Friday, August 26, 2011

Important things I think of

  • It’s raining an insane amount of rain as I’m typing this [August 24]. On my rooftop office, the sounds are heightened. Almost as if the water drops are little pebbles being artlessly dropped by the bucketful by some playful cherub. It’s, well, annoying and beautiful. Annoying because I need to get home and I live in a particularly traffic-congested part of the city. Getting there, in this rain, with the autos acting like complete bitches (which I don’t appreciate because they don’t have meters and I hate that I depend on them) is going to be a bit of a problem. Beautiful because I’m a fan of this kind of rain, drizzles annoy me as do “mild showers”.

  • So anti-corruption – they made the PM cave, but with more time passing there seems to be plenty of voices of dissent and non-support coming through. A lot of people just don’t like Hazare and what he’s doing and how he’s doing it. Truth is, it’s getting into blackmail territory now and it’s not pleasant. I genuinely do not appreciate the way in which the Parliament is being threatened and cornered into doing something. The laughing matter is this; the BJP supports the Lokpal Bill and the creation of a Lokpal. Sigh. It’s disgusting. If Anna Hazare says the BJP is a clean political party and others should emulate them, I’ll just have a minor heart seizure!

  • Note to negligent parents – while crossing the road, with your young child, please ensure that you create circumstances for your child’s survival. Letting them be on the side of oncoming traffic is selfish and well, wrong, for the lack of a better expletive. The footpaths might be too far away from the point on the road that you want to cross, that does not mean you walk on the middle of the road during peak traffic hours holding your child’s hand. Do you want to die? (Or as they ask in Tamil, “Enna veetile solittu vandirikkiya?) Idiots. Don’t you dare blame the doctors at a government hospital for the death of your child because it was probably your fault that the poor thing got hit in the first place. 

  • Note to contrary people – stop blaming it on being modern and young and “confused” and “post-modern angst” or even, and this is priceless, being Libran. I’m going to hunt you down and slash your damn jugular! For the sake of peace and sanity and the non-necessity of a world war, if you don’t know or don’t remember what you said, STFU and find a corner to sulk in! I will not tolerate you coming my way and telling me different things every single fucking day. If you have an opinion, air it, post which, please do NOT change your mind about it. It’s annoying and a lot of work to keep up with your ever-changing moods – I’m not your wife or mother! Fools.

  • Note to drunk people – hai! Naice to meet the you. Let’s be in deep and abiding friendship forever. However, if you have an alcohol addiction issue, don’t call me. I happen to like my liver enough to not have cirrhosis and then die or something. If you just like drinking every once in a while, let’s be frands okay?

  • To the English – thank you for the language. It is much-appreciated. Really. Today, every city has a localised and khichdified version of your language, many of which have Wiki pages and guides. It’s fun to communicate with these horrendous spellings and pronunciations from time to time. It more than makes up for my lack of finesse whilst using my own respective mother tongues. When other Indian children, especially the ones that live abroad and think they’re better than me, don’t get it, I’m happier and my ego takes a huge climb up the ladder to megalomania towers. 

  • The linguistically challenged – need to go die. Especially when they come up with “my hairs are so soft, I want to keep touching them” on national fucking TV. I refuse to like the ad and go out and buy the product. I absolutely refuse. On the same line of thought, there’s something about “here” pronounced as “hair” that really annoys me. There are some specific people who think “hair” is the actual way in which “here” is pronounced. I blame their shitty English teachers. I blame the English teachers who don’t teach their kids pronunciation and then claim to have taught them the eight parts of speech, the twelve tenses, and then claim to have done a good job in teaching children English. Uh, what? It’s a first language in this country dearincompetentone, how on earth do you assume the right to misteach and then have the gall to be proud of it?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Of replies and outrage

It turns out that someone does not like what I have been writing here about Anna Hazare. Here are his comments. He goes by the user name "kooldude1782".

"Hi Shruthi,
I dunno who you are, what you do. But by reading this blog, I can see that you are one of the privileged kids in the block.

It seems that you must have never been to a government office for any paper work. If you have a habit of writing and want to develop your essay writing skills, then please write something about you, your folks, about nature and general topics. Please dont write about things which you have never experienced or never come across.
Little knowledge is very dangerous. Its always good to know both sides of case before coming to a conclusion.

