Friday, April 24, 2009

The election experience.

I thought i'd write about the farce they call elections in India, the biggest democracy in the world. I am too sleepy now and slightly off mood for not being able to vote. As for the plight of my colleagues who went on polling duty to some interior, naxal controlled areas, well they called up to tell me that they had reached home safe and sound and promised to share their experiences when college re-opened on Monday. I was glad that they understood that I was concerned. Luckily ladies were spared this time.

Several colleges and schools were closed down since they were needed for election purposes, crores of rupees have been spent yet at least fifty percent of those whom I contacted after the election on the 23rd of April said that they kept running from booth to booth but could not find their name listed in any of them. Our area can be described as a rectangle 2 kms. in length and 1 km. broad. Yet to prepare a master chart indicating the allotment of booths to its residents was too difficult a task. Had they deputed a few sincere staff members of our college to make out such a list we would have happily obliged. Another thing that left me wondering is that our uneducated milkman and dhobi were able to cast their votes while educated people could not. I am in an uncompromising mood so I truly feel that we were deliberately confused and forced to retreat while the possibility of bogus voting in our place cannot be ruled out.

This is how I gave vent to my feelings-

I checked the internet and visited the concerned site. It opened a page with 255 booths listed and asked me to click on my booth. Had I known the number of my booth I'd have cast my vote and not surf the net.

'Fools' I muttered under my breath. There was a contact number.

I rang up.

It was the DC's office

A voice answered the phone pretty quickly. My hope started building up.

Me:Sir, I am calling from Kadma. I've been trying to locate my booth since morning. Could you help?

Voice:Sorry ma'am. why don't you try a few booths near your home. we've tried to allot the nearest booth to residents of a particular area.

Me:I've tried 5 booths and no luck yet.

Voice: you can check our site in the net.

Me: I'm sitting right in front of the computer but I can't click on 255 spots and check each and every voters' list. Could you tell me the booth numbers for Kadma?

Voice: I'll call another person and he may be able to help you.

I waited for 2 minutes and a second voice took over.

Second Voice: How may I help you?

Me: You may help me by helping me locate my booth. I want to cast my vote. Do you have any provision for me to feed my voter ID number to locate my booth. Or if I give you my name could you locate it for me?

Second voice: Sorry ma'am, the DIO (God knows what it stood for) is attending a meeting. We'll get back to you when he comes back. He may have a list.

Me: Do you have my phone number?? How do you plan to get back to me?

Second voice: No, ma'am. Why don't you ring us up in 10 minutes. We'll try to find out.

I was in a terrible mood by then-

Me: Do you have my name or my address to try and find out. What kind of system are you running? In the scorching heat we've been running from booth to booth to cast our vote and it is already two in the afternoon. Your dumb website has no purposeful information and your officer goes for a meeting taking the list with him and you guys have no backup copy. If educated people have so much trouble what would be the plight of illiterate people?

Voice: I understand ma'am but I am not in a position to help.

At this point I felt genuinely sorry for blasting the poor fellow. With our administrative officers unable to direct their sub ordinates, despite being treated like pampered sons in law, there was no point yelling at this man who was perhaps a peon or counter clerk. The cynic in me says that this was perhaps deliberately done. A professor in our colony went with his wife to cast his vote. His name was missing while his wife a home maker was allowed to vote since her name figured in the list. Another friend, a school teacher looked up my name wherever she went and I checked on hers. Neither of us could locate our names.

Tell me am I wrong in calling the election process a farce and waste of time?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Where are we heading?? what is our goal?

I was terribly upset by two incidents reported by news channels/papers and found it difficult to come to terms with the fact that such incidents do take place in the 21st century and we have no scope for speedy justice with the judiciary being what it is.

The first incident is about the death of an 11 year old girl who was mercilessly punished by her teacher for failing to recite her english alphabets. The girl was beaten and made to stand in the sun for nearly two hours. She fainted and it was her younger sister who informed her parents who took her to the hospital in a critical condition and the girl slipped into a coma and finally died.

I strongly feel that the government should have some kind of check on granting affiliation to schools. These days schools have become business centres and while government school teachers are paid well they have no accountability and private school pay so badly that those who are recruited in them feel exploited. Their frustration is transferred to an innocent child. Very often people who teach in prestigious schools are mainly interested in giving private tuitions to students from affluent families and those in government schools have reached there by greasing palms. Both groups cannot be expected to do justice to the profession. How else do we explain the brutal punishment meted out to this particular student? The girl was 11 years old and was studying in std II. For all we know she might have had some kind of learning disability or other health problems and needed special care and attention. Well I can go on and on.

The second incidence is about a gang rape in Mumbai. An American student studying in Mumbai's TISS was gangraped by 6 boys known to her batch mate and she herself reported the incidence to the police some three days after it took place once she was in a position to do so. Three of the culprits were from a reputed school in Jamshedpur who were pursuing their higher studies in Mumbai. Jamshedpur being a small town we seem to know everyone either directly or indirectly and my heart goes out to the mothers of these boys who placed absolute trust in their sons while sending them out of town to study. I don't want to go into the reasons. It is easy to blame the girl. The act cannot be justified in any way. But a for boy barely in his early twenties to be part of the crime perhaps also means an end of a bright career even before it took off. The girl is bound to remain traumatized for a long long time. Who takes the blame and how much of it? Parents? The culprits? The victim? Is society as a whole which fails to give the right kind of sex education to our youngsters? There is a need to analyze the problem from all possible angles. This could happen to any of the youngsters who would soon take their place in society.

Shiv Khera is known for his famous statement-

"If you are not part of the solution then you are a part of the problem".

