Better Late than Never

It was 4.25 pm, 19th December 2008. I alighted from a Kalyan bound local train at the Kanjurmarg station and went to the newspaper shop at the platform and bought a magazine. In the meanwhile the next train towards Kalyan came and stopped at the platform. As usual, I was contemplating of jumping on the track to cross the railway line (am just one among many aamjunta who think of taking a short-cut) after the train leaves in stead of taking the flyover. Was just waiting for this train to leave after which would have taken the short-cut. I was also a bit absent minded and was doing multiple things at a time as usual– calling someone over phone, fidgeting with my magazine and gazing at the waiting train at the platform.

A moment later I heard a huge shriek and a loud commotion. Before could realize anything or take note of the circumstance, saw a person’s lower half of the body including his legs getting pulled into the track by the huge, monstrous iron wheels of the running train! This extraordinary scene was going on just around twenty feet away from where I was standing. Without a seconds delay I ran with whatever force could gather and pulled out that person with all my might. Many people had gathered around to watch the scene by that time. Fortunately, he was saved but a bit injured. However, he was frightened beyond comprehension and so was I.

People came running to us and tried to console him. Some patted him on his back and some thanked his stars to have protected him. He was so shaken that was shivering from head to toe. I supported him physically to the nearest platform bench and took a bottle of water out of my bag. I never usually carry a water bottle; it was rare that day to have one with me. Interestingly, I had not even opened that bottle yet. The gentleman took the bottle gratefully, drank some water from it and washed his face.

He was probably in his early fifties, short in height and slight of build. He said that he lives in Thane and is a teacher in a school in Powai. He travels back home usually by the train which just left and which he was trying to board. Even though he was not in a hurry and the train was not that crowded, he tried to catch the running train, and that had already started and picked up speed. His calculation was wrong, lost control and balance and fell down to be almost pulled into the tracks. It was only a matter of few seconds between life and death….

That was an accident and unwittingly suicidal. He could have avoided that incident with a little more restraint. Anyway, sometimes this happens with many of us. Without realizing the consequences we take some wrong steps either to board running trains, buses or cross roads or drive fast and every time look for some short-cut. Everyone wants to go fast, reach fast and achieve fast – fast, fast, fast. But, fast should not mean that we are so fast that it becomes fatal. I was drawing my own lessons from the incident that I will never try to cross the tracks just to save a few minutes.

The gentleman after being a little stable thanked me profusely and said in Hindi koi jivan lene mein tulla hua hai aur koi bachane mein. Na mein usko pehchanta hoon na mein isko jaanta hoon” (“someone is bent upon taking lives and someone is dedicated to save lives. I do not know either of them”). His statement reminded me of the terror-attacks – some had come to kill us and some died in the wake to save us.

Anyway, that is called life and death, beyond our calculation and beyond any short-cuts.

Aamjunta take care of yourselves…Better late than never!

Chance Pe Dance – Beyond Indo-Pak World Cup Cricket

With the win of Quarter Final Match against Ricky Pointing‘s Australian’s team, Men in Blue have cleared their path for a semi-final berth against Pakistan at Mohali on 30th March, 2011.  Interestingly, though Pakistan was mostly written-off and was termed “underdog” by their own commentators, they have proved every one wrong. Even though they lost badly to New Zealand, their overall performance is good and competitive. Moreover, their Captain Shahid Afridi has shown his character as a Captain – a leader, the leading bowler of the ICC World Cup 2011.

So far as Men in Blue are concerned, they have also shown a good fighting character. Demigod Sachin, Yuvraj, Raina, Kohli, Sehwag and Gambhir have proved their inclusion into the team as batsmen; Zahir, Ashwin and Harbhajan have proved their inclusion into the team as bowlers. Others have also done their job, though still not upto mark; wish everyone prove in the Semifinal and Final :). Wish the history repeats this time also, and the mighty India wins in the Semi Final against the united Pakistan.

