me, looking for alms. I was about to brush her off, but something stopped me. I dont know what it was, but I was halted in my tracks. I looked at her, and recalled that I routinely spend far more on personal effects... I can spend 100+ for my pleasure, but cant spare even a single rupee for the needy. Just that thought came to me, and I automatically opened up and gave her some money. I wasnt much, but it was a rupee. It was several rupees - enough for her to get a vada paav. 

I was on a market visit in Kalyan, when I was snacking up. I saw a young person who could not eat for want of money. I dont know why, but I asked the shopkeeper to give him a puri-bhaaji worth Rs 10. This was around sometime in the afternoon. In the evening, when standing in line, the whole line was approached by a beggar, who wanted something to eat. He was hungry, you could see it in his eyes. I wanted to give him something as well, so I gave him a 2-Re coin. I wasnt much, but it was something. 

It was when I was handing him the coin, it occurred to me more powerfully than ever before - that we face an impossible task in front of us. It is not possible for me to give to everyone who approaches me; and this thought drove me to tears. I was literally crying, my eyes filled with tears at the desperation felt by the poor people. But more than that, I was driven to years - literal tears - by the abject apathy of the people around me. And by the memory of the way I normally try and ignore these people, despite feeling a gnawing pain and sickening feeling in my heart and my conscience whenever I spot the hopelessness around me.

Fact of the matter is that I too, just like the people around me, ignore or look away from such people. Why? Because it hurts.  It hurts, damnit. It pinches, and takes away your sleep. I spend a kings ranson on my Headphones, my Smartphone, my visits to my home, my food, my family - it is always me - me - me - me - me. Always me. Is this wrong - no it isnt; I work for my family and myself, for our future. But surely, surely, I can spare the occasional 10-Rupee note for someone needy. That wont hurt, will it? 

I wont claim lofty idealistic claims like "My heart felt nice on giving" or such sentimental drivel. Truth be told, my heart was heavy even after giving, as I realised I cannot do anything of any real value, neither can I give to everyone who approaches me. Truth be told, there was even a fleeting thought in my mind : "I did something nice today" - which takes away any credit that I might deserve : true giving means you do it out of your feeling for the destitute- not for any good-feel for yourself. 

You can claim that these people are great actors, they are great cons out to relieve you of your money. You can also claim that these people are in the hands of evil gangs who force them to beg, and then take away the money - a syndicated begging gang. To these people : I have the following observations... {I freely admit to being guilty of this behaviour as well... }

Scenario - 1: They are part of a Gang
Fine, you dont give them money. Are these - aah - gang members rich? Of Course they are. They have a 3-story house on Worli Seaface, A Mercedes E-Class, bank balance of 75 Crores. They eat 3-course meals 3 times a day. Of course, they dont need the money...

Ya, Right. I stand corrected. These "gang members" are super-duper rich and can finance our budget deficit - the entire 5.5% fiscal deficit. So right all of you are!


Scenario - 2: They are part of a Gang and are not rich
If, supposing (Of course, I have already granted that some of these - aah -  poor people - are Ambanis, Tatas, Birlas, Premjis and Mittals who live deprived lives cause they l-o-v-e to. This current scenario is just purely whimsical.... so bear with me)...

Now where was I? Aah, yes. Supposing.

Let us consider the impossible supposition that some of them are - shall we say, 0.0000001% of them - are genuinely poor, and do this since they are forced by the "Gangs"

You dont give them money. What do you think happens? Kyaa samjhe ho- Gabbar bahut Khus hogaa? Sabaasi Dega? Or is this highly "praiseworthy" moralistic and legally correct behaviour going to cause them some trouble? If they are a Gang, do you think they will be treated well? 

Thanks be to God that there are some people who give these criminals - oh, yes - criminals on a scale greater than our beloved scam worthy netas and crooks - some alms. God Bless them - whoever gives these criminals against society some alms. It saves them from beatings and torture. 

But then, why should anyone care? Begging is illegal. They are criminals. Right?



Scenario - 3: Some of them are genuinely poor...
Dont worry, No rant here. Just a very simple task. 

Identify which beggar is the "Mafia Ganglord" and Beggar-Mafia member - and who is a genuine person in need 100% of the time. Each time, every time. 

Easy, isnt it? These criminals against society have printed or tattooed on their foreheads in large english capitals (Remember? E-Class Mercedes, Worli House - so they are educated in Public Schools)

There, you interrupted me again. These criminals against society bear large tattoos in english capitals like so: "I AM A BEGGAR MAFIA MEMBER". 

Dont give these guys the alms. Give them to the rest. Just make sure you look at the forehead and read. 





By the way, how much do you give in bribes? How much food do you throw away?  What do you spend on youtube vidoes through your 3G connection? How many times have you purchased something you dont need? How many times you have spent thousands on partying? How many times have you spent on luxirues? What is your daily expense? And we cant spare even 1 Rupee from this? No one is preventing you from spending your hard-earned cash on your luxuries - that expenditure drives so many households and businesses, and is vital in a healthy economy. Cant we spare 10 Rupees 4-5 times a month to give a Vadaa Paav to a needy and hungry child? 

Let me take average per capita income of 1800 dollars of India. That is 99000 Rupees per year - or 8000 rupees per month. (And most quorans will be well above this, of that I am 100% sure). 1 Rupee is 0.0010101% of the average income of an Indian; and 1 Rupee is what we usually give. 

My word, what a loss. What an Indian-Budget Breaking Loss. All this for all of 0.0010101%. Wow. I can finance the US budget in that.