#MeinBhiChowkidar Movement and Dignity of Labor

In April 2015, when our PM Modi visited Canada and addressed the NRIs over there, he spoke about the dignity of labor (the lack of it) in India. From what I read, he has talked about this topic earlier as well but this was the first time I heard about it from him. I ended up writing an article about that at that time as well.

Fast forward to 2019, when I heard about the #MeinBhiChokidar campaign, that speech of his replayed in my mind and this topic was one of the earliest thoughts that occurred to me. A campaign that started as a response to the filthy sloganeering by the Congress Naamdaar, led by the PM himself and seconded by pretty much all of his ministers, received a resounding response from the general public too. It may or may not have been intended as one, but for me, it was a great experiment on the dignity of labor and the change in the mindset of the Indians. They (public) didn’t do it consciously but it was a step in the direction of establishing dignity of labor in the Indian psyche. It was one of those occasions, when a title, that is normally associated with a seemingly low-quality job in the traditional Indian mindset, was adopted by thousands (perhaps millions) of Indian as a part of their identities. People were not hesitant to call themselves a watchman, English equivalent of the word, in its spirit and embraced it wholeheartedly.

While the prime minister clarified that the term “chowkidar” is in the essence of the duty of the security personnel in general, which is that of guarding whatever piece of the entity that they are responsible for, in his case, it was the whole nation. The fact that it was embraced by many was a good example of how, we as a nation, is opening up to the idea of giving respect do any kind of work that is done honestly.

A few years ago, there was a good debate on the “pakodas” where the Prime Minister said that the person selling snacks on the road in an honest manner is equally entitled to the level of respect any other person doing a corporate job is. We, as a nation, should respect the honesty of the person and it’s work irrespective of what that work is as long as it is not harming anybody. This is a very important idea that needs to be included in the mindsets of Indians who generally have inhibitions on a certain type of work based on their own understanding of their identities, mainly social.

The dignity of work is something which I witnessed more in the Western countries (at least compared to India). It was a part of Indian civilization when the society was divided into “varnas” and everybody was free to choose whatever skill they want to acquire and contribute to society. This was before the whole society was divided into classes and castes and races by the Britishers in order to rule India more conveniently using the policy of “Divide and Rule”.

I remember the first glimpse of the dignity of labor when I landed in the US for the first time and was standing in the immigration queue. On the screens placed right above the counters, they were explaining the whole process of immigration and what things people need to take care of during the process. They were also proudly explaining the importance of an immigration officer in ensuring the security of the nation and how they are the first line of defense to ensure that the unwanted people do not enter the country. It was such an important idea, something that doesn’t occur so naturally unless mentioned explicitly. The amount of respect, in daily lives, all these people who made the community safe, clean, and beautiful receive is commendable.

For example, the Indian police which is often at the receiving and of many complaints, we forget that they are the first line of defense whenever any kind of attack happens in the country are any other kind of law and order situation arises. In the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Mumbai Police was the first one to respond to the situation and in fact, a brave constable, Tukaram Omble, lost his life while managing to capture the lone live terrorist in the police operation. We take certain things for granted and do not realize and its importance unless it is not there. People who help us in our daily lives like the security guards, people who pick up the garbage, the sanity workers, the firefighters, the traffic police and many more. These unsung heroes who make our lives easy and safe on a daily basis really should get the recognition they deserve. In the western world, some of the critical services like the firefighting, the paramedics, and the police I known as first responders.

Unfortunately, a part of the culprit is also the terminologies used for these people. For example, the person who picks up garbage every day from our houses, we call him or her kachrawala/wali instead of safaaiwala/wali, which is more correct because we are actually throwing the garbage and they are cleaning it up.

Two years ago, on one of the Facebook groups, I came across a post by a lady who shared the summer activity of her two kids who made some money by starting their business in the neighborhood. What was the business? They charged some dollars for picking up the trash from the neighborhood and putting it out in the common bin. It was really amazing to read. This household was not poor. The kids did not really have to do the job that they were doing. However, it was their mother’s way to make them start earning money rather than just having it from the parents. It also inculcated a sense of respect in the kids’ minds for the people who do similar kind of work an understand how hard working these people are who clean up the entire community. In a way, such activity imbibes the dignity of labor in kids.