That is all about future… a superb fighting semifinal on card, for the viewers, for the diplomats, for the cricket commentators, for the news channels, for the aamjunta and for Dr. Manmohan SinghMr. Gilani, Mr. Rahul Gandhi, Mr. Ambani and many others. Every one is busy to reap some thing out of it. Hotels in Chandigarh are full at 3-times rate, tickets are sold at an exuberant price of Rs 1,00,000/- per ticket, NSGs deployed around the stadium, no-fly zone around Chandigarh, world-media is busy with Breaking News and advertisement rates have soared by at-least 10-times. That is not the end of the story… on an invitation from Dr. Manmohan Singh, Pakistan PM Mr. Gilani will also watch this “clash” from the stadium. He will be accompanied by more than 5000 Pakistani fans to watch the Clash of Titans.

On an un-usual note, home secretaries of both the countries are meeting on the back drop of this event, hoping for a bi-lateral engagement and confidence building measure. On a confidence building measure, Pakistan President Mr. Zardari has remitted the remaining jail term of Mr. Gopal Dass, an Indian prisoner lodged in Lahore jail for the last 27 years. Hope there is some more confidence building measure by both the countries. An Internet joke doing the rounds quotes the Pakistani president as responding to Mr. Singh’s gesture with a question: Will Sarah Palin be there? Not only that, the Pakistani media has termed the initiative “Aman ka chakka” or “sixer for peace.”

And in aamjunta’s word it is “Chance pe Dance, every one wants to score a six on the first ball and dance on the chance they are getting through Sachin-Sohaib or Sachin-Afridi or Yuvi-Afridi clash, a life-time entertainment and an would be chapter in Indo-Pak history. It is just beyond cricket and beyond everyone’s imagination.

Wish all the best to both the teams and to the cricket diplomacy. I am sure, aamjunta will also enjoy the match from the stadium or in cinema halls or in bars or in drawing room. A half-day in most of the places on card. As an Indian… I pray for India’s win in this world cup, Chakk de India….  🙂

Jai Hind!

Mumbai 26/11: Years Come and Go

New Delhi, 16th October, 2009: “India still Vulnerable to Mumbai Like Attacks” – P. Chidambaram, Home Minister, Republic of India.

If, this is the kind of statement made by our Home Minister, then what do you think: India is safe and can counter Mumbai 26/11 like attacks? Can India protect itself from such kind of attacks in future? Can we avoid such kind of attacks? One year has just got over and many more years will come and go. But, what about our action and reaction to such tragedies? Are we in the right direction? Where do we stand after one year of the tragic incidents of Mumbai? Is the history we are creating  follows the ‘right’ path?

Before finding an answer to all of the above queries or before debating on Home Minister’s statement, let us discuss some ground realities of  the aftermath of “Mumbai 26/11” and analyse the happenings of last one year from aamjunta’s perspective. We start this discussion in a step by step manner starting with the police reforms, action by the state and central government, re-action by the media and public awareness.

1. Police Force Got a New Look in Mumbai: Around Rs. 360/- million has been spent to modernise the Mumbai Police. There was a plan to spend more than Rs. 1200/- million to modernise the police force. Anyhow that amount still remains unused 😦 . A Quick Response Team (QRT) with 900 officers, (out of 900, 200 officers are trained on the line of NSG) has been deployed. 39 combat vehicles with latest arms and ammunitions and Global Positioning System (GPS) on board and 10/12 bullet-proof vehicles have been inducted. Moreover, there is a growing awareness among the police force and their families on health issues with an aim “always fit” to combat any kind of eventualities, which include handling internal or external terror  factors. Even though the new look of Mumbai Police, it is still not equipped enough to counter the sophisticated terrorist attacks. Still much more requires to be done without much red-tapism.

But it is to be seen: how is the quality of the materials, arms and ammunition, bullet-proof jackets purchased in the present scenario? Is it a repetition of the materials purchased before, which was the reason behind the death of Hemant Karkare and others in the past. Moreover, do we really behave humanly with our police force? I doubt!

2. New Look of Indian Navy: Geographically, India is vulnerable from all sides; Arabian Sea in the West, Bay of Bengal in the East and Indian Ocean on the South. This complicates the border security through the sea. We have to accept that at present Indian Navy do not have that much capability to counter terrorist attacks through its coasts. However, Indian Navy is waking up to its demand – Indian Coast Guard is re-shaping with 3000+ new recruits. Strength of Marine Commandos (MARCOS) is increasing, additional boats and bullet-proof boats are getting deployed in both east and west coast, chain of coastal radars are getting in place. But, still we lack in our preparation and alertness.

