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Art of attracting crowds

Posted by Neeraj Kumar on July 29, 2012

As there has been so much hoopla around what has been called disappointing crowds at Jantar Mantar during Anna Hazare’s fast, I started to ponder and here is what I think, if you care.

You really need to be an expert in the art of attracting crowds and following are some near sure shot ways to do it.

  1. Short skirt: Nothing beats this. Tactics has been successfully employed by news channels during ‘news’ broadcast, companies at exhibitions, F1 with their grid girls and what not. A pretty face in an immodest dress can be a clincher.
  2. Money: This again is a tactics that has been practiced for years, generally by the politicians, where a lump-sum is paid to the leader of a fraternity who is then given the responsibility to bring in crowds.
  3. Free food: There is something about free food that strikes chord with every class of society.
  4. Fear: This is the most cost-effective method for obvious reasons. It doesn’t cost a dime but, might take some time to build the reputation before you can start scaring people off.
  5. Celebrities: India loves their stars. A celebrity on stage is a sure shot formula.

Now, lets see which of the options above could have been used by 75-year-old Anna Hazare. It would be difficult for Anna Hazare to scare someone off so, option 4 goes out of the window. It will be difficult for a man who sleeps in a temple to pay someone off or arrange free food so, option 2 and 3 look a bit far-fetched. Celebrities in general have too comfortable a life to come out of their cocoon just to earn a few brownie points. So, option 5 is practically difficult.

Now Anna can always ask his young female supporters to help the cause but, a movement to eradicate corruption might well turn into a desperate attempt to prevent crime if he does that especially with the knowledge of what happened in Assam. Thus point 1, while possible, will be foolish.

So, Anna needs to rely on people’s own willingness to get out of their beds, commute 10s of kms, bear the brunt of heat and rain just to support what for all practical purposes looks like a losing cause to most. While that is asking for too much, people thronged Jantar Mantar today and gave a brilliant riposte to all the naysayers.

Having said that, to fight the way they have despite the likelihood of thin crowds, has raised Anna Hazare profile more if that was possible.

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Posted in Controversy, India, Motivation | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Dummies Guide to Indian Politics – Part 2

Posted by Neeraj Kumar on July 8, 2012

Continued from here.

Pundits will say, you are a good politician if you can slap someone’s bottom hard without hurting your hand and without making that someone feel too bad about it. Let’s quickly look at some of the planks this game is played on. Voters will be regularly referred to as ‘vote bank’. This is apt as an election win can take you laughing all the way to the bank.

Caste Politics: India has history of recognising people first by their birth, then by their deeds. So, you are first a dalit and then a bank manager. You are first a Brahmin and then a professional. Dalit considers other Dalits as ‘own people’ and brahmin considers other brahmins as its ‘own people’. Our heart generally goes out to our family, our caste, our region and our country, in this order. So, a Dalit’s leader vote bank is the Dalit community. He promises the moon for ‘his people’ and generally makes the promise with a straight face. This is key. You can’t be a good politician if you can’t keep your emotions in check and hide your true feelings. And you always got to leave the exit door open. So, in India you are a dalit leader, brahmin leader, muslim leader, backward or a forward leader. So, the formula to success is quite simple. Make sure the liquid stays insoluble (communities don’t gel), keep your flock together and if possible create division in your adversary’s vote bank. Simple.

Dynastic Politics: This is the kind of politics where the reins of political leadership is limited to a family. One thing that needs to be appreciated is that politics is not just a social service, if that. This is also a business where you try to make money and try to secure the future of your family. Thus, it is quite natural for a ‘Lalu Prasad Yadav’ to make his wife, Rabri Devi, as Chief Minister of Bihar and Congress making Sonia Gandhi its commander in chief. This country, some say, owes a lot to the Gandhi family with the fight for independence and all. But, there are also those daring mavericks who claim that in last few years, Gandhi family has started owning a lot to this country. Literally! But, who wants to get in the middle of these silly fights. Not me. Who cares if Sonia Gandhi is the most powerful individual in India. Who cares if she is Italian by birth and whatever Mr Subramanian swamy  has to say here. Aren’t we the proud largest democracy of the world? In that case, elevation of individuals like Sonia Gandhi, Rabri Devi, Mayawati, Mulayam Singh to the coveted political positions can only be jewels in our large democratic crown. If an IAS officer cleaning Mayawati’s sandals can appreciate this, why can’t we?

