Dhruv (Gappu)

Before Dhruv becomes old enough to ask why bhaiya has a poem on this blog, but he doesn’t- an old one written on the day I held him first –

वो पूछेंगे की कौन हो तुम
कह देना
मैं गप्पू हूं
गप्पू
वो गाल में होता है ना
वो वाला गुप्पु

पापा के कंधों पर सोता रहने वाला
मम्मा की गोदी में हंसने रोने वाला

भैया दिन है तो रात हूँ मैं
उसकी हर अधूरी बात हूँ मैं

किसी का सपना किसी की जी लेने की चाहत
जैसे आसमान में उड़ती पतंग
या किसी के दबे पाँव चलने की आहट

कभी ऊँगली पकड़ता हूँ
कभी राह दिखाने वाला ध्रुव तारा
कभी आरोह, कभी अवरोह
कभी आपने में छुपाने वाला अँधेरा
कभी आँचल में समेत लूँ , वो उजियारा

कहना

मैं गप्पू हूँ , गप्पू
मेरा नाम सुन के चेहरे पे मुस्कराहट आती है
सूखे होंठों पे हंसी
गीली आँखों में चमक
और ठहरे लफ़्ज़ों में थरथराहट आती है

गप्पू गप्पें भी हांकते हैं
तोतली बोतली आवाज़ों में
कह देना
मेले दोस्त बनोगे तो कहानी भी छुनाऊँगा

मगर याद रहे
मेरे साथ मेरी कहानी सुन के
तुम भी थोड़े गप्पू हो जाओगे
मेरी उँगलियों के घेरे में
तुम अपनी नयी तस्वीर बनाओगे

गप्पू का मतलब मत समझाना गप्पू

वर्ण सब जल जाएंगे,
पूछेंगे
सिर्फ तुम क्यों गप्पू? मैं भी गप्पू?
तुम हंस कर केह देना
हाँ, तुम, मैं , हम सब गप्पू

बस मेरी ठिठियाती हंसी में जुड़ जाओ
फिर सब कुछ बस गप्पू ही गप्पू

The missus does not want me destroying his name as well, but what do you do when you have kids who give you the feeling of laddu and gappu!

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.

Social. Anti-Social. Happy 2015

About a few years back, I loved social media and the possibilities it created. It gave people a chance to say that they care about issues that were otherwise not getting picked up by mainstream media. There were the great crowdsourced help groups that were helping people during floods and terrorist attacks and tsunamis. There were candlelight vigils against blatant miscarriages of justice. There were hashtags that organized the chaotic voice of the masses.

Today, I get worried. We live in a very angry world. For every voice of reason, there are many many more that are just angry, intolerant, venomous and vicious.

The world that we live in is not a black and white world. There are few issues out there that are just perfectly black and white. Like rape. Or murder. Everything else, is a matter of opinion and perspective and vantage points. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter or victim. The terror in the valley had two sides.. Iraq war – a few. Islamophobia has a few ore. Hitler does as well.

Yet, every day, my social media feed is increasingly becoming an assault on the senses. The opinions are absolute. Debate is not possible. Insults and slurs (that seemed to be a popular feature on rediff discussion boards in the earlier years) have become all pervasive. Patience is no longer a virtue. Not for the masses, it would seem.

Yet, every now and then, like a whiff of freshly brewed coffee, you come across a deep-web link or a near-perfectly researched piece that sparks off a debate amongst the people who still have the patience to understand and analyse and not react to the “headlines”.

The headlines are increasingly sensational. The reactions increasingly alarmist. But its not all lost. You can grab that cup of coffee a little tighter, press it against your face, feel its warmth.

 

So, here’s to an year gone by. And to a momentous year coming up ahead. That the anger around me doesn’t take me over. And that the cup of coffee stays warm. That there be more debates and less altercations that are worthy of a life so short. That there be learning that stay with me on this long journey.