3. New Hubs for NSG: Four hubs of NSG – Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai and Kolkata with a strength of 241 each are in place now. In addition upgrading the weaponry and other arms and ammunition has already been done and some are on the pipe line. But what about the administrative hurdles for deployments at the crucial time? We lost precious time in Mumbai (during 26/11) and Chandigarh (during Air India Plane Hijack in 1998). It has to be kept in mind.

4. Mumbai got its New ATS Chief: How can ATS function without its head and that too in Maharastra for almost 8 months? It was really shocking! But after Mumbai High Court’s strict warning Maharastra Government appointed Additional Director General (Railways) K.P. Raghuvansh as the new ATS Chief on 11th June, 2009. That post was lying vacant after the death of Hemant Karkare during 26/11 terrorist attacks. The question arises – how come government took such a long time to appoint ATS chief and other senior police officials? Is it a failure of the state government or a political compulsion or a mere negligence? Aamjunta– What is your opinion?

5. Respect Shown by the Government Towards the Martyrs: Till today, the government does not know where is the bullet-proof jacket used by Hemant Karkare on that fateful night? Is this the way we treat our officers who have sacrificed their lives for our country? On a different note, even no one has time to inaugurate the memorial built at Thane on the memory of the martyrs of 26/11. Quite disgracefully, even some of the memorials built for the martyrs do not have correct names. Are we really serious or our respect is just a show?

6. Maharstra Home Minister: R. R. Patil is back as the new Maharastra Home Minister, a year after 26/11. During the terror attacks, he went on describing the incident as a small incident in a big city (and later denied that a communication gap resulted due to poor “Hindi”).  What about his speech in Hindi now? Hope this time he will not make any mistake while answering in Hindi.

7. PIL Filed in Mumbai High Court: There was a huge public outrage on the media’s role during 26/11 operation. Many news channels were irresponsible and their actions were condemned by the public and a section of media itself. Their code-of conduct during the operation was felt to be a security threat to the country. We too have condemned their action in our previous posts. In addition, a PIL has been filed in Mumbai High Court on 5th Feb, 2009 on behalf of the common man by ‘Small Change‘. Let us wait and watch and hope for the end of media-apathy.

8. Public Awareness: It is definitely a positive development that the common man or the aamjunta is aware now and is waking up towards its own responsibilities. There were silent marches, candle light protests, blood donation camps, etc. People have understood now who cares for security and who does not. Use of RTIs and  PILS have been substantially increased to bring the state machinery into line. Public awareness has also been increased which may become the key to national security and intelligence.

9. Committees after Committees: A two-member enquiry committee by R. D. Pradhan, ex-IAS officer and former Union Home Secretary and V. Balachandran, ex-IPS officer and former special secretary R&AW was set-up by the Maharastra Government. Recently, the committee has submitted its report. One wonders that this committee does not find who was responsible for the lapses, be the ministers or administrators or the police officers. However, it has slammed the then Mumbai Police Commissioner Hasan Gafoor, without even giving him a chance to defend. Moreover, there is no answer to other strategic failures like delay in action by NSG, delay in counter attack by Mumbai police and the strategic failure of intelligence. It was just a mere cover-up exercise of the government. Interestingly weak opposition both at the centre and state have not even bothered to force government or to put pressure. Instead, they are busy with their own speeches, morchas and in-fights. When will they think for the country, when their own houses are disturbed and fractured? Shiv Sainiks are so frustrated that they have to attack press offices these days in order to remain in news, leftists are busy with their own ‘red’ politics, BJP is busy with its internal problem – to find a new party chief and new leader and finally the 2nd/3rd/4th front… either busy with inaugurating their own statues or election campaigning or scams.