I guess that’s where it should start. I hope this idea of the dignity of labor spreads well across India and Indians.

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O yes, you shouldn’t have spoken on Indian Elections

Dear Hasan Minhaj,

Yes, brother, you shouldn’t have spoken on Indian politics! Absolutely not. I totally agree with that but not for the reasons that were portrayed in the first couple of minutes of the show.

During my stay in the US, I did observe a general lack of understanding of India and Indian politics among the majority of Indians who have settled there since decades and your show was just a proof of that. I am not blaming but then somewhere the NRIs refuse to accept that lack of knowledge and feel entitled to speak up just because there are platforms available and there are listeners.
It was just sheer incomplete information, no understanding of the core issues of Indian society + politics and an extremely one-sided view of the issues, organizations, and the leaders.

Through this blog, I am just attempting to bring in some perspective to the topics covered. I am not the epicenter of the knowledge or insights but having closely following Indian politics till date and having witnessed, in person, BJP’s administration and Modi’s leadership while growing up in Gujarat and living in India up until 2015, I guess I do bring in some level of credibility.

1. Balakot Attack
About the Balakot attack, you failed to mention that Indian media has recently provided enough details about how the targets were actually hit as the latest satellite images show (Indian Air Force collates proof of strikes at Balakot camp80% bombs hit target: IAF gives satellite images to govt as proof of Balakot airstrike, Balakot airstrike: 80% bombs hit target, says IAF in proof submitted to govt).
The portrayal of the entire incident as their word vs our word is quite naive. If you follow the news, you would know that Pakistan has continuously denied access to the international media to the site of air strike (Pakistan continues blocking media access to IAF’s air strike site, Why does the media have no real access?, No access to Pakistan religious school that India says it bombed) but just touring them around the forests. Pakistani PM was also caught red-handed lying on television when he said Pakistan had captured two Indian air crafts in the dogfight that followed a few days after the air strike when the fact was the second plane was Pakistan’s F-16 itself and the pilot was badly beaten up by the locals (and is said to have died in the hospital later on). Pakistan has also failed to acknowledge this – which is terrible for a soldier who risked his life for the country.
And saying that the Indian government was exploiting Kashmir for elections is also a totally idiotic. Indian army conducted operations in Myanmar in 2015 and then in PoK in 2016 (in response to Uri attack). Even in 2016, the same excuse was given by the anti-India and anti-BJP folks that due to elections in Uttar Pradesh, this was done. The fact is that, in India, every year some 4-5 (or even more) states go into elections to elect a state government. So, it is common and easy to portray any positive step of the government as an election hoodwink.

2. Jobs
You spoke literally just for 10 seconds on this topic to give out a judgment. The fact of the matter is that this is one topic where there is significant confusion (just read these two articles: The reason India jobs data is not credible and The sharp debate on jobs data shows govt may arrive at a process for understanding India’s labour market) and making any conclusive statement is absolutely naive. There are plenty of data sources giving a variety of information but none of them covering the entire spectrum. Unlike the US, the UK, and many other western countries, India has never had any credible source of employment information. While the larger estimates do not favor the government at all – more confusion in this matter will only be detrimental to the government.

3. Demonetization
You showed a CPI worker (AIKS cap, red t-shirt and CPI flag in the background) criticizing the demonetization – so obvious. If you don’t know what AIKS is and the equation between CPI and BJP – research a bit. You, spending just above 60 seconds on the topic to conclude it as a failure is an absolute injustice to the topic itself because it was a very carefully planned exercise which had other aspects too – which was obviously ignored in the video – like the Jan Dhan Yojana and the closure of shell companies identified due to this exercise. You may want to read the following:
Govt cancelled 2.24 lakh suspected shell companies post demonetisation, disqualified 3.09 lakh directors, 2.09 lakh companies deregistered; directors face action, Black money accounts frozen, 2-3 lakh shell company owners now face up to 10 years jail.

If you really want to know what failure of demonetization looks like – just read about demonetization in Venezuela.
And while you talked about demonetization, you failed to mention the largest financial inclusion exercise carried out before that – the Jan Dhan accounts. While India received independence way back in 1947 and bank nationalizations happened in the 1969 and 1980, it still excluded more than half of the population from the financial system. While the numbers vary slightly from sources to sources, even by 2014, half or less than half of the Indian adults had a bank account. And, from there the number up to 80% and still counting. Yes, there are arguments that many (maybe a majority) of these newly opened accounts are dormant. But one also needs to take into consideration that any behavioral change in society takes persistent efforts and time. People who are habituated to deal in cash for 70 years post independence will not move to transact through their banks overnight.

