Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Good Sunday Morning!

A great morning. A happy and a proud Sunday morning.

As usual, I woke up, rubbed my eyes and stretched to my heart's content, as if my hands would touch the ceiling. Being the only exercise for months now, the stiffness is getting scary. Made a mental note that I will play squash today and reached for my Hindustan Times.

The daily morning newspaper has been my diet bed tea to get me fully awake (and angry, and frustrated). Today was a bit different. As usual I started reading the newspaper from the last page, but the happy thing was that I didn't reach the front page at all. Thank you to whoever had started the trend of having Sports in the last pages.

This is why I never got to the front pages. I instead wrote a long Facebook update and started writing this blog post. You see, FB does not have a search feature and your updates just get lost to time. A blog was thus necessary.

Back to the papers, the last page was about Shiva Keshavan - the lone Winter games medallist. I have been following him for years and he has been surprising Govt apathy almost every year. In spite of active Govt. support, he has been winning medals consistently for the country. 

Then I read about Parthiv Patel getting a century and becoming the highest run-getter of the current Ranji season. I have always thought that he keeps behind the wicket better than Dhoni and bats immaculately like a test player. Dhoni being the captain killed his career. Then I read about one of my favourite footballer Robin Van Persie, who has surprised even himself after coming to ManU this season. He has scored 17 goals already in this season.


HT dedicated almost half a page for sports talent from Kokrajhar, Assam. I used to get a bit annoyed whenever media highlighted Manipur as the only NE success story in Sports. Today, I am happy. Boxers like Pwilao Basumatary, Minu Basumatary, Bhagyabati Kachari, Anjali Machahary were mentioned. It was great to know that India youth team of 2011 had 6 of the 8 boxers from Kokrajhar.

In other sports, footballer Holicharan Narzary, archers Hemanta Basumatary and Sanjay Boro were given a positive mention.

This was one of the very few times that Assam was covered in a National newspapers for a GOOD reason. It was neither a terrorist attack, a bomb blast, nor a kidnapping of a tea garden manager. It was about a positive facet of Assam. 

A slight dampener was the title that Indians won't get it right ever. It said, "A revolution of hope in STRIFE-TORN Kokrajhar". The journalist  Indraneel Das could have avoided the reference to the Strife. There were many other ways to title the piece. But we are designed to write sensationalism.

Its alright. At least there is a positive coverage about Assam in a national newspaper.

Click here for the online version of the news article.

Photo Gallery of the Athletes from Kokrajhar, Assam.

Pwilao Basumatary
Anjali Machahary
Bhagyawati Kachari

Minu Basumatary in red

Forward Holicharan Narzary
Sanjay Boro winning the Bronze

Archer Hemanta Basumatary

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Delhi Rape Incident - Danger Sign of a Dual Society

My time with Twitter severely increased, for the hashtag #delhirape kept me angry, frustrated, curious and sarcastic; all at the same time.

Most of the tweets said what Napoleon Bonaparte had said over 200 years ago, "The act of policing is, in order to punish less often, to punish more severely."

Indeed the rapist should be publicly punished severely.

The other majority of tweets were a bit of a concern. They were of women shouting their words of anger and wisdom about how females are being taken for granted, coerced and exploited. Any tweet condescending to femininity were thrashed and castrated. 

There were tweets by a few men of reckoning, expressing that girls should be accompanied by elders at night for safety. They didn't know what hit them before they could even read their own tweet.

Although, it is sad that it took a heinous crime like rape for the citizens to come out in protest, yet it is a delight because Democracy works best when people claim it as their own, and participate. We should hope that this protest ultimately concludes into the reasons behind such a heinous social phenomenon of raping a women.

This is not the first rape and we have seen that rapes were rampant even during the protests across the country. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, the incidents of rape went up by 873 percent between 1953 and 2011. This is three times faster than all cognizable crimes put together and three-and-a-half times faster than murder. Between 2007 and 2011 alone, rape incidents have increased by 9.7 percent. This is reported figure and we can fairly add a multiplier to these statistics.

I am not a social scientist, but I am a keen observer who have spent 37 years in this country. I have experienced this country before social media, before economic liberalization, and during Doordarshan. I have seen the times when two flowers connoted kissing in movies. I have been in the cusp of time when joint families were dis-integrating into nuclear families.  I have seen tennis transform from knee length skirts to bum-length skirts, while the shorts of the men tennis players perhaps increased in length.