Developmental Politics: This is the rare and risky form of politics where politician works towards the development of his/her jurisdiction and hopes to please people. Why is it risky? Well, strictly speaking, opportunity to make money for your family might be small if you are going to use that money for development. If people don’t recognise your development or choose to vote based on caste, you are stumped. You will not have money and might well get kicked out. That is pure dumb. So, what do you do? Rule is to make sure you don’t leave the first flavour of politics – caste politics. Make sure you don’t give everything to the public at once as you won’t have anything to offer when the elections come. So, you got to be very systematic in what you give. If you give a rocket to your son as his first gift, what do you give him next? So, you got to start with a cycle and slowly upgrade it all the way up to a rocket.

India is a proud country. Thats the reason any finger raised in its direction meets with an outrage. It’s our country to spoil. Leave us alone.

India is not a country of equals. Not by a country mile. Reservation based on caste at the pretense of promoting equality is a cynical political game that politicians love to play as if they have to make sure it keeps breathing as there is no value of a dead. They have to make sure communities don’t gel. They have to make sure liquids stay insoluble.

Posted in Controversy, India | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Dummies Guide to Indian Politics – Part 1

Posted by Neeraj Kumar on June 23, 2012

It is well known that there are three things that unite India – Cricket, Bollywood and Politics. You might ask, ‘Politics? Really?’.  While bandwagon of stars pull people towards Cricket and Bollywood, politics in India- on most days, is looked down upon. But, if we dig a bit deeper, we quickly realise that politics is engrained in every strain of our body. Lesson starts from a very early age right when we are at school. You are compelled to side with a particular group to create a stronger group dynamic to when you move to college where its all about getting a girl or a boy often resulting in gossips, backstabbing, fights and at times a compromise – you take that girl and I take the other one. And when you come back home, the fight is all about being the superior sibling either by growing on your own foot or cutting someone else down to size. How your life turns out depends on how well you navigate these social strains. So, by the time you turn 18, you are already well-oiled and are super confident to pass judgements and we do that without regret or remorse which is fair because we all have been well-trained, right? We folks in India are strongly opinionated. We have an opinion on everything and god forbid if you don’t listen. And why wouldn’t you listen because then its your turn to express yourself as we all are graduates of the same training school.

So, what happens when a nation of well trained, strongly opinionated fellas take the street? That’s right. While the strength of our nation, some say, is its diversity, those diverse communities live like different type of insoluble liquids poured in to a jar. While this might not seem very attractive, it brilliantly lays out ground for very colourful politics. I called it colourful but, some choose to call it dirty. To each his or her own.

Ok, so most of us are politicians in one form or the other. May be. But, what is that to do with Indian politics? And if each of us are so well-oiled, why don’t we enter the fray and try to take our country to where it belongs- right at the top? Aha! Now that I have been asked that question, you are exactly where I wanted you before we dive in to the “colourful” world of Indian Politics!

Part 2 continued here.

Posted in Controversy, India, Life | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

JanLokpal vs SarkariLokpal vs SelfLokpal

Posted by Neeraj Kumar on August 21, 2011

India is waking up. 74-year-old man is making sure that people wake up. Anna Hazare, a known crusader against corruption of last 2 decades has taken it on to himself to wake people up from a slumber.

There has been frenzied debate over the three versions of lokpal.

  1.  Jan Lokpal:        The one Team Anna (Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi,  Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan et, al.) has proposed.
  2. Sarkari Lokpal: The one that our beloved government has proposed.
  3. Self Lokpal:          I created this to accommodate those voices who think that we don’t need these lokpals and subscribe to the view that it will all go away with self-cleansing.

Note: Link to JanLokpal vs Sarkari Lokpal is at the bottom.

Is this outcry really about being in favour or against some specific version of Lokpal? While that is definitely one of the issues, it is about people being fed up of scams after scams and living in a country where every form of fees comes with a surcharge/bribe. Students are fed up that either they have to be brilliant enough to crack IIT/IIMs or rich enough to pay donation that most colleges demand. People might be divided when it comes to detail but, they are united for the cause. There has been some ridiculous argument against this movement (e.g., murder of democracy) and avoidable exaggeration by Team Anna (e.g., Anna is India and India is Anna) but, when so many people have opinions, you are bound to have some regrettable ones. However, there is one fact and one fact alone. Corruption has kept this country with tremendous potential on backfoot for several years and needs to be urgently addressed.