4. Disenfranchisement of Immigrants
You mentioned the disenfranchisement of immigrants in Assam but failed to mention that these were illegal immigrants. It was also surprising that you missed out on some very basic details on NRC

  1. It was first prepared in 1951 to tackle the issue of illegal immigrants from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
  2. The current NRC exercise is a part of the Assam Accord that was signed by the then Congress PM in 1986, Late Rajiv Gandhi (you should have asked Shashi Tharoor about this) but was never implemented and
  3. The current exercise was mandated by the honorable Supreme Court of India on October 2013 (when Congress government was in power).

Illegal immigration from Bangladesh is a monstrous problem for both, West Bengal and Assam. It is being portrayed as Muslim immigrants (as if a particular religion is targeted) but they fail to mention that the immigrants come from Bangladesh which is 90% Islamic. Many governments, including this one, have been trying to arrive at a solution and a part of the solution is to send the illegal immigrants back to Bangladesh.

Yes, when the first list of National Register for Citizens was created, it did include some actual citizens as well but that was due to lack of documental evidence and there was a time period provided to such citizens to submit the relevant documents. Ironically, this whole infiltration of Muslims from Bangladesh (and Rohingyas from Myanmar) totally contradicts the perception that minorities are not safe in India 🙂

5. Hindu Nationalism is not anti-Muslim
BJP talks about Hindu nationalism but that speaks of Hinduism as a value system – not religion. Every single scheme of the present government has been targeted to every single Indian irrespective of religion or caste – be it Jan Dhan Yojana, Ujjawala Yojana, Aayushman Bharat, Make in India, Awaas Yojana and many others. This government is also the first one to introduce reservations based on economic status, rather than social status.
So, calling the current government as communal or anti-Muslim is highly ironic especially when compared to the previous Congress government that stated that a certain community has the first right on India’s resources. Some of the most perceived right-wing leaders like Subramanian Swamy has a Muslim son-in-law. He himself is married to a Parsi. The PM, in his addresses, always iterates 1.3 billion Indians instead of using a collective of religion or caste or anything else that divides India. Unfortunately, he and BJP often gets targeted and accused as anti-Muslim because, unlike other parties, they are not in the practice of appeasing minorities for votes. You may want to read this:
PMO intervenes to end Kerala disabled boy’s fight for education.

6. Affiliation with RSS
Regarding his affiliation with RSS, if you know about the RSS in detail as most of the Indians do, it becomes a source of confidence and not a source of concern. RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) pretty much translates to National Volunteers Group – no reference to any particular religion or caste etc. Yes, the organization is primarily focused on the Hindu way of life and incorporating discipline into the Indian youth (the video that you showed of the physical exercises is essentially a part of inculcating the discipline). Having said that, RSS has been always forefront in carrying out relief work in any natural or man-made disasters – be it in Kashmir or Kerala. The organization has given some of the greatest and the most respected leaders India has seen post-Independence.
You might be surprised to know that RSS has many members from Muslims, Christian, and Sikh community and they understand the true philosophy of RSS. It also has a Muslim wing itself called RMM (Rashtriya Muslim Manch), a Sikh wing called Rashtriya Sikh Sangat (What brings Muslims, Christians and Sikhs to RSS? Why do they join the organization that is considered to be the antithesis of secular politics in India).
Time and again, the western media and public in general, has always failed to understand the Hinduism because they tend to see Hinduism from an Abrahamic lens. You should read the book “Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines” by Rajiv Malhotra and Aravindan Neelakandan.

