Can’t Put My Finger On It. But I Know Something’s Wrong.

Something has gone terribly wrong with the basic fiber.

Most people find it okay to jump traffic signals. There is a perverse delight even in being able to jump a light and jump the cop who tries to catch you shortly afterwards. Driving on the wrong side is fine. Incidentally, I live in this residential area, which, by conservative estimates, is higher middle class with a large proportion of educated (graduates and above) families. And yet, every morning, I find people driving the wrong way on a one way street in this residential area, just to avoid driving an extra 100–150 meters. Expensive fuel. I also see a lot of people whose driving license should be revoked given their parking skills.

Most people find it OK to not worry about their driving license, and let an extra 500 bucks to a grand take care of it. Most government offices and officials find it OK to take a bribe. Easier than having to check whether someone actually knows how to drive. The driving school guys also find it easier to get the license than to teach you how to drive.

Most service professionals find it perfectly alright to not deliver on their commitments. Most plumbers or carpenters mean one hour when they say they are 15 minutes away. Most technology companies find it OK to delay a project by a few months. Most hardware manufacturers find a 10–15% defect rate in their products OK.

In the most affluent city of this country, a metro rail project gets delayed by several years, and the city fails to buy the services of the best planners and builders, with all the money it has. In this process, every day, thousands of professionals who charge their clients and their organizations by the hour, spend several hours on the road just trying to get to their respective destinations. In the political power center of this country, a girl gets brutally raped and beaten and murdered, and it takes citizen rallies and candle light marches for the authorities to remember that this might need some attention.

Most people find it okay to be disrespectful towards a woman’s identity and her physicality. Teasing, groping, fondling, grabbing — they are all just fine. Somehow, a survey conducted on women suggests that more than 90% of them have been teased. Interesting, not more than 10% men commit to having participated or observed it.

In a certain state, men are married off without their consent and at gun-point, and in another, daughters are burnt or killed for expressing their desire to marry someone of their choice.

It has to be disturbing that a man often charged with abetting the murder of hundreds and thousands of people is the supreme political leader of this country, because a majority of constituencies felt that they had no other choice. It has to be unnerving that education minister of this country has had to refer to a certificate course of x days as her best credential for the job, only to be seriously undermined. It is even more disturbing that a politician universally acknowledged as the most corrupt ever has a gold plated Lanka of his own in a small Maharashtrian town that is now known for nothing else but this politician. It is also quite disturbing that the biggest democracy in the world has but one family owned business as the real political alternative.

The accident of having found a great president is almost immediately corrected by finding one that even hard fought despair could not have cared about. And a prime minister who could have done something is put on mute by a remote, ably handled by the buffoons of a family legacy.

The government actively bans harmful stuff — beef, porn. A college/ university even banned certain dresses. Harmful for the Indian culture. But religious, acidic and dividing speeches are not banned. Religious tolerance.

In broad public eye, 540 odd chosen people waste a nation’s precious time and money and do not let the office function, and nothing happens to them. In some companies, people are fired for showing dissent against their bosses.

Most are trained to respect our bosses. And not respect those who are not our bosses. Or peers. It is unacceptable to let your educated children work in a restaurant part time, and acceptable to laugh at the poor English of the unskilled service person. Most people want to have someone who could do their work. All the time. Maids, delivery boys, office boys… are, jara mera ye kaam kar dena… but find it rude if someone asks them to do something extra.

Most people find it an extra and unrequited effort to hold the door for someone coming from behind. But they find it OK to jump a queue and get in front of someone who might be ahead. They do make the extra effort for that.

Speaking of time and effort, our judiciary is piling over with the number of cases it has to handle. And it still keeps a case running for decades. An actor gets a bail after running over many people. Several years after running them over. Being Human? A young drunk lawyer can’t get bail for running over one. Fair and Blind Justice. A certain politician is still in contention, and gets support from the torch bearers of “anti-corruption and fairness”, having siphoned of a little over a 1000 crores in the name of fodder. And people will still vote for him. National Blindness.

They either support, or they are against. People take sides too easily. More importantly, they want people to take sides. Or they choose people’s sides. If one says Aye, one never gets to say Nay. The walls of protest have become too easy to paint — a digital swish, or a 140 character momentary wish. Every debate is black or white, no shades of grey for this nation of mine. “Jo galat nahi hai, wo jaroori nahi ki sahi ho”, I had read somewhere long back.

Something is terribly wrong with the fiber. I just can’t put my finger on it.

p.s. This post deserves a lot of hyperlinks. I am not in the mood though.

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India’s Daughter: Leslee Udwin’s Documentary on BBC

I SAW the video. Not in totality. Skipped and rushed through parts. Watched 59 minutes long video in about 20 minutes. Why did I not watch the whole thing? Two reasons – Usual dearth of time to watch a one hour long video which restates most of what I already know (shallow, but true), and it was a deeply disturbing video (deep, and equally true).