Government has placed a version of Lokpal so, why not wait? Lokpal bill has been in the dock for 42 years so, it is reasonable to doubt their committment to pass the bill let alone a strong bill. Bribes and Donations are far too common to escape any eye that wishes to see. How many convictions have we seen? Media and agitations seem to be the only time when government appears to be all eyes and ears. “Lok Sabha TV” is probably the only adult channel on Indian Television so, excuse me if I doubt parliament’s intentions. Excuse my scepticism when people like Manish Tiwari, Digvijay Singh represent the ruling party.

Why not Self lokpal? Self cleansing is not a new concept but, unfortunately we live in a “real” world and not “ideal” one. This revolution is not just about calibrating our own moral compass. It is more to do with coming up with a system which will prove deterrent for those who don’t have any moral compass to calibrate. While it is all too well to say that it should start with self cleansing (and it should), people more often than not get coerced in to doing things that they otherwise would avoid. Bribe often is extortion and donation the norm. If every one voluntarily plays their part sincerely, we wouldn’t have murderers in the society (thus no need for IPC 302) and there wouldn’t be people looting the luggage of victims of train accident. It has to start with you and us but, a country must have provision to hold guilty accountable. I haven’t bribed anyone and still there are scams worth thousands of crores. I pay my taxes honestly and still I can’t expect half decent roads. So, to think that SelfLokpal can eradicate corruption is naive and too simplistic.

To have your doubts regarding the movement is one thing and to undermine completely another.

Read here: JanLokpal vs SarkariLokpal

Some other interesting take on the issue (Following are two opposite views):

Swapan Dasgupta: UPA’s credibility is now History.

Tavleen Singh: Making of a hero
 

Posted in Controversy, India | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Speak Asia vs Indian Media

Posted by Neeraj Kumar on May 16, 2011

I didn’t want to write another post related to Speak Asia but, I decided to write one for those who are being redirected here after the news conference held by the company. And then there was my own curiosity ofcourse after my previous post (Is Speak Asia Doomed to fail?).

Didn’t watch the live press conference but, did watch the recorded video at night. Here is what I think:

    1) It was a long press conference! I think it ran for over an hour and you need every bit of patience you are capable of
    2) There are only few sections of substance though
    3) What a bunch of “journalist” they were?! They were arrogant, rude and barely managed to ask a single sensible question. It felt more like a police interrogation room and less of a press conference. I behaved so much better at school!
    4) Journalists did not miss any opportunity to mock the Speak Asia Mgmt. Patted themselves for either asking an insulting question or for insinuating at every possible opportunity.
    5) To their credit, the panelists did manage to stay calm

What did panelists have to say?

    1) They talked about their business model. Explained Rs. 11000 subscription and the per-survey payout

    2) Explained their investment in technology and said their plan to invest more. Showed their new website due to go live in two weeks. Talked about having offices at 5 locations in India by August 1. Plans for new business – telephony, insurance etc’. Volunteered to show balance sheet.

    3) Gave some accounting numbers. Rs 350 crore turnover. Rs 250 cr given to panelists. Rs. 68 cr paid to govt. in service tax.

    4) Talked about the clients. Said that while they had done some research on the brands shown on channels, they were not commissioned by those brands and apologized for any mis-communication. They however confirmed that they do business through distributors and these distributors do remit money through ING and ICICI. Volunteered to show bank statements. Volunteered to show their client list subjected to people signing Non-public disclosure agreement.

    5) Showed their willingness to be investigated by government agencies and answer any questions they might have. They pleaded media to encourage agencies to investigate instead of passing their own judgement.

I barely watch Hindi news channels. I already have expressed my opinion about these channels in one of my earlier posts. Today’s performance was just as despicable. Surprisingly, most sensible questions came from a guy from Aaj Tak. 🙂 Now, I don’t know how much of what these panelists said is true and relevant authorities should definitely do what is required for the peace of mind of those who believe in this company but, media’s curse can prove to be a big blow specially for a year old company.

Lets see which way this pendulum swings!

Posted in Controversy, Journalism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Cricket Fiasco: Bottomline

Posted by Neeraj Kumar on January 10, 2008

You need to close your eyes in order to see clearly for there is so much chaos. At a time when we needed to show highest degree of restraint, we have gone berserk. If as a nation we want to play an important role on the world stage, we will need to show far greater maturity.