The most critical change that I have seen is what media, satellite television and Internet  have brought in. The information about the glamour and lifestyles of people living in Mumbai (or any metro) became known to people living in villages. Sadly, it was the content that got broadcasted across the country without the accompanying context. 

India was always disparate in terms of income, culture and lifestyle, but it was not known and seen. Now, with technology, the perceived disparity is much more than actual disparity... and it is growing between the have's and have-not's. It is not about the economic disparity alone. It is not  about the rich becoming richer and the poor becoming poorer. Socio-cultural disparity in terms of identity is the concern that I would like to bring forth here. This is an alarmingly increasing disparity and a dichotomy is being created in terms of social attitude, expectations and perceptions about life. It is this polarization in terms of thoughts and world-view of things that concerns me.

With the Internet revolution and media, the world is changing too drastically. More drastically for a country like India, where education and economy could not and is unable to keep pace because of the sheer population, diversity and vastness of the country. And of course, lack of a visionary governance.

If I compare how I used to perceive a short skirt when I was 15 years old, with a 15 year old of today, I feel like I was a pervert. Fortunately, I was part of the drastic change. I was not a mere spectator to the change. I am afraid that the majority of the Indian population are mere spectators. There are a whole lot of 15 year olds who are stuck in time and have not graduated to this new age.

We have created an atmosphere of dual societies. A dual society contains two worlds in one: the Third World and the First World coexist within the same nation, under the same authorities and the same flag. Both are disparate in terms of access to benefits of education, of employment, standard of living, media and proximity to globalization of thought processes. These societies don't understand or relate to each other.

A simple case of dual society creation is the housing development that is happening in Mumbai through the 'Slum Rehabilitation Schemes'. The builder clears the slum, makes a sub-standard multi-storeyed building with tiny rooms to accommodate the slum population, and then makes a plush building with all club amenities for selling to the rich. The plush building brings in people with no history and similarity to the local population, people whose attitudes and lifestyle is different, and mostly un-acceptable to the local population.

The above example, although dangerous, is very mild. The disparity that non-egalitarian policies regarding education, employment and media can bring, is much more swift and over-powering.

Dual societies are ticking bombs waiting for explosion. Today it is an increasing trend on rape incidents, tomorrow it would be incidents of robbery and terrorism. This is where the policy makers of India has to act. Duality in society acts as a break for change and progress. It often leads to dangerous social phenomena like we have seen in the hashtag #delhirape.

The other conclusion to draw here is that lets not make this an episode of fight between genders. In a dual society, women are not safe. Period. Even man are not safe. I have heard of a female housemaid boiling a baby in a pressure cooker. I have heard of a housemaid poisoning the entire family during dinner. I have heard of a college kid stabbed and murdered by slum neighbours when he was trying to save one girl from eve-teasing.

So believe me that it is not about gender. It is about the unequal society and wider generation gaps. Let us all be responsible citizens and do whatever we can to have an equal society in terms of thinking, attitudes, and lifestyle. The haves should control their urges and be more sensitive towards the have-nots. Similarly, have-nots need to be given opportunities to cross the barrier.

It is quite a difficult task considering that we, as a nation, are a selfish lot. We consider the Ganga as a sacred river for a holy dip, but hardly bother for the next person who is coming to take a dip. We have to start thinking as a nation, as a team.

Till then, there would be only arguments, protests and tweets.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Domestic Brain Drain - Antidote to Progress !

There is a question that is troubling me for some months now. What made me decide to build my career outside my home - Assam?

This is an important question. If some of us believe that Assam can be a happy prosperous place by becoming sovereign or otherwise, it would not be possible if we decide to leave Assam in hordes at the slightest possible assumption of trouble or opportunity?

15 years back, I don't even remember if I even gave a thought to the option of staying in Assam. My parents always wanted me to explore. It was obviously certain to me at that time that I was not doing my Masters in Assam. It was obvious that grass is greener in Delhi (or Mumbai).

Today, I don't seem to understand why was it so obvious that it was easier to build a career in a city which I had never seen and known? Was it the influence of media that we read, saw and heard? Was it the greed for a good life as portrayed by the media? Was it just cooler to look part of the happening cities?  Or was it just hopelessness that nothing can happen in Assam?

Today after spending 12 years in Mumbai, I am not sure if it was easier in Mumbai or if I am better today? Yes I am richer than my parents hoped.

