Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rockstar just falls short of greatness!

Rockstar Rocks! No two views about it.

Ranvir pulls of a great performance. His acting makes the movie feel almost like a bio-pic. Imtiaz Ali has in short almost directed the crap out of the movie. The starting scene with rockstar Jordan followed by a 10 sec flash of his past and how beautifully the plot reveals in the first half. Too good!

By half time, the movie sets great expectations. Could it be one of the best movies, ever? There are plenty of reasons for it to be on that list. But, it doesn't quite make it.

The story in the second half just lacks the grippi-ness that the first half has. Shernaz Patel as Nargis' mother tries her best to convince us how she is witnessing miracle, but it seems The script also leaves some questions un-answered. Why does Heer (Nargis) have to suddenly leave Jordan after the Kangra show? Just because some journos catch them together? Does Jordan really hate himself? Or, does he just hate being controlled?
Nargis falls short of the acting standards set by Ranvir. But, I do not know who could replace her?

Rehman's music and background score is simply out of this world (I don't need to tell u that!). Rockstar just falls short of being a great movie. I think the terminal illness plot was its undoing. Having said that, its way better than the usual fare which is served to us in the name of 'HIT' movies. I wouldn't follow the collections though.

Sadda Haq! Aithe Rakh!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Education and Social Justice

Let me quote George Orwell, from '1984' -
"Throughout recorded time, and probably since the end of the Neolithic Age, there have been three kinds of people in the world, the High, the Middle and the low... the aims of these three groups are entirely irreconcilable. The aim of the high is to remain where they are. The aim of the middle is to change places with the High. The aim of the low, when they have an aim... is to abolish all distinction and create a society in which all men shall be equal."
Social Justice. Education can bring balance.
Although, the general rule of generalization (that all generalizations have exceptions) applies. This seems to be true of not only our (Indian) society, but of societies across the world and across different time periods. In our country, the High, Medium and Low applies to classes as well as castes.
It is no secret that certain classes were marginalized in our society for decades. Just like everything else, the High and the Middle of the society were the ones to jump at the opportunities provided by the British education system. Education was the way out of agriculture and an entry into the service class.
Bigger than the problem of inequity in social status, income and representation is that in education. 
Nelson Mandela said, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
At the very least, education gives you the weapon to change your own world.
Today, the inequity in education is leading to national problems. Economists question if India can reap its demographic dividend due to lack of proper education and training.
India's expected demographic dividend could rapidly turn out to be demographic nightmare unless the country promptly addresses the many structural and systemic problems in its education and training system. (

Equality of input, not outcome 
For over two decades, our governments have tried to set the balance right by adopting a policy of reservation in jobs and higher education. An recently, by providing foodgrains and jobs under MGNREGA. There is no doubt that these have provided opportunities to the marginalized classes. However, these measures compromise on meritocracy and create an artificial result. Even in the marginalized classes, it is the educated classes among them who are able to make use of such opportunities. Additionally, it accounts to increased fiscal burden.

Policy-makers would do better to focus on providing education-for-all, an equality of input. Leaders developed countries such as the US, US to under-developed ones such as Kenya have understood education to be an answer to poverty, unemployment and social development.
If we can provide good quality education to the most marginalized and downtrodden of our society, we would be giving them the power to be the masters of their own destiny. Simple measures, such as ensuring proper school infrastructure, ensuring presence and quality of teachers would be steps in the right direction. Free and universal education is being targeted under the Right to Education Act. 
What is needed is to invest in such schemes, so that social justice is not limited to its historical connotations of caste and creed, but it takes a broader meaning of providing means to people for enhancing their own lives.
"Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime" 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dhoni gets pro help to answers critics after England tour

In spite of best efforts by 'Kingfisher Model' Poonam Pandey, Team India (...i hate that expression... as if the BCCI cricket team is the whole country but whatever...) lost to England.