Do we want to be part of the problem or of the solution? The time has come to make a choice. We cannot escape responsibility. The next victim could be one of your own family for all you know.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

More Gup shap

I had earlier written a post on how inanimate objects behave as if they have a mind of their own. The power supply goes of just when a news of national importance is being flashed on TV and the gas cylinder has to be replaced when one is winding up cooking and just the seasoning bit is left and the list goes on. Suddenly I realize that animate objects become inanimate whenever it suits them and that is even more frustrating.

Take for example the head of the family who is sitting in the drawing room, newspaper in hand. No, I don't mean just my husband my father in law was no better. The door bell rings and the onus of opening the door and answering the call invariably falls on the lady slogging it out in the kitchen. She has to remember to switch off the gas or else the milk will spill over, she has to keep the knife out of reach or the brat will invariably cut himself with it and yet the newspaper reader is as good as the sofa he sits on. He just does not hear the bell.

The child has decided to be difficult. He refuses food, won't listen to a story and insists on being carried around. The father becomes selectively deaf. He can watch a cricket match, follow election analysis in 3 different channels but the child's tantrums do not affect him. You have no option but to dump the child on his lap and the brat becomes quiet and manageable.

The telephone rings and it is only the mother who has to pick it up. The grown up son/daughter have their own mobiles to receive personal calls and the husband seems to have lost the ability to walk. "The phone is ringing" he announces, but will not pick it up. As if all land line calls are only meant for the wife/mother.

Visitors have arrived. The children mumble a hurried 'namaste' and retreat to their rooms or better still go out as if they have some important work to do. The husband has only a half hearted smile to offer and the job of entertaining them, enquiring after their ailing grandfather/their children's entrance exams/their thrice removed cousin's marriage preparation.......well you are supposed to remember so many things and your better half keeps changing channels and watching TV. You go to the kitchen to prepare tea and either invite the visitor into the kitchen or continue the conversation from there since all others have become selectively dumb. Glaring at the husband will not help. He can look into your eyes and not 'see' anything. Point it out to them later and pat comes the reply.

"You were doing all the talking. There was nothing for me to say."

The very same children can talk for hours on the phone with their friends and the conversation has to turn to politics or cricket/football and just see how animated your husband becomes.

Multi - tasking seems to come naturally to women. Or is it perhaps forced on them and is acquired over time? I, for one, feel that men have it easy. At least I know of one man who does. Or is it that their priorities differ?

I have a lot of freedom. I sometimes I wish that I had less of it because decision making also means taking responsibility when things go wrong. I have seen women who will remain in the background out of choice and they seem to be better off. Or are they? My friend Prema for instance is handicapped but is still a pillar of strength to her husband. It is perhaps this very quality that is sustaining her. I cannot imagine her being different. Her in laws say that they remain in touch with the brother only because of her. This may be a bit of an exaggeration. But it also emphasizes on her role in running the show.

I meant to write a light post but this is becoming serious. I really want some inputs from the male perspective. But perhaps these are not issues to men at all. Like my husband would say-

"Yes, I was watching TV when so and so came. So what?? What is your problem about it? The programme was interesting and they would have watched it with me were it not for you." How's that? All my raving and ranting goes waste. Too bad isn't it?

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Celebrating Ram Navami.

Ram Navami was celebrated all over India and to my mind it appears that a kind of competitiveness has taken over and genuine devotion has taken a back seat. No, please don't misunderstand me. I don't question the spirit behind the celebration of festivals. But I do not understand why there have to be 5 pandals, each blaring a different devotional song, in a two kilometer stretch that I cover as part of my morning walk? Two such sites were on opposite sides of a busy intersection and honking motorcycles and cars raised the noise levels and pedestrians continued to cross the road oblivious to commuters on motorized vehicles. What is the purpose being served I wonder? Long ago as a school girl I read somewhere that festivals are actually social events and a poor man's method of enjoying the day. He forgets his woes and takes his children out, buys them an article or two as per his affordability and the family roams around enjoying the music that invariably accompanies such gatherings. This made sense if the participants were farm labourers who toiled hard all through the year and a whole village got together to relax and celebrate the day in a single temple. So much the better if the poorer sections of society were treated to good food in the form of a wholesome meal cooked in hygenic conditions. May be I am getting old and cynical but I find something missing in the way pujas are organized these days. It looks as if there is a pressing need to prove a point.

Lord Ram was a devoted son who spent 14 years in the forest to honour his father's commitment to his step mother. To my old fashioned mind it appears as if the best and only way to express one's devotion to Lord Ram whether as a deity or a noble King would be show concern for the elders in our family and others in our neighborhood. We have old people leading lonely lives with children having flown the nest. Why not spend an evening with them listening to soft music and relishing some wholesome, healthy food and generally making them feel useful and wanted? Why can't brothers live like Ram and Lakshman instead of fighting over who would look after their parents and for how long?

I often say that if a son or daughter is strong enough to say that these are my parents and I am going to provide them a peaceful life in their old age, their spouse and children would soon soon follow. They may not be happy doing it initially but will ultimately get used to it. Very often people disagree with me and say that several parents are dominating and demanding. The onus of explaining the situation to parents also falls on the son/daughter. Rare is the parent who does not understand the son/daughter's plight.

So while wishing all of you a 'Happy Ram Navami' though belated, let me pledge that I would celebrate the day serving/attending to those in need, preferably senior citizens so that their children working in distant places may lead their lives in peace.

My own mother was born on Janmashtami and passed away on Ram Navami day. She was on dialysis toward the end of her life. I was able to pay my respect to her memory on Ram Navami by spending sometime with a friend who is also on dialysis following kidney failure. I pray for her speedy recovery for her own sake and for the sake of the wonderful children that God has blessed her with.