On the flip-side, I am 37. I am divorced. I have no kids. My parents are alone in Assam. I am in a place which I can't call my own. I can't relate to mischal-pao, coconut gravy, and bada-pav. I don't have neighbours, khura-khuri, borma-jethai.  I don't understand the local language and culture to relate to Ganapati, Navratri etc. Husori nedekha bohu bosor hol (Its been years that I celebrated Bihu).

Also, I see that many of my friends, brothers and sisters in Mumbai are not as lucky. They are struggling hard to survive the city, with the hope that things will be better some day. There are 'strugglers' in the television and film industry. There are security gaurds, waiters, salesman...and the list goes on... with just hope.

Is it that hope that brings us out of Assam? Is there no hope that rupohi axom (beautiful Assam), as Dr. Bhupen Hazarika had said, will ever be a reality? Or is it that we don't have the vision to build Assam, as we work hard to build our individual careers? It is evident that if we just work hard individually building our own careers in Assam, Rupohi Axom will be built.

That didn't struck me when I was growing up. We all get suck up to the lure of migration, which is nothing but brain-drain. I didn't think that I have to earn 5 times more in Mumbai (or Delhi) to live the same life, as I was living in Assam. I didn't understand the pain of living away from your school friends, family and parents, of our kids learning Hindi more prominently than Assamese, of missing the smell of the wet earth of Assam.

I would like to say in BOLD that its not TRUE that staying back in Assam is a regressive thought. And making a career in Mumbai (or any metro) is any easier. 

It is time that we bring talent, knowledge and resources back to our home states. Internet and Mobile is bringing the world closer, and enabling opportunities for everyone. Businesses have become easier to operate.

Assam is rich in many natural resources and has a relatively healthy literacy rate of 73.18% as per the 2011 census. The wage cost of labour is also lower. It has a few infrastructural bottle-necks such as road and electricity, but that would improve once citizens of the state become productive economically.

With FDI in multi-brand retail, Assam can garner investments to have cold storage facilities, giving a boost to organic farming and the food processing industry. Likewise, there are opportunities that can be tapped in various out-sourcing models of business (BPO, KPOs, MPOs etc). Technology related outsourcing (software development, search marketing etc) can also be taken by the youth of the state, to bring in finances into the state.

It is a high time that all of us staying and working outside Assam should help in this cause and drain our brains a bit to start the economic engine of the state of Assam. Migration of labour into the other states has to stop, and like the earlier days, every Assamese village, cities and towns should become self sufficient, flourishing and happy.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

I went and saw Kokrajhar, and then Assam.

I thought I would be a happy man after giving the much needed clothes, utensils, toiletries and other such relief items to the affected victims of the Kokrajhar violence.

I was wrong. I have actually become an angry man. It is heartening to see all the lost faces with no hope and aspiration for the future. I had gone to a camp which had Bodo people from 4 neighbouring villages. Three of the four villages were burnt down by supposedly Bangladeshi Muslim settlers. The fourth village came to the camp out of fear. Understandably, bodos are a minority in that area.

When I asked one of the youths to elaborate what actually happened, he told me the most disturbing story ever. He said, "they burnt our huts, took our cattle in vehicles that came from the cities, and killed all our pigs. They even took everything that we could have used to build new huts."

There were 75 families whose houses were burnt. If we assume that they must have had around 75 cows or goats, then somebody has actually planned to move 75 cows or goats to another location. Transporting 75 cows or goats would require over 5 big covered trucks!

One of the accused by the common word of mouth is the President of the main opposition party - Assam United Democratic Front, Maulana Baharuddin Ajmal. Although he is known as the perfume baron having retail presence in whole of the middle east, it is common speak that one of his businesses is exporting cattle meat slaughtered in Bangladesh and Assam to the middle east.

Is it possible that the cattle of these violence affected Bodo villages are ending up as exports? If that is reality, then there are reasons for concern, anger and frustration for the majority population of the state.

If we go down memory lane, it looks as if these violence were destined to happen. It is not a problem of today. Even the British rulers had warned about the dangers of the socio-political-economic impact of the influx of immigrants from East Bengal into Assam. In 1931, SC Mullan, Census Superintendent of Assam, wrote: "Probably the most important event in the province during the last 25 years — an event, which seems likely to alter permanently the whole future of Assam and to destroy more surely than did the Burmese invaders of 1829 — has been the invasion of a vast horde of land hungry Bengali immigrants; mostly Muslims, from the districts of Eastern Bengal…".

