Evening at Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, May 2015
and so does everything around... the situation, the people, the perspective, the needs.... and we too change.... the wise and courageous seek change.. because only change is constant!

Friday, April 24, 2009


Don’t worry; I am just trying to describe myself.
Actually I am bit ashamed to share this experience with you. To share guilt and failure is inevitable when one is blogging reflectively.

Indian Democracy is creative. With all its limitations, democracy is indeed a fun. Politicians can fool the public and the public appearing very naïve certainly has the capacity to fool the politicians. But still this is the best option.

On 23rd April Pune voted for Parliamentary elections. I tried to find out ‘online’ my name in the voting list, but every time the concerned site gave me ‘unsafe site’ alert, and I did not probe further. Couple of friends gave me some other site options; someone gave SMS service and all that. But even when the date of voting arrived, I was not sure whether I would be able to vote or not.

I do not have television at home. For the last five years, I have stopped reading newspapers regularly. I neither watched nor read anything about the 26/11 terrorist attack on Mumbai, I neither watched nor read about Obama’s coming to office It saves lot of time, anxiety and irritation. My source of news is the group of people with whom I interact. Sometimes I know them very well and sometimes they are total strangers. By discussing various issues with them, I not only get news but get insights into public pulse. A sort of multi-filtered news. It has many advantages. And there is much more beyond what media captures.

I have realized, when people meet, they mostly talk about happenings in the External World, mostly Politics, Cricket, Bollywood, Corruption… We are too scared to talk about our emotions, feelings, ideas, thoughts….is this impact of globalization?

Obviously I did not know much about the candidates contesting in my constituency. But I was aware of certain facts: a) One candidate has kept on shifting his loyalties (party) b) There was hardly any difference in the election manifestos. c) A new party was making inroads in the city especially with youngsters. d) Caste equations were interesting. e) One independent candidate was good, but how many votes he could pull?

Voting always presents a dilemma for me. In the first place local and national issues are connected but the link is week. Secondly, you can’t vote for ‘a good person’ because the parliament functions with party strategies, individuals do not influence parliamentary function. And most of the parties have the same strategies when they come to power. Power makes all of them ugly. Third, the option of negative voting is not practical. I mean only 40% of voters turned for voting in Pune, what would happen if there is a next round of election for the same purpose?

Interestingly, there was no home-visit by political parties, no handbill, no corner meeting. Everything was peaceful around me. I was weighing the options (whom to vote) without reaching to any decision.

On the voting day, I went to the polling booth. Searching name in the list was a big task. People sitting at the help desk were hardly able to help. There were number of lists. My neighbor’s name was in a particular section, but my name was not there. He advised me to search in another section. Couple of guys (party cadre) had the laptops with them, on which through online search they were helping people. They searched my name and gave me section number and serial number.

I had some informal discussion with the police at the booth, when I was waiting in the line. Completing the routine things – identity validation, signature, blue mark… I approached the electronic voting machine! And wow, I was completely taken aback by the list of candidates. The names were totally different (than what I expected). I was confused. Have I come to the wrong place? But the officer would not have allowed me, if I was in a wrong place.

Then I realized that though I am staying in Pune city, I was supposed to vote for Baramati constituency. When and why this change had happened, I was completely unaware of. I did not know the names of the candidates, some of the election symbols were completely new to me…. I could not interpret who’s who on that list. I was just lost, completely confused…. But then had to vote, and so I voted.

What a height of stupidity and hypocrisy!

Next time, I will see to it that I am more informed, and my decision is not instinctive but based on rationality. For sure, when I visit field areas next and talk to villagers about benefits of actively participating in Panchayat Raj …. I will know that there is no greater hypocrite than me.

The avenues for participation in decision making are very subtle. I do not have to look for ‘big occasions’ but make best of all ‘small occasions’ and the continued enriched process will bring the desired change at the higher level. So, I have to change my thinking process, behavior and become a better citizen

Sunday, April 19, 2009

36. Cog in a Machine!

I cannot claim to ‘feel’ like a ‘cog in a machine’.
Even by using my wildest imagination, I cannot think that a cog can feel….. I confess that. I am a victim of human arrogance.