In other countries when we require any paper work from the government, there is a website which says whether I am eligible to receive that document, and what will be the requisite supporting documents and the duration taken by the office to get the paper issued, otherwise I can file a case against the office for not giving me the papers. And the judiciary also does not function like in India,
Do we have this or anything similar to this...?
Few years before there was a bill passed called "Right to Information Act" which says that the citizen has the right to know the process and what is happening for a particular case. But that Act does not mention anything about what to do if the duration has passed due.

Small instance:
when applying for a ration card(this is the card given to every middle class and lower class and BPL citizen, not sure whether you know what it is) I received it after 1.5 years. The first time when I visited the office to apply, the requisite documents were no where mentioned, they just told to submit whatever document we have. After 2 months when I went to the office to know when I will receive the ration card, I was asked me to submit a different set of documents.After 5 months we heard from the neighbours that on a particular day all people who had applied for ration card in that area will be receiving it. But the issuance was put on hold due to elections. The government changed and then the new government took another 6 months to verify the supporting documents and issue it finally after 1.5 years.

When I turned 18 and I wanted to cast the vote, I couldn't because I dint have a ration card to prove my age and identity. those times when I was able to cast the vote, illegitimate votes would have been cast, but how will I prove it...? to whom will I report it...?

I had applied for voters ID card when I was 18, now I am 29 and still have not got it. Even if I get it, I wouldn't be allowed to vote since I now look different than how I was looking when I was 18.

I have a very simple question, when any person gets a job, his performance is monitored on regular basis by people who have selected him. Same should happen with MPs, once they are selected their performance should also be monitored by public. So, public has right to say that MPs are not performing well and voters should also have right to make a complaint against an MP if he/she is not performing well. And by passing the JanLokPal bill we are giving a platform to our voters to exercise this right.

Citizen of India "

I have a few things to say to this person. However, before that, I would like to clarify that the comments are not intended to be malicious. They are a response.

A) My mother is the principal of a school. She was a school teacher before that. My father is a retired army Colonel. My grandfather was a freedom fighter with the INA and my paternal grandfather was the headmaster of a school. I come from a family of mostly teachers and some privately employed individuals. I do not form part of the "privileged kid on the block" club. I find it extremely annoying when educated, English-speaking individuals who have blogs are thrown in the "privileged kids on the block" club.

B) I have been to government offices. Shocking I know. But it's true. I have chased my passport from pillar to post all because one sheet of paper was put in the wrong order. So, I spent way too much time climbing stairs and running around Shastri Bhavan, Chennai, for a document that I was entitled to own. I have my passport now. It's valid for another eight years. And surprisingly, my family has a ration card. I know right? I do know what it is and I have been to the civil supplies office. Oh yes, I have a driver's license too. For which I went running in circles. Turns out it is a small, laminated document that is too tiny to justify the amount of circle-running one has to do. As for my voter's ID, in a completely bizarre chain of events, people came home and took down my details and I went to a, wait for it, government office to pick my voter's ID up. Thus far, I have taken the time to vote in every election held since I turned 18. Now, I don't know if my privileged upbringing has to do with the fact that I am in possession of government-issued documents. Last I remember, an FIR I filed two years ago is still being "searched for" by the police station. I need a copy to get a replacement of my Army-issued ID. I keep hounding them. At one point, I threatened them with my press ID, didn't work. I'm still hounding. I haven't, however, paid them money to search for it. Paying them might magically aid in the finding of this document, but I don't feel like it!

C) My essay-writing skills, as you so politely put it, are not for writing this blog. I get paid to write. I used to work for a national newspaper. If there is one person in this particular conversation who has been acquainted with ground realities, it's probably me. Therefore, I take offense to the fact that you feel I should be writing essays on nature, about myself and my parents.I vote and pay taxes my friend, this is my country and I'm free to express my dissent. Not supporting a person does not mean I am privileged or even pro-government. There is actually a provision in the Constitution that allows a citizen to register a non-vote. This country lets you be free enough to be a registered apathetic citizen.