It was a correct prediction. Assamese people have shown repeated disgust over this immigration issue, the worst being the Nellie massacre of 1983 that left 3,000 people including children dead. With the AGP Government elected on the context of this immigration issue, failing to deliver on the promise; and ULFA dis-integrating due to fear, greed and politics, forcing the top leadership to take shelter in the very Bangladesh, the bad blood and frustrations in the minds of the people of Assam, have been building silently.

Today, Bengali speaking Muslims are a greater force in Assam than what the census highlights. More pronounced is their religious identity and sentiments. When I was growing up in the eighties, I don't remember seeing any of my Muslim friends, uncles and brothers wearing their traditional white cap, and trying to grow a beard. It was very rare that one could see a group of Muslim men or women only, except on a Friday in front of a mosque. I don't remember any of my Muslim friends learning Arabic and the Koran at home. Not that it is bad to learn Arabic or the Koran, please dont mis-understand. I am only referring to the change of attitude.

Today, as we drove around the major cities of Assam including Jorhat and Sibsagar, we could clearly see a sizable population of distinguishable Muslims in polarised groups. They were wearing the traditional dress and the white cap. I met a principal of a local college who is a Muslim born to a Brahmin woman, and married to a Hindu woman. I was shocked to hear that he is being forced to teach his daughters Arabic and the Koran. He himself has never gone to the Mosque. He is the typical Assamese Muslim completely mingled with the Assamese society that I was used to seeing in Assam.

The day we came back to Guwahati from Kokrajhar (August 28, 2012), it was an Assam Bandh that was called by the All Assam Muslim Students Union (AAMSU). Assam has not seen a more trouble-some 'bandh' in the recent past.
  1. Houses were burnt in Barpeta after there was a scuffle between AAMSU supporters and shopkeepers
  2. Media was attacked and injured in four different towns - Goalpara, Barpeta, Samaguri and Tezpur.
  3. A police vehicle and another vehicle belonging to a civil servant was burnt in Tezpur
  4. In lot of places, police had to open fire with rubber bullets and tear gas shells to disperse AAMSU supporters which came out onto the streets with sharp objects. 
The bandh was called to press the demand for scrapping Bodoland Territorial Council and arrest of its chief Hagrama Mohilary. It was therefore surprising that the AAMSU supporters were so active and violent in the non BTC regions. In Sibsagar, which is considered as the heart of Assamese culture, the police had to lathi-charge to bring the situation under control when a group of bandh supporters were turning violent in their attempt to impose the bandh.

I have been told by a local reporter that Sibsagar does not have a single AAMSU office. This leads to the question that the rioters during the AAMSU bandh were perhaps not AAMSU members. They were common Muslims, supporting the cause of other Muslims. This indicates the dangerous trend of religious polarisation in a state known for communal tolerance and classless-ness.

It was a black day for Assam. The communal harmony that I knew existed was conclusively becoming a thing of the past.

The bandh was followed by a press meet by ten media associations demanding an apology from the AAMSU leadership. It appealed to all editors of newspapers and news channels to not entertain any kind of news of AAMSU for a period of 3 months. Jorhat and Sibsagar saw people coming out on the streets in thousands shouting anti-foreigners slogans. They went back in time to the early eighties to pluck out slogans like "Aei jui jolise, jolisei, joliboi" (This fire burns... and will), "Bangladeshis go back, go back, go back" and "Bidexi husiyar" (Foreigners beware). The full-throated chant was taken up by banner-waving school students to grandparents, reminiscent of the unending processions taken out by protesters three decades ago.

Niren Sharma, a student leader during the Assam Agitation, said, "The events occurring over the last few days shows that illegal migrants are more organised and strengthened and the problem has become more acute. Because the people have felt this, they have come out in such large numbers without being forced. I cannot say whether only one such procession here will serve the purpose but this has to be hammered into the government". He further added that this protest would make the next generation alive to the gravity of the situation.

Assam, I felt, is gearing towards another rightful agitation phase against the apathy and in-effectiveness of the state and central Government, and the bureaucracy. Pitifully, even the Chief Minister agreed that the centre delayed in taking a decision in the Kokrajhar violence, which could have otherwise averted the disaster.

Assam always had the seed of dissent against the central Government from the pre-independence era and it seems to me that the seed will germinate into a full blown agitation for a sovereign Assam in the pretext of the unsuccessful handling of the Bangladeshi immigration issue by the Congress Government at the state and the centre.

I too hereby join the fight for an immigration-free Assam.

Bidexi Husiyar...
Joi Ai Axom.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

We are a young nation but...

that hardly gives me any solace.

