What man cannot, the divine can

The one reality of the universe has realities more than one,

Just as mankind is one but there are different kinds in man,

The multiplicity of that one masks its singularity at source,

Religion just does not get this, but man’s inner psychic can.

 

It matters not that the forms are many and so are the names,

It matters not that the one is split into shards that agree not,

It matters not that the human defines what the one should be,

What matters is the one can’t be taught, it needs to be sought.

 

Futile it is to invest time into what is wrong with another man,

For he is correct in pursuing his view of the one’s kaleidoscope,

Accept the fact that the singular one has multiple facets to his being,

This alone then leads to truth, all others makes one a misanthrope.

 

The world is now a dangerous place because faiths are at loggerheads,

But none of the faiths can truly paint a picture of the supreme one,

Because the one is the massive tree, of which faith is only a mere leaf,

And so the object of quest must be truth, and fanatic faith we must shun.

 

Oneness comes from the level of the soul, for the soul is a portion of God,

The religions of the world hide this fact, for the priest is a businessman,

But the destiny of the world is guided by the one and not by other men,

And so lose not hope in a beautiful life, for what man cannot, the divine can.

 

After a looong time…..

Any time you return to an activity after a long hiatus, you are nervous, because the landscape of familiarity has changed. The same set of actions that were routine and second nature earlier, now start appearing to be gargantuan challenges. But, as we protract the term of exile, the habit gets that much tougher to return to, and so today I decided I will let rubber hit the road and type out a few paragraphs of nothing in particular, the intention being to just let my mind and fingers get into the same once-familiar rhythm. So, this is going to be a show about nothing! Hopefully short!

I am going to go a little Facebook on you today and tell you the two or three things that have been on my mind lately. Nothing like a public display of ‘today, yours truly embarked upon a spiritual journey of supplicating to the palate with an offering of rice mixed with a delightful concoction of tomatoes, coriander, asafoetida, mustard seeds, and ground chilies’. My mother would call that rasam rice and prepare that in as a matter-of-fact manner as answering nature’s call when you need to, but with Facebook, every single mundane human action needs to be embroidery of words, as though life is a Shakespearean drama and we are all actors vying for the Oscars. Hey, but all the, ‘wow’, ‘you are my hero’, ‘drool’ and ‘hats off to you’ at the end of it does enlarge the ego. But it is still rasam rice, and my mother still makes it everyday without any fuss.

So, back to my mind!

Lately I have been thinking, and have been acutely feeling, that the one big mistake I did was to discover my true calling (music) pretty late in life. Up until a certain point in life (which was way past the age where one decides what one should become), I took music for granted, and focused on become a programmer, a cricketer, a fitness enthusiast, and other things at various stages in life, and never introspected to find out what these things meant to my inner self. And now that I do, the answer I always get from within is – livelihood and paychecks. Music is the one thing that gives me a different answer – completeness, gratification, fulfillment, and enrichment. I wish I had spent time thinking seriously about these things and discovered these answers much earlier. At least, I would have lived to make music, and made a living making music. But perhaps, life would not have been as comfortably off as now, and who knows, making a career out of your passion might have intruded into joy and creativity. But whatever it is, I still think I should have plunged into it earlier. At least, I would have been either established or exhausted by now. At present, I am still at ‘what if’ and ‘if only’. Moral: Do what you would like to do early, but before that, you better be good at it enough to be doing it for very long’.

Another thing I have been thinking is that it has suddenly become very cool and a certificate of ‘secular intellectualism’ to be aggressively anti-hindu. Not that I am a crusader for Hinduism or am posturing pugnaciously against other beliefs or religions, but I simply can’t understand or stomach why the hindu religion and its followers have invited so much scorn, which I think is ridiculous. That too by so-called liberal and emancipated people that have good education and can analyze and reason. Hinduism, as far as I am concerned, is truly a syncretic affair. Not only did it produce offshoots like Buddhism that spread far and wide, it also magnanimously assimilated other beliefs that had nothing to do with its own innate belief system, often at the cost of near annihilation, and it did enormously well to maintain its own conviction under the onslaught of one barbaric invasion after another over a course of 1200 years or so (not to mention the massive tyrannical and vile practices that were followed by various indigenous rulers before foreign ‘pilgrims’ showed up). Why India had to be subjected to a millennia of dissonant and antagonistic foreign rule, why a self-sufficient and non-interfering bunch of people had to suddenly accept beliefs that were as alien as roast beef to a curd-rice-eating tam brahm, these are matters that cannot be succinctly covered here (and I am not qualified to pontificate either). External religion or intellectual study cannot answer this question. It requires insight from a vantage point higher than human mind. But the Hindu religion still continues to flourish, because it is far from the pea-brained religion it is conceived or portrayed as being. Therefore, I am not a fan of these detractors who have contempt towards the Hindu religion, either because they think its practices are illogical and primitive, or they despise the multitude of deities that exist in it, or they dislike it because it still resists the wave of monotheistic theology, or they have other such reasons for their abomination. My advise to these people is this: leave the hindu alone, he is doing fine without the need for any proselytization, and is not actively propagating his ‘heaven’ and ‘paradise’ to others. A section of Hindu nincompoops that are acting all belligerent are reactionary forces that do not represent the catholicity of the Hindu fabric. Yes, there is resentment after 1000 years of subjugation, but the Hindu is tolerant and wise, and he is neither hegemonic, nor in need of an improvement programme. If the anti-hindu still feels the impulse to convert this ‘primeval’ form of man towards ‘truth’, try it on the Chinese first!

