Can India Change for the Better ?

EDIT Dec-11-2013: Wrote this back in September 2013. Decided not to make it public for some reason. Thought now is a good time to make it public what with AAP taking the capital by storm.

I haven’t written a blog post in a while, and at this time at night, I should probably be asleep, to wake up in time for work tomorrow, but here I am.

I was casually watching a video of Arnab Goswami interviewing some poor soul. I do this once in a while when I need a few chuckles. Every time I look at one of Arnab’s shows on YouTube, I pity the poor souls he is persecuting, and when he keeps shouting to block you from continuing your reply, I find it amusing. Well, I used to feel extremely irritated at first, but then I stopped taking it (or him) seriously, and now I find it amusing.

So, one video led to another, and I was suddenly watching a few interviews of Arvind Kejriwal with Arnab. I don’t follow Indian politics very keenly, but do know who Mr. Kejriwal is, and although I don’t know details or have a secret dossier on him, I do know he would be a breath of fresh air in India if he stays true to his principles and keeps his promises. (Well, who wouldn’t you ask)

Before I come back to the sequence of the videos, that got me to writing this post, I should also mention another factor that led me to writing this post. I, like so many more Indians, have grown increasingly frustrated at the state of affairs in our country. Frustration has given way to distress, and that’s not good at all. Week after week after week of every month of every year for the last few years, the things I have been constantly hearing about and seeing is corruption, rapes in the country, how systems and organizations have been consistently failing, the sorry state of affairs at the grassroots level, the Rupee devaluation versus the US Dollar – the issues seem to be endless. Apart from these National issues, which by themselves are enough to make people faint just thinking about them, there are also a slew of regional issues – bad infrastructure, no enforcement of basic laws and rules, lack of basic amenities more than 50 years since Independence – the list just goes on and on. Sure, other countries have issues, so let this not be seen as an unnecessary criticism of the country by someone who is not even in the country – that’s right I don’t live in India at the present moment.

Anyway, coming back to the subject at hand, yes I am extremely frustrated with the state of affairs. In my most recent visit to India, I had to deal with 2 full days of power cuts because the EB person would not come and fix the issue. I had to deal with parking not being available  anywhere I went, I had to deal with bad roads, that if I hadn’t been careful had the potential to throw me off a two wheeler, and injure me. I had to deal with ridiculous price increases in the last two years, that I couldn’t understand. I had to deal with unreserved passengers occupying my reserved seats in a train and refusing to move, I had to deal with the toilets being occupied by the said unreserved passengers, and thereby not being able to use them when I badly had to. I had to deal with not being able to get out of my seat and grab something to eat – having to sleep on an empty stomach. You’ve been spoilt by your two years in the US, you twit, some of you might say. I agree, I have been spoilt.  But apart from expecting basic amenities I haven’t been spoilt at all. Millions of , (ok fine Lakhs of :) ) Indians deal with all these problems and more on a daily basis – so what exactly am I cribbing about right ? Do I consider myself special, right ? Absolutely not. I counter you by asking why should anyone have to suffer from any of these problems ? Not just me – any Indian citizen – why should we have to deal with such absolutely shameless governance that we cannot provide the most basic amenities to people ?

Ok, paint a picture already man – what the hell are you ranting about –  we all know these issues exist.

Right, I was talking to a couple of close friends of mine – who all happen to be (in) abroad in different countries, and I think the general gist of the conversation was – you know when I came here a couple of years back, the plan was pretty simple – earn money for a few years, go back to India. But we weren’t sure any more. I know I am not. And why should I be ? What do I have to look forward to when I get there ? 10 Lakh rupees in donation to get my (to be in the distant future) kid admitted in primary school ? Our money being looted by everyone left, right and centre, and getting nothing in return. Where is the patriot in me right ?

Anyway the general perception among most Indians is that the country is going to the dogs. That’s the essence. That’s the first central themeIndia is going to the dogs.

As readers of the Blog, I am sure you will whip out your next question quicker than a protagonist in a western movie might whip out his pistol and shoot the other (bad) guy, who goes down blood spurting from his torso. Ok, so what are you doing about it ? Right ?