Putting my gripes with the documentary aside, it is disturbing to relive the case, to try and understand how the perpetrators of that crime think about their actions, to understand that they are not alone in thinking so, to realize that the lawyers defending them (people who value an explicitly taken weak argument) have no qualms going on record saying things like Indian culture has no place for a woman, to realize that an entire mass of educated bureaucracy, empowered legislative body, elected political system, and the similarly effected population of this country – failed Nirbhaya.

We fail the women of our country every day. Every time we step out on the street. Over and over again. By not standing up for them. By believing that standing up for them is like extending a favour. Or an act of heroism or bravado. And by “we”, I am including the women around me as well. But then, we don’t just fail the women. We fail the entire bloody community that we are a part of.

The documentary spends an inordinate amount of time projecting Nirbhaya as a good person, and the criminals as rotten to the core. A documentary about the subject need not have spent as much time profiling one woman. It needed to stand up for all women. Irrespective of them being virtuous, noble, humble or otherwise. Not all women who are raped and killed are Nirbhaya. They don’t need to be. They have their own identities. And their own freedom to protect. In this documentary of Nirbhaya vs. the society, somewhere, the brutality of the incident and the shamelessness of these criminals is all that is left. The issue, though, is much bigger. Nirbhaya is not India’s only daughter.

Way more disturbing, and probably a subject that needs a bigger debate, is the set of statements made by the lawyers. Is a “man” whose explicit biases include considering women as flower, precious gemstones, or fruit on the street, fit enough to be a lawyer? Was this a lawyer provided to the criminals by the state? Or, did these lawyers come to the fore on their own, given the popularity the case would’ve got them? Or, could these criminals really afford a lawyer on their own? There is a point in “Better Call Saul” (a TV Series) where a person, who while being guilty doesn’t really consider herself guilty of anything”, tells Saul that “you look like a lawyer that guilty people would have”. If these are state provided lawyers who have such “beliefs”, what chance do women approaching the state machinery for justice and fairness have? There is another one who is willing to put petrol on her daughter and burn her alive if she is found out and about with a boy. Now here is a thought – lets see if we can convince his daughter(s) or wife or mother to take this challenge head on. And then file a case of domestic violence and rape against these lawyers. And lets see if the judiciary will be able to stand up for what is right.

More often than not, and its my belief, a society at large behaves well out of fear. Not because of education or awareness or culture or something like that. Over a period of time, fear is forgotten and conditioning takes over. The conditioned behavior then becomes the benchmark behavior that differentiates right and wrong civil societies. Like eating beef. Or, drinking. India does not fear its law. It can be bought and sold for a 50 rupee note at times. On the other hand, people don’t jump lights in US because they are afraid of the law. Now, assuming that there were no penalties for jumping lights, would the average American still be standing at the traffic light, waiting for it to turn green?  My hypotheses, after witnessing NYC traffic, is that s/he won’t.

What do I want? Decisive, fast action. If established, a rape convict gets death sentence. If established, a dude jumping lights more than twice gets his license revoked. Hit and Run (like the Housing.com story (not sure if it’s true) or the Ambani story) – definitely license revoked, significant financial penalty, and a jail term. Why, after so many years, are we still debating about the punishments for these people? Why after so many years do people still have a doubt about Mr. Lalu Prasad Yadav’s corruption and subsequent punishment/ debarment from Indian politics? The failure of the judiciary, law and order and politics cannot be the reason why the whole Indian society can be called “sick” by someone who’s spent a couple of years in India. That it might actually be sick is another and a very important issue.

And this is where my problems with the documentary begin – If I were to evaluate the video purely on the merits of a documentary, I don’t think it’s the smartest or even that its one of the better documentaries that I have seen. Its research is shallow, the narrative manipulative, and there is a level of continuous unrest at the back of your head because it doesn’t seem real quite often. A lot of the footage seems a little too edited and doctored (and not just in a documentary-ish way). There seems to be a little too much of prepping the people for their dialogues. Like when Jyoti’s tutor narrates events from the past, it does not come naturally. Sometimes, the anguish comes through, but often, it seems scripted. It capitalizes on strong emotions, not the quality of probing and gruesome research I was expecting to come across. It is so high on emotions that you cannot follow the logical train. I am not doubting the intentions, but when you’re putting a documentary on BBC, I believe the research also needs to be more comprehensive.

Of the 6 convicts, there is only who’s interviewed (probably an issue with the permissions, though it does make you wonder what the other 5 inherently believed in) – Mukesh Singh. Mukesh was the driver of that bus. The one expert on India is someone who’s brought from outside – Maria. There is but one psychoanalyst who gets airteime, and two defence lawyers get a lot of airtime because of their controversial statements. Amod Kanth of Prayas (NGO) is roped in to provide some input on juvenile cases.