One more thing that I have been thinking: Why is everyone running these days, and why is running the only sporty activity that is advertised by people on Facebook? Is it beneath one’s dignity to say they played gully cricket or just took a walk around the block for an hour? It is not that Facebook wasn’t around 20 years ago and that is why people could not share their sprinting escapades with the world. It is that people were not running 20 years ago in India as a daily routine. They were playing cricket, or football, or table tennis, or badminton (still rare), or warming the couch at home. Now every pair of feet seems to be running. Is it an IT thing I wonder! Because the district collector and the chartered accountant are still probably not running! What gives? Maybe running is like the government jobs of India in the 70s and 80s – everyone wants to do to because doing anything else is a lesser mortal activity.

So then, signing off for now! Managed to shake off some dust off my literary brain and blogspotting fingers. Hope the love affair sustains unabatedly.

Nowhere to go but within !!!

The avenues of sanity are fast disappearing. There is strife and violence everywhere. Not one of them is constructive. There is carnage, there is shedding of blood and beheading of innocents, there is rape of the human body and also of the human mind, there is racial elimination and decimation of ideologies, there is religious animosity and erosion of compassion, there is an acceleration of unscrupulousness and scarcity of faith.

And the pandemic is pretty ubiquitous. Not a single geography is free from being afflicted by one of these forms or the other. Antarctica perhaps, but then humans haven’t made civilization there. Yet, there too, the human marauder has invaded the imperial majesty of the icebergs and beheaded many of them with the warming of his so-called intellectual hegemony. There are literally very places to go to for recourse. The world used to be a body replete with places of serenity and tranquil. Gradually, those are being supplanted with anarchy, ruin, narrow-minded and jingoistic hatred, perverted experimentation, and a general decline in evolutionary consciousness.

Are there any avenues left for us to still turn to and seek refuge in and shift away from all the madness that engulfs us? Most of us have found those avenues to be the cinemas and the shopping malls, the e-commerce websites and the social media forums (MS Word does not actually recognize ‘fora’ – brilliant!!), the explorations of cuisines and the clicking of selfies – all without, facing the same world, the same chaos that we are trying to get away from, all exchanging energy with the same surrounding environment, all trying to dissolve into the same solvent we think is this surrounding physical world, and yet paradoxically trying to not dissolve into it by trying to identify a certain uniqueness that keeps us from being consumed and keeps our ego intact. Without ego and desires, the human body really has no value and not reason to exist and would probably crumble.

Yes, there is an avenue still out there that offers refuge. It is more than an avenue, it is a world bigger than the one that surrounds us, it is far more real and at the same time far more mysterious than our physical world, it is perhaps a bigger challenge than the scaling of the Himalayas, it is more frightening but more rewarding, and it is one that offers the guarantee of everlasting serenity. It is the avenue called introspection and discovery of the self.

