Ideology

At the wake of the elections scheduled to be held during May, with political parties pouring money for campaigns, negotiating alliances, wooing voters with TV sets and cash, scheduling rural visits, making their on-screen presence more evident, arguing, debating and getting all religiously spiritual, it all finally comes down to this – a vote!

I have a voter’s id and I’m eligible to cast a vote; however, I have never exercised that right. I somehow never felt the urge. Its not the voting lines, or the summer heat that bothers me. The problem is simple,  I do not know whom to vote for. I have tried many a times to come in terms with the political news; but it just keeps getting all the more confusing! By the time I come to understand how two parties differentiate themselves based on their ideas, the next thing I know is they have either joined to become one, or they have further split to four! I simply dont understand, how all of a sudden,  one can team with his opponent who shares totally opposite views or how two people with the same strong views can disagree for the rest of their lives! Well obviously, Power is the underlying keyword, but as a voter, what is in it for me?

I was fortunate enough to be in the US during the Obama elections period. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that the process would absorb me so much into it. I have not paid attention to a single Election event in India. But I spent hours watching political debates between the Democrats and the Republicans, reading party information on the Internet, keeping track of Senate seats, subscribing to campaign websites and praying for swing states to swing to a certain side ! I couldnt vote, I had nothing to do with the American economy, I had no interest in knowing what would happen to their future, still, the fact that politics can be comprehendable for a change, pulled me close to the whole affair.

It certainly was confusing in the beginning, where Democrats, Republicans and all the associated names and ideas never made sense. But I remember the day I started showing interest to their Election process – a simple look up at the Wikipedia explanations for the Democratic and Republican Ideology. Thats it! It made life easier thereafter. There were clear differences. I knew what each party stood for, what core values each of their partymen gaurded and believed in and what stand they are expected to take in some of the most relevant issues, everyone knew!

A political party’s foundation is based on its Ideology – what it believes in. Partymen must be proud of this and should realise that is what they stand for.  I guess that kind of clarity and visibility is ideally what should help voters relate to a certain party and take a certain stance. In our country, I feel parties try to capitalise on the diversity and make divisions more evident. Sadly these divisions enforce only the faith, financial status and castes rather than values of its people. Hence, a new party sprouts everytime one finds a new way to divide the people. This makes ‘wooing the voters’ of a certain kind much easier. When will this change? When will we be ‘tough to persuade’, when we stop voting?

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Being a sport?

 

I am quite certain that once in four years, many of us Indians have little pondering sessions that last at least for a month. There is this one more topic that we are bound to add to our list of general discussion items. Evidently, we get pretty passionate about it during this brief period because we are not going to think of it for the next four years! If you are thinking like me, you have guessed what I am talking about, Olympics and Us! Well, I would rather like to put it as ‘Sports and Us’.

Thanks to my pressing need to blog every week, today, in light of the Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing, I gave the topic a lot more thought than usual. This year’s Olympics can teach us many more lessons, simply because it is hosted by China.

India’s participation in the Olympics is undoubtedly pathetic. But in this piece, I don’t want to elaborate on things we already know or have been debating about time and again, like our lack of societal and parental patronage or government backing, an average Indian’s physical and mental toughness, whether we were ordered to be an unathletic nation by God and so on.
In earlier attempts to argue and counter argue with myself, I had always concluded that we have the potential but not the infrastructure or financial backing. A little bit of research about China has convinced me that we lack the most vital factor – Passion. No matter what other reasons we debate and come up with, unless there is soul-backing, there is no point.

So instead of looking at our failings, lets for a change look at how we can reflect from China’s experience. After all China is a developing country too. They have a 1 billion plus population. They export goods just like we export our services; they have a growing middle class similar to us. They have corrupt politicians too, who are not even Democratic! And both China and India have been competing fiercely for the tag of “next super power” or “emerging economy” or whatever you like to name it.
Then what is different? The Chinese are relentlessly passionate! They are working their souls out to emerge a super power in every sense of the word and the entire nation thinks sports and games is an inevitable part. In their country, every soul is backing.

In Indian cities, how many people do we see walking, jogging or working out unless they have a health problem, want to reduce weight or feel they are getting old? A recent study in China showed that 60% of their urban population is fitness conscious.
The Chinese Government has been working on a 15 year long program to promote fitness, sports and games among their people. In 1995, they adopted a Physical Health Law. A survey conducted 10 years later showed that about 40% of their population exercise regularly and almost all of their students meet their National Physical Exercise Standard.
There are more than 6 lakh gymnasiums and stadiums across the country, which are open to the public. All schools have excellent trainers and infrastructure is not only confined to schools and colleges but also to every neighborhood and community.