Have you ever felt that something is going around you (not necessarily at your back) and you cannot understand its meaning and hence feel either lost or foolish?

Have you ever come across threads and with your Sherlock Holmes type of enthusiasm still been beaten like Dr. Watson?

Have you some or the other time lost the road in a big, crowded, unknown city and panicked?

Have you ever missed a train after reaching station, in a city where you do not have a place to stay and do not know a single person?

Have you experienced a kind of emptiness when you understand that the trust you have put in someone is violated?

Have you felt that people used you for all your goodness and threw you in a dustbin once the task was over? And they come up to you again with all hypocrisy because there is another task that only you will do better, and they forget the wrong they have done to you…

Have you wanted to speak but could never reach to?

Have you faced sudden closure of a till then smooth road? Dead end, with a devil behind you?

Have you grappled with unknown, without any hints, without any idea?

I believe we all have such kind of experiences. The Astrology columns thrive on the human psychology of ‘feeling like a wronged person’. Almost all of you would say ‘yes’ to these questions and you might have recalled the painful moments …. Sorry for that.

I mean all these situations show that life is just normal. These things happen to us and to others, to everyone. Sometimes we are at the ‘receiving’ end and feel all the pain, but sometime we ‘give’ and take pride in that, forgetting how it hurts.

With all such ups and downs in life, I had never felt like a ‘cog in a machine’. I have always been lucky enough to find intrinsic value, joy, satisfaction, fun in whatever I am doing. Even the challenges were charming. Whenever I felt suffocated, I had been courageous enough to change track of life, without feeling guilty, without blaming anyone. I have always taken responsibility of my choices, my actions and its consequences.

But presently I am feeling like a ‘cog in a machine’. I am just one of the many faceless entities, which could be easily replaced, without anyone else ever missing it. The meaninglessness is frightening. I am trapped in a system which has reservations regarding freedom and apathy to sense of fulfillment. I have nobody but myself to blame for taking on series of ‘piecemeal’ works and loosing the broad picture, the goal, the vision and the relentless passion.

I can still decide not to be a cog….and of course not to be a machine! Bigger is not necessarily better. What I feel about myself is important and not how others measure me….

Looking at the positive side of this situation, I know what is wrong, and I know how to make it good. If there is still this little touch of creativity in me, that means after all I am not a cog in a machine! That means nothing is lost.

Hmm… Not bad….

Sunday, April 12, 2009

35. About Turn

I was to attend a lecture of Swami Rangnathananda, at Kanyakumari. He was probably then the President of Ramakrishna Mission, I am not sure. He was a very famous scholar and authority on Indian Religion and Spirituality. Even then I was not much of 'Atman-Brahman' – listener. By that time I had closely seen enough saffron clothed guys, watched them with objectivity and came to conclusion that I was not interested in listening to them. I had realized that I loved rain, I loved literature, I liked people, I loved sea, I loved trees, I loved sky, I loved India, and I love almost everything around me. I knew I will never be able to withdraw from this world in its real sense.

I easily get bored of mechanical things, hypocrisy and show of authority. I do not keep quiet if someone tries to threaten me with any kind of power – may be money, may be designation, may be education, whatever. I do not fight and I do not surrender. It is the art of fighting without fighting. So in every phase of my life, people have accused me of 'not respecting the system'. I have always wondered how people can live with various rotten systems and never ask 'why' or 'why not'? I am not against systems, but when you know the system is not working, you don't need much courage or wisdom to change it, if you are open to suggestions. May be every system gives power to few, and those few want to exercise their power in the name of system. People generally are not ready to exercise naked power – they cloth it with systems, culture and traditions.

Given a choice, I would have dropped out of Swami Ranganathananda's lecture. But attendance to this program was mandatory. So with couple of friends I sat in the last row… with the idea of chatting, cutting jokes, laughing – a usual back bencher business. The Swami came. Everybody rose and welcomed him. He asked people to sit. Before the program was to start, he looked at the crowd. Then before anybody realized what was happening, he just asked the audience to turn around. So, those of us who were leisurely sitting in the last row, found ourselves in the first row. We could not play any mischief. The Swami delivered his lecture – he was a very good orator.