The self is not the body and it adornments, nor is it one’s exalted or wretched social position, it is not the ego that often defines one’s identity, and it is certainly not the intellect that is given so much importance in the affairs of the world today. The self is a universe deep within that is really hard to fathom, but holds the key to unlocking the mysteries of all the conflicts in the world today. Most people understand the self to be the DNA that defines all behavior, preferences, instincts, and habits. It is true that the self is all this, it is an impersonal identity that renders personal characteristics to each one of us. However, the self is something more than these also. The self is a journey of repeated invitations and explorations into the peaks of possibilities and potentialities. The deeper you go in search of yourselves at the core, the more you are invited to explore how better you could be, and that takes you into a fascinating journey of what you actually are at a deeper level. If you can think of yourself as an onion comprised of several layers spanning from the core to the outermost skin, the journey to the self starts with the outermost coverings to the innermost nudities, where each succeeding inner layer is more pristine and harmonious than the outer one (even in an onion, each inner layer is increasingly more succulent and imbued with the actual content than the preceding one). Each one of us is absolutely pure and blemishless at the innermost core, and each layer that we add on top of that adds a level if imperfection. By the time we arrive at the outermost layer (which is us as defined and existing with our physical bodies), we are a rogue amalgam of disaster; we have added imperfections galore and need to strip off many layers to even to get to the layer where we start seeing a semblance of sanity. In the hindu tradition, this happens over births, and we are encouraged to start glancing inward so that we may arrest this decadent process and possibly reverse it by going back inside gradually, birth after birth, till one day, we are united with our pristine reality that exists at the core.

Much of the conflict in the world today stems from an examination and interpretation of everything from the outermost layer. As everyone is vibrating at the same outermost layer of consciousness, conflicts arise. Things would be different if things were viewed from inner layers. What exists out there is actually what we want it to be. The deeper we go, we find that things don’t exist the way we want them to be; rather we perceive and appreciate them as they are. And in the innermost chambers of our being, we don’t even see things; we see the truth behind things.

This whole universe is a big mass of some truth. We only see vast expanses of form, because that is the only consciousness that we identify with currently – form. As we progress in our quest for our selves, we start to move away from form to truth, and our perception of the universe also changes from perceiving things based on form to perceiving things based on the truth behind those forms. We do not have to debate on what ‘truth’ is – God, or some higher force that exists and has put out these myriad forms and shapes, whatever it may be, it reveals itself unmistakably as the quest proceeds forth. All interpretations converge and find themselves conjoined at the level of the deepest layers. The more we station ourselves at these layers, the more we find ourselves to be in harmony with everything around us.

For starters, let us try and go beyond what we are and see who we are. Are we just the body, are we our thoughts, are we our values, are we our habits, are we our prejudices, are we our upbringing – just who are we, and is there anything behind these outer manifestations!! That should unravel many mysteries, provided we are at it for a long time. After all, our being has to extend itself beyond its physical body and inhabit the body of the universe.

People for business or people are business?

goodcare_employees

Bangalore has been witnessing a lot of layoffs lately. Top names like Cisco are among the big corporates that are apparently ‘letting people go’. I never understood that term. I kind of despise it. You are not exactly talking about love and feelings here – ‘if you truly love someone, let them go, and if they truly love you, they will come back’. You are talking about chopping heads (or headcount, as we like to call it euphemistically) so that you can prevent your corporate bank balance from going too far down south. So, you might as well cut all the baloney and call it a ‘job cut aimed at identifying people we longer need and letting them know about it’. People can take a practical joke these days; the government and the cost of living have been playing one on them for years now.

Most companies often lace their layoff exercises with wordy and often lame qualifiers such as ‘trying to realign the company’s market strategy to focus on cutting edge technology’, ‘repositioning our portfolio to become market leaders in healthcare’, ‘to narrow our focus to niche areas where we can continue to propel forward towards 50-60 % market share’, or something even a little more audacious, such as ‘trimming the sides on an annual basis to cut accrued fat and keep the company lean, mean and clean (as if the management is always clean and employees are always unscrupulous)’. I don’t really believe much of that. Over the years, I have seen companies fire people and just move on as if nothing has happened, and nothing really happens in the so-called ‘repositioning and realigning’ area either. Life just continues in the same haphazard way, splurging millions on hires when work is on the horizon, and chopping thousands of heads when the going is not good. Probably I don’t know because I don’t understand business all that much and am not a businessman, but business seems much more important than people. Weren’t or aren’t these the same companies that dish out all the crap about ‘being a work family’, ‘fostering a nurturing culture’, ‘emotional bank accounts and emotional quotients’, ‘possibility meet positivity’ and the like? What a whole bunch of baloney! Are your words and slogans and management philosophies sold to money and business? The mean and grumpy grocery store fellow in my childhood neighborhood is much better – at least he has been consistently grumpy and condescending without putting on a façade of ‘excellent customer management’ or ‘a memorable shopping experience’, all the while screwing me with inflated prices, mediocre service and reneging on terms and conditions in the background. And he has never fired any employee in the 35 years I have seen him. He must surely have some value for the human being, because some of the employees I see there today have been there 35 years in service and still counting. If I could sum up my observation of him and juxtapose him with some of our corporates, it comes down to this for me: he may be grumpy, but he is grateful; our corporates might talk of becoming great, but they are full of it for the most part.