So where does all the money come from?

Since 2001, China has been conducting what are called sports lotteries. All the proceeds from the lottery participation go to building public sport facilities. Since the prize money is attractive and the cost of each ticket is very less, the people’s interest in betting is high. And given the population of China, the total money earned in proceeds is phenomenally high!

It would be amazing to note that all the spending doesn’t go to one sport or game like cricket but is distributed among a wide range of them. Lot of new sports that are mostly followed by Western countries is being taken up in China.
The life expectancy of an average Chinese has gone up in the past few years and people have been channeling their household spending to health related activities. Even the decision of hosting the Olympics has totally worked in favour of the Chinese in spite of the enormous spending because for the last seven years it has united people for a common cause and brought in a lot of team spirit. The Government has directed a lot of spending for infrastructure build up, which will not only please its visitors for now but will create a lot of brand image for their economy in the long run.

A very determined nation indeed!

Musing or amusing?

 

 

I fall into this category of people who think that they are so far away from being perfect and that there needs to be a constant (as in, all the time and forever) review of themselves and people around them in order to get to that goal; the category of people who love to listen, read and ponder about life, situations, psychology, philosophy, principles and inspiration.

When I was a kid and I became aware (at least I thought so) that these thoughts dominated my “think time”, unlike other girls of my age who thought a lot about how to dress up Barbie, I felt I was gifted! Like I was going to be a next generation Vivekananda or Gandhi! I remember sometimes I behaved like I was a saint, telling my brother that if he lied, god with a capital G would punish him.

I even attempted to read huge philosophical books that my father bought; I thought big words didn’t really matter since I could easily grasp the context and message (because I was ‘gifted’!)

After 10 pages of knowing the truth (with the capital T), reaching out to god (with a capital G) and understanding the self (with a capital S) I would just close the book once and for all, forcing myself to realize that I already have it in me, then why read? But at that age, philosophy is a keyword that I learnt; and I liked it you know, sounded sophisticated for my age!

I grew up listening to class discussions and extempore by friends, slowly recognizing that my philosophical thoughts weren’t really growing beyond a level and that a lot of kids around me picked up the concept lot faster than I did! What was going on? I thought I was gifted! Are they too? Should I have read 10 more pages of the big fat books? Why am I not able to speak?

Since then, my idea (now, strategy) about being philosophical changed a little bit. Quotes still inspired me, but simpler ones. I chose to avoid the capital letters and go by the ‘do good and be good’ types. I was self-enforcing the idea that there was no capital or small letter god and no heaven or hell; its all about what you are and what you can do for the people around you. It is about character, nature, morality. No, not personality, but individuality.

I didn’t need to talk about good stuff as long as I was “doing” them.

Oh, and I still liked those books, but I didn’t call them philosophical anymore, I called them “inspirational”.

Years passed by and it was time to get married. When I met my husband, and we were trying to carry out a casual conversation during our preliminary rounds of interaction, I was confronted with the usual question “So, what kind of books do you like to read?”

Oh yes, I was ready for this. “Inspirational, motivational books” I said.

“Oh, you mean self help books, good good”, comes the reply.

What? self help books is what they call them now? What does that mean and why is that so? Is that a new terminology? Where was I?

Is it the self with a small or a capital S? Because, if it’s the capital S then I can understand but if it is small, come on, why would they do that? It is not that I need help for myself. I don’t need help at all. “I am what I am”!!

I hated that term. I still do. It is like saying, “nobody else can help you so why don’t you help yourself, please.”

Hmm alas! My strategy has changed again. I read less of what the world now calls self help books and have shifted to bio and autobiographies. These can be motivational; these can be inspirational too right?

I look back and realize that over the years, all that I considered musing has been nothing less than amusing!

Greasy affair – Oil prices and economies

 

I try my best to understand international affairs, economics and foreign policies but sometimes I simply don’t get it. Are policies formed and strategies built to make life easier for people or what?

Take a look at the latest global oil crisis. Oil prices are at an all time high. People all over the world are suffering (except probably the people in OPEC). Within and amongst countries the blame game is on about increasing demand, falling supply, declining production initiatives, and so on.

Saudi Arabia (which is the largest producer) says it will increase the production to meet higher demand; US blames its oil companies for making windfall profits and still not doing anything about the prices; the companies in turn say they are reinvesting the profits for exploration. Meanwhile US imports of oil have risen to 65% of its total consumption (witness yet another George Bush-ism – “It is clear our nation is reliant upon big foreign oil. More and more of our imports come from overseas”)J ; India, China and other developing countries are being pointed at for their outrageously (!) high quantities of oil consumption; suddenly press and people of the developed nations are accusing Governments for not being concerned about developing other sources of energy.