Please keep in mind that we are a country of 1.2 billion people. If you would like a proportionate consensus on this issue, everyone needs to be on board. This is not a middle-class movement, nor is this a movement of a certain section of outraged people. This is something all the citizens of the country should agree to. I would appreciate a referendum on whether the Jan Lokpal should exist or not. Let the draft of the Goverment's version and the original be read and studied by the people and let the people decide what they want, without Anna Hazare and his supporters cramming Facebook and the TV news channels with their campaign. Let every citizen of this country make an informed choice. I don't see that happening. Instead, the people who are questioning the motives of this bill are being categorised as anti-change and a few other unpleasant things. I don't appreciate it. Feel free to call me names, don't expect me to feel shameful and cross over to your side of the corruption movement. I live in a free country, I'm free not to like something, as are you.

Stop pressurising agencies like the government and tell the middle-class, that is standing behind Hazare to stop paying bribes. The Lokpal is not an agency that is elected by the people. The Lokpal will be an independent body that is not answerable to anybody. There is no assurance that a non-elected body will keep the best interests of the people at heart.

A few questions - Are you telling me, despite the history of corruption and political avarice in this country, that so much power is good for one organisation to have? What is the point of going through so much trouble and voting? What good is my vote if someone I voted for is knocked out because the Lokpal feels that he is corrupt? Who is going to arrest the people who give the bribes? The Lokpal? The police? If a police official who arrests a bribe-paying citizen is found guilty of corruption by the Lokpal, then what happens to the arrests he/she has made of people who pay bribes? Will they be termed wrongful arrests? Who is going to run the government offices if most of its staff is suspended because they are guilty of corruption? If the MPs and ministers found guilty of corruption are thrown out of office, who will run the country? The Lokpal? [I don't want someone I have not elected to power running this country.] What if the Lokpal does not process a complaint within the time frame that it sets, who is monitoring the Lokpal and the Lokpal's efficiency? [Let's face it, judging by the surety of everyone's assumptions that everyone is corrupt, the Lokpal will have an immense volume of complaints to wade through. If each and every one has to be addressed in a satisfactory manner, it will take time.]

As for Mr.Hazare himself. He's threatening the government. He says he'll fast till death. That's mutinous and childlike behaviour. By being unreasonable, he is saying that he and all his supporters are people who are not keen on discussion and consensus. How do you trust an organisation like that to function objectively?

Comparing his protests to Gandhi's protests is wrong. Gandhi fought for us to be able to rule ourselves. He fought against foreign rule. We are ruling ourselves. We have a system in place. By saying that this system is not working, you are, in some way, trivialising people like Dr.Ambedkar and their work in creating a secular democracy like ours. We live in a country that affords us the freedom to do as we please, and a country that has a free press. Despite this, India is one of the most unhappy populations. A simple example, we bitch about traffic like it's going out of style, but do we take the effort to drive as per rules? We don't. How the hell does a population that is this scornful of simple rules get  the right to bitch about corruption?

The Constitution was framed by Dr.Ambedkar for the population of this country to enjoy equality. Caste, education, hunger, basic healthcare, palliative care, care for the aged, women's rights, prostitution rackets, drugs, communalism, and so many things need attention. Instead. the media has sensationalised this issue to the point where people are no longer driven by common sense but by media-fuelled outrage. Ask the media to shut up first. They should have all killed themselves after the Nira Radia tapes came out.

Corruption is a problematic term. It is complex and problematic to understand. Leaving a tip at a restaurant over and above the service charge is not charity, it's corruption -- it's currying favour from a person in order to ensure better service for yourself the next time you go there. Being nice to your boss, sucking up to him/her despite your dislike of him/her is also a form of corruption. You are ensuring that  you get decent performance reviews and a better pay and better treatment at work. When there are so many definitions, making one version of corruption go away is not going to create a cleaner system or make things easy.

Here is something else we should all be thinking about - freedom. We, as citizens, have the freedom to do as we please. This is a tolerance-preaching, secular, democracy. To see this framework exploited to achieve a goal whose long-term consequences are not known cannot be, in any way, good for us.

I am not going to be tolerant of people accusing me of being privileged because they assume that I don't know what I'm talking about. I talk about what I know and understand. If I don't get it, I will say that I don't. I do not have the time or patience to sit and write a pretentious piece about such a big issue because I have a blog. I am a citizen of this country, there are enough documents to prove it. If you don't think I'm thinking the "right" things, it's okay. I don't care. I don't think you're thinking the "right" things either. The beauty of being Indian is that you and I can continue to live our lives in disagreeable agreement.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why it’s important to slap the citizen

Sorry, but my mood off late is social commentary.