On the flip side, a lot of people nowadays want to secede from their organizations and become startup entrepreneurs themselves. I understand the strong desire to be one’s own boss; there is a certain thrill to it, and the advantage of not being under someone’s command – after all, people quit managers and not organizations. But I can’t understand what all the hype and hoopla is about. You worked in a corporate with a 3000+ headcount, you were increasingly frustrated with all the politics and the domineering ways of your manager, the maverick in you wanted to break free, you already had (or perhaps carved out) an idea that you could try out, while being the master of your own domain, and you had enough saved up in the bank to take a few risks and divorce yourself from the current miserable milieu called your job. So you went from being under a boss to being a boss to others and floating a company (that you will eventually either close down, or sell off). So what? You just started a child thread that does exactly what your previous ‘miserable’ company was already doing. A reporting hierarchy, business targets, hiring the best people for your end money making objective, cracking the whip with policies, formulated ethics and values, and mission statements that help you get to where you want to get to, and make the money you want to make, and finally chopping off people who can’t seem to align with what you have set out to do for yourself – all these are things your previous company was already doing, and doing rather well. What is it that you are doing that is really different? I don’t want you to play with words and tell me stupid stuff like ‘we celebrate birthdays by inviting parents to cut the cake’ or ‘we make a donation to the human fund in our employees’ names’. Being different is not the same as standing out. What is it that you are doing so different that you can beat your chest and say, ‘I am not different because I am running my own business, I am different because I am having fun with a whole bunch of like minded people and money is being made because our fun is useful to people out there’. If you are indeed working this way, then you don’t have a startup company; you have a good life. If you need to use the words ‘startup company’ to describe your livelihood, it just means you are a baby shark trying to become daddy shark. Where is the fun in that? All you needed to do was wait a while and jeopardize a few careers in your previous company, and you would have had pretty good and sharp shark teeth to becoming menacing. The grocery store fellow was also a startup; it is just that his objective was not to become an upstart. He was his unpretentious self and didn’t develop jargons or any silly parlance, he valued relationships with his customers and his employees equally, grew steadily and made sure his people grew along as well, was not greedy about exponential growth, and truly treated his employees as family. That is the reason some of them are still with him 35 years down the line. Are you planning or willing to do that? If not, then you might be a good businessman, but not necessarily a good man that does business. And to me, life is all about that one thing – goodness, because I would remember someone for what they are/were, and not for what they did. For, what they are/were impacted me; what they did – impacted them.

The CEO of one of the companies I worked for, made a statement to the effect that only results matter and effort does not. He said, if efforts are not producing results, then there is something wrong with the effort and such an effort has no value. I agree with that to a certain extent. He speaks like that because he wants to make the most amount of money with the least number of mistakes. But the Einsteins and the Newtons and the Abraham Lincolns wouldn’t think that way. They tried, failed, tried again, failed, and kept trying till they succeeded one day. Because mistakes are an indispensable part of growth. If effort counted for nothing, none of us would love our parents. We are all not perfect, and certainly not the best in terms of living out the highest or fullest human potential, but we are what we are due to unflinching effort on the part of our parents. So should we then judge them on effort or results? I am not saying results are not important, but by placing people over money, (or at least at par) I am of the firm opinion that this effort/result problem resolves itself. People produce results, and results produce the moolah. So shouldn’t we consider the moolah as transitory and people as permanent? Why are we thinking the other way round? Something’s gotta give?

Again, I am no businessman, I am just a concerned observer swimming in the same corporate ocean as you all, for 14 years now, and deeply concerned about how all our business and professional education is taking the human being out of us. Take my writing in that spirit. Or leave it.

She !!!

girl child

She brought so much happiness to my life. Just one glimpse of her smiling face, and all the vexations and stressful vibrations of a strenuous workday just vanish away in a flash. She is the best emotional relaxant for me when I am agitated or feeling insecure about various things in my life. She does not fix my problems, nor does she counsel me or lend a shoulder for me to cry on. She is just there with her cherubic face and her innocence, and in that mixture, I see God instantly smiling at me and supplying me with happiness and plenitude. Without her, I would have been self-sufficient but incomplete. Without her, I would have been responsible but egoistic. Without her, I would have let work become my identity instead of my vocation. Without her, gratitude to God would have been harder coming. Without her…………well, now that she is there, I don’t want to think of life without her!!! She is not even 4, but it feels like she has been around 4ever.