There isn’t much in the story that is new. There aren’t conflicting viewpoints from a legal or psychoanalytical point of view. What leads to this? How are people so comfortable with themselves after doing something as heinous as this? Even after realizing that there life has come to a premature end because of this extremely inhuman act of theirs?

Did you, like me, at some point feel that the “rapists will kill rape victims from now on” is more an argument that is fed to the convict? Considering that this research would have been done through several conversations and interviews, do you think prompting has a role to play in how people respond to questions? Like – “people outside are saying that a your being sentenced to death will lead to more… “.

A big shout out and hugs to Nirbhaya’s parents for being able to not let rage take them over completely. The fact that they still are able to have a sane conversation about all this tells you what strength they have. If only people could learn some of that.

The documentary starts narrow, stays narrow, but generalizes everything to “India”. There isn’t much that is new. Nirbhaya case was one that brought a large populace to the streets demanding justice. Before and after that, there have been many more rape cases, maybe none so brutal (I don’t agree that an outright murder of a raped woman is any less of an eventuality than what happened with Jyoti). Those cases have not been talked about. And hence, while in spirit, you may want to take a stand that Nirbhaya Case = India, there isn’t enough evidence in this documentary that supports it.

It is a decent containerization of an event that shook the nation and some of the socio-cultural aspects around that particular incident. The fact that it shook the nation at large should tell you that India is not “sick”. That there is no need to give up hope. There will be moments of despair. Bad things happen. They happen everywhere. What is shameful is the way we act and the way some agencies try to sweep it under the carpet.

And that brings me to the ban. I am somewhat speechless. To debate this ban in parliament seems such a pointless waste of state time. I am sure the government concerns are not about the glorification of criminals (apparently). Rather, they must be worried about the poor portrayal of India. Sir! Humble request Sir! There are other bigger problems to worry about. Like bringing this damn bloody case to its conclusion. One of my managers used to tell me – if you have time to complain about something, you have time to go do it. The inaction of years and decades cannot be shoved under the carpet by imposing bans on documentaries, even if you think they are one sided. Something that is not true here. Acknowledge your damn failures and fix them. Put safety measures in place, and not just for women. Do an overhaul of the legal system. Work towards creating opportunities for everyone. Ensure high quality public transport that does not stop working because its 11 in the night. Come down upon police that won’t take a case because “bekaar ke lafde mein kya padoge saab”.

Stop wasting precious parliament time on debating stupid bans for heaven’s sake. You’re not a twitter celebrity looking for attention and retweets. You are the bloody government. Stop acting like a teenager who can’t take criticism. Stop acting like a gully ka goonda shouting “mera bat hai, mere rules honge”. Maybe you don’t realize this. But a big change that has happened in the last few years – there is a new country called Internet and its identity is very similar to that mythical demon Raktabeej. For every voice that you suppress, a hundred new pop up. And you are neither its prime minister, nor its constitution. Stop sulking and suit up.

 

Should you watch it? Your choice. Do you want to? Would you have watched it otherwise? But don’t watch it just because it has been banned. Don’t watch it to find your moral high ground. There is nothing sensational and path-breaking about watching this documentary. Its not a thriller, edge of the seat variety. Neither is it boring. It’s only 60 minutes. It ticks off all the check-boxes. Its a reminder of one of the most often discussed events in the recent Indian history. At the end of it, it is a given that you will come out feeling extremely disturbed, that much is a guarantee. But still, it is like any other and many other documentaries. The subject it touches is a raw nerve. Unlike education, poverty, juvenile crimes, state of infrastructure, mafia control, etc. Banning it was idiotic though.

Just by banning it, government is telling you to go find ways of watching it. So, Leslee Udwin can thank Indian Government for popularizing a documentary which would have been otherwise watched by a few thousand people.

The Murder of David by Jayantabhai Ki Luv Story. Part 3

My middle name is Constipated

My middle name is Constipated

Vivek Oberoi has invented the expression that Neil Nitin Mukesh is adopting. The one of constipated anger. We will see large volumes of it in Zilla Ghaziabad, but for now, JKLS has him playing the role of a constipated bhai who takes dumps quite frequently. The comic relief is not bad at all!

The short description of the movie is – Girl has tough time in big city. Girl moves into a flat next to bhai. Hence, the rented status – Bhadotri. Bhai has an acquired status – Padosi. Padosi is a nice guy, and comically continues to help Bhadotri – with the frequent “just joking re…. sense of humourous”. One thing leads to another, and bhai and bhabhi get together. Some complications and twists thrown in here and there, and you have JKLS. Girl has a back story with her Baapu’s expectations. Bhai has side story with Big Bhai’s promises, Altaf bhai played by Zakir. Most likely, someone wrote a lot of funny mumbaiyaa dialogues and one liners, and then created a set of scenes around them. ‘That’, finally, led to a movie.