7. Mahatma Gandhi’s Assassination
Regarding the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi – I know, for western media, Mahatma Gandhi is pretty much next to God – but research is required in understanding the background of the whole thing which the majority of Indian media and almost the entire of western media never took interest in and always talked about it in a superficial manner. I am not justifying the assassination – it was definitely wrong – but the reason for condemnation of assassination also matters as much as condemnation itself. I would suggest you watch this and try to get some perspective

8. Monk with a Gun
You mentioned “Monk with a Gun” but one needs to go back to understanding the history of India where this (weapons) was actually the part of the education. This is not something new. I have mentioned more about it here.
Regarding changing the names, it is not a change of the name per se. It is restoring the original names (not sure why nobody told you that). And it is not anti-Muslim for sure. It is anti-Mughal – the dark era in the history of India that was marred by systematic destruction of India’s vast natural resources, forced religious conversions, destruction of India’s agricultural strength, unjust and high taxes (including jizya), and many other atrocities by the Mughal invaders. Similar exercises have happened time and again. Just read here – Renaming of Cities in India. Again, it requires some good reading.

9. Lynchings
Regarding the lynchings, there are two major points. The narrative that it has been increasing since 2014 is wrong because 1) There is no credible data available that suggests that since 2014 there is an increase; 2) NCRB started reporting communal riots only after 2014 – so obviously there were no reported lynchings before 2014 since nobody was actually recording it; and 3) Mob lynching has been talked more since 2014 and has caught media attention but just because we come to know more about it now and not before doesn’t mean that it didn’t exist at the same scale earlier. Mob lynching is a result of a challenge that India faces in terms of law enforcement which is being tried to overcome since decades. I would suggest you watch this

You may also want to read this: Can Data Tell Us Whether Lynchings Have Gone Up Under Modi, And Should It Matter?

10. Democracy in Danger
When you say that Indians also feel that the “democracy is backsliding” – you show Yogendra Yadav who has been a classic anti-Modi person who will obviously say those things. If you don’t know the history of Yogendra Yadav, please read about him. Since 2014, there have been regular attempts to project that the Indian democracy is in danger under the present government (completely ignoring the fact that this is the government elected by citizens of India with a landslide victory – the first time in three decades. I would actually not consider 1984 because that landslide was driven by emotions rather than performance). Be it the award wapasi show, tukde tukde gang, intolerance debate or EVM drama. If you do not know about these terms, please read.

Again, I sincerely hope there wasn’t any agenda behind this episode. 29 minutes is a too short a time considering the breadth of the topics covered – which essentially meant quantity was prioritized over quality – and in this case misinformation or half-information was prioritized over a genuine talk.

If true, it’s sad that nobody from BJP opted to speak to you and you only received one-sided biased Leftist view of the Indian politics from Shashi Tharoor. He is a great orator but it was very sad to hear that he obviated corruption. But then it is nothing new – that has been the mentality of the Congress and many other parties since ages. When Rahul Gandhi was asked about dynastic politics at University of California, Berkeley, he just said “that’s the way India works” – in spite of having a present government that has not only opposed dynastic politics in words but also in practice. Just follow the news around the list of candidates they released for the upcoming general elections in India and the whole logic behind identifying the right candidate for the right constituency. They are demonstrating how democracy should actually work.

While talking about all other things, within one minute, you could have also covered this bullet point list:

  • India is the 6th largest economy (10th in 2012-2015) by nominal GDP (3rd by PPP) – World Bank
  • India jumped 57 places (134 to 77) in ease of doing business in just 4 years – Tradingeconomics.com | World Bank
  • The government went on to simplify the indirect taxation system by bringing everything under GST (Centre and State) and categorizing items to make some very essential items under 0% taxation.
  • The Indian PM received the Champion of the Earth from the United Nations for his bold environmental leadership on the global stage – United Nations Environment Programme
  • International Yoga Day was one resolution that received massive support (co-sponsorship) of 177 countries out of 193.
  • Sushma Swaraj was invited as a Chief Guest at OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) States – the first time since its inception in 1969 – and in spite of opposition from Pakistan – so much for the anti-Muslim government and the party.

Again, here, I may not have been able to cover everything in detail. I am not even sure if I spending so much time on writing this was even worth it. But this is something that ought to be done.

P.S. I also came across this video which has some brilliant points debunking myths spread around the western world about India. Great work by The Sham Sharma Show:

Say No to #SayNoToWar

Okay, the objective of this article is not to advocate for nor it is to say that war is good. Of course, war has always had a devastating effect on any country irrespective of whether it loses or wins. But still, it is to be fought nevertheless, when imposed.
I saw in the days following the air strikes by India on Pakistan’s terrorist groups, that the #SayNoToWar was trending in India. Now, I find it ironic that people tell India to say no to war. It is like telling Sachin Tendulkar, not to sledge.