Well, quite honestly nothing. But let’s turn the heat back on me later, ok ? (Also read as, I will sidestep that for now. :) ) Didn’t I promise to come back to the sequence of videos ? Yes, here we go. After watching his Kejriwal’s interview with Arnab, I watched Karan Thapar interviewing Kejriwal. Some very good questions put, and some answered well, and some not – but no sidestepping, or no dishonesty. But the second central theme is forming here – if you are to run a country, or lead a political party, you have to be prepared. You need to know issues inside out, you need to know the solutions to the issues. Arvind was sufficiently prepared in my opinion. In his own words, he could have probably done a better job of articulating it better. (Well, his own words were not articulated as well ;) )

Somehow the next video I landed on was Karan Thapar’s interview with Ramachandra Guha on Rahul Gandhi’s speech at the CII. Now for those of you that had the privilege of viewing an edited excerpt of that speech, you already know it was absolutely incoherent, and gibberish. I came away thinking – what the hell ? Ramachandra Guha seemed to think pretty much the same, and rightly pointed out that Rahul Gandhi did not add anything substantial in his speech that suggested he was capable of running the country. Well, that reinforces my second central themeBeing Prepared – knowing what you are talking about, knowing the problems in the country, and making policies that will address at least a subset of those issues. It’s all about being prepared. I read the Jeffrey Archer novel “First Among Equals” back when I was my 12th grade in School. (well, to be quite honest, I put the book down, and finished it only in my second year of Engineering ;) ) It’s a fierce battle between four extremely capable men fighting it out to lead the country. Politics isn’t just about propaganda and speeches – it’s about intellect, the ability to take on and solve grand challenges. It’s about being the best darn CEO out there, it is about having more money than anyone else in the country has, at your disposal (to be used only for the country, I clarify) and to direct it towards the issues you see as priorities. It is about building a sustainable system that can nurture itself to solve smaller issues at the micro level. It’s no joke. Sure elections aren’t won on abilities alone, but from almost every fiction book I have read about the US president, they travel with an army of advisers who give him the right information at the right time – so he is prepared to make the right decisions. Of course, we are all fighting time, so sometimes we might only be able to do so good a job, but still, we must try.

That brings me to the third central theme of this post, one where I will also take the heat back on. (remember, I put it on hold back there) The third essential thing is the details. Proposing, evaluating and pruning solutions. Thousands of bloggers pour out on the internet with accounts of how things are miserable and abysmal. Most end with – we need change! Things have to change! Things better change for the better. Right ? That’s what we all want. But what are we doing about it ? What are you doing about it ? We are doing small things, things we can that may not be enough in the grand scheme of things. It’s still necessary – refusing to pay the police officer that comes into your house to verify your passport application, even if it means you might not get your passport. (I sound insane, right ? ) But that alone will not do. When we say, things are outrageous and have to change, maybe we should start thinking of solutions too. Our society has a lot of thinkers – lot of people that are more than capable of suggesting good solutions to problems at the grassroots level. You should maybe hash it out inside of your heads on the pros and cons of your proposal, it’s feasibility …etc. What do you do with it then, right ? Surely, you cannot implement even the fanciest of schemes you come up with. Well, I guess I could say write into the legislators and have them implement them as bills, and maybe we should and maybe some of us will, but I guess, just writing about them, sending them in to your local news agencies might be a good start. If enough people think local problems are solvable, maybe the legislators will take notice and work on them. But, it’s not easy work – it’s hard work. And that’s the last theme I leave you with. Sweeping changes are hard, and require the hard work of everyone. Problems, solutions have to be detailed, we have to collect and analyse data, talk about the feasibility …etc. Sure, there will be people who will criticize it even if you are Elon Musk – but we can all try, for the fun of it, for the enormous benefits it can bring. I think things come to a point where you feel so frustrated that you have to take things in your own hands, and I think and hope a lot of people slowly will. (Not as vigilantes of course.)