Where Are The Young Faces of the Congress Party?

So apparently we’ve yet another institution named after Indira Gandhi. This time, it is some medical thing. It made me wonder how many things are named after our former PM, and even as I began to search, Google threw up a Wikipedia page. Yep, there’s a Wikipedia page. A quick scroll through it shows that it is no where close to being comprehensive because I can think of about 5 things just in my city (as projects and initiatives) that aren’t included in that list. Then I moved on to search for the same thing on Rajiv Gandhi, and found this infographic on Firstpost that seems to be a slightly more realistic number.

Let’s put these things into perspective.

Jawaharlal Nehru was India’s first prime minister. Like back in 1947 till 1964. Much of India’s voting population today wasn’t even born then! Indira Gandhi then took over the mantle and ruled from 1966 to 1977.

Since then, there have been several great ministers & personalities from the Congress party.  P V Narasimha Rao, the guy who opened up the Indian economy. Mr. Manmohan Singh, who despite various controversies, is an extremely knowledge person, and the most recent PM. Why aren’t these people celebrated, highlighting the legacy beyond the 60s and 70s of the Congress Party?

The youth, we believe, are not really interested in politics. Which is probably true. Most often, we only browse the news and are not inclined to analyse it. However, in the age of social media, there are more people involved in the makings of our political system. In this scenario, India’s oldest political party is still flogging the ideologies & personalities of old, and failing to highlight their current strengths and philosophies.

Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi were politicians who did their bit, a few decades ago. The India of today doesn’t resemble the India of even a couple of decades ago. And the India of the 2030s will be vastly different from the ones of the 1950s, 60s or even the 90s.

Do the Congress expect us to follow what had been? Where are the new leaders of Congress other than Rahul Gandhi. There is a lot of young blood in the other biggest Indian party, BJP. Promising personalities who could be the future ministers of India. Perhaps the Congress does have younger, promising people, but they are not really visible in the public, not in terms of their work or their thoughts.

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The Sanjay Leela Bhansali Controversies

Sanjay Leela Bhansali (or SLB as he is referred to since we hate long names) has been known for movies that are essentially a walk through a beautiful palace, with some characters in between to display great clothes & jewellery. There’s a two year gap between his last movie, Bajirao Mastani, and the new one, Padmavati. And there’ve been controversies on both.

  1. Queens don’t dance. It is insulting to show them dancing!
  2. Costumes: Queens don’t wear such costumes. They are dignified and covered
  3. Intimate scene between the King and a woman! Uff!
  4. No problem with the actors but not sure if these were the ones who should’ve been. chosen to play these characters
  5. Insulting to culture!bhansali-first-poster-padmavati-deepika-padukone-sanjay_08aca446-9e79-11e7-ba2d-20fa1b34073f

Which movie were these issues for? Why, both! Same issues. New meaning to “Formula movies”?

Has Life Really Changed After Demonetisation?

The blackish-golden anniversary of Demonetisation. This was definitely the biggest defining moment politically in my lifetime. After all, I was not a child of the freedom movement, nor was I around during emergency. I was around when the economy opened up in the early 90s, but that was a gradual impact.

Something as explosive as this? Yep. First time. And a part of me hopes there will be more and a part of me hopes for a quieter life.

Has life really changed after demonetisation? Living in Bangalore, I could perhaps say yes. My grocery store accepts PayTM now. I can pay as low as 10 bucks in PayTM. People who would have never gotten a bank account are online now and use it frequently.

I’ve fallen back to the habit of carrying little to no cash (picked up on my days abroad). So yes, I can live without cash now.

But what about outside Bangalore?

I still ensure that I carry cash when I go traveling. Because especially after demonetisation, there is a fear of ATMs running dry. That is the biggest nightmare. Stranded somewhere without money. Because a lot of other towns and cities are not as happy with online transactions. Card machines don’t always work. Or they say they don’t work, because they still do not trust banking and online transactions.

The culture of cash and mistrust of banks is too deeply rooted in us to be removed by one round of demonetisation. It isn’t just the corrupt guys who like to keep cash. It is everyone. My parents. Maybe your parents. My neighbours. I’m sure your neighbours too.

Did corruption come down? I seriously doubt it, especially since the number people asking for bribes or cutting short things hasn’t really gone down.