I have no money, and you are a bhai

Not a dream sequence, this one!

The plotline is wafer thin, but the acting and quips keep it together. Naseer, Zakir, Vivek Oberoi are the ones that keep things fun. Though, watching Naseer play a buffon rival gangsta/cop Alex Pandian (which by the way is a 2013 Tamil movie’s name as well). Alex Pandian’s fascination with bollywood is intentionally funny though, unlike the bulk of the movie. Neha Sharma, the bhadotri, does her bit by wearing fine and few clothes in a small time locality, living next to a supposed bhai, thereby creating unintentional hilarity. Surprisingly, she does not create any sense of awkwardness in the locality, or in the minds of a really conservative father who’s scared of sending her daughter to a big city, lives about 4 hours away from Mumbai, in a coastal city and pool-based-properties. Alibagh, you think? Main kya tere ko alibagh se aayela lagta hai?

Some of the dialogues are hilarious –  the Umrao Jaan reference while beating up a guy, the dig on Indian jails – when JB mentions that he graduated from IJU – Indian Jail University, because udhar bahut type ke English binglish bolne wale log aate, is a witty one. The movie has a Hotel Decent equivalent of Night Lovers as well.

The flow of sequences has no bearing whatsoever to whatever narrative storytelling might be all about, assuming the Director read the script, assuming there was a script, assuming script matters. Most set-piece scenarios are ludicrous. Thankfully, the movie ends while your patience with the chewing gum may still not be exhausted. Couple of songs are decent, though with sub-zero relevance to the movie.

The high point is Vivek Oberoi, which itself serves as a warning for a movie, usually. But honestly, he is quite decent. As decent as a constipated man can be a not so well ventilated room. The lady looks pretty. And is just about better than being a complete washout in the acting department. She is somewhat better than a fashion street top that fades on the first wash.

Short of it all – watch it on TV. You may actually like it.

This one was a 2 on 5 for me.

Suggestions and Thoughts for The Justice Verma Committee

Honorable Justice Verma,

The recent events around the widely reported Delhi Gangrape incident have brought to the fore not just the sentiments of an infuriated nations, but also several glaring shortcomings in the way our law and order infrastructure is setup and operating. Amongst the precious few steps taken by the elected government, one was to set up this committee under your guidance and invite recommendations and suggestions from citizens of the civil society towards the amendment of laws. I welcome this meaningful gesture, somewhat late and inadequate as they may be.

While the public notice invited only recommendations around the laws, I have included two sections in this document – the first section includes my recommendations w.r.t. to the laws the way I understand them, and the second section covers certain other recommendations  that I feel would be crucial to avoiding such incidents in the future.