10. Diplomatic Relation with Pakistan: It is just like a cat and mouse game by both the governments on one issue… Delivery of dossier continues between India and Pakistan. Accusations after accusations and statements and counter-statements… is there any end to it? Pakistan is already getting its own boomerang, which  was created against India and Afghanistan. Everyday there are bomb blasts in different parts of its own country.  Do they want dossiers or actions or bomb-blasts? When will the diplomats grow up? Do they think by doing this they will get J&K? Indian diplomats should also realize that there are differences between making statements and taking actions. Better to take some serious actions first and then bring other things into perspective.

Aamjunta – what is your opinion? where do we stand- as an individual, as a city, as a state and as a country? Do you see any progress in any of the above fronts? Let the government do its own part and let us do our own. Seems government is coming up with a 20 point plan on the anniversary, but is that sufficient? Are they serious to implement this without politics? What about opposition? Where are they? Busy in fighting with other Indians on the basis of language, domicile and living! or providing a constructive opposition to the government?

Years will come and go, but … our actions and reactions will be remembered as a part of the history. So, decide whether we should facilitate a good or bad history?

Jai Hind!

P.N.: Let us pay our humble tributes to those thousands of innocent lives lost not only in Mumbai 26/11 but in many such attacks in the name of terror and politics.

Where do we stand after one year of the tragic incidents of Mumbai?

“Mumbai Blues”- Aamjunta’s Aankhon-dekhi

It was almost quarter to eleven on a regular working day…

I had a tough day at lab and hostel trying to juggle with balancing my time and thesis writing. Additionally, summer seems to take toll on one’s energy level. That evening I got so irritable, stressed and exhausted that was unable to utter a single word. The demand and supply chain of the thesis writing was not matching. Demand was very high resulting in high pressure on the quality, quantity and the pace of my output. Anyway, I decided to skip dinner, had some biscuits instead in lab itself. Suddenly, my exasperation with the process made me think seriously of taking a break and I decided to go to either lake side or some where else and to sit there for some time by myself. I decided that I will not seek company and so did not ask any one to come along with me. On normal occasions, I have friends whom can ask and who will not deny their company. But, today it was different — just wanted to be by myself. Wanted some private and quite moments for myself.

I left lab somewhere around 11.00pm with my bag, laptop and books. Headed for an unknown destination. I was near the SOM kiosk, when I saw an auto coming from hostel side. Waved my hand gesturing him to stop, fortunately he halted. I asked him…“Boss kahin chaloge?” kahan? – he asked.. hmmmm HN chaloge? (will you go to Hiranandani?). He agreed immediately and I comfortably slipped into it. I was so tired that did not even feel like getting down at HN Galleria. But, the auto reached HN in no time. I got down, paid him, walked to the ice-cream parlour had some ice-cream and then cool drinks.

After a while, I started feeling better and sat for some time near the galleria arch. My phone rang…friends and family were trying to reach me…. But, I decided not to disturb others with my stress stories. Switched that off and kept in my pocket. It was slightly breezy that evening and I sat observing people — precisely people of Mumbai in the dark night. Many couples were around too, sitting very close to each other and sharing their life and thoughts. Mumbai affords so little of private space that people have to find shelter in the market-places, malls and theatres to spare some time for their love stories. Most of these couples were in completely engrossed mode, and it did not not matter to them who was sitting there, who was staring at them or who was passing-by. I felt slightly out of place being without a (female 🙂 ) companion to share some intimate moments.

I left the place so as to allow the couples to enjoy their privacy, and searched for some other place to sit. It was almost 11.30 pm by that time. The chairs in front of Haiko mall were empty. Selected a corner seat, so that I do not disturb people and people do not disturb me. I sat for some time, looking here and there, luxury cars coming and going, the autos, the people around, the security guards and the “night-riders” like me. A unique aspect of Mumbai is that it suddenly bustles and jostles with the night moving into deeper darkness. The corner seat I had chosen for myself gave a nice view of many landmarks of HN: the Rodas hotel, the Haiko mall, the Pavilion restaurant and the main road. In the light of the street-lamps the roads of Mumbai glitter like the body of a slithering cobra.