थी गर्म हवाएं, तूफाँ का था अंदेशा
ये वक़्त गुज़र जाए, दे सब्र मुझे ऐसा

Names, Urdu, Religion and Us

The other day, I was thinking about the strong religious connotations a name has. Or, a regional connotation. Almost everyone I meet, thinks of me as a bengali, because of my supremely common name combined with a supremely common bengali surname. It’s a different matter that Das can be a bengali, bihari, oriya, assamese (and others?). Now, imagine the confusion someone who would be in if I had an urdu first name and my original surname. Or, my original first name and an otherwise urdu surname. Amit Shah Zafar, or Justjoo Das.

Which leads me to the conundrum I faced several months back. As me and the missus were going through names for laddoo, we were stuck on Guthli (the seed) as his or her pet name. But the formal name was a challenge. My love for urdu language in general, and ghazals as a a genre of poetry meant that I would often come up with (beautiful) names that would be immediately considered muslim. Not that me and the Missus have a problem with that, but this would have meant a lifetime of questions for the poor laddoo/ guthli. Imagine being asked five times a day, “you aren’t going for your namaaz? You are a non believer, eh?” or, “your parents are hindus, but you are a muslim! how?”. Imagine him repeating many more times in a day – My surname is Das and I am not a Bengali.

Just imagine the possibilities of beautiful names if such forced observations could be done away with. Instead of the Aaravs and Aanyas who have replaced Amits and Nehas these days, we could experiment with Arsh, Nihaa, Soz, Ghazal, Ashaar, Rehbar… Irrespective of the irreparable damage a boring surname like Das would have done to a Ghazal, an Ashaar Das would probably still sound beautiful. Imagine a Gurumurthy down south being called Soz Ramakrishnan – the firy Ramakrishnan. Or, Jatinder up north being called Sabr Singh- the patient lion. Such joy. Lost.

I just think that when you (can) bring other languages to your own, in an increasingly cosmopolitan world, it has the possibility to make it so much more beautiful. Alas, the only accepted confluence is english. So, David Patel or Arlene Mehrotra might be ok, but we will have to wait some more for a  Naaz Tendulkar or a Shoorveer Ahmad.

*It’s odd to be posting this at the fading end of a political debate where one gentleman is an extremist Hindu with a reasonably well documented hatred towards Muslims, another whose party has a long history of promoting religious/regional divide and rule, and a rookie whose name has been lent to an egg based delicacy at a place which claims to serve the food of the Greek gods.

A New Year Post (Customary Thing To Do As A Blogger)

First up, a very happy new year to you all. Thank you for being so faithful, using random search terms to land here, appreciating some of the cock-a-meme offline, and every now and then, asking me to write more. Its a short life, and one must be thankful for the gifts that one gets – deservedly or undeservedly.

funny-new-years-day_1388107407I hope all of you continue to make resolutions, keep up the spirit for a week or so (or maybe longer), plan out the gory details of your life, and then, live it up like only you can. I hope there are no regrets about the unfulfilled plans, and there is some joy still left in accidental discoveries.

I hope all of you continue to be who you are, or a better version thereof.

As for myself, I have decided that I will try and rediscover my forgotten maxims –
1. Be happy. Given who I am, and what I have to offer to the world, the world has been very kind to me.
2. Do everything with a lot of love. I was never the guy who did everything, or anything for that matter, with a lot of passion. But I get by with a fair bit of love.
3. Meet people, say hello, smile a lot, think a little less. Be interested. In myself. And others. Rekindle the forgotten relationships, let go of the biases that creep in, give myself another chance. And then another.
4. Try and be better than myself. Of today. Every day.
5. Not have a plan, but have many goals.