Australian Cricket: Australia did get carried away in the dying moments of the game when they were beginning to realise that their dreams of most victories in a row might remain a dream after all. But, are we trying to suggest that the Indian team would have not appealed had it been in similar situation? I am hurt because Indian lost the game but, the damage that is taking place outside of game is far too lasting than a game of cricket will ever be capable of. We are risking quite a lot.

BCCI: Its all about money. Look at the state of the Indian cricket. Why can’t we produce a team which can win or at least put a decent fight with the kind of budget it has?

Umpiring: Bucknor should have been asked to leave (or asked to voluntarily resign) simply for being incompetent in a job for which he is being paid handsomely as would have been the case in any other job. Not because he is a cheat or anything else that Indian media will like some of us to believe nor because BCCI likes to flex its muscle like some foreign media is getting obsessed with.

Media: What a joke. Majority of them thrive on being cheap and sensational. Screw them.

Now lets look at the case of Harbhajan. Comments like “We told you the first time not to call him monkey” is ridiculous. Its like don’t tell us that because we don’t like it. Who the hell likes when you sledge even if it is not racist by definition? The whole basis of provocation is the opposition not liking what is being done to him. There is no place of racism in sports. But, what makes sledging any more attractive?

To be honest, I personally think that Harbhajan might well have called him a monkey. But, it can’t be because some prejudice leading to racial taunt. Its because he did not like what was told to him and was hurt. He wanted to hurt Symonds and for a volatile and intemperate personality like Harbhajan, only one thing would have come to his head. Not because he is racist. But, because he wanted to hurt Symonds. That does not give mileage to Harbhajan mind you. In fact he along with Sreesanth should have been brought to task for indulging in such lose talk time and again. But, lets not make one person more equal than other because the other person was able to qualify the remark as racist. Ability to see the big picture will hold us all in good stead.

Bottomline: None of this was to protect national pride. Far from it. Different interested parties have blown everything out of proportion to ensure that we lose sight of the real problem because their best interest lies in it. To the Aussies: We don’t only burn effigies of foreign umpires and players. Our players and selectors are not spared either if the player from a certain state is not selected or if a player bats too ‘slow’. But, they do not represent all of India. In a vast country like India with one-sixth of world’s population it will not be wise to expect common sense from all of them when even three commentators sitting in the comfort of their air-conditioned box cannot come to a consensus. We are not racist, we are emotional. We are not stupid, we are passionate. If there is a line amongst all this, we are bound to stumble time and again. Lets not make a big deal and do what we do best. Wait for another scandal. Enough said.

PS: Here is what a comment read in one of the responses.

If my Mum had been in charge of international cricket, this would have been sorted easily. Every time I was in the garden playing with my friends and a game was threatening to get out of hand, she used to stick her head out of the window and say , “If you can’t play nicely, don’t play at all. If it carries on like that your friends can go home and you can clean the toilet.” It always did the trick.

Related Posts:
Shocking Journalism. Worst Protest.
Australia-Great Team Lacking in Spirit

Posted in Controversy, Cricket, India, Journalism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Shocking Journalism. Worst Protest.

Posted by Neeraj Kumar on January 7, 2008

I was hurt like any other Indian when India lost Sydney test and the manner of loss made it harder to digest. But, what disappoints me more is the way it has been captured in Indian media. Rise of Internet has ensured that people don’t have to wait till the next day to go through the newspaper. This is being exploited by the media who keep coming up with cheesy headlines and controversial stories – mostly concocted, to increase their popularity. If print media is bad, electronic ones are worse. 24 hour news channels have ensured that it is full of rubbish. Every channel tries to tap in to mass’s sentiment twisting every piece of news to spice it up as opposed to making an effort to present accurate information.

Cheesy Headlines, humiliating remarks, everything blown out of proportion. What is happening? The way Indian public has responded to this is shocking. Its one thing to criticise. Its another thing to humiliate. People have been posting absolutely absurd and mindless abusive comments in response to articles. And all this in the name of protecting our pride. Is this the impression we want rest of the world to have about us? My pride is far more injured by the events that is taking place in India as compared to what happened in Australia on the cricket field. What happens to the pride of these people when India gets named as one of the worst countries in the way children are treated here? This rarely forms subject of intellectual discussions because dealing with it will require them to be far more proactive as compared to showing anger in chat rooms.