To me, Independence Day is a reminder of our young age as a nation. It is obvious therefore that there are so many things that are yet to be done. I feel we are running out of time.

Apart from Delhi, Mumbai and few of the other metros, private sector jobs are almost non-existent. Assam has graduates migrating into cities like Bangalore and Mumbai, staying away from their old parents, working as "Security Personnels" and other smaller jobs, for which they are over-qualified.

Youths who have decided to stay back are fighting for opportunities to make their ends meet. The economy has no market with enough demand and disposable income for any business to run profitably. Private sector investments are not forthcoming for lack of Government incentives and intent. It wont be wrong if I say that no industry is flourishing due to lack of an apt business cum economic strategy from a Govt. policy perspective.

Independence Day for them is a farce, a day perhaps to observe Assam Bandh by ULFA.

I wonder what do we do to kickstart the economic engine, which is currently polarised only in the metros. I continued my old clothes collection drive for my Bodo brothers and sisters and I end my day with satisfaction, if not happiness.

Joi Ai Axom. Jai Hind.

India needs to love sports to win at the Olympics !

'Kheloge kudoge to honge kharab, padhoge likhoge to banoge nawab' is normally the beginning of sports for a kid in India. Cricket is perhaps the only sport that doesn't come under the 'strict' purview of this emotion.

Competitive spirit in sports bids us adieu by class IX. Class X is too critical a year to play sports. It is also the year of confusion for the kids who love sports and have an interest to pursue sports seriously. They continue playing and performing poorly in studies.

Soon life takes over sports. Sports goes to the weekends, and then slowly to the television. After marriage, serials takes over that little bit of sports as well ! :)


Then comes the Olympics or the Common Wealth Games. We get super-charged and emotional at our failures at the international level practically in every sporting event. I can never understand why we act so humiliated when Indian sports persons lose at the Olympics, for we hardly play or patronise any sport other than cricket.

How many of us have been to a hockey match, a boxing bout or to an athletic event? How many of us have a professional boxer or a hockey player as a friend? I know that we have had our studies and jobs to manage. But then, how much of us have contributed to any sporting cause? I myself have not spent a penny towards sports. I have contributed towards culture, education and poverty.

It is very clear that we, as a nation do not care about sports as much as to win medals at the international level. So, it is hypocritical to criticise the Government, the sports associations, or the sports persons when Indian fails to perform for the pride of the nation. 

While searching for a sports centric NGO, I discovered that the first non-profit sports NGO was registered in the year 1991 (almost like yesterday going by the history of Olympics and 65 years of independence!) in Hyderabad. It is not a coincidence then that Hyderabad has contributed immensely to the London Olympics. Two of the medal winners - Gagan Narang and Saina Nehwal are from Hyderabad. 

Olympic Gold Quest - a foundation for sports and games, which had nurtured quite a few sports persons in the London Olympics contingent, was formed as late as 2001. It is quite encouraging that four of the medals were directly influenced by the efforts of Olympic Gold Quest. Medal winners - Gagan Narang, Saina Nehwal, Mary Kom and Vijay Kumar are supported by Olympic Gold Quest.

Olympic Gold Quest is founded by Geet Sethi and Prakash Padukone. Leander Paes and Vishwanathan Anand joined them in 2010 as board members.

Olympic Gold Quest has proven that if we concentrate on sports, we can win medals too. There is nothing inherently wrong with Indians that we can't win at the highest levels. We have to actively promote sports through small financial contributions, by encouraging the next generation to think that Sports can also be a good career option and by attending all possible sports meet happening in and around the places where we stay. 

Bollywood and cricket would have to take a 'slight' back seat. 

Then, there will come a time when we would not be at the mercy of jokes comparing India's medal tally with that of Michael Phelps.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Domestic Violence - a subject too big for Satyamev Jayate !

Domestic violence is too big a subject for one episode of television programming. In retrospect, I would think that all the issues taken up by Satyamev Jayate are much wider than it can perhaps swallow. All of them are perhaps wider in scope even for a PhD thesis to cover after  years of research. So encapsulating it in one episode will surely leave a lot of uncovered questions, aspects and perspectives.

For instance, this article against Satyamev Jayate sounds valid and reasonable, where the story of the death of Mr. Rai's wife Seema is being questioned. The accused doctor has written an open letter to Aamir Khan urging him to explain his stand on propagating half truths without proper research taking both sides of the argument. You may read this article.