If people know India’s history, India has never been at war by itself. It has always been imposed by other nations, mostly Pakistan. And if people know the world history, even the most peaceful nations of today’s times like Japan and the Netherlands have a history of territorial expansion and colonization. India has never ventured into those areas. So, when India should be the one teaching peace across the world, it is truly ironic that the country, having a bloodiest possible past and present, is trying to sermon India about peace. And it is unfortunate that some misguided people in India are falling for that.

Another point often made when asking India to be peaceful and tolerant of the things one should not be, is that India is the nation of Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi is often quoted to alleviate any kind of aggressive defense India shows when its integrity and sovereignty is threatened by external forces. History, designed by Nehru-Gandhi (not Mahatma Gandhi) family kept Gandhiji at the center stage of everything, especially education. It was often shown that India is Gandhi and Gandhi is India and that nobody else mattered. But, as much as this country belongs to Mahatma Gandhi, it also belongs to Chandragupta Maurya, Maharana Pratap, Chhatrapati Shivaji, Bhagat Singh, Rani Lakshmi Bai, Mangal Pandey and Netaji Subash Chandra Bose (and numerous others).

Our education system also changed the definition of violence and non-violence based on Gandhi’s perspective. Self-defense and taking up arms to protect its citizens is not violence. People who think India has been traditionally non-violent in absolute terms, as always been tried to project, do not know about the history of India.

This is the country that has never hesitated in taking up arms to prevent wrongdoing. This is the country whose history teaches us to not even hesitate to fight against your own brothers for the protection of dharma. And when I say dharma, I do not mean religion. That is not the interpretation of dharma in this part of the world. In Hinduism, Dharma is righteousness. It is not religion. Dharma is essentially doing the right thing. It asks us to keep aside our biases and look at what is necessary for terms of action, which we call karma.
The post-independence education and policies of India essentially developed a misguided concept that nonviolence is absolute – a principal difference between Gandhiji and other freedom fighters such as Bhagat Singh. That was precisely the reason why, after the initial years of Independence, Indian polity never really focused to build a strong army and instead just assumed that because we are a peaceful nation, nobody will attack us. That myth was broken by China within 15 years of Independence. Unfortunately, it came at a great cost of the precious lives of our brave soldiers who gave the supreme sacrifice in the war of 1962. India learned it a hard way that strength respects only strength.

People who know India’s history know very well that nonviolence can never be absolute. Even the saints in ancient India had knowledge of weapons and used them skillfully. They very well knew that as much as good exists in the world, evil does too. And it is up to the people, who do good, to eliminate the evil as well. And you cannot eliminate evil with non-violence. Lord Ram had to wage a war against Ravan. Even Lord Krishna had to wrestle Kans to kill him. The history of Hastinapur, today’s Delhi, would have been very different (in a negative sense), had the Pandavs not taking up arms against their own brothers in Kurukshetra.

Coming to today’s events, if we look at like what exactly happened, Indian Air Force specifically targeted the attack on the terrorist camps in Pakistan. Civilian areas and military establishments were carefully avoided. And even the attack on the terrorist camp was conducted because there was an apparent threat to India’s security. And even the rest of the countries of the world have acknowledged India’s right to protect itself from these terrorist organizations irrespective of where they are based. So, India essentially has waged a war on terrorism, not Pakistan.

And, instead of giving our opinion based on the minuscule amount of information we have compared to our armed forces, we should blindly trust, and I say it categorically that we should blindly trust, our armed forces to make a decision on whether to go on war or not. Just as advocating war is wrong, so is absolutely opposing it is.

The Identity Politics India Needs

I saw the India Today Conclave 2018 debate today on the topic of “Identity Politics” – something that has been deeply ingrained into the Indian political mindset. The panelists included Hardik Patel (Patidar Andolan Leader), Kanhaiya Kumar (ex-President of Students Union at JNU), Sheila Rashid (ex-VP of Students Union at JNU), Rohit Chahal (Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha national media in-charge) and Shubhrastha (right-wing columnist).