When a few Australians did not carry themselves as we would have liked, we responded in the way we did. What about thousands of Indians who are proving to be no different? This is specially surprising when majority of the neutrals and quite a few Australians have shared our sentiment.

Same Australian public gave rousing reception to VVS and Tendulkar when they came in to bat at SCG and gave a standing ovation when they scored their centuries as if they were playing in front of their home crowd. It is one thing to be disappointed. It is another thing to be stupid.

Its true that we did not like what we saw in the test and what transpired thereafter in Harbhajan’s case but, our behaviour and that of quite a few journalists has not been very appealing either. Everybody is wrong but for us. Talk about fairness!

There are lots of decent ways to lodge protest and put your case forward. Calling names and posting abusive messages in the forums is definitely not one of them.

Update: All is not lost and I am not the only one to be incensed by the nonsense that is going on in Indian press which by its very nature demeans the cause Indians are fighting for. Here is an extract from an article in The Guardian that states as to what this post is about.

India is blessed with an extraordinary capacity for indignation. But occasionally there is cause. So even if it was a little tiresome to have to hear Harbhajan Singh’s mother on every news channel, watch donkeys with name-tags of the umpires Bucknor and Benson dangling around their necks, and find that 94% of viewers on one network wanted the team to return from Australia, it did not fully detract from the issue.

A few other people have written about the quality of journalism which they call over the top or in other words nonsensical. In Guardian, Dileep Premachandran calls it India: Where truth is up for grabs. (Cracking title but may have overcompensated by launching a scathing attack) and on Cricinfo Suresh Menon pleads for some balance.

Posted in Controversy, Cricket, India, Journalism | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Whats on your mind? Others will know it. Soon.

Posted by Neeraj Kumar on February 18, 2007

Recently another scientific breakthrough was announced in which scientists claim to being on path to predictingwhats on somebody’s mind  based on some brain scans. As always, and not surprisingly, it is being discussed if this can be used to curb crime by predicting criminal intent. People are also playing with the idea of using this in court as legal evidence.

How can somebody’s intent be ever proved in the court based on these scans? Don’t our legal system work on the theory of “beyond reasonable doubt”?

That aside we are very close to proving one point. We are merely biological objects following the rules set by our genes. Thats not a surprise as we always knew that. However, being able to predict one’s behaviour accurately does make it a bit different. There have been arguments made in favour of prevention of wrong doings based on predictions of these scans rather then to punish the wrong doer after the crime has been committed. It is said that criminal intent is merely a result of biological signals triggered in certain environmental conditions. As we are knowing more and more about these signals and the factors that trigger them leading to criminal behaviour or otherwise, the whole theory of free-will is being questioned. Science everyday is getting closer to proving us as a biological being dancing to the tune of these strings. Once we manage to discover the relation between these strings, we will be able to generate our own Minority Report (2002 blockbuster in which criminal behaviour is predicted to stop crime from being committed).

It is said that we blow these scientific discoveries and inventions out of proportion to excite ourselves but, it has seldom stopped us from wondering.

Posted in Biology, Controversy, Psychology | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Racists or Emotional?

Posted by Neeraj Kumar on February 8, 2007

Shilpa Shetty won the reality show Big Brother and received whopping 63% of votes. It would have been interesting to find whether those 63% of votes she received was due to people of Indian ethnic origin in UK (about 3 million people of Indian origin live in UK) flooding the show with calls or was it a gesture from the general British public to let Indians (and others) know that they don’t condone shocking remarks made by Jade Goody and her fellow housemates. In either case, it does make you wonder whether remarks made echoes the sentiment of large section of British society. Education teaches us to be tolerant but, emotions more often than not has the final say. So, was that just an isolated outburst or does it go far deeper than that.

I have been in UK for more than five years (four years as student) but apart from isolated heated exchange have had quite a pleasant stay. However, recently India has made its presence felt on the global map by being one of the fastest growing economy and has taken big strides in most sectors. But, with stories of Indian success ( Tata taking Corus, Shilpa Shetty winning Big Brother etc’) flashing across the television screens, sentiments are bound to take over. It is further compounded by the fact that major section of this demographic share the belief that Indian economic surge has been at the expense of US and European economy.

Well, I am not ignorant enough to call them racist but it will not be entirely misplaced to call them emotional.

Posted in Controversy, India | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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