And one of the goals is more than 313 posts this year. Which amounts to less than one off-blog day per week. The only way to improve your writing is by writing. A lot. And I think the half baked stories need to be completed. And the yet to be fleshed out script. The last year started off OK, but I dropped the ball somewhere. And never really picked it up. But the good news is – I am a father. The better news is – much as I find Aaroh the most adorable thing in my life, I am not turning this into a daddy blog. Daddysan does it better. Hop over to that site.

Have you guys seen “The Wonder Years”? One of the most amazing things about the TV series was the closing thought that the older Kevin would often end an episode with. And it often started with – And the funny thing is/was…

But the funny thing is – I have no idea what I am going to write.

Rudeness Pays?

In 1995, Gajendra Chauhan came up with (or repurposed) a musical talent show called Saregama. TVS Saregama, I think was the first season. It seems like it happened a lifetime back. Talent shows were about talent, and people on these shows generally seemed nice and humble. Sonu Nigam came across as a guy who couldn’t stop learning. This was also around the same time that Meri Awaaz Suno went live on doordarshan. Meri Awaaz Suno’s final was judged by Lata Mangeshkar, and Sunidhi Chauhan was a discovery of that show. Before this, most musical talent shows (like the one that discovered the voice of Mahendra Kapoor) were on radio.

 

A deeply etched memory from Saregama is of late-Rajkumari ji singing “guard babu guard babu seeti na baja” and “ghabra ke jo hum sar ko, takraye to acha”. The megafinal had ensemble judges like Anil Biswas, Khayyam, O P Nayyar, Naushaad, Parveen Sultana, Kalyanji-Anandji, Pandit Jasraj, etc. Jagjit Singh once performed a medley of songs as a tribute to the other judges – including “Seene Mein Sulagte Hain ArmaaN” and “Mitti Da Baawa”. Another memory is that of Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia asking one of the participants (Sanjeev, I think, who had come from US) to sing without music, and then telling him where he dropped a note. In the same episode, he asked Mohd. Vakil to sing the aaroh and avaroh of Raag Bhoopkali, not before the confusion between Raag Bhoopkali and Rag Bhoopali. And through all this, Sonu Nigam planted himself on the Indian music scene, never to look back again on his days of coming up with 25 rupee cover version of Mohd. Rafi songs for T-series.

 

The earlier years had Sanjeevani (who sang Chura lo na dil mera in Kareeb), Shreya Ghoshal (what do I need to tell you about her, except that her first break was “Isshhhh” for Devdas, after Bhansali spotted her in the show), Kunal Ganjawala (Bheege Hoth Tere), Parthiv Gohil (Saawariya), Pandit Jasraj, etc. The general humility and reverence that the participants had, was well supplemented by the purely musical format of the show, and the focus of the judges on singing.  I don’t remember a moment of bickering, complaining, fighting, or melodrama on the show. The only emotional element was when someone was not able to move to the next round. In the video of Rajkumariji (link above), Sonu Nigam starts with how they were not able to show all this footage because airing the show left them little time.

 

Back in the days, the judges were the judges(1). Public votes were not the deciding factor. Participants had to come and sing, and not plead for audience mercy. Even boogie woogie was squarely judged by Javed, Naved and Ravi Behl. Usually, there would be just one judge for a particular episode. And for the finals, and semifinals there would be more judges. The Mahafinal of Saregama featured their earlier winners, and I think Mohd. Vakil went on to win the Mahafinal, along with Bela Shende. Sanjeevani and Sudeshna missed it by a whisker.

 

 

I was totally and absolutely in love with the show. And I read this article on OPEN (Rudeness Pays) that prompted this post. I don’t follow the musical talent shows  as much these days. Most of them have 20 minutes of real stuff and 30 minutes of idiocy. The article rightly points out that Raghu (of Roadies) has made

a career out of abuses. That there is too much riding on idiots like Dolly Bindra in Big Boss. Rationale – TRP. But if that were true, no one should watch Kaun Banega Crorepati, right? Amitabh Bachchan still handles the show with extreme affability and humility. There is a general air of bonhomie on the show. And that probably explains why the only reality show I can tolerate these days is Dance Indian Dance. There is a lot of peripheral time wastage, but thankfully the judges don’t bicker, and Mithunda is happily drunk most of the days.