Where do people get the heart and the gumption to dispose off a girl child? I understand, I am merely pontificating because I am comfortably placed and I have no idea of the trials and tribulations of the poorest of the poor, who do not even have enough resources to afford even one square meal. But female foeticide, gender discrimination, and undermining the female gender’s existence are issues that are rampant in all layers of our society. Unfortunately, men and women have created this mess together. If men are cruel and remorseless animals, women are no lesser beasts when it comes to inflicting damage upon another woman.  When I come home from work and watch my daughter smile at me with expectant eyes, or hold my hand and seek that physical security of touch, time stands still and solely at her service. I cannot describe in words the gratification of those 10 or 15 minutes, when I convey to my daughter through my actions that I have come back home for her. However, sometimes the stress of work and other frustrations get the better of me and I yell at her for relentless mischief making, or for her intransigence in the adhering to instructions, but I severely reprimand myself a few moments later for not being able to control my anger, and for disrupting the inner happiness of a 3.5 year old. As I console her with words of endearment and put her to bed on my lap with lullabies, I realize that her needs are simple: to be cared for, and to be given emotional security. As she grows into an adult in the coming years, I realize that it is up to me to teach her the right values that will help her keep needs to needs and not make them wants. I don’t want her to seek attention or sympathy or love. I want her to deserve all those things by being confident of her own personality, of her life’s purpose, of her capabilities, and of her ability to give unconditionally. I know a lot depends on how much and how well I teach her. But I will have to teach her with love. And I will have to love her irrespective of what, how much, how well, and in which manner I teach. People usually shower this kind of affection only on pets these days, especially dogs. You care for them and treat them with love, and they are your faithful servitors till you or they breathe their last. Humans can have so much love for a pet (he or she), but they can’t have the same tender feelings for a human being in a woman’s body? That which God makes, we think fit to kill because it is not a boy? Sometimes you have to feel sorry for the misfortune of such people.

I probably would have been as affectionate with a boy had I had one; the gender does not really matter in these days when women can stand shoulder to shoulder with men in any field. But since I have a girl at home, I am able to observe and appreciate how kind they are even at this tender age and how full of life they are. They want to experience new emotions, they want to make new discoveries, they want to make conversation and improve their repertoire of words, they want to dress daintily and ask you how it looks, and they want you to be very happy in front of them. The last part is very striking; they sense sadness or negative emotions and will try to cheer you up in their own way. When I am in a bad mood, my kid will just ask something like ‘Dad, what happened? Is your stomach hurting? Do you need any medicine (because she thinks people become sad when they have stomach ache)?’ People who don’t care for the girl child are missing out on all these riches. I see my own sister take excellent care of my parents, and I know I am not even half as good as she is with them or half as useful as she is to them. Girls are given to you for a reason; they teach you balance. They are both fragile and strong, and if you do a good job with them, you would have realized what emotional balance is all about.

Several of my women friends from school, from work, from music, from family etc. are enormously talented and champions in their own areas. God bless their parents who didn’t deny them a well-nourished and well-balanced upbringing, a good education, good values, and abundant love.  As I then look back at my 3.5 year old at home, I see that she is still an innocent bundle of energy who is there in this world for no fault of hers and certainly not of her own volition. I realize I must mould this energy into a solid personality.  How would I be able to do that unless I appreciate the value of her existence in my life and give her the love that is her birthright? Man is not great because of what he is, but because of the possibilities he is able to create for himself and for others around him. I don’t want to be great, but I certainly want to prepare my child for greatness. Whether she gets there or not depends on her destiny and on the road her creator has prepared for her, but my test is not in getting the resources I demand and then leading a comfortable existence; it is in nurturing the resources I am given and doing justice to the faith God placed in me that I will be able to safeguard a treasure that he loaned to me. I am not a project manager running a project with the best resources; I am gardener tending to saplings and enabling them to grow and bear fruit one day. I am not making or creating, I am merely enabling.

I know many people have already said this, but I repeat; please don’t discriminate against the girl child. She comes to you as a blessing, not as a curse.

Dedicated to my mother and to the innocent one fast asleep beside me.

Why I wrote this? Here is why:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/Upset-over-no-male-child-man-sets-wife-ablaze/articleshow/35348081.cms

 

An open letter to Narendra Modi !!!

Dear Modi Jee,

First of all, hearty congratulations to you and your party and allies, for being the next leader and the next government of the country respectively. In winning today, you have become the unanimous symbol of India’s collective dream and vision, because you have won with an overwhelming majority, which truly proves that the people of this country sincerely believe in you, in your ability to take us to new frontiers, in your promised governance, and in your national pride that can place India at par with some of the brightest nations of this planet. We believe we have found someone who can understand what the average Indian deserves after being shortchanged by reckless and imperious governance for a long time, and be able to serve the cause of amelioration of the country’s all round health, without any ulterior motives. Above all, we believe we have found someone who is affiliated to a party by membership, but to India by heart.