Interestingly, the story in India goes like this – In spite of the record oil prices abroad, Indian oil companies in the public sector are on the verge of bankruptcy. The Government decides to subsidize fuel prices, which means that the petrol sold by the likes of IOL and BP in India, is much cheaper than the petrol sold by Chevron in the US; meaning, IOL makes a loss every time it sells fuel to the Indian public.

When oil prices went up further, the Government had no choice but to hike the prices by an average of 13% at one go which came under sharp protests by the Opposition. Between soaring prices and subsidies from PSUs, the private players like Reliance are having a tough time too because if they don’t lower prices, they remain uncompetitive. With oil prices still soaring, the Government’s lack of nerve (in view of coming elections) to remove subsidies, the PSU oil companies road to bankruptcy and the private players not able to do anything, there is no doubt that the economy is in turmoil. Rate of inflation will soar, stock markets will suffer and the dream run part II of the sensex will become more and more elusive.

All said and done, the fact still remains that there is no short term solution for high oil prices and at least 90% of the world’s population is suffering from it. Given this, I can’t help wondering, “Why can’t we just lower the prices? I mean, what’s the big deal? If everyone faces the problem, nobody would not want to see the prices go down, right? So let’s just bring them down!”

Alas, if only it were that simple.

When such crises occur, I think Governments everywhere can(rather, should) learn some lessons – about making compromises, about understanding the importance of being interdependent, about reminding them that they are representatives of a large population and that there needs to be a human aspect to everything.

Lights, Camera, Action!

 

No matter how many movies I watch, after every movie (even the not so good ones), I spend at least a minute wondering how they do it (of course for Titanic, I think I spent a whole month!). This movie making is such a thought provoking affair!

I guess the success lies not only in the freshness of the script but the entire effort that goes into it. It is not just about the story, actors or technical excellence but bringing them all together. I mean, just wait for a movie to end and watch the names appear. . there are so many of them!! Organizing all these folks, in itself is such a herculean task, leave alone getting the best out of them. To add to the complication, we are talking about artists and technicians – professionals in their own fields from whom expertise has to be drawn in such a way that the whole idea doesn’t really change from its original but still gets enough modifications to make it the best.

Imagine people who are successful each time they make a movie like say, Steven Spielberg. I have no clue who does what behind the scenes, but imagine the kind of motivation, leadership and people skills that goes into the whole process!

And how tough can it get when it comes to an animated movie?! The effort is enormous. I saw a video on youtube made by an animation film maker. He has made a 10 minute animated film on how to make animated films. Absolutely simple and crisp but with such good team work from his fellow technicians and artists.

You might be wondering where I am going with this, but the thought I am trying to convey here is that good movies can be such a wonderful source of inspiration for the message they convey not only on screen, but from behind it as well! Give it a thought sometime ..

Basically, am I making sense?

 

My boredom is taking me to new levels of self realization/destruction. This time it’s my language. As I write this, I am observing my thoughts flowing in English. I decided to put it down exactly the way I would have said it.

“mmm…you know, I guess I’m kinda observing myself a bit too much nowadays and all. I mean like, I guess it’s basically because I don’t have kind of much to do but then, yeah, in fact, actually I really think that I’ve absolutely nothing to do!
I mean, it’s the jobless-jobless kind of situation, you know.
Now come on, something has to be done; this thing is bothering me like anything now.”

I can’t believe this is what a listener gets for having a conversation with me. A load of crap!
These fillers! how do they creep into my conversation? And why in such a way as to spoil the entire meaning of it? Why do we use them in first place ? To replace the ‘umm’s and ‘eh’s? Where do those come from then? Filling in time gaps between mental translation of mother-tongue to foreign language? Is it because we hear them all the time that we end up feeling insecure if we don’t use them when we talk? Or simply because we are not confident of what we say and the way we put it? Why on earth does the person at the other end not say anything about it then? Is it not bothering him? Or is he just used to mentally delete those words while listening? Most of all, is it as easy to get the fillers out of a conversation as it was to bring them in?

Whew.. things to ponder about.

If I wrote a book..

I dont think I will ever be good enough for it, but if  somebody ever, ever pointed a gun to my head and told me to write a book, I would call it “Survival among the fittest”.

With this book I would be rephrasing Darwin’s theory of existence to fit my own condition; I am married into a family of super achievers, a family that endows a tradition of brilliance and versatility. Tell me, what else can a complete misfit name her book of survival?  😉