Just as expected, the debate, in no time, slipped into panelists mudslinging each other and hardly sticking to the topic. However, a few points and the topic of the debate itself brought a good thoughtfulness on the idea of what kind of identity politics India needs, especially when the politicians in the past have done nothing but dividing the country by race, caste, religion, region and sometimes even gender – just for their vote banks.

I guess the answer was right there when the moderator, Rahul Kanwal, was introducing the participants. Not for once, he used any of the divisive adjectives like race, caste, religion, region or gender, to introduce the panelists. They were introduced based on the work they did and the positions they have held or hold currently. And from the debates and discussions, I have witnessed so far, panelists are always introduced by the work they do and the positions of power they hold.

During the discussion, Kanhaiya Kumar made a point on the identity where he said that if someone asks him abroad that who is he, he will respond by saying that he is an Indian. If someone asks within India, he will respond by saying that he is a Bihari. If someone asks him within Bihar, he will respond by saying that he is from Begusarai. I think that is exactly the mentality we are fighting. Why can’t his identity be the leader of AISF and the students’ wing of CPI? And there should be a full stop after that. It is the identity based on “karma”.

And for humans, it gives the true and greatest joy when the identity is associated with something they have done. And the reason is that the other identities – region, religion, caste, gender, race etc. – humans do not have any control. It is by fate. However, the identity associated with a profession is something that the person has worked hard to “earn”. And with a country like India, building an identity associated with profession can be the greatest motivator for the people to work hard and achieve their dreams irrespective of their religion, region, caste, color or gender.

Whenever we talk about our farmers, we feel proud because they work so hard to bring food to our table. Whenever we talk about our scientists, we feel proud because they enable our technological advancement and improve the quality of life for everyone in the country. When we talk about our athletes, we feel proud because they work hard and bring medals/trophies to our country at international stages. When we talk about our artists, we feel proud as they do not just entertain us but also sometimes bring awards at the international stage through their work. These personalities also feel proud because of what they have achieved in their profession – not because they belong to a particular religion, region, caste or gender.

When farmers strike, we always say “kisaan andolan”. Recently in Maharashtra, the farmers marched from Nashik to Mumbai. I didn’t see any news channel reporting it as “Marathi Farmers” but just as “farmers”. Even the protest in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra last year by farmers was called “kisaan andolan” in MP and Maharashtra and never as “Marathi and MPite kisaan andolan”. When farmers from Tamilnadu went to protest in Delhi, they were never called “Tamilian farmers”.

As long as we keep associating ourselves with such pity things, we cannot develop because our horizon will be limited. And unfortunately, problems do not see race, religion, caste, gender etc. before striking.

–Featured Image Source: India Today

Two Wrongs Make One Right

It is said that two wrongs don’t make it right. To some extent it is not completely true. At least, from what I have seen in the last couple of days. When two wrongs meet each other, the larger wrong make the smaller wrong look right.

To begin with the tweet that triggered the entire issue, disagreeing to something is fine but when you spell out negative adjectives for someone who believes in that thing, you’re not just disagreeing but also making it personal. And when you already know that the person you are abusing will not respond but you still chose to go ahead with the abuse, the intentions are obvious. You get respect when you project it. When you project disrespect, you get disrespect in return. The quantum of disrespect you will get in return will depend on the person you are disrespecting.

Nobody, including PM, ever claimed that #selfiewithdaughters will bring about revolution. It is not a game changing idea either. And surely, there will be people who will post selfies just to up the count of likes, retweets and comments on their pics. Nobody can control that. But there is no harm in doing it either if it helps in spreading even a teeny-tiny bit of awareness. And if Shruti Seth has a better idea, please suggest (“Try Reform” is not an idea). Talking about ground level initiatives/reforms Modi has made, a 10 minute google search will give you all the answers. Having said that, it should also be noted that all these initiatives/reforms were well supported by people at the ground because of which they were successful.

Unfortunately, there was a larger set of idiots who marshalled a counter attack in the worst possible manner. When you respond to personal abuses with personal abuses, what remains is only personal abuses while the core topic vanishes in thin air. And that’s what happened when the entire episode moved from individual to the entire women community – to some extent rightfully as the abuses were far more than disrespectful and showed the 18th century mentality of the people who responded. In a way, in a country where it is very easy to portray personal criticism as a community/gender/religious criticism, these idiots provided the much needed ammunition.