Section 1

  • Need for Special Courts
    • Separate courts for crime against women need to be setup. Again, the classification on whether a particular case needs a fast track action should be driven by the category of the case and not by the gender of the defendant. However, in the case of women, we as a nation need to recognize that the odds are heavily stacked against them – right from their ability to report an incident to their ability to fight for their rights. The number of times they are abused, violated, beaten up, burnt, killed etc and no action is taken is not insignificant.
    • Fast Track Courts for Special Cases-
      • We need to put a definition, and a set of metrics around what we mean by fast track courts. I believe that a fast track court should be defined by cases that should be resolved in less than a month.
      • Independent benchmarking – We need to have real and acceptable benchmarks for measuring the efficiency of these fast track courts. For instance, a one month turnaround on cases of rape and violence is a reasonable fast track performance. The identity of the rapists, the physical and medical examination that allows sufficient evidence to be furnished, the forensic evidence collection, etc. can be easily done in this window. The tracking down of the culprits and booking them could take time. However, an active and intent police machinery will be able to track down the culprits, is my belief. Furthermore, the evaluation metrics for fast track courts should be closely integrated with the evaluation metrics for the entire law and order machinery linked to that case. This would include police and the investigating agencies as well.
    • Escalation Courts: There should be a court where complaints against the government officials handling a particular case can be registered. This could take some cues from the consumer protection forums where cases have been addressed purely on the basis of a letter on a post-card as well. Intent counts. People should be able to write in with the specific date/time/scenario where a government official/ police person, etc. harassed them or did not fulfill his duty in the most professional manner.
  • Stronger and Relevant Punishments – I do not believe that a death penalty always serves the best. However, criminals involved in cases that lead to the death of a defendant or such bodily harm that the defendant is not able to continue with a normal life (like the case being discussed right now), are worthy of no lesser punishment.
    • It is important that the judiciary revisits the several varieties of punishments that are currently codified in the books of law, and ensure that they are harsh and compensatory enough to act as a deterrent. For instance, while a penalty of 1000 rupees for talking on your mobile while driving acts as a deterrent for individuals, the confiscation of the mobile phone may act as a stronger deterrent.
    • In this case, maybe, financial punishments to the tune of 30-40% of a criminal’s existing wealth/possessions/bank balance, etc in addition to 30-40 years of imprisonment with labor (and with no possibility of sentence reduction) might be a form of punishment worth considering.  Chemical castration in case of rape, death in the case of murder, etc. might be punishments that can be evaluated by the judiciary. However, the underlying theme should not be that of revenge (a form that general public opinion might take) but that of a deterrent  for future cases.
    • Enlist experts’ support – I am not so well versed on criminal psychology or criminal law as to be able to suggest the best punishments for corrective action/ future deterrents, but I believe there is a need to enlist a body of experts in such areas. These experts need to come from four different areas – government, judiciary, academia and citizen groups. The debate and the outcome of the same should be available to public.
  • Handling of Traffic Offenses – Impound vehicles, licenses with multiple reports. The frequency and magnitude can be discussed, but the frequency cannot be more than once a month and the overall magnitude cannot be more than 5 mistakes over the lifetime. An impounded license holder or vehicle should not be allowed to operate for an year, at least. A failure to observe so can be immediately considered for imprisonment.
  • Laws about Juvenile Criminals – I think there is a need differentiate between adult franchise and juvenile crimes. A little boy stealing from a store can be called a juvenile crime, but a young lad of 16 years age raping and brutalizing a woman cannot be called a juvenile crime. I believe that when it comes to violence against women (sexual, physical, mental), children (less than 13 years of age), old people (retirees), etc. we should have a strictly low tolerance policy. I believe young ones in the age group of 14-18 need to be treated differently, and for certain case categories, treated with almost the same standards as are used for adults. A 16 year old is sensitive and aware enough to understand men/women differentiation, law and order (through the study of civics as a subject since the age of 10, I think), and societal values. There is no element of accidental mistake in the case under public attention. Moreover, the law should create a provision for special consideration of cases such as these so that the non-adult criminal is not let off without adequate punishment
  • Judiciary should open itself to criticism.
    • On cases that are pending across the nation, can the judiciary, for once, commit to clearing the entire backlog of pending criminal cases over the next 12 months? And hold those accountable who are holding back the process?
    • The judiciary needs to assess its workload. Simple enough cases take years to get decided on. As a civilian I have heard lawyers talk about how extending a case forever ensures more money to them. I have heard stories about underhanded transactions to expedite the course of action. If it is possible, it should be established a process. And these need to be aggressive goals, not passive goals.
    • Work with the bar council and other relevant bodies to act against the lawyers that impede the process of justice.
  • Bring about transparency in judicial processes.
    • The complainant should have complete transparency into the action taken on their complaints, right from the assigned police person, to the different evidences, confessions, interrogations, etc. While certain aspects need to be reviewed critically, I believe that greater transparency will ensure ore action.
    • The mugshots of all apprehended criminals and their details should be available for public with their identities on a central website. Anyone who’s been booked under such offenses should be shamed publicly.
    • Expected Turnaround Time by Case Types
      • Depending on the case type, TATs need to be defined upfront. These expected TATs should be clearly defined. A murder case that takes three years to solve, most likely, has lost most of the core evidence already,
      • The ETAs for the police and the investigation agencies should be clearly mentioned and reported to the public.
      • Under RTI, any reason for delay should be available for further explanation.

Section 2: Other Thoughts and Recommendations.