But in a country like India, the only way we’ll ever do anything is if we are dragged, albeit, kicking and screaming. So maybe the demonetisation did not entirely work as intended but it did make us aware of online payments, get a section of people on it, and it taught us how to stand in line. Pretty good for a first attempt, I guess.

Happy anniversary!

Why Do We Refuse to Believe in Global Warming?

I’ve read about global warming for nearly two decades now. Earlier, it was a concept.

“The world could get too hot to live.”

Then, it was a slight warming. “Perhaps the world shouldn’t be getting so damn hot, because it’ll be destroyed.”

And yet, though there are certain factions who are alarmed about it, the fact of global warming is yet to sink into our collective mindsets.

It is hard to believe in global warming as anything more than reality, especially to us living in the cities, disconnected from nature. If the summer gets too hot, we crib and turn the AC on higher. If the winters seem colder, we pull on an extra blanket. If the food prices go up, we crib but shell it out.

Very rarely do we connect these things to global warming, or to our actions.

Global warming is not an isolated thing. It isn’t about eating beef, and leading to a rise of methane in the air because of excessive cattle rearing. It isn’t about using ACs or deodorants. It isn’t about deforestation. At least, not about all these alone.

I’ve been aware of our impact on the environment for a long time. Infact, with a family like mine, it was hard not to be. My mother would ensure that we switched off the lights and the fan in a room when we left it. She told us not to waste food. Some lessons stuck. Some didn’t. It wasn’t about the electricity bill or water bill. It was about the fact that we were taking something from the environment. She sowed the first seeds for our consciousness, though what we’ve done beyond that is entirely up to us. Perhaps I would’ve gotten around to thinking about this, but it might have taken more time.

I’ve grown up around farmers, and know what? Even farmers didn’t blame ‘global warming’ for freak rains and floods and droughts. They just called it nature. Sure, it is nature, but how long are we going to pretend that we aren’t impacting it?

The coral reefs are dead. There are several species that perhaps died out before we could even discover them. Every one of our actions has a reaction.

Yet, when a government proposes building an airbase on an uninhabited island, they don’t talk about global warming and how the destruction of species on that island would impact the broader ecosystem. This could be the same government talking about it otherwise, but they cannot afford to in that case because national security trumps global warming.

A real estate company that’s holding marathons to talk about this phenomenon is destroying lakes and rivers, forest lands. While they would market their apartment complexes as ‘green’ they wouldn’t talk about the price paid for it, and by that I don’t mean in terms of rupees. They wouldn’t talk about the ecosystems they’ve destroyed to build these apartments.

 

We do not have a consciousness about our every day actions. Actually, it is not possible to be. It is about living our life the way we want to. Plastic bags are convenient. We want to come back to a cool room, so we keep the AC running through the day. We want a cool car when we are driving, and keep the windows up and the AC running.

We throw around plastic bottles, bags and more on beaches. Various things that get into the water and choke animals and birds.

It used to make me wonder how this wasn’t just common sense. This wasn’t something that I was taught, at least not consciously. Do we really have to tell people that they are killing themselves and the world?

Why I Struggle To Join The Electric Car Wave

I first heard of Tesla back in 2008. Electric Vehicles (EVs) were yet to become commonplace like they are today. But Tesla was fascinating to me personally, as a tech lover, and the fact that EVs could look cool. The EVs I had seen till then honestly looked like funny little toy cars.

Of course, I never thought about owning an electric car back then, though I did think if I ever made the switch, it would be to a Tesla. Since it was a dream, affordability didn’t even enter the picture.

A decade later, when we are talking about EVs, global warming, pollution etc, EVs become an important part of our lifestyle. Or they should. Unfortunately, for a common man like me living in India, EVs are still a distant dream.

The look and feel of EVs has changed much in a decade. Reva, the electric car by Mahindra, was India’s most popular EV. But it looked like a little toy car, especially with their bright yellow, which was the most popular one. They’ve been around for nearly two decades or more. One of my college professors owned one, and she was a bit of a joke (not just because of the car). As an adult, I have to admire her eco-consciousness but back then, it just was funny.

Now, as someone who is concerned about the amount of carbon we’re pumping back into nature, I’d love to shift to an EV. But my choices are still limited to Reva, now known as E2O, alone. The car, along with its name, changed the way it looks as well. It looks like a compact little car, and I’ve seen it go pretty fast on the highway as well.