As you may have noticed sir, all these beliefs that we have placed upon you are actually coins that have beliefs on the one side and expectations on the other. This is nothing new to one stepping into the shoes of position; privilege and responsibility are necessary concomitants. The problem has been that the previous rulers of this country just misconstrued (or contorted) privilege to mean power. And people were soon left behind and forgotten. The common man votes for a leader in order to stay connected with him for the five years that he has invested in. Unfortunately, democracy in India has never been practised in this spirit. The rulers and populace have only been connected through an umbilical cord that was severed as soon as the throne was ascended. Sir, you are at the cusp of winning and ascending the throne at this moment. Please do not view your relationship to us commoners as vestigial but rather as essential. For, it is this relationship that will enable you to feel our pulse and connect us to greater dawns. Without this relationship, you will have power, but not the privilege of serving us. Just as it is our privilege to have you at the helm, you have the privilege of serving this great country and its children.

God created every human on this earth with a spark of himself embedded into each creation. The people who have voted you in today are divided by their belief in God, but united by their belief in you. Therefore, we expect you to rise above your own personal beliefs and become an umbrella that can provide protection to all of us equally, irrespective of what we believe in or what our religious leanings are, as long as we are devoted to the country and its ideals. If we believe that this country has a spiritual significance to its existence, then we have to believe perforce that this country is a spiritual cauldron where different beliefs and spiritual truths have been thrown in together and asked to survive with each other, because this country has the responsibility to harmonize these disparate approaches and show the way to ultimately reach the divine truth. Therefore sir, yours must not be to divide and rule; yours must be to unite and be cool 🙂 .

Rejoicing in victory after a battle is definitely sweet sir, but it cannot be as sweet as celebrating victory at the end of war. Why I mention war here is because you have to be on the warpath sir, to efface the numerous problems that the country is confronted with. We don’t expect you to perform miracles, because when one’s health is in tatters, the recovery can only be slow, steady, and methodical. We expect the same from you when you go about doing business for the next five years. We expect you to be humble in victory today sir, to be mellow and not rambunctious, because we expect that your mind today will already be focused on the responsibilities and steps ahead. We expect you to be worried about redeeming the motherland’s pride and image and tilting the balance back towards sanity and sanctity. We have taken debilitating hits in the form of corruption, unaccountability, religious hatred, policy hijacking, and low moral standards, and you need to institute standards and measures to make sure we do not become the butt of jokes in the world, but rather something or someone that could be showcased as an example of progress and harmony. Of course, the responsibility is ours too, because charity begins at home, but as a leader you can inspire us by playing your role to perfection, and exhorting us follow suit when we fall short of our duties as citizens.

When you form the government, you would be under immense pressure to keep people happy as part of your alliance and party commitments, but we would request you to keep the big picture of national development and international visibility in mind, and select the best people for the job for various key posts. A lion cannot form a pride with deer and hyenas, for it either ends up eating the former, or being driven away by the latter. Please choose your council of ministers based on merit and experience, and based on your ability to judge which of them have a strong propensity for progress and nationalism. This election has generated phenomenal excitement, expectations, opinions, and has also stirred up unforeseen emotions among the young and the old alike. People have talked about it for days and months and have all lived a collective dream. It is but natural that we will keep a keen watch on you for five years. We would expect you to be not weary of being watched, and we would expect that what we see is what we get sir. We are tired of being promised riches and given peanuts. The word politician itself does not have any positive connotations in our country. It is almost the opposite of saint. You have a golden opportunity to change this perception by displaying tolerance, rectitude, vision, and transparency. People say we are mad and are living in a utopian world to be expecting all these virtues, as these don’t exist in real life. But our unanimous choice today reflects both our belief in you, and our expectation that you will be able to practice these virtues to the best of your ability, if not to perfection.