These allegations do not take away any credit from Mr. Aamir Khan and his team. They are doing whatever possible in given constraints, to spread awareness of issues that they feel should be highlighted at a bigger canvas. They are not social scientists or activists expert on all these issues. They are just a bunch of passionate genuine creative individuals who have thought of making a socially relevant television programme. You may read about my experiences with the Satyamev Jayate team.

Domestic violence is similarly a large topic. For instance, it involves the husband as victims too. While the very idea of a man being beaten by a woman runs contrary to many of our deeply ingrained beliefs about men and women, female violence against men is a well-documented phenomenon almost completely ignored by both the media and by society. 

According to the National Family Violence survey in the US, researchers Murray A. Straus, Ph.D., and Richard J. Gelles, Ph.D., found that between 1975 and 1985, the overall rate of domestic violence by men against women decreased from 12.1% to 11.3%, while women's violence against men actually increased from 11.6% to 12.1%.
You may read this detailed report on domestic violence against men in the US.

There are various causes of domestic violence. Male ego, 'parampara' (tradition) and patriarchy are broad reasons given in frivolous discussions about domestic violence. They are superficial and hampers the study of the real reasons. There is a need to study deeper for precise answers towards domestic violence.

The answer may lie in the questioning of the institution of marriage itself. I may argue that one (or few) marriages in the living life of an organism is not natural. There are some noted references that after multiple marriages as per the Islamic tradition, domestic violence reduces and a certain calmness is prevailed in the family. Who would fight and with whom becomes the question :). So the discussion about domestic violence can be as deep, varied and convoluted as that.

Let me discuss one of the million reasons that may cause domestic violence against either sex in today's times. I pressume that public opinions on this reason is yet to be formed. It is about the upbringing of a girl child vs a boy child. It is perhaps the reason behind girls doing better in their class x and xii examinations (guessing).

Assume a family with a son and a daughter. From the time, the girl starts to converse intelligently, her mother would talk to her about becoming an independent women. She would brainwash her to become financially independent. She would encourage her to study harder and become a working wife. In short, the mother effectively tells her daughter not to become another woman like her.

Till now this is all common sense. Lets look at how she is raising her son? Why should we bother much? They are men after all. They will learn the ropes of life just like that. Of course, the sons are also encouraged to study harder, and to stand on their feet. But are they told to not become like their fathers?

He grows up seeing his mother getting tea for his father whenever he comes back from office. He grows up seeing that the mother of the house makes breakfast, lunch and dinner. He grows up seeing the mother packing tiffin for the father every morning. He grows up seeing a docile mother agreeing to whatever the father says. He grows seeing his father ordering his mother for almost all his inside-the-house needs.

At one extreme, the mother is teaching her daughter to be an independent working women. At the other extreme, she is not teaching the son about accepting an independent wife for himself.

He is not brainwashed to not expect breakfast, lunch and dinner from his wife.
He is not taught that if the wife earns more than him, it is not a question of ego.
He is not taught that his wife may not know cooking like his sister doesn't. So it is okay to get food cooked by himself, or to help her in the kitchen.

I personally respect the role of the housewife and I think it is critical for the generations to procreate in a healthy conscience, culture and manners. You may read "Lets glorify housewives" and comment if you like.

But the tragedy is that the boy child is not even taught to respect a housewife's need for financial independence.
He is not told about how the wife sacrifices her career for the family when she decides to be a housewife. He is not given an idea that he should share 25% of his salary into her bank account, the day he gets the salary. It may be a sure-shot idea of having a happy married life. Trust me.

So there is a disparity in the way we are bringing up our kids.

I know one family where the younger sister is away from home working hard for a career, and the elder son is wailing away his time waiting for his father to hand-over the business to him.

This is disastrous for the social fabric. Domestic violence and divorces would increase, and we would keep blaming the husband and the wife (and the kundalis !!!). It is really not important who beats whom. A girl earning more can very well beat the husband. A TIME article had commented that an earning wife is much more caustic about husbands spending their money, as compared to an earning husband. Read another analysis on similar lines.

The real blame should go to the parents. The real blame should go to education system. The real blame should go to the society at large that treats boys in a particular way, which is unreal in today's free world of modernity, capitalism and consumerism.

THINK ABOUT IT. Lets change for the sake of the BOY CHILD.

Monday, June 11, 2012


How do I stop thinking about her?

What's in a life? Whose life is it?
Is it mine? Who owns it?

How to be happy? Why am I unhappy?
How to forget? Who would remember?

