Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Myself and 'The Rising'
I was watching "Mangal Pandey" the other day in the afternoon. To say the least the first half of the movie barely has a story and has only a sequence of vaguely related events. Amidst the near boredom, apart from beautiful Amisha and Rani and of course a brilliant Aamir, I slipped into a conversation with myself. The first thought that came to my mind was "Why am I here?". "Stupid", somebody said, "you are here to watch a movie !! What else?"

"No. It is not just the movie", I asserted, "It is about my existence. Tell me why am I here?". The voice said "You are here as a small part of a bigger, larger scheme of things. You have been assigned a role on this giant stage and a time will come when it will unveil itself in front of you". "In fact, it is even apparent in front of you even right now. Just that you have to search and find it out for yourself", the voice continued.

"But, if it is supposedly so apparent, why am I not able to see what it is?", I asked. "And why am I expected to search around for it when it is obvious that it becomes much easier to accomplish if I get to know it right now? And wont it be better if I could start gaining the necessary skills well in time?". The voice answered "This is precisely the reason why it is not known to you. There is a unique task waiting for your execution which completely suits your talents and capabilities. It is not explicit now as the day you know it, you will stop growing and your decline will begin".

"But, if it is so suited to each person's capabilities what could the task be for me? I am not able to find any single person with exactly similar set of interests and likings as mine". I added, "the trouble is that I am not too sure if I am going to fit in the role I am offered. Or am I expected to learn to be one of the 'common', 'normal' person and be content with the mainstream..."

"Hello....!!". No voice heard. "Are you there...?? ". "You can't do this to me everytime !! I need an answer....dammit!!". Poor me.

Aamir Khan is now terribly boiling over the 'lie' told by Captain Gordon. He goes over to him and tells him that they will no longer be friends - and better not talk to each other. Then, comes the intermission. 'Mangal Pandey' ends. 'The rising' starts.

I am still thinking. "Does this idea of 'first war of Indian independence' really appeal to my peers as it did to these old - and now deceased - mutinaise soldiers?". Freedom to most (of us) is a birthright and, guess what, they never had to fight for it. 15th of August comes like a 'much needed break' for most. It becomes yet another marketing opportunity for media and consumer goods companies.

Freedom seems so natural that 'free market', 'free speech' and even 'free software' is fast becoming the order of the day. I just wonder what it would have been to be living in a slave country. Perhaps, we should again have a phase of colonialism. The best way to make people learn about the value of a thing is to show how fragile it could be. Isn't it?

Monday, August 08, 2005

The super-power of large towns

India, they say, is a rising super power. An economy which is precariously placed to eventually take a slot just after the mighty US of A in a matter of just four decades from now. Considering that it was in the shackles of a foreign power just about 60 years ago, this would be no mean achievement. You are just left to wonder if one century could make such a huge difference to a country. And if this dream would ever become true?

It has become a fashion these days to compare India's performance with "the-fastest-growing-economy" - our much respected - and envied - neighbour. The first thing, people say, you notice when you reach Shanghai is the pace of life. Coming back to our very own 'Shanghai-to-be' Mumbai too is an experience in itself, albeit of a contrasting kind. The traffic jams and clogged roads just seem to be a fatal arterial blockage obtructing traffic, business, and eventually lives of millions who commute through them.

A resident of the mighty 'Dilli' would be proud on reading this. Proud of their roads and now their very own 'metro rail'. But their joy gets transformed into gloom as soon as they reach their offices. What welcomes them daily is the omnipotent - and perhaps the most regular thing in the city - powercut. "What use reaching office early?", one gasps, "at least you could get some fresh air while you were on road".

The most dreaded Indian city for Americans is 'Bangalore' these days. The trend of jobs getting 'Bangalored' has now become a phenomenon. IT, the powerhouse of the resurgent India, is headquartered here. The weather is great. The infrastructure is non-existent. A typical example of growth-before-planning, this city exemplfies all the problems faced by any other big city in India. The number of people who go to office is growing while the width of roads has matured. And for good reason now, many big companies are either moving to the outer Bangalore or 'out of' Bangalore. While the state government fights with centre over petty issues on the infrastructure projects.

But put your brains together and try to go to the root of the problems and you will realise that, a change is happening. At the most this situation is more becuase of the growth happening inside the cities than the stagnation they face. True, they are the dirty showcases of an 'India Shining' but they are nevertheless the best we ever had. This is the first time over decades when the governments are learning to be service-oriented. This is the first time since independence that we sincerely realise that our cities are in virtual shambles and felt the need to rebuild them. The citizens now demand 'improvement' and in due time they may actually get it.

India is a democracy and a professed one at that. With all its divergent opinion making mechanisms, there are bound to be delays. We cannot compare India with the west simply because they prospered all the early modern age looting the likes of India. And on top of it, the early Socialist, Non-aligned policies did more harm than good to the infrastructure of the country. When, we finally had to open our economy, we were living on a rubble of an economy and cities.

Today, the citizens are gathering courage and a will to actually make a difference - themselves, if the government cannot. When did you hear of India refusing foreign aid in case of a natural calamity and actually sitting on the donors' table for a change? When did you hear a minority girl 'talking' her attitude on court? When did Indian companies felt the need to acquire majors in foreign land? And why does a city that gets back to work in exacly 24 hours after a huge bomb blast? A feat that even London could not accomplish. Sure, the spirit is of perseaverance. The will is to make a difference. And even the acts are getting together !!