I don't remember what the Swami said. I never had any communication with him again – I regret it now. On that day I admired (and I still admire) Rangnathananda for understanding my mind and treating me with dignity. If he wanted, he could have just ridiculed us – he was famous, he had the authority and we were just non-entities. But he involved me in the proceedings without insulting or offending me. He took care to respect my dignity. He challenged me, but at the same time he took a challenge to present a superior example to me. He did not allow me to feel inferior – I smiled at the failure of our plan and listened to him without grudge. He knew how to motivate reluctant people without threatening them, a very important trait of great leadership. He was the kind of person who used his power with humility, again a great leadership style. He did not give me lecture on 'importance of following system'; he was flexible enough to change the system to accommodate people like me.

Don't know why I suddenly remembered this experience after about 25 years! May be, I am facing a wall; I do not want to hurt myself (again) by trying to cross (leave aside breaking it!) the wall. May be, what I need is just to 'about turn', and there will be new life, and even new me. On that day Swami Ranganathanada unintentionally taught me that even if you 'about turn', if your self esteem is intact, you loose nothing in life, on the contrary you reach new depths.

Friday, April 3, 2009

34. Nonplused!

One routine evening, in the crowded street of the city. I was traveling back home with couple of colleagues after a hectic day. On the way, we were to drop one of the guests. He had to catch flight to Paris from Mumbai. We were to drop him at the private taxi service, which was to take him to International Airport in Mumbai.

After bit confusion about the exact location and finding out way from 'no entry' 'u turn' 'no parking' etc. we reached the spot. We were before time, so bit relaxed. After completing the formalities – registering with the office of the travel company, taking receipt, putting the baggage in the taxi….. I was having some informal chat with the guest. He was an expert in 'Animal breeding', but as I am not livestock expert the talk turned to summer in France, effects of Global Warming and all that.

Suddenly a woman of about 35 appeared on the scene. She was about five feet tall, brownish exhausted face and little anemic. Her eyes were bright and she was wearing a clean green sari with white design, with the pallu covering her head. The guest, a tall man with smiling and calm face took out a ten rupee note from his valet and gave it to the lady. I was bit embarrassed. Not that I do not come across beggars, but at this moment I did not like it.
I smiled at the woman and said in a mild tone, "You should not beg for money."
She was all smiles with the reward and told me into a confidential tone, "All foreigners are good hearted people. They give us a good amount. Sometimes they even give us fifty rupees. They are very good."

I told, "But he is our guest. I understand that you are poor, but why ask to outsiders? He may go with the impressions that Indian people are beggars."

The woman was hardly listening to me. She asked, "Is he your employee'?
"No" I told, a bit surprised at her statement.
"Then are you his employee?" was her next question.
"No, no, he is our guest." I explained. There was no need to have such detailed conversation with her. But I always like to converse with strangers.

"Is his county very rich? Does he have a bungalow? Does he own a car? Does his house have a garden? Has he a big Television in his house?"….the lady was not at all willing to stop. I was surprised at her curiosity. She was asking all these questions not for gaining more money from him, but she was just interested in that unknown guest. I thought that in the name of social science and development research, if we can take interest in other's lives, why can't this lady?

I was smiling at myself. But honestly I could answer none of her questions. To safely come out of the situation without hurting her, I said, "Ok, now he has to go."

"Which country he is from?" the woman had lot of patience.
(I am sure, if the lady could write a blog, she would write how foolish and useless I was….May be, she has already narrated this incident to her friends and family.)
"France", I told.
"How far is it?" she again asked.
"Very far away." I said.
"But exactly where"? The woman might become a good police, I thought.
"Near England" I must have been in my elements to give such a foolish answer. Because her next question was, "Where is England?"
"Oh, it is very far away." I tried to explain.
"Why don't you tell me how far his home is?" the lady was getting angry at me.

I explained, "Now he will go to Mumbai, catch a flight and after eight nine hours will reach home"

"Oh! Just eight hours….. and you are telling me he stays far away" the woman dismissed me. "I have to travel for 15-16 hours to reach my home, he will travel less and you are telling me that he is coming from far away land"

The lady was genuinely disappointed with the information and I was completely nonplused by the turn of our conversation.