Why do I dream? Why do I sleep?
Why my heart beats? Why do I feel it?

Why did she look at me? Why was I not looking somewhere else? Why did she smile? Why do I think that she smiled?

Why was I on time? Why was she never late? Now I am on time, and is she always late?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Satyamev Jayate, Mr. Aamir Khan !

I think there would be over a million blogs and articles written on Satyamev Jayate. Most of them have praised the show and Aamir Khan, and some of them were typical cynics. It was quite obvious that people find it difficult to accept honesty these days. "Nobody is honest" sounds truer than saying "Mr. X may be honest".

I was invited to one of the episodes of Satyamev Jayate that dealt with dowry. The research team of SMJ found that dowry as a practice doesnt exist in the culture and traditions of the people of the Northeast India. I gave the Assamese perspective to that debate.

After interacting with Aamir and his team for 2 days, I see myself completely enamoured by Aamir Khan, his team and the concept of Satyamev Jayate.

Aamir Khan is genuine, hardworking, creative and meticulous. Above all, he is humane and he is an active member of the society. By being active, I mean that he is not oblivious to the good and the bad things happening in the society. Like many of us, he and his thoughts are not cocooned within the limits of his family, friends and profession. He feels part of a greater society of people irrespective of religion, caste, creed and social/economic status.

In Satyamev Jayate, he is practically using his celebrity status, money, influence to a good cause. It is an example of 'popularity being put to better use'.

Let me mention some of my observations that amazed me and made me a fan of Mr. Aamir Khan. I am a communications MBA and let me tell you that he is the God of Communications too. I could see great communication strategy at every point of interaction. One needs to be genuine in his objectives and a maverick to pull such a well planned communication and marketing effort.

All of us felt that we are friends of Aamir Khan.

When we went for the shoot, he welcomed and appreciated each one of us with lot of respect and humility for taking the time out to participate in the show. After a gruelling shoot that went till 11 hours, he spent another 1 hour with us casually talking to all of us, discussing issues and taking opinions, making us feel part of a greater initiative. I could feel the whole air of genuine efforts being put in for the show.

He took photographs with each of us. Few weeks later, I was pleasantly surprised to see a handwritten appreciation letter with a few gifts, thanking me for my participation, hand delivered to my house.

From a communication strategy point of view, Aamir and his team knew that the participants will be the brand ambassadors and word of mouth generators for the show. I have surely become one. My tweets and Facebook updates are proof enough. Another point to note is that nobody spoke a word about SMJ before its launch. Wasn't that amazing?

Aamir Khan feels for his commitments thoroughly.

I was told that Aamir Khan has cancelled all his ad contracts to do this show. It didn't have much meaning to me until one day when I read one of his article that appeared in Tehelka. He was quoted saying, "I just felt that while I’m doing this show, I didn’t want to be selling something. I don’t know how to say it. It didn’t feel right to me." This sentence opened my eyes to this new perspective of looking at one's commitments.

Later in another show, he mentioned that he had endorsement deals of about Rs. 100-125 crores per year ! As per another report, Aamir Khan paid 23 crores to some of the brands as penalty of the breach of the ad contracts. I personally can't think of anybody who would ever say no to Rs. 100 crores for a social cause.

To put this debate into perspective, Aamir Khan is getting Rs. 3.5 crores per episode. But this amount includes the production cost of the episodes as well. The bulk of the money has gone into the production cost and in fact some of the episodes may have overshot the amount budgeted. The research for this show has been going on for the past 3 years which involved extensive travelling with camera and crew. It is said that Aamir Khan has spent Rs. 32 crores in the making, research and promotion of the show. If you add the 120 crores (approx) that he decided to fore-go, the total cost of Satyamev Jayate comes to around 150 crores.

In return, he is getting a meagre Rs. 46 crores (3.5 crores per episode) from Star Plus.

Aamir Khan cannot relate to frivolity and to entertainment for the sake of entertainment.

Star Plus had invited him to host KBC and would have offered similar amounts per episode. He could have agreed to do KBC and earned a few crores doing almost nothing. The questions are set by someone else. The set design and the whole episode is done by someone else. You need to just host the show. Effectively repeat the same dialogues for innumerable episodes. For Aamir Khan, KBC was frivolous and he politely refused. Later, when Star Plus approached him again with complete freedom to do whatever he liked, he came up with this difficult idea of 'Satyamev Jayate'. He contacted his close friends - Satyajit Bhatkal, Svati Bhatkal and Lancy Fernandes. They structured a 15 member fully paid professional team and went into research for three years collecting data. That takes some conviction and guts in today’s world of frivolity and sarcasm.