 

Does this bother you?

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(1) By the way, one of my earliest memories of an audience based decision is a sequence from the movie Bhoot Bangla, where Tanuja sings “O Mere Pyaar Aaja”, followed by “Aao Twist Karein”. The performance is measured through a Taali-meter, and compered by Amin Sayani. Absolutely wonderful songs, both of them.  The movie has some wonderful songs by the way – “Jaago Sone Walon”, being one of my favorites.

 

(2) A big thank you to the good folks who keep sharing these videos on youtube. I had no hope of finding these, but here they are.

 

Renewal

I had written this one for the Caferati readmeet which I could not go for due to some last minute thing that came up. So, I think I should post it here. The theme for this readmeet was going to be renewal

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It was the June of 2004, I think. We were having a chat at the Barista. The one on MG Road in Bangalore. It wasn’t a singularly profound conversation. We were discussing music from the era where Mohd. Rafi was at the peak of his prowess. His flawless voice, and the smooth turns his  voice could take from one song to another and within a particular composition, and that surge of emotion that only he could handle at those high notes. We both loved him. The world might be divided on whether Kishore Kumar was better than Mohammad Rafi, but at the least, the world is not divided on the greatness of Rafi. The discussion started with the song that was playing  in the background – mujhe dard-e-dil ka pata na tha (I knew not of the pain of love, why did you come into my life), mujhe aap kis liye mil gaye! We discussed many more, our favorites, the poetry, the rendition, the love and the tears. And we realized the common favorites in the process. “Aap ke haseen rukh pe aaj naya noor hai, mera dil machal gaya to mera kya kasoor hai”. A new light shines on your beautiful face, how am I at a fault, if my heart did a double take!

And yet, here, today, in 2012, as the end of world is near, we bump into each other. This time, in a crowded mall. R City Mall, it’s known as. Had we been in touch? I wonder. I know all about your vacations, and your son, and the work that’s made you travel from here to there, and the friends you’ve met. I also know about the Thai place where you were dining last week. And I am sure you are clued in about me as well. Though, I haven’t met you in these 8 years. There were those couple of conversations that we had. Yes. But what did we talk about? Guess some congratulations and some work. Do you remember what it was? I don’t. And my guess is the same as yours. That it must have been something really… really important.

We talk about a lot of things. And we talk about the noisy mall. And that we should meet again. At a quieter place. Because there’s much to catch up on. Much beyond the frivolously inane facebook, twitter and foursquare updates. Because we, as individuals, are still the same. It takes a while for us to talk about the real updates from our lives.

It’s at a mall that I visit almost every week. And so do you. And yet we have missed each other almost every time. Except this one. You know what I loved the most – the way the conversation started – “aap ke haseen rukh pe aaj naya noor hai!, we had said almost in a chorus.

******

Someone I met the other day shared a factoid with me – The median number of friends in the pre-facebook era was 4. In the post-facebook era, it’s “0 (zero)”.
There is a little something about Mumbai that you never take time out to appreciate.  You “bump “into your friends invariably at Phoenix Mills, NCPA, R-City Mall, Leopold, Bandstand, etc. The city localizes everything in small pockets, and has these nerve centers for everything. And in this process, this city increases the odds of your bumping into someone. Despite the city being so huge.

Your friends. An accident. A serendipity.

 

IQR 2013 – The Reading Challenge

I have decided to sign up for the IQR reading challenge. Through blogadda, booklovers, etc. I have been getting access to some Indian authors’ work, which I might have skipped earlier. Despite my initial complaints, the quality and quantity are both improving with each passing day.

So, the target’s going to be,…. well.. I guess about 12 books by Indian authors this year. If I do more, good for the writers 😉

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.