India is a democracy and everybody has the right to disagree. But when you are disrespectful to the people around and are expecting respect in return, just because you are woman, it’s “unfair”. Respect should be gender neutral.

What Stops India from becoming a World Leader?

Photo Courtesy: Pixshark.com

Photo Courtesy: Pixshark.com

Last weekend, I watched our honorable PM Narendra Modi’s speech at Canada’s Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto. While he spoke on many topics, there was one line I found very interesting regarding dignity of labor.

He said, “Hamare man mein labour ke prati jo dignity chahiye, uska abhav bhar gaya hai. Jab tak ek samaanya vyakti ki dignity, yeh hamara swabhaav nahi hoga; dignity of labor, ye hamari prakruti nahi hogi, to shaayad duniya jo humse maang rahi hai usko hum gaurav se nahi kar paayenge.” (We need to instill dignity of labor. Till it becomes our nature, we will not be able to do with pride what the world expects of us)

Ancient India’s civilization had an established division of labor through Varna system.

  • Brahmins – learned Vedas and became teachers and priests
  • Kshatriyas – warriors who protected the nation
  • Vaishyas – farmers, businessmen, artisans and merchants
  • Shudras – laborers

While the system was originally meant to establish an order by well defined responsibilities based on qualifications, it eventually evolved into a rigid system (around Middle Ages) based on birth and inheritance. At the same time, it created a psychological divide between the four groups based on sense of superiority with Vaishyas considering themselves superior to Shudras, Kshatriyas superior to Vaishyas and Shudras, and Brahmins superior to all the three. Primarily driven by access to knowledge, the divide kept increasing.

This philosophy of adopting karma by birth and not by choice drives, largely, India’s lack of respect for labor. With specific jobs considered (or taught to be) inferior to others, there was an inherent reluctance, to do them even when it was for own self. With this mentality carried across generations, the reluctance grew into dislike. And this dislike manifested in the form of disrespect for those who were doing it. Thus, the original purpose of the entire system was completely defeated over a period of time.

This is one of the reasons why, many times, we fail to thank our community helpers who make our life very easy by doing the work which we don’t want to do. If we think, right from the morning – domestic help, milkman, cook, newspaper guy, laundry guy, car cleaner, building security etc are the ones with whom we interact every day. In addition to that, there are occasional ones like electrician, plumber, mechanic, technician, carpenter, hairdresser, food delivery guys, taxi drivers, pest control folks and so on. Apart from that there are the ones with whom we don’t really interact like the gutter cleaners, cleaners at various public places like gardens, malls, movie theatres, roads, firefighters, ambulance drivers, nurses, policemen, traffic cop and so on. These folks are often taken for granted, without any realization of what will happen if they are not there around. Yes, we pay them for their work but then it’s not the money that does the work, it’s humans.

Often, one of the greatest motivators for any work is recognition. Recognition that they are helping in building this nation by doing their bit and little respect from the people for whom they are doing it can bring a lot of change. This makes me recall the hospital sweeper scene from Munnabhai MBBS. India needs such goodwill gestures in real life as well and in abundance.

This requires a beginning to treat each individual as equal. To do that, all types of work need to be treated as equal. And to do that, a break away from our traditional inheritance based occupation determination is required. A large part of the occupation related restriction also comes from the fact that the occupation of an individual is also a status symbol for a family and a price tag in the marriage market.  Indian families are very sensitive when it comes to the perceived dignity. I use the word “perceived” because of our obsession to the word “log kya kahenge?” (what will people say?).

Having said all this, the change has already started with youngsters slowly shedding inhibitions related to work. While, traditionally, Indian parents pamper their kids even when they are in their mid-20s, there are those who are also able to get out of it, either due to circumstances or more open minded parents, and take up various jobs that make them independent at the very early age. In addition, I believe there is more respect for community helpers and people have started shedding caste related stigmas and accept everyone as humans.

Sometimes, even taking a cue from the western world where people are not ashamed to do household chores, house cleaning, gardening etc all by themselves, helps. A part of the reason is also the upbringing that does not judge individuals by the type of work they are doing but by their conduct with others. We may not even want to go that far, if we are just able to take a look at what Mahatma Gandhi told to one of the youngster who wanted to contribute to nation building:

“As long as you don’t have the humility to do the humblest of jobs, you will not be able to recognize the real problems that beset our motherland. If you really want to make a difference you will have to first get rid of your ego, only then will you be able to understand that it is essential to recognize the importance of the seemingly insignificant, menial tasks and have the humility to perform them, if you learn to do them with dignity and honor, the bigger tasks will become easy.”