  • Enable better and easier reporting of crime
    • Every police station should have women officials for responding to complaints from women, registering the FIRs, etc.
    • Setup hotlines for specific complaint categories with dedicated mobile units at the back-end to reach the scene of the crime as quickly as possible.
    • Take the FIR registration system online where an individual can request to register an FIR and provide supporting evidence if any online. Why should the system expect a victim who has been harassed and abused and violated to reach a police station, get harassed again by the policemen and still not be able to report their case.
    • The verification layers should be built in the form of approved identity papers (such as Aadhaar, Passport, etc.) and a mobile number based verification of complaint so that the system is not abused by stray criminals as well.
    • Simplify the process of registering an FIR. We can take cues from the consumer protection forum, which has occasionally taken actions on letters on a post-card even.
  • Financial Support –
    • In such cases of brutal violence against individuals, the state should fund the medical and rehabilitation expenses for the individual. At the highest quality institutes of healthcare. Without requiring media intervention.
    • These numbers should be readily reported to the individuals and a centralized repository where RTI activists, NGOs, etc have access to the information (without requiring a 4 week lag).
  • Policing the police
    • Police stations should be monitored through video surveillance as well. The video records should be made available for any case where the role of the police is suspect.
    • A clearer explanation as to why it took three weeks for the police to file a chargesheet in this case. I believe that this process should be brought down to 24 hours.
    • I believe that amendments to a chargesheet are an allowed process, and hence the murder case could have been brought at a separate point. But the first chargesheet should have been filed much earlier.
  • Independent Reporting and Benchmarking
    • Independent group of bodies for benchmarking the performance of different police stations should be setup.
    • It should include the number of walk-ins to the FIR desk, the number of FIRs registered, the number of cases open vs. closed, the distribution of cases by number of days they’ve been open, or have taken to close, the number of cases that are discarded, the number of cases that were closed due to the lack of evidence, etc. Break them by categories.
    • The Ministry of Home Affairs should step in to evaluate these reports which are published in major dailies across the country for public consumption as well as localdata being published in the city editions of top 10 largest circulating dailies on specific dates in a quarter (to start with).
    • The Ministry of Home Affairs should respond within a week to report on the identified weakness in the system, and the recommended follow-up.
  • Technology enablement
    • Deployment of video surveillance cameras with capability to take high speed photographs of the license plates, process it, and issue challans or raise SOS flags – especially in the more sensitive areas.
    • Centralization of criminal/crime database. While law and order is a state government subject, there are elements that need to be centralized for the better safety of the citizens, and for providing an air of comfort and well being in our country.
    • Put data warehousing, analytics, and reporting systems in place that are capable of aggregating information, analyzing it, and in many cases be able to identify the hotspots of criminal activities, the time of the day when such activities peak, and so on. It is a long process which will become better with time and more information being fed to the system, but we need a starting point.
    • All PCRs, traffic vans, etc. need to be centrally integrated so that the criminal databases are available to all at the scene of investigation itself. One should not be allowed to roam freely in Haryana if they have a murder case pending against them in Gujarat, for instance.
    • Move away from paper-pen challans to electronic challans. This will also ensure better tracking of incidents, culprits over a period of time.
    • We need better integration between telecom providers and police so that an SOS signal/call coming to a hotline number can be immediately tracked to a location for rapid action. We  cannot expect a dying person to always call and report their exact whereabouts and what condition they are in. Strong SOS trackers are a good investment. We need these SOS mechanisms to be advertised heavily through all channels of communication.
  • Police force strength/ staffing –
  • Assessment of staffing levels of police in different coverage areas. Furthermore, compare it to the crime rate (reported) in that area. Build a classification system that identifies the area as safe to high risk. Accordingly, adjust police personnel deployment at the field leave. Increase beat durations, frequency, and number of personnel as required. Let there be no other city to get the dubious distinction of being the rape capital. Let there be no area in the city where the civilians are scared of walking around. It is my country and it is my right to walk around in the city even late in the night without fearing for my life.
  • Geographic areas need to be clearly demarcated for police action. One of the case facts has been the debate between various police stations’ PCR vans about whose jurisdiction area the incident comes under. We lost precious few hours that could have saved the victim.
  • Availability of backup medical and support units if needed. Mobile security units with superceding authority to take action in any area beyond their immediate jurisdiction for swift action.
  • Upgrade the police force – in their ability to use technology, move rapidly, create enablers at short notice to deal with a crime scene. I think that the bus and the criminals in this case could have been tracked and apprehended within the first hour of the incident

The timelines for such initiatives cannot be several years. The technology for several of the above recommendations is already in place globally, and we need to work with international agencies, maybe, to get these deployed in the swiftest possible manner.

Agneepath?

Nistabdh khada, nishabd khada
Hai raashtra aaj doraahe par
Ik aag se jalta rasta hai
Ik bujha hua sa murdaghar
Tum haath utha ke mashaal liye
apne dil mein ye sawaal liye
Ma behnon ki gaali kha kar
na koi seedha jawaab diye
is doraahe par aaj ruko
Gar kadam uthe seedha hi uthe
Aane wali peedhi pooche
Keh dena thodi der lagi
Par aaj uthe, hum saath uthe

Ye ajeeb drishya hai
Chal raha manushya hai
Ashru, sved, raqt se
Lathpath lathpath lathpath.
Kya aaj chunoge agneepath?
Agneepath, agneepath, agneepath.

Coaches, Coaching: Passing Observations

Some on-off incidents –

#1 – There is a club in Raheja Vihar, close to my apartment. It has one badminton court. The next badminton court might be at Bombay Scottish. The one after that, likely, is in Hiranandani or Lake Homes. Each of these courts has defined play times for children, ladies, and general. There are hours when its deserted. There are times when you wait for 30 minutes to get a game in. Practice ralleys are not encouraged because it eats into other people’s time. So you talk in terms of 3 practice rallies only. Or 5. I haven’t seen a ‘coach’ here.