You have spoken a lot during the campaign sir. A lot of your speeches were incisive and inspiring. But your self-proclaimed policy of maximum governance and minimum government entails that you speak less and deliver more during your tenure sir. What can be shown through work does not normally require speech. In fact, the people of this country have subconsciously already started looking forward to tangible results and have started tuning out of speeches. India has this image of being an all talk and no work country. Please change this by leading this change from the front. We have had personages like Swami Vivekananda, your ideal, who spoke in order to galvanize people into action, and then people like our ex-Prime Minister, who never spoke even when needed. We need you to choose wisely between these two extremes sir. A person may fare brilliantly during an interview, but is still placed on probation upon joining, in order to assess how well he or she does in practice. And in probation, talk often needs to be substantiated with action. This is your probation sir. The first couple of years of your governance will give us a very good picture of whether we were vindicated or cheated in our gamble. Please use these two years to talk to us, to talk to experts, to study where we are and where we can be, and to take bold steps to take us to the next level. We won’t complain if we are asked to practise austerities or are punished severely for wrongdoings. Our complaint usually has been that those holding us accountable and judging us in the past have been of abominable moral and mental standards themselves, and it finally got to a point where the disgust could not be sustained any further. Hence we all have unanimously voted for you. Our sincere hope is that at the end of five years, we would not feel that we made a choice between the devil and the deep sea.

In conclusion, we wish you the very best in your new journey and guarantee you that we will be with you in thought and action, as we are all very excited about taking the country to greater heights in the coming days. Form is temporary but class is permanent. Please be assured that we won’t judge you on form, but on class. Having come from a humble background and having become the prime minister today, you have come a long way and we laud your achievements. But we expect that you will never for a moment forget that it is we that brought you in sir, and that it is for us that you will toil. You are our representative sir, and not our master. Let us both collaborate and make this a symbiotic relationship where you uplift us and we hail your brilliance.

India and democracy

Flag of an Asian territory

India is voting in a new leader. Wait, India is voting in a new party. Well, India is voting in new governance. No, wait, India is voting out the wrong party and voting in the right leader. That doesn’t make any sense. India is voting out the wrong party and voting in the right party. That doesn’t make sense either. Well, what is India voting in actually? Who do we want to see at the epicenter of our political network? Are we rooting for a party or for an individual? Are the party and individual the same? Are they synonymous? Are they emanations of each other? Do they span the entire gamut from the grass root level to the apex? Am I as a voter expecting things to change for me in my street and neighborhood first, and then for the change to spiral up to the country, or am I expecting changes to begin at the country level and then percolate down to me? Is the future premier of this country seamlessly connected to me via a chain of leaders that all speak in a unified, mature, and comprehensible language that I, as the commoner at the bottom-most rung of the ladder, can identify with and derive hope from?

If these are not questions that we have answers for, then there is something amiss about the institution of parliamentary democracy in our country, and we are remiss in defining the political fabric in our country and in going about electing the right candidate that could show us the way.

A problem that everyone knows and grapples with during elections is the fact that we either like someone at the top and are forced to elect nincompoops and comprehensive misfits in the intermediate hierarchies, or the other way round, where we know that the candidate at the grass root level (from my neighborhood for instance) is terrific, but the party that he or she represents is terrible, and the party’s projected prime ministerial candidate is hopeless. Another problem, and a really substantial one that generally never gets talked about, is that we don’t get to elect the hierarchy; we only elect the leader. But the hierarchy is decided by the party and not by the leader (maybe the leader makes recommendations). This then raises another pertinent question: What is the proximity between the leader and the populace? When the leader makes decisions, how much of the pulse of the people has he or she felt? What is the visibility that the leader has to the common man’s problems? What is the guarantee that the brain at the top and the limbs at the bottom are in consonance with each other? When questions like these are not satisfactorily answered, we find a dichotomy where people elect either in favor of local change or in favor of national change, and this divergent branching then leads to lack of majorities both locally and at the centre. Parties then go about negotiating and settling alliances, which again is a defeat of the common man’s intentions: I might vote for party A, but party A would then form an alliance with party X, which might not be palatable to me, but there is nothing I can do about it because I was only allowed to elect leader Z from party A. These are some serious concerns with the electoral and parliamentary system in our country.

Consider the government system of France. The people elect a president, who then makes executive decisions in consultation with his council of ministers. He first selects a prime minister, who then co-opts other members to be a part of the council of ministers. The other ministers are not unilaterally elected by the prime minister, but rather in consultation with the president. The extent to which the president and prime minister collaborate in selecting the council of ministers depends upon the good judgment of the president in selecting the prime minister, which in turn depends on the good judgment of the people in electing the president. So, this forms a nice chain of responsibility pattern that starts with the people and mirrors the people’s hopes and psyche in principle. The president is also the executive chief of all the armed forces. Come to think of it, are there not some parallels between this system and the ancient emperor/king system in India? The king was the monarch (supposed to be a benevolent dictator – but sometimes was a ruthless one – freaks can’t be avoided sometimes), and he appointed the prime minister, who carefully chose other ministers and military leaders, often in consultation with the king. The king had the final say in affairs, but almost always, the responsibility of making evaluations and informed recommendations often devolved upon the prime minister and the other members of the council. The king was not allowed to have unquestioned autocracy, as there were always wise men in his council to reign in arrogance, ignorance, injustice, or malfeasance on the king’s part. The king was not probably elected by the people, unlike the case of the president who is born out of adult suffrage, but if you remove this element of modern democracy (which distinguishes monarchy from presidential democracy) from the king system, they almost mirror each other in the tenets (maybe not in the implementation details).