It cannot be helped. Such is the nature of the events unfolding in the country at the moment. For those interested, kindly Google “Anna Hazare” for more information on what is happening.

I just have a question to ask – why are these citizens being all self-righteous suddenly? They claim that this is a new “freedom struggle”. I find it a little ridiculous. The fact that it doesn’t occur to anyone that they are free to protest and call the government on its bluff is a little strange. How do these people feel shackled? They are allowed to elect. They are free to follow rules, or not. I’m willing to bet that some of them spit on the road and follow it up with “my forefathers fought for a free country, so I will spit. This land is my land, etc, etc, etc,” and some other truckload of tripe.

Have none of these “protestors” paid a bribe? Ever? Really? I find it hard to believe. In a country where minor traffic violations are pushed under the carpet with a Rs.50 bribe and no challan issued, it’s a little strange to see people gather by the thousands and be morally upright about an issue that clearly requires two parties to participate.

Let’s not look at corrupt officials and governments and government offices for a moment. Let’s look at citizens who go ahead and offer up bribes and under-the-table ways of dealing with an issue. They don’t pay bribes because it is the only way. I’m sure there are enough and more people in government offices that don’t need to be bribed for your work to get done. The way people are protesting, one is led to believe that every single government official is corrupt and so on. Truth is, most of them might not be. If you go someplace and act desperate and say “I will do anything, just please clear my paperwork” it won’t occur to the government officer to call the cops on you. He/she will take what you are offering and get on with his/her working day. People don’t realise that these people get paid anyway and they get employee benefits anyway. Anything more than that is probably going into their kids’ college  funds.

I don’t appreciate the fact that self-righteous citizens are taking to the street protesting. I want them to ask themselves if they’ve ever paid a bribe, willingly. If they have, they need to stop protesting against corruption, ASAP. These people are exactly like the fuckers who don’t vote and then bitch. If you haven’t voted, then who the fuck are you to tell the Prime Minister he’s shit? Aren’t you being undemocratic by not exercising a system that has been created just so you can create a governing body that will benefit you and others in the long run? If that is such a failure, then on what basis are these new watchdogs of society going to function? Are they officials elected “by the people”? No. Then how do people know that they have the best interests of the people at heart?

To me, this fight against corruption seems like a war with the government officials and corrupt ministers more than it is about the problem of corruption itself.

When the desperation to get work done is what governs most requirements, and there is a willing populace to encourage a rat race of “whose paperwork will get cleared first”, how the fuck is corruption ever going to go away?

The unfortunate, or fortunate, reality is that India is a secular democracy. Everyone here has the right to do and say as they please. Sometimes it’s fantastic that we do have this freedom. Sometimes, not so. In the instance of Anna, the hypocritical, right-wing, in desperate need of a retirement plan, Hazare, the freedom to express dissent is being misused to its nth degree. He wants a non-corrupt system. It’s difficult to achieve, but not impossible. In order for this lofty ideal to even pretend to be some form of reality, the second hand in the corruption clap needs to be slapped – that of the bribing citizen. However, what Hazare wants is a non-elected body of civilians to scrutinise every move of the Prime Minister, the CBI, and an assortment of other government offices.

Erm, a little Big Brother / 1984-ish, no? Probably worse.

Apparently, the existence of a watchdog entity that has the power to bring down even the highest political authority in the country, the Prime Minister, will eliminate corruption. History has proved time and again, that power in the hands of those who don’t know what to do with it, always gets abused. I don’t understand why “the people” don’t see that we’re headed straight towards a massive spiral of complete chaos. The existence of a secular democratic system while a non-elected superbody exists simultaneously, is at complete odds. It is at odds with the ideals that this country was built on. I don’t see how a part-dictatorial system is democratic in any way.

Corruption is not just about A Raja costing the exchequer a ridiculous amount of money or Suresh Kalmadi misappropriating resources to make the country look like an inefficient entity. Corruption is also the offering of an “incentive” to someone in order to push your work along. Corruption is about mutual benefit to both parties. The fact that only one party is being targeted in Hazare’s protest is a little weird. I want the jails to be overcrowded for sure, but by both the people who took the bribe and by the people who offered it.