However, E2O comes with a price tag of over INR 10 Lakhs. That’s on par with any mid-sized car in the Indian market. Assuming you are willing to pay the price for being environmentally conscious, is the Indian infrastructure ready to support you.

I live in one of the largest metro cities in the world, and one of the most developed. Yet, I’ve not seen a single EV charging station in the city, let alone on the highway. That essentially means, despite owning a car worth 10 lakhs, I cannot take it out of the city. The E2O has a range of 140 kms approximately.

There have been several conversations about setting up EV charging stations, and apparently the future will even have stations where you can just swap out your battery instead of waiting to charge. Sounds great. But that day is not today and I’m not even sure when that day will come.

In the meantime, I remain an average middle-class Indian citizen who cannot afford to own two cars – which is what would be required if you want to own an electric car and drive out of the city frequently. In simpler terms, this means that being an eco-conscious motorist remains the privilege of a non-middle class citizen, or compromising your lifestyle heavily.

I was keenly awaiting the introduction of non-sedan hybrids, till EVs would develop enough by 2030. We aren’t really that far away from 2030 but far enough. India, however, decided to skip past the hybrid stage.

What this means for me? I’m going car hunting for yet another petrol car.

Women Empowerment

 

Women are supposed to be easier to market to than men. Why? Because women are apparently more susceptible to suggestions. We tend to take things at their face value. If an ad says “use this shampoo and you’ll have awesome hair”, we will go try it out. Is it because we’re trying to constantly aspire for a better body image or we are just fools? I think it is the former.

Because women aren’t fools always. They know how to take advantage of a situation.

Recently, a friend of mine got into a spot of trouble on the road. She was backing out for a legit parking spot, and someone coming in the wrong direction banged her car. She started fighting with the guy and demanded he pay to fix the damages. A crowd collected, and they were pretty supportive of her. But as usual, there were some who were supporting the guy and telling her to let it go.

A plump old aunty came to my rescue, my friend said. She started arguing with the guy much more loudly, and finally threatened him in Hindi “If you don’t back off, she’ll put a molestation and rape case on you. We’re tear her clothes a bit and then we’ll see how you won’t pay damages.”

The statement shut up most people and apparently the crowd dispersed quietly. My friend was too shocked to do anything more than take the now-subdued guy’s number and move.

This isn’t the first time such a thing has come in conversation. Another lady advised a friend to complain about someone who was troubling her (in a absolutely non-sexual way). “Tell the cops he attempted to rape you,” the lady said. The disturbing part was she actually meant it.

How does this India co-exist with an India where women who have been subject to this atrocity kill themselves?

We thought that women being raped as a form of punishment was abhorring enough. Now, we find out that women are filing fake rape complaints to get their way. What makes it worse is that a woman is ready to destroy a person’s reputation and life for something as trivial as a fender bender. Or because someone complained about the dogs in your apartment.

On one hand, we are facing serious issues regarding women empowerment. We are facing issues in getting the cops to take molestation and rape seriously. We want them to be educated and be sensitive towards people who’ve suffered – men or women. And on the other, we have women who are misusing these laws to further to their own agenda.

Cases of sexual harassment have become the norm. And today, I find it hard to believe anything that I read. A comment on a nail polish colour could be construed as sexual harassment.  A opinion about how someone has become fat is considered as sexual harassment.

Is this what women empowerment is?

The Art, the artist & the price tag

Art deserves its due. Every artist struggles to create art – be it a painting, a photograph, a piece of dress or a pot. I completely agree with that.

My tastes lie towards more earthy, hand made products rather than the factory-produced nonsense. And I agree that the effort an artist has put in deserves a good price. A labour of love for a home of love.

In recent times, there has been a vast array of products that are sold on ecommerce sites – either under the banner of ethnic stuff or as ‘by the artisan, for the artisan’. And these products are priced so high that it makes me wonder who on earth is making all this money. Does an earthenware pot truly cost 2 grand? Does a terracota coffee mug cost one grand a piece?

I’ve grown up surrounded by such beautiful things. Handwoven rugs, kalamari paintings, a zari-embroidered pillow cover,  a terracota vase. These were, once, poor man’s decorations.

Today, these are ‘kitsch’ and are sold at outrageous prices. Because they are currently considered cool. I cannot wait for the days when these are not cool again and prices go back to normal. When I can walk into a local store and buy the things I like without having to sell a kidney.

While art does deserve it due, it shouldn’t be unreachable to the common man.