#2 – Three kids in the building where we live in Mumbai are playing a little soccer at the podium level. General gully scratching as one would say. One of them was trying to make his free kicks curve in. The second thought he knew how to and was trying to explain him, because his kicks had occasionally curved in. But then, kid#2 could also not do it consistently enough. The third was the goalkeeper. Also, as a second coach. If you heard the conversation, you’d know that they didn’t have a clue. They were experimenting. And learning.

#3 – A month long summer cricket camp in 1994 with a coach who is a nice fellow (a wicketkeeper batsman in the MECON team, also the second wicketkeeper of Bihar team)– Jitendra Singh. Jitendra bhaiya would tell us about the need for warm up, running, stretching etc. before you get to the actual game session. The game sessions were of two types. The typical nets where someone would bat and a set of bowlers would bowl. Or, split the lot into two teams and let them play a match against each other. As the play progressed, he would occasionally tell you what’s wrong with a particular delivery or shot. And so we tried to learn. In that period, I was experimenting with the bowling actions of Arshad Ayub, Saqlain Mushtaq, Anil Kumble, John Emburey, and a whole bunch of others before getting to a hybrid which was a cross between Warne and Kumble. I was a budding off-spinner. Maybe he noticed. Maybe he didn’t. He was happy that my deliveries were landing in the right areas. But he never talked about the loop, the trajectory, the rotations and the angle at which the ball should/ could land. Or the use of crease. Or the importance of pitches. In the same coaching camp, I don’t remember telling him much to the keeper either. That wicketkeeper, you’d remember from a few years back, wasn’t the nicest sight behind the stumps when he started for India, even though he used to be quite explosive as a batsman.

#4 – Last year, I was at my sister’s place. October sometime. One of those evenings, I took my nephew to his basketball class. He was 11 years old then. It was a 60 minute session. For the first 50 minutes, the coach conducted several 4-5 minute capsules covering the basics. How to move, how the knee bends should be, the second counting counting, the shoot, the dribbles, the hold, the release, offense movement, defense movements, decoys, etc. Small capsules of theory and practice. The kids were facing the coach and copying the basics. Next 5 minutes, he let the kids play in two teams. And for the last 5 minutes he let the kids do whatever they wanted to. Let them be kids, as they say.
Random conversations with several people since then suggest that at schools in US, the coach is the highest paid teacher.

#5 – I am reading Rafael Nadal’s book – Rafa. And one thing that stands about that ginromously successful and talented player is the excruciatingly painful training he has subjected himself to. All the hardwork he’s put into getting to that place. Somewhere in Sachin Tendulkar’s story is a similar lesson. Though, it was his brother Ajit who used to drive him from one stadium to another to another. And in both their stories, you have coaches who had a significant impact, more so in Rafa’s case than Sachin’s case.

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Notice anything? The general indication is that we as a nation are heavily dependent on talent. Not coaching, grooming or hardwork. Many with talent rarely get a chance to be near a coach. Even rarer is a coach takes interest. And rarest, a coach who is good.

The methods are absent because they are not considered important. The infrastructure is missing, because the administrators have other priorities. More often, how to be rich in 3 years and save for my coming generations in the next few. Like all things educational, our focus on the educators is abysmal. Teachers get paid less than daily wage laborers in primary school, and we expect them to lay a strong foundation (Rs. 5000 per month or so). A professor in a management school earns a monthly salary which a graduating MBA finds insulting. And coaches, more often than not, are an afterthought.

But how long will it be before we see a need for good teachers and coaches?

We know about Acharekar’s success as a coach. We have seen how Gopichand’s academy is grooming more and more world class badminton players. I believe that Bhupathi’s academy will give us some more world class tennis players. Albert Ekka Hockey Academy in Ranchi helps groom hockey players in the region with great consistency. Mary Kom is keen on a good boxing academy. Music, over the years, has maintained the culture of gharanas, and Rahman kind of people are investing in the KM Music Conservatory. We’ve seen Kirsten be a great coach to the Indian team. And historically as well, Ajit Wadekar, Chappell, etc. have played that role with varying levels of success. It will be interesting to see if a Dravid, Laxman, Kumble, Ganguly or Tendulkar take the route of coaching youngsters. Or, will most of them end up in the commentary boxes.

My hypotheses – it will probably be a 10-15 year long cycle where good players who retire from international or first class sports will take the opportunity to open academies, groom youngsters, bring best practices from around the globe, and get the backing of business houses who understand that there is money in creating a culture too, and not just encashing a fleeting sentiment. And then, we will have competent bench strength. And somewhere, enough adulation, money and competitive pressure to keep everyone going. I don’t think it’s going to work unless the economics is favorable.