Expecting a major QnA session from the media, our Captain Cool (...hate that one too!...), Do-nee, went to some leaders-of-another-kind to get a heads up on answering difficult questions. 

Here is what they had to advise him:

1. PM 'Man-maun don't-sing : O Do-nee ji! don't worry.. here is what u say...
"We are aware of the questions being raised after our tour to England. Our loss is due to multi-faceted, multi-functional, multi-dimensional (aur do chaar multi aap laga lena...) problems. We want to assure the fans that we will take strong steps to stop such incidents in future. Strong action will be taken against those responsible. But, there is no magic wand against losing."

I can go on for another ten minutes, but u get the idea, right?

2. Kapil 'see-ball' : First, learn to smile. Its not a big deal. Under CrPC 2234 and CrAP 2011, every team is allowed to lose matches. Target the people who are asking difficult questions. Ask them if they have never lost 10 matches in a row. Plus, tell them, we have actually not lost, since the BCCI still made money. (Loss to exchequer is ZERO!)

3. P Chee-dam-bhram : See! You must speak slowly, as if you are talking some 'heavy' philosophical, uber-intellectual stuff. Here's what you must say...
The players acted on their own, so the captain cannot be held responsible.
An average cricketer spends 14 hours a day on his feet. Its not easy to be a cricketer, you have to speak well, shoot for ads, travel 200 days a year. An average bowler swings his arms 10,000 times and an average batsman has to swing a 2kg bat 20,000 times a day. You cannot expect them to win every time. Plus, there is no intelligence to tell the batsmen whether the ball will swing out or in!

Thankfully, Do-nee didn't take their advise too seriously and instead chose to evade the press conference. He did send a message: "Sorry, we lost. Will work harder next time. Dravid is great!"

Monday, August 15, 2011


It is with extreme sadness that I heard the Prime Minister's Independence day speech today. Two comments stand out:

1."Governemnt doesn't have a magic wand against corruption"  So? We should do nothing about it? 

2. "Fast is not the way...". Then, pray Mr.PM, what is?

Instead of taking a cue from the mass movement, the government is pulling out everything in the rule-book to work against it. No sane person would be against a strong anti-corruption bill, unless he is himself corrupt!

It is a shame how the government is trying to crush the non-violent protests against corruption. How can the citizens of Gandhi's India be denied peaceful protest? The logic behind invoking section 144 needs to be questioned.

15 August 2011 is a dark day for democracy in India.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Niyamgiri Times : A truth of NREGS

A 'JCB' rests in one corner of
Bissamcuttack during the day

The same 'JCB' works
hard under the shrouds of night

What does a JCB have to do with NREGS? It does. In fact, it (or should we call it – she), she is the biggest beneficiary of NREGS – at least in this part of Orissa.

Contractor gets contract from government under NREGS scheme. Ideally, under the scheme a contractor needs to get his work done from job card holders from the village. A beautiful model!

Some courageous journalism and putting 2 and 2 together reveals the following modus operandi-

  • 1. Contractor gets contract.
  • 2. Goes to village, employs people for 7 (give-or-take-a-few) days.
  • 3. Takes the Job Cards under the pretext of some requirement for disbursing the money.
  • 4. Villagers get some money. But, don’t get the job cards back.
  • 5. At night, the contractor brings up his A-game and A-grade worker – the JCB, which in a night does work equivalent to 10-15 man-days.
  • 6. Work gets booked under NREGS.
  • 7. JCB (read, contractor earns the proceeds)
I know, some readers have found loopholes and IT process which won’t allow this to happen. But, the villagers are so gullible that this actually happens. A few days back, someone came to Bardaguda village and demanded Rs 500 per household in the name of Forest Department (or was it NABARD), and went away with the money.

For those who still refuse to belive this is happening in OUR India… have a look at 10 loopholes of NREGS implementation and a silver lining.