The fact that only one part of the corruption equation is being held accountable for a problem that clearly needs two participants is a little ridiculous.

Dear upright citizens,

Kindly stop supporting Anna Hazare if you’ve ever bribed someone in life. You’re the reason why A Raja thought he could get away with it. When you supply, there will be more demand. It’s a rule that governs just about everything in life and reality. To think that you’re not asking yourself what kind of citizen you are is in itself indicative of the kind of people who will be in the Lokpal. I don’t want to be governed by two agencies. I’ve elected one, while in the full possession of my faculties. Don’t ask me to stand by and watch as random people with a so-called sweeping ideological match with most of the country’s moral fibre decide which of the government officials I elected are worth being in office. As a citizen, I find it personally offensive that my vote, and my democratic rights are being undermined because Anna Hazare feels that the government I elected needs to be scared of someone watching over them. You are trivializing a process that requires time, money and a lot of hard work.


There are some people who have articulated their non-support for Hazare rather beautifully. This particular one (by Peter Griffin) was epic and also led me to discover Facebook’s character limit (500) –

“1. I'm anti-corruption.
2. I'm anti-Anna Hazare.
3. Hazare is a sanctimonious right-wing tyrant so cloaked in his own virtue that he believes he is above the law.
4. The law is frequently an ass.
5. Nevertheless, the law is frequently our only hope.
6. Better the elected asses than the dictatorial unelected.
7. The government is playing into Hazare's hands with its idiocy.
8. Yes, these views can be held simultaneously.”

The trouble with people who put themselves on a pedestal is that they don't have the option of making mistakes. When Hazare called himself a Gandhian, he had already begun a process of intense scrutiny. The truth about his ideology was bound to come out sometime. When self-righteous, do-gooders think they are the shit, they are setting themselves up for a fail. I’m sorry but when you decide that you are above any kind of moral scrutiny, then you need to understand that you should have a flawless record. Those that don’t should shut the fuck up and move on.

I, for one, am not a perfect citizen. I am not going to be a part of this “fight for freedom”. I already am a free person in a free world. I don’t see the need to fight for freedom, again. I’m not being suppressed, oppressed or anything. Underpaid, maybe, but nothing else.

Have I paid some police uncle somewhere some money so he will not hassle me, yes. Does that make me a bad citizen, yes. I don’t like that I did, but I’ve had to. There is no justification for a mistake made. However, when I do see my type going to town and acting like they know better, it irks me. When you cover up your mistakes and pretend to be a person you’re not, then what’s the difference between Kalmadi / Raja / Kanimozhi / Bellari and you?


Friday, August 5, 2011

Rants from "the concerned person"

The terrible, terrible thing about going to a friend with a rant is that you forget an existing forum for spilling your guts and articulating your mind the way you want to without having someone constantly interrupt with their opinions. The comments section opens up after I’ve typed so this blog is a form of self-indulgence I’ve missed, IMMENSELY. Not that friends aren’t awesome, just that sometimes you just want to keep “talking”, uninterrupted.

There’s a lot going on for me off late, and I don’t think I can talk about it here just yet. I’m not sure of how it is all going to shape up, until then it is silence. However, the world and its infinite idiocy continues on, uninhibited and fearless, giving me so much to bitch about. So much. 

We’ll start with the Lokpal Bill (Tehelka's article has a huge part to play in today's social commentary from me), ‘kay? This is a mammoth issue in the country at the moment. However, the protests are mostly on Facebook, since, well, Facebook is the place to go if you have promotions to do and no money to spend except your internet usage bill. After many Facebook and email petitions, the numbers were small when compared to our gargantuan population. In India 100s is a big number, so who gives a fuck about a disproportionately numbered consensus? The person behind it all is Anna Hazare, a man who is Gandhian but will not hesitate to flog people who don’t follow rules set down by him to the point where international media will be given one more excuse to stereotype us. Case in point:

When some villagers were found to be drunk they were tied to poles/pillars of the temple and flogged, sometimes personally by Hazare. He justified this harsh punishment by stating in an interview to Reader's Digest in 1986 that “rural India was a harsh society”. (from here)

This is a man who talks peace, but acts like a petulant child when the government does not agree with him. If his version of the Lokpal is not approved by August 15, Independence Day, then as of August 16, he will protest again. Now, the terrible thing about this is that the 24/7 news media is behind him. Rajdeep Sardesai will begin to screech from CNN-IBN, Barkha Dutt will start talking (*shudder*), Arnab Goswami will take it upon himself to conduct a panel interview with him being the only one allowed to talk. Facebook will cram my news feed with more and more “concerned youngsters” looking to make a difference in the corrupt world that is Indian governance.