विरासत (Inheritance)

उसे अकेले चलने की आदत नहीं थी। मज़ा नहीं आता था ऐसी वाक में। हमेशा ऐसा लगता था मानो बैकग्राउंड में ज़ी हॉरर शो का वो भद्दा सा संगीत बज रहा हो। हॉरर देखने वालों की तादाद दो तरह की होती है। एक जिन्हें वो भूत, वो खून, वो डरावने चेहरे देखने में कुछ मज़ा सा आता है, और दुसरे वो, जिन्हें ये सब एक कॉमेडी की तरह लगता है। वैसे इन दोनों ही पक्षों को ये संगीत कॉमेडी ही लगता है। मगर उसके दिमाग में सुनसान से ज्यादा तन्हाई का संगीत जी हॉरर वाला ही होता था। उसने कभी विश्लेषण नहीं किया था की क्यों ऐसा होता है। ऐसा भी नहीं था की उसे जी हॉरर शो बहुत पसंद था। बस एक संयुक्त एहसास था। और कुछ भी नहीं। कम से कम दूसरों को तो ऐसा ही लगता था।

वो भी एक ऐसी ही रात थी। बैकग्राउंड म्यूजिक के साथ जब वो अकेले बस स्टॉप से अपने घर की तरफ आ रही थे, तो एक खौफ की तरह उसे कुछ पैरों की आहट अपने पीछे महसूस हुई। पलट कर देखने की जगह उसने अपने कदमो की रफ़्तार बढ़ा दी। लेकिन आहटों ने पीछा ना छोड़ा। कुछ देर तक तेज चलते हुए क़दमों से उसने अपना रोज़ का रास्ता बदलने की कोशिश की। आहटें फिर भी साथ थी। उसने सोचा की वो चिल्लाये। मगर किसे? और क्यों? कुछ हुआ तो था नहीं। और मानो की ये सब उसका वहम हो? बचपन से सब ने सिखाया था की अगर डर से आँखें मिलाओ और डर को तुम्हारा डर दिख जाए, तो डर तुम पर हावी होने लागता है। येही सोच कर उसने पीछे पलट कर ये देखना अभी तक जरूरी नहीं समझा था। और साथ में दो सामाजिक डर अलग से – अगर कोई पीछे हुआ ही नहीं, और मैंने शोर मचाया तो लोग क्या कहेंगे? और अगर कोई पीछे है भी और मान लो की वो कोई यहीं का रहने वाला हो और मैंने शोर मचाया  तो बिना मतलब की फजीहत।

अब वो हांफने लगी थी। अभी भी घर कम से कम 100 मीटर दूर था। रौशनी थी। और भी घरों में रौशनी थी। उसे यकीं था की अगर वो चिल्लाएगी तो कोई न कोई निचे उतर ही आएगा। मगर जितने देर में कोई नीचे आएगा, क्या वो काफी होगा? अगर कोई उसे अगवा कर के ले गया? और इससे भी सुनसान जगह एक लोहे के सरिये से जख्मी शरीर की तरह छोड़ गया? सेलफोन कम से कम हाथ में निकाल लेती हूँ। मगर चलते चलते पर्स को टटोलने में रफ़्तार धीमी पड़ने लगी। दर से उसने फिर अपने कदम तेज़ कर दिए।

इन रास्तों पर चलते हुए अब 15 साल हो गए थे। और अब तक वो सोचती आयी थी की शायद ज़िन्दगी इन्ही रास्तों पर कट जायेगी।

उसने अपने मन को सांत्वना देने के लिए कुछ बोलना चाहा। मगर सूखे हुए गले से कोई आवाज़ नहीं निकली।

शहर कभी भी सुरक्षित नहीं महसूस होता था उसे। मगर कभी इतना डरावना भी नहीं की शाम के अँधेरे में उसे साए दिखाए दें। वो कॉमेडी क्लब में थी। लेकिन गए कुछ अरसे से उसे हॉरर शो डरावने लगने लगे थे।

काम्प्लेक्स के दरवाज़े पर पहुँच कर, जब उसे बिल्डिंग के गार्ड्स दिखाई देने लगे तो उसने हिम्मत जोड़ी और पीछे मुड़ के देखा। वहां कोई नहीं था।

वहाँ अँधेरे में उसे छह हैवानों की दी हुई वो विरासत दिखी जिसकी हिफाज़त में मुल्क के सारे सियासतदान लगे हुए थे।

उसने पर्स से फ़ोन निकाल, और अपने विश्वास और हिम्मत के लिए उस लिफ़ाफ़े को फिर से छू कर देखा, जिसमे उसका भविष्य था। किसी और शहर की किसी और गली में।

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