But, I say this is just 'A' truth. I have started believing that there are no absolute truths. Another truth is, the canteen owner (where I have my daily meals) does not get any interested people to work. Imagine! People living below-poverty-line for years, refuse to work as waiters in canteen at Rs 6000 per month! Their logic is simple. When they get foodgrains at Rs 2/kg, what is the need to sweat!

Yet another truth is that my interviews with village households reveals that their incomes have increased by Rs 1000 in the few months of implementation of NREGS. [Rs 1000 per annum is a significant income for these families with annual earnings of Rs 10,000 or less]

So is NREGS good? Orissa has been a case study in poor implementation of NREGS, still, it has helped the tribals to some extent.

There are more questions than answers. And, I am looking for questions, not answers.

Feb 16, 2010 Bissamcuttack, Orissa. TAS Rural Stint, Harsha Trust

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Niyamgiri Times

A part of Niyamgiri Hill range

For the last 20 days, I've been working in Bissamcuttack, Orissa with Harsha Trust, under the aegis of Sir Ratan Tata Trust. Never mind the details of my job, basically, I go out and talk to villagers to understand their lot... something to do with social development.

This hill in the picture is part of the large Niyamgiri hill that has been in the news. Vedanta wants to mine these hills for its Lanjigarh Aluminum refinery. But, these hills are 'habitated' by the Dongaria Kondha Tribe and are the only source of livelihood for them. In fact, a tribal (kondha - a close cousin of the Dongaria Kondha) told me that Niyamgiri was the biggest hill range [in the world?, in India? - not very clear].

Admittedly, I am much more confused about 'development' than I was before starting work.
  • Is it really 'development' to keep the tribes away from the mainstream?
  • Isn't industrialization going to bring in the money to help the poor?
  • Is it fair for us to take away the only source of livelihood of a people living in their natural habitat. Imagine, if you had worked only in IT industry and one day someone said - 'boom!, no more IT coz I'm taking away all the resources for that' - that would shatter our world. Taking Niyamgiri away is something similar for them.
  • And, how come the land that a tribal has been living on, and living off since generations, suddenly belong to a company OR the government because someone happens to find something worthwhile under it, like minerals?
  • But, isn't industry going to generate employment, for a very poor and unemployed state like Orissa? Wouldn't it benefit a larger number of poor - who may not be living on this hill range, but do look up to industry and government for a source of livelihood?
  • Had man always thought of preserving the natural habitats, wouldn't we still be living in jungles?
  • In fact, isn't it unfair to the tribals that we want to live a comfortable modern life, but leave them to their lot, and for how long?
  • So, is it the Dongaria Kondha who want to not come down Niyamgiri OR is it the NGOs and 'well-wishers' who want to sign online petitions sitting in AC offices, while a tribal goes and looks for firewood for his chulha?
  • Well, I guess everyone should be able to decide for themselves (isn't having options, what development is all about?). But then, how does a tribal know what the mainstream holds for him? How does someone who has never had a gulab-jamun (or hamburger - for the urbanites) know if he wants to have one?
So, what really is development?

Too many questions... the journey has just begun...

Feb 02, 2010 Bissamcuttack, Orissa. TAS Rural Stint, Harsha Trust

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

‎'Hum pacnchi unmukt gagan ke... (TAS Rural Stint)'

My feelings... (with apologies to Shri Shiv Mangal Singh Suman : 'Hum pacnchi unmukt gagan ke')

Hum panchi hain Bhojpuri ke,

Odiya mein na gaa paayenge,

gaon mein bin bijli reh kar,

jaane kya ukhad paayenge.

Hum mineral-jal peene waale,

Mar jaayenge diarrhea se.

Kahin bhali hai maid ki chik-chik,

shady hotels ki seva se.

Tribal janta ke chakkar mein,

Apni car, bike sab bhoole,

Bas sapno mein dekh rahe hain,

Kingfisher aisle seat ke jhoole

Neend na do, chaahe Mumbai sa,

Goli-barood’ kaam kara lo,

lekin, gaon bheje ho toh,

bas malaria se bacha lo!

- 25 Jan 2011