Wednesday, 6 May 2015

An Open Letter to the Indian Politician

Hello there! I'm Vishvak but in your eyes I'm probably just a statistic, a caste or another vote. I don't have a name. I don't have a life outside the booth the put at the end of my street every 5 years as far as you are concerned. To you, I am the indelible mark they put on my finger.

Someone introduced you to politics. It had to be a family member, a friend. Maybe another politician friend. But when you stepped foot into the very epicenter of democracy and found out that it's a whole load of pandemonium out there, what did you do? You became another chaotic fanatic of electoral politics. The run-of-the-mill cliché. Your average politician.

The founding fathers of our nation saw fit to declare India a democratic nation. They gave us freedom of speech and now they're putting us in jail for "sedition". They gave us freedom to practice any religion or none at all and now we have hooligans like Shiv Sena and the RSS. They gave us freedom of expression and they now say love doesn't count.

We all know this. And we all learn to live in this democracy of hypocrisy. But do the politicians really know what they're doing to the country? It recently hit me that almost any major problem in India can be boiled down to one weed in the garden - politicians.

Instead of going for theatre classes if these people had picked up their democratic politics books at school they'd be ashamed of themselves. But wait, you don't need to be educated to run a country. You just need to know how to fool and coax people into voting for you.

Oh and let's get this straight. When you win an election, it doesn't mean that the people in your constituency love you and adore the "work" that you've done for them. It just means we hate the others more than we hate you. The others have probably robbed us of a few more thousand rupees per head than you have.

I was recently engaged in a discussion with my friend here. What good has democracy done us? When you look at countries like North Korea, I would say I pick democracy any day. I can at least complain about my problems when I have some. This blog wouldn't exist if India wasn't a democracy. I am grateful for that. But if development of the country was the only indicator, historically speaking, countries under dictatorships have made many more successes than have democratic societies.

So which do we pick? Freedom (Which I believe is a farce because we think we have freedom while we actually don't. But that's a completely different discussion) or development? Let's put the discussion up for debate in the Lok Sabha shall we?

Your time starts now:
First minute - some minister stands up and reads out the problem statement in a single baritone putting 40% of the house to sleep.
Second minute - another minister has a problem with the way the Prime Minister talked about corruption in some other country on some other day in some other context.
Third minute - some political party has a problem with the way the session is conducted and decided to walk out or worse, storm into the well of the house.
Fourth minute - Speaker realizes they've changed course from the original discussion and tries to veer back to the topic.
Fifth minute - MPs continue to shout and the house descends into utter chaos.
Sixth minute - To control the idiots, the speaker calls for a recess.

And so it goes on. Day after day. Week after week. Every month. Every year. It's been going on for 68 years now. It's all a joke. Over 500 jokers. All of them come together to run the biggest joke in the world. Who are you trying to fool? Us? The Indian public has long since lost hopes. We know that politicians and elected members of Parliament will not be our salvagers. Putting that into perspective, if the Indian metaphor was a sailboat, we've not moved an inch from where we were a few decades back. That's because we have 2 sails on the boat that face opposite directions.

That's one more stupid thing you politicians do (The other stupid things needn't be listed out here I suppose. I hope you're not stupid enough as to not know whether you're being a nitwit at Parliament or not). You guys scream, throw mics, hurl abuses and basically allow for absolutely no civilized discussion in the house. Whoever named those people sitting in the house, facing the ruling MPs "The Opposition" probably meant it as a light-hearted nomenclature because well, they sit facing the ruling party (or parties).

You guys went and misunderstood this to mean that you MUST oppose everything they say. The function of the opposition, if you didn't already know, is to play Devil's Advocate. Engage the Parliament in a healthy discussion. Figure out what needs to be done with the best interests of the people in mind. What we have now is:

Ruling party MP: "I would like to put forth to the house a new..."
Opposition MP: (screaming) "Down with it!"

Just because they don't fly the same flag in front of their cars.

A friend of mine wrote a play called "India Gate" that was a satirical take on the condition of politics in India. He discussed, among other things, the mentality of politicians in India. Upon election, they set out to erase everything the previous government did - good or bad. Then they set about looking for some scam to make money from. Then there is the covering up phase where they set about hiding all their clandestine activities from the media and the public.
The last year is used up for spending a portion of the money they made during their tenure, in bribing officials and voters.