This concept of choosing a leader and trusting him to select the right people for the job has been a part of the Indian psyche for ages. The system of parliamentary democracy was alien to this land, and was introduced by the British for administration, not for governance. I think there is a big difference in the two mindsets. I am by no means an expert in polity to be pontificating on what should be followed in India, but I do think that the India psyche is more in tune with electing an executive leader and letting the leader evolve a governance system that suits our needs, rather than having to take a circuitous route of voting in a party and then hoping that the party would be prudent enough to nominate the ideal candidate for the prime minister’s job. Of course, the party system was introduced keeping in mind the vast diversity in this country in terms of attitudes, cultures, languages, aspirations etc, but then going by those parameters, India should not have been one country, but rather a confederation of individual states, separate countries. We chose to be one country, but our regional identities needed to have sufficient representation under the umbrella, due to which regional parties that bore affiliations to bigger national parties were born. However, many times, we see a non-reciprocal interest flowing out from the national parties to the local ones, and so, there is unequal priority distribution among the states, which leads to unrest, and in worst case, secession. Choosing a leader and having a solid council spread across parties and maybe having representation even outside of parties, like from bureaucracy, industry etc would perhaps be more pragmatic and more inclusive as a viable option to keep things fused together cordially.

Even during our independence struggle, we did have parties, but our inspirations were our leaders – individuals with foresight, resilience, who carried with them the people’s aspirations and confidence, and who could exhort people to unite in a momentous cause, casting aside their prejudices and the differences in religion, regionalism, race, and color. People did not line up like sheep behind Gandhi or Jinnah because they were from some specific parties, but because these gentlemen connected with people in some way and their magnetism swayed the people. Of course, it is debatable whether these leaders did more good or more damage, but it has been proven historically that parties have no identity without resplendent individuals, and individuals do not have to seek affiliations to parties in order to articulate their ideals and visions. A group of like-minded people united in a common cause like upliftment of the masses or progress of the country do not have to be members of any particular party; they could be part of a governing council that is elastic and ductile enough to improvise and govern, depending upon the times and circumstances.

What we have today is a conglomeration of parties that themselves exist either due to history or due to factionalism, and these parties have scores of members and workers who don’t even have the bare minimum qualifications to be involved in politics. Over a period of time, some of these members become ministers at the state or nation level, and there is nothing that stops of questions them. Not the ombudsman or the electoral commissions, who, as of today, either don’t exist, or don’t have that kind of questioning authority. The philosophy and implementation within parties too have become incongruous and internecine. We see this conflict in the current elections too, where leaders defy party orders and speak in unrelated tangents or blatant opposites, where party members fight for leadership posts in public, where the public statements given by party members and the party’s manifesto contravene each other, and where parties spend more time finding faults with other parties than articulating what their own plans are. In between all of this chaos, the common man (you and I) is looking at promising individuals and going ‘I really like this guy, but I am not so sure about his party’, or ‘this party is very promising, but why have they nominated that idiot for the prime minister post’, or ‘the party and that guy are both awful crooks’. Individuals matter a lot. Parties are purely incidental. We have both lauded and ridiculed individuals in our political system; we have never really cared about their parties. In fact, even if the praiseworthy individuals were to be part of other parties or be independent, we would give our vote to them for their charisma and their abilities, and not for their affiliations.

Hence, I think we should dream of a more participative democracy where we elect leaders individually based on their experience and the solidity of their stature. After all, governments have to be elected and they have to run based on trust. I would trust an individual more than a clique. We should together design a system where the people and the leaders work together like an interwoven fabric, and this can only happen if the people and the leadership are directly talking to each other without other levels of abstraction in between. We often ask for changes in constitution in this country. Won’t this be a good candidate for it?

I may or may not be right in my thoughts. I follow the thoughts of Sri Aurobindo, and I see him as a personage of immense foresight and acumen. I find relevance and currency in his political thoughts and have expressed them in my own way here. I normally do not ask for my posts to be chained or forwarded, but if you have read this and found this to have at least a smattering of political sense, please do forward it to people and ask them to read. Not for what I wrote, but for where we are and where we can get. Thank you.