There was no one sitting around me. I was alone. But all of a sudden, my attention got diverted when I saw an old man, ill-looking, in his late 60s or early 70s. He was almost on the verge of nudity as his torn dhoti and gamccha were in threads, hardly did help to cover his sickly body. He looked like a scare-crow who has been brought to life and left in the glitter and glitz of the mega city…. Trying desperately to hide his bare chest and body with his dirty old gamchha, the man was on his way to some unknown destination. He seemed to be only busy searching for something in the dust-bins placed near the roads and the malls. I was curious now and started to take an interest in this character who seemed straight out of some novel. The man came closer to where I was sitting, he had huge eyes placed on a completely dark skin. He stopped near the dust-bin that was placed close to my chair and started searching for some thing. I was curious… what must he be looking for and at this time? Many things came into my mind… starting from incidents of putting bombs in dustbins to searching for food…. I started observing him from a close angle as he hunted the dustbin as if on a treasure hunt. He was only picking up the cans (cool drink cans) and plastic bottles. Collected some 4/5 bottles, 2/3 cans, 1/2 poly bags… but was still searching for some thing else… became curious.. what is he looking for? and at that late night?

Before I could ask any thing, a lady in her late 30s came and asked him politely with a voice full of compassion, “baba kya dhund rahe ho”? The old man was surprised beyond words… for the words “baba”… he seemed to have never have come across these words! He looked frightened for a moment, but when he saw that the lady meant no harm, gathered a little courage and told her… “kuchh nahini”…. Then she asked, “aap ko kya chahiye?” He was quiet for a moment and replied, “nahin beti.. kuchh khana dhund raha hun… (looking for some food). I am taking these things (bags, bottles and cans) such that I can sell them get some money tomorrow. I don’t think I’ll get any food from here at this time of the night. But, can not sell these now…It’s late”. I was shocked to see that the man was not begging, he was just hunting for left-overs in the dustbin. The lady seem to stifle her tears and went back to her husband, got some 20/30 rupees…gave him that money and said.. kal ka bare me bad me sochna.. aab jao… kuchh khalo...(think about tomorrow, when it is tomorrow…go and eat something now)”. He took that money, smiled gratefully and left. And I… sat thinking… where is he going? I had only 30 rupees in my pocket, enough for going back to hostel in an auto, couldn’t even spare that with him. But, was extremely happy to observe that even there are people in the busy life of Mumbai who come and help a man like that on their own accord. What amazed me even more was that the man did not beg from any one…

I was lost in my own thoughts, when suddenly my attention got diverted by the parking sound of a huge Honda city in front of Rodas Hotel. A gorgeously decked-up lady in her early 30s got down from the car. She was accompanied by her little baby (hardly 1/2year old) and her husband. The husband was carrying the baby, was dressed in a neat three-piece suit. He was perhaps in mid-thirties, calm, composed with signs of prosperity. And she… I hardly traced any sign of clothes. She was also on the verge of nudity, her nano-skirt and figure hugging back-less top with low-cut neck lines, nine-inch sandals and dark luscious wine lipstick.… She looked like something which I have only seen in a few fashion magazines like FHM or Femina. The couple were heading for the Pavilion restaurant for some high profile party. I was wondering how come people dress like this? Are married ladies in Mumbai so liberal in front of their husbands? I thought may be I am getting old fashioned and orthodox. But, somehow could not help myself comparing this scantily-clad young lady with that semi-clad old man…. He was also barely dressed like her…. But the difference was painful, he could not afford, whereas she did not want…While the old man was frightened even of a dog crawling near him, this lady bursted on the security guard and scolded him as he did not open the door fully for her to enter….

Hmm, both the incidents took me away from my own state of troubled existence….I had enough of this world too…checked my wrist watch… it was almost 12.30 am and past midnight…. The scenes of HN had already overpowered me and cleansed my own tension of thesis writing. I started looking for an auto…to get back to my “home” for the last 7 years.

Aamjunta, do share your experiences if any…

Slumdog Millionaire and its Colonial Connections

Hit British film Slumdog Millionaire has won the top prize at the Academy Awards, winning eight Oscars including best director and best picture”. Headline, BBC News, 23rd Feb, 2009.

While the entire Los Angles was playing the tunes of Jai Ho, it was welcomed with mixed response and feelings of pride, joy, frustration, ego and identity crisis in India.