We all talk about change. About how we need a cataclysmic paradigm shift. I think we need this also in our understanding of politics. Look at Andhra Pradesh (or whatever they call the 2 states these days). I'm quoting their state's state of affairs because their politics makes me feel bad for being an Indian every single time.

Anyway, if any of you politicians, whether elected, seeking power, or ousted from power, are reading this, keep in mind that you're doing nobody a favour by making fools of ourselves. The Parliament is supposed to be filled with the most distinguished personas in the country. You have achieved that, albeit in a different way. You have distinguished yourselves as the one job profile that can never be trusted, can never be relied upon, can never run a country.

Show them you can change. But well, if you still need some money to change the electric fence around your house, go ahead. You don't have my vote. At least I still have that right.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

India. LOL!

My dad decided that he had had enough of the Gulf and one fine day told us that he wanted to come back home. So we did. We, dad, mom, brother and I, returned to India back in September 2007. That's when I started yearning for knowing more. I developed the habit of reading the news every morning and have stuck to it, albeit not religiously, till date. And if there was one thing, rather one entity, that amused both my brother and I, it was Shiv Sena - the political party in Mumbai. We'd literally laugh out loud upon reading news of their antics in the city everyday.
We got so used to it that if one of us was reading the newspaper and burst out laughing, the other would come running and ask, "Shiv Sena right?" We found a lot of what they did funny - torching buses, vandalizing public property, running around the city assaulting couples making out during Valentine's Day and so on.
As I grew up, I realized how this wasn't so funny anymore. On the onset, it was a little amusing that they needed brute force and dadagiri get people to notice them. But I wasn't laughing anymore. Their attempts to curb free speech, curb equal rights and basically go against the very Constitution of India under the aegis of which they lived didn't humour me anymore. I was outraged by these atrocities.
It affected me because, as a writer, I know the importance of free speech. As a person who's been in his own fair share of relationships, I know how screwed up it can be for random people to assault me when I'm with my significant other. As a citizen who lived under the same rules and laws as they did, the had no right to do what they were doing and get away with it.
What are we teaching the people out there? Wielding the stick and using physical and verbal assaults can ensure that you remain on top. That's the picture we portray. Agreed, biologically speaking, in evolutionary terms, that is the case. But humans have long since grown out of instinctive behaviour. And since most of us have, all of us are expected to have grown out of it. (P.S. A debate on this is most welcome! Instinctive behaviour will actually bode us well if all of us threw "civilization" to the winds).
These atrocities kindled in me a burning question.
"How can the policemen just sit back and not do anything?"
This was when I still had faith in the system, back when I wasn't slapped in the face with all the corruption and the "as long as it's not under my roof" attitude we Indians have nurtured over the last few decades.
I visited Mumbai in the summer of 2013. On my list of things I wanted to do, one was to have chaat (because my friend insisted I would never have had better food in my life anywhere else) and another was to see some of these "Marathi" goons. Of course the list also had a host of other things - the Gateway, the Taj hotel (particularly because I wanted to see where the attack had taken place), Victoria Terminus, etc etc. You know the run.
During my stay there, I DID encounter a few of these people. We were stuck in a traffic jam that was as far out as the eye could see. Suddenly there was some violent honking and some loud jostling, the likes of which can be heard when they open the doors at Tirumala. I turned around in my seat and saw a Bolero-ish vehicle with the Shiv Sena flag fluttering on top.
I was actually a bit excited. I felt like I was in a safari and a prized animal strolled past our car. But, to my astonishment, the cars around us were rolling up their windows and so were we. I knew why. I didn't need to ask. I didn't like it. But I had no say. Not my car. Not my city. What's worse was that people GAVE WAY to them!
I mean, what is the point of sitting in closed cars mumbling about the injustice of it all if you can't even use your car to block their way?
I'm not all talk. I know how difficult it can be to stand up to these people practically speaking.
"They'd simply break my car and maybe beat me up for not giving way."
Maybe they will. Maybe the won't. Gandhi did a great many things - some great, some foolish. But he did teach us that oppressors get bored of wielding the stick after a point.
All said and done I know that I'm just one more nameless blogger on the internet venting out his anger after reading the news about their stupidity in targeting Shobhaa De the last few days. I know that little will change after this post. I know that I cannot bolster even a few people into action, let alone a country. I know that India will forever be ruled by fools who can't see the bigger picture. I just know it will always be the same.