I think this says it all!

It is up to us on how quickly we are able to bridge this divide of superior vs. inferior and that will determine whether we become the world leaders or not, in terms of quality human resources in the globalized world.

Source: NDTV, Wikipedia, Hindu Wisdom, A Matter of Conviction: A History of Southern Baptist Engagement with the Culture, Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal & Gandhi Research Foundation,

Three Shades of Grey

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Off late, my Facebook feeds have largely seen some or the other article vilifying either Arvind Kejriwal or Narendra Modi. Some of the fierce supporters on either side have been spending a huge part of the day on enlightening the other users on how disastrous it would be to vote for one person and how the other person, he/she supports, is an OBVIOUS choice. Unfortunately, in democracy, be it of any country, there are no OBVIOUS choices. There is a choice of which party is the best to govern the country in the next five years. “Best” need not be pristine or 100% right and it also need not be a unanimous choice. It cannot be – since political parties are made up of human beings and human beings by itself are never 100% right or wrong.  If we look at everyone around us, we will come across some good qualities about them and some not good. Even professionally, we evaluate people with their strength areas and, at the same time, there are areas of improvement. The degrees will vary and but there won’t be anybody with all strengths and no areas of improvement or no strengths and all areas of improvements.

Few weeks back I came across an article “Politics and its many shades of grey” by Chetan Bhagat that spoke about how the selection is always between less right and more right. Sadly, the writer ended up supporting one party after starting off with a balanced view. Sometimes people can’t gauge where to STOP. But taking the initial part of the article, which had been in my mind since long when I stopped wasting my energies on Facebook for political reasons and instead do something productive, it is important to understand how the system works.

The current social media fabric doesn’t allow colors other than black or white. If you say something in favor of somebody, you are automatically assumed to be against everyone else. One group among my friends has been rigorously campaigning against Narendra Modi – BJP’s PM Candidate – on how catastrophic it would be to vote for a mass murderer, liar of highest degree  and brazenly corrupt and communal. There is another group who is leaving no stone unturned in demonstrating on Arvind Kejriwal’s – AAP leader and strongest opposition to Narendra Modi – U-turns, selective targeting, symbolism, self-righteousness and double standards. Since December, Rahul Gandhi is out of fashion.

However, the crux of the matter is, if you want to support someone, you can do that. If you want to bash the same person, you won’t be short of material there as well. It depends on the choice you make, if you have decided to be in a 100% white zone and put everything else as 100% black. But there are a number of people who might not want to join either Allies or Axis. They are detached from “individual” politics. They might not look at things in monochrome. They see what is the most necessary for the country at a given point of time and choose one at that given time and move on for a better option later. The views will differ among individuals and there will always be requirement for acceptance of differences.

To put a bottom line, India’s foundation is not vulnerable that one person or one party can destroy it. This nation has faced thousands of attacks ever since human race came to existence. India has stood the most ferocious test of time and will continue to do so. This nation has also made mistakes and has learnt from it. But more often than not, it has taken the best decisions in the human history.

Few days back, I came across an anecdote that tried to explain the situation in the current Indian polity and the dilemma of our selection.

Let’s say you have a car and you hire a driver.

The driver is new but with decent driving skills. However, when the car is not in use, he used it for his personal purposes and also for carrying passengers to earn some extra bucks. He was also not good in maintaining the car properly. You come to know about this and you fire him.

You hire another driver. This second driver has excellent driving skills with a proven track record. He also maintains the car well. However, like the first driver, he also uses the car for his personal purposes and carrying passengers to earn some extra bucks. You again come to know about this and you fire him as well.

You hire a third driver. This third driver is very honest and hardworking. He never uses the car for any other purpose but for yours. However, he is a novice with poor driving skills and often bangs your car while driving. He also doesn’t know much about car maintenance, so often there are breakdowns because of which the car is not available.

You don’t know how to drive a car and there are only these three drivers available in the market. What will you do?