A New Year Post

The end of the last year being what it was, hope is one thing we should always hold close. So, with a lot of hope on a lot of things, let’s begin the new year on a positive note. And here are the ten few I hope to revisit at the end of 2013 and say yay!

  • Now that the cooling off period is over, I hope I am able to put some of my thoughts and ideas and plans in action and see them succeed or fail.
  • I hope that in the next three months, I am able to finish the drafts of the two different books that I am working on. One of them is an easier one, but the other one is giving me sleepless moments (on that note, there aren’t too many things that give me sleepless nights)
  • Become better and staying in touch. There was a time (and some of that perception still sticks) when I was expected to be in touch with everyone. With work, and changing (deteriorating) habits, I have not really been staying in touch. I was never a big fan of facebook as a source of knowing what your friends are doing, but have succumbed to its ways over the last few years. So, all you long lost friends from school, college, TCS, Inductis, Diamond – don’t get surprised by that sudden call from an unknown number. One of them could be just me wanting to say hello.
  • Anger Management. From being someone who had 1-2 severe angry moments in an annual cycle, I have improved to 1-2 such cycles every month. Maybe more. Need to watch that. I don’t have any specific reason singled out for the lower patience level these days, so I guess the road ahead will be harder.
  • I hope to take some concrete steps to further my interests in the education/teaching area. The biggest barrier – serious teaching requires a PhD. Education, however, does not as much.
  • This year, I want to pick up the guitar again, and get back to practicing regularly. I don’t think I am going to take the stage again (you are welcome!) but the therapeutic effect of playing an instrument is something that I miss.
  • I want to mentor 2-3 startups this year. Over the years, given the workload, I have always shied away from or taken only peripheral interests in the startups that friends, juniors, team members have invested in. This year, I want to do away with that excuse. And by mentoring, it could mean anything – right from helping review and evaluate the idea, help bridge the network gaps that many early startups face, to, if possible, financially support them.
  • Last year and a half were tough on the personal front in a few ways. I hope that all those problems are over now, and I can continue to be positive about everything. And that takes me to #9
  • I need to seriously start taking care of my health before it completely breaks down. I have had instances of back pain and flares, and the problem from eons back continues to bother anyways. Plus, the bags under the eyes with all the stress, the extra weight and fat that needs to be donated to the almighty. So, much to be careful about, rather than spend a lot of time caring about them later on.
  • Leave the comfort of the armchair and be more active in the community. This is going to be tough. It’s convenient to opine on everything from the comfort of your living room. It’s difficult to stand in the sun and make things happen. A lot of small communities that I was a part of earlier have taken a backseat. Excuse is the same, but I must take the blame. I need to get back in action, in short.

There are about 1543 other things that I want to do, but I guess this list will be a good reality check at the end of the year. Till then, keep reading, supporting, and most importantly, being a friend!

A Very Happy New Year To You. May this new year give you the strength to achieve your dreams, the courage to take the difficult decisions, the tenacity to follow through with them, the joy of giving to others, and the satisfaction of having lived a life of no regrets. May you find inner peace.

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.

*******

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.

Mahabharat Ki Ik Shaam

Ruko nahi
Ab mat ruk jaana
Aaj jo jaage ho
To talwaron se dar kar
Mat jhuk jaana

Roz maraa karte the tum
Ab jab jeene ki sochi hai
Ji kar dikhlao
Paani ke dar se
Ya aanson ke behne se
Na ab ghabrao

Krodh ko paalo
Aag dhadhakne do seene me
Na ki pashu ki bhaanti
bauraye se daudo idhar udhar
Is krantipoorn mahine mein

Jhuka hai pehle bhi
Tanashahon ka taj
Jhukega kal phir bhi

Bhale qilon mein baithe hain
deekh padi hai unki thar thar
Aur maathe par bal phir bhi

Aaj agar tum palat gaye
Ghar laut gaye
Phir kaun sa amrit manthan hoga
Kyun hoga
Phir mrit janjeevan ka
Chakra chalega
Jyon jyon hota aaya hai
Tyon tyon hi hoga

 

रुको नहीं

अब मत रुक जाना .