If writing the screenplay, directing and producing the movie by Britishers qualify enough to be called a British movie, then it is not appropriate. The movie is an adoption of the award-wining novel “Q & A” of Indian author and diplomat Vikas Swarup. Not only that, the heart of the movie is based on the slum life of Mumbai, the very own city of India. The crew, the cast and the location, the theme, the life… all are Indian. What else is needed to call this as an Indian movie then?

Whether you call it as Indian movie or British film, wining Oscars by the Indians or the Britishers for their talents is encouraging. For the Indian Cinema, wining Oscars will definitely add a new chapter to its success story. If you say that was the success of Indian art, then it was the success of the British business model too, which got clicked at the time of recession. They came, shot the people and their life with a limited budget, made huge money out of that and sold the “piece of art” to the world with an Indian tag. It was the conglomeration of the “piece of art” and the business model, which brought the glamour of red carpet for some thing made out of the story of a slum.

Many criticized the movie, saying that it portrayed the ugly side of Indian slums and sold the lives of the poor (garibi) to the rich. They are not completely wrong though. But then, showing poor (garibi) is not anything new. Many have done that in the past. Then, why should they be blamed only? When our very own people do not do any thing for the slums,  what do we expect from movie makers who are in a way “art capitalists”. In fact, these movie makers are at least contributing to the economy by giving jobs to the slum dwellers either as an actor/actress or part of the support system, while shooting the cinema in the slum locality. Making of such movies too create social awareness among the mass.

To be honest, Garibi Hatao, or Garibi Bhagao are phrases coined for the sake of ballot politics in the name of social equality, for the sake of discussions in political circles and for the sake of publishing research papers by scholars and intellectuals. These are age old practices in India. The word garibi is being exploited by the politicians, political thinkers, the intellectuals, the researchers and the cinematographers. But, do these people really want garibi bhagao? I doubt! Both garib and garibi exist in its complete essence.

Some argue that the film is just an art, and there is no relation between garibi and the movie. But, it is not true. The movie is of course mixed with the emotion and the identity of the mass. More over, garibi is not an Indian phenomenon only. It is there in every part of the world. Then, why do you exploit garibi with Indian tag at the international arena for the sake of art or money?

Through a different perspective, if you analyze the pre- and post-days of the release of the movie, then you can find some connections between the movie with the colonial world. Even though  colonialism in terms of British Empire had disappeared long back, a new form of colonialism has started in the form of social divisions of poor and rich, higher caste and loser caste. Be it showing the slums of Mumbai to the western world in the name of art, or making a movie on the life of slum dwellers, or adopting a novel written by a “post-colonial” writer, a link is present every where (directly or indirectly) with colonialism. The plot of the movie is also an out come of the social imbalance created by the colonial world.

In a literary perspective, this movie is just a show case of the “post- colonial”  life and era. It is  the story of the oppressed and the oppressor, the ruled and the ruler and the difference of the poor and the rich. In the name of art, culture and  literature, it is just an exploitation of the mass. Almost all Indians went crazy when the child-stars of Slumdog returned home from Oscar ceremonies. But like the hunch in the movie that how can a slum “dog” be a millionaire, in real life too the lives of little kids like Azhradduin (Jamal) and Rubina (Lathika) have changed forever, for good or worse only time can say. Azharuddin has been reportedly beaten up and manhandled by his father for the sake of money and glamour. These people are still staying in slums — but they no longer belong to their “origin” and neither are they accepted in the so called “glamour classes” of our society. They might be pitied upon, shown as “art-pieces” in more film festivals and treated as “museum-creatures”, but only few might think that they are “human-beings” having a right to lead “normal” lives. They are doubly colonized: (a) By their own society/country which only lives on “breaking news” ; (b) by the “art-connoisseurs” of the world ready to make business out of their plight.Unless this is understood and taken care of, many such Slumdog Millionaires will be re-produced in different parts of the world — in the name of showing  life, and art,   staking the identity of a nation, of a city and a section of people.

The question arises; do we want that to happen and to repeat? Do we want ever to see the slums? Or do we want to change the life of the underprivileged? The choice is yours, and you have to write your own fortune and create your own destiny, whether to be called as slumdogs or millionaires.

Aamjunta, just think over it.

Jai ho!

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