It isn’t like I’m not concerned, but if you think corruption is such a huge problem because corruptible people are in it and you seek to check that corruptibility with incorruptible people, then have fun. I would like to see this panel of righteousness last, incorruptibly, forever. Do Hazare and his minions even know why some people choose government jobs? Job security. There is nothing more than that. These government servants get a ton of employee benefits. It doesn’t make a difference to them one way or another if your file is not pushed. They get paid at the end of every month. They get festival bonuses. They get pensions and gratuities and a whole host of benefits. Do you think they care? Who are you trying to filter out of the system?

Let’s look at replacements. If you throw everyone out of presently functional offices, I say this because corruption has ingratiated itself so much in our system that one will be hard-pressed to find one sincere person in that office. Now, if you throw everyone out, who are you going to put there? Civil supplies needs people right – where is the aam aadmi going to get subsidized grocery supplies from? The RTO (Regional Transport Office) will need people – how will you get a driver’s license? What about the passport office? It is one of the most crowded offices in the country. I don’t even want to start off on the others.

If Hazare and his camp think they can root out corruption and find a new and more efficient and upright citizenry to run the machinery, then it’s good. I would appreciate it. I do know that paper-pushing and bare minimum wage is what drives some of this corruption. Employee benefits aside, a position of power drives this corruption. The problem is in selling these jobs to the masses. When some peon knows that he has access to the big boss and so on, he will sell his accessibility on a regular basis to people who will do what needs to be done to finish first.

In a country of a billion people, everyone thinks they are entitled to get there first. From admissions in educational institutions to traffic signals, just about everything in this country is governed by this race mentality. On the road, be a chooth piece and cut lanes and drive like there’s no one else there. Waiting to pay the bill at the supermarket, look irritated with someone who has bought fewer things because all three of your carts will only take 5 seconds to bill. Boarding a bus, shove all the 10 other people trying to get in, because your Rs.5 fare is secretly worth Rs.5,000. Travelling by train, since your luggage contains nationally relevant luggage you need to make sure it’s under your berth so that no one else can put their bags in the space they have paid equally for.

Never mind that people pay equally for everything. Everyone in this country feels entitled to more. Probably because their great grandfathers wiped Gandhi’s ass and felt the need to share it with the family, which then went on to become a mythological text, which went on to become the source of some sincerely misplaced entitlement, which is making my life miserable. Thank you. Please drown in the Cooum.

So Mr.Gandhian, self-righteous, morally incorruptible Anna Hazare, have you never committed an illegal act? Have you never done the wrong thing in order to protect your own interests? There is something in the Bible along these lines, although I cannot for the life of me quote it verbatim. The essence is this – if you’re judging someone then you ought to have a lived a life that no one can point fingers at. If you have, then please lead the way for humanity. If you haven’t, then please leave the building thank you very much. If Mr.Hazare thinks people are incorruptible, then he really should look back and ask himself if he did the “right” thing at all times. I don’t think he did. Threatening a national government that he will fast unto death is the wrong thing to do. Asking that a country equate the success of your protest on the same day as its Independence Day is cheap marketing tactics and the wrong thing to do. Expecting to be on national television all the fucking time because the government is not listening to you is the wrong thing to do.

You want to change the system? Infiltrate it, study it, analyse it, change it. Don’t be unreasonable and most importantly un-Gandhian. Gandhi was non-violent. He never threatened. He only asked that we all raise our voices against injustice. We did. That’s why we’re free today. Someone like you does not have the right to wear white, be impertinent just because the constitution allows you to, and then equate yourself to Gandhi. Gandhi was man enough to admit he made mistakes; the question is Mr.Hazare, are you?