आज जो जागे हो

तो तलवारों से डर कर

मत झुक जाना .

 

रोज़ मरा करते थे तुम

अब जब जीने की सोची है

जी कर दिखलाओ।

 

पानी के डर से

या आँसू के बहने से

ना अब घबराओ।

क्रोध को पालो,

आग धधकने दो सीने में।

 

न की पशु की भाँती

बौराए से दौड़ो इधर उधर

इस क्रान्तिपूर्ण महीने में।
झुका है पहले भी

तानाशाहों का ताज़,

झुकेगा कल फिर भी।

 

भले किलों में बैठे हैं,

दीख पड़ी है उनकी थर थर

और माथे पर बल फिर भी।

 

आज अगर तुम पलट गए

घर लौट गए,

फिर कौन सा अमृत मंथन होगा ?

क्यूँ होगा?

फिर मृत जनजीवन का

चक्र चलेगा।

ज्यों ज्यों होता आया है ,

त्यों त्यों ही होगा।

You, my friend, are a rapist

The rape did not happen that day.

Some of you may remember this. The males especially. Remember that party where this girl from the office was wearing that dress. And was looking really sexy. And you kept leering at her. No, you were not appreciating her. You were undressing her. And violating her. B50 thinks that rape is a very strong word that should not be used frivolously. And I don’t think I am using it frivolously when I say that you almost raped her that night. You took away her right to wear the dress she wanted to, and still be respected for who she was. And that girl who decided to pick a glass of rum or whiskey in the first office or college party. She must be promiscuous, you thought. And remember that girl who had two different boy friends. She can be a party favor, you wondered. Be at the right place at the right time, you planned. And remember the pass you made at that girl once you were too drunk. Maybe in a hope that being drunk allows you to say sorry later in case it she doesn’t like it.

Oh. And I forget.

You are from the elite group. The IITs/NITs/IIMs/etc. Educated, but by your own admission, not quite used to the company of women. Because you are prone to making funny jokes like – IITs don’t have females. They only have males and non-males. Your father, hopefully, did not tell you to be like that. Nor your mother told you that women are objects. You read about Sarojini Naidu and Florence of Nightingale in your school books. And the Ranis of several Jhansis. And that girl in the first bench who always wanted to be ranked first. That bloody maggu, yeah? Your teachers did not tell you this. Most likely. Yet you turned out this way.

So, what stopped you from becoming a rapist? Some kind of moral code? Fear of being caught and put behind bars? Fear of being ostracized  in case people get to know? Fear of being kicked in the nuts by the girl, or being pepper sprayed in your face? The fear of all your “other dreams” coming to an end for the sake of this one wanton fantasy? The fact that all these years, you’ve been fed by the parents, the teachers and the society around you that it’s wrong? But then, illegal downloads are wrong, and so is making lewd comments about someone behind their back.

Take the some total of all those things that stopped you from crossing the line. Somewhere, in there, lies the answer. Because it will take too long for you idiots to learn to respect women.

I wonder who it was who wrote – “jatra naryastu pujyante, tatra vasate devaah” (जत्र नार्यस्तु पूज्यंते , तत्र वसते देवाः). My country is in the pits of hell. And you, my friend, are a rapist. Because you rape when you get a chance. And you tolerate when someone gets raped.

A Hope

Every year, thousands of people die. Due to some mindless violence. Someone was gang raped in Delhi. Somewhere else, a score students are shot in a mad rage. In another place, someone is murdered for marrying outside the religion. For them, today’s set of posts from marathon bloggers’ group are dedicated to the ones who were lost. From the ones who are still alive. In the hope that there are still some left, when this mindless violence is over.

 

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