Aamir Khan is the God of Communications

This is completely from the eyes of a communication professional. That is me. Aamir Khan considers the episodes on Star Plus as just one media vehicle. He knew that all his research has to reach the maximum number of people in more than one ways for the research to have a long lasting impact.

Idea 1:
To compose a song for each of the episodes / issues. As music is an effective social media vehicle, he decided engage experts to write / compose one soul-full song for each episode. The strategy was to release an audio CD of the compilation after the television episodes are over.

Idea 2:
To broadcast the episodes in multiple channels including Doordarshan. Not only the idea had revenue potential for Star Plus, but also it created immense reach of the message that Aamir Khan wanted to communicate. What's more, he decided on the Sunday Morning prime time slot, which was once a prime time slot during the Ramayana / Mahabharata days. It was innovative thinking, which created curiosity and inquisitiveness for the show. Overall, these decisions had immense PR / news potential. Everybody was talking about these decisions, which created a media storm that we all have experienced.

TAM (Media Measurement Index) data shows Satyamev Jayate has delivered a historic reach of 33 crores people over the first 3 episodes. That is about 1 in 3 Indians. Phew!

Idea 3:
To utilise the digital medium to reach the youth of the country. The SMJ team designed an interactive website where users could even upload videos apart from writing comments. They created presence in all the popular social media platforms such as the Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. Creating these avenues are perhaps easy, but actively managing these platforms are quite difficult and arduous. All of these initiatives have professionals managing them actively.

It is quoted that Satyamev Jayate has reached out to more than 80% of the Twitter audience and has generated a record 19 crore impressions

Idea 4
Involved NGOs for credibility and support. Aamir Khan ensured that qualified NGOs are found out for each of the issues so that a credible NGO takes the activism forward. He effectively involved multiple NGOs actively and structured a way to gather funds for them. This brings in immense credibility to the social messages that Satyamev Jayate is trying to communicate to the larger audience.

To my mind, he has devised a true 360 degree marketing strategy that can be a case study in Harvard Business Review. :)

Overall I see SMJ as a great social movement started by Aamir Khan. He would continue the crusade, is what I would tend to believe from my experience with him. Even if he does not continue the movement for whatever reasons, I would consider this itself as a great contribution to mankind. This show would help us take a pause and think if our civilization is going in the right direction.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I hate being a Migrant Worker in Mumbai !

This is not a political statement. This is not a communal statement. However close it may sound. It is a cultural statement. It is an economic statement.

"Everyone in Kolkata has two names : Bhalo Naam Ar Ekta Daak Naam."

That is how it goes in the newly released movie - Kahaani. It is a great movie. Vidya Balan was simply superb. However, what I absolutely adored about the movie, was the way Sujoy Ghosh brought in the cultural nuances of Kolkata into the narrative of the movie. Making every Bengali proud.

You need a great sense of pride, belonging-ness and respect to one's own identity to be able to portray it so well into a movie. I love people who truly belong to their cultural ethnic identity. I love being Assamese. It is more than geographical and political identity. It is more about cultural identity that includes the history, mother tongue, customs, art and literature.

Sadly today, the importance of culture and ethnic roots is overwhelmed by the materialism of today. Career aspirations guide us towards mathematics, science, computers. We ignore our mother culture.

We urge and scold our kids to know multiplication tables, but may not do the same to know our mother tongue. We would not teach our kids about our great literary scholars like Laksminath Bezbaruah, Jyotiprasad Agarwala and Bishnuprasad Rabha. We would not teach them how to make the traditional snacks, food, pickles etc. We would not encourage them to wear the traditional dresses.

We want our kids to be global citizens, to be metropolitan citizens. The stress is more into learning English, more into imbibing the culture propagated by television and films (produced in the metros). We forget that we are actually the citizens of our ethnic identity, and of our geographical identity.

This attitude, or indifference to one's own identity has many negative fall-outs. The most critical among them, is the un-equal economic growth dividing the richer geographies from the poorer geographies. We are creating economic behemoths in the cities, especially the metros, leaving behind the rural India.

Every community or a region survives on the quality of the people, just like a school depends on the quality of the students. The good quality people are rushing to the bigger cities to become global citizens, resulting in brain drain and poorer rural areas. Brain drain is a direct consequence of taking one's own culture for granted. Brain drain is corollary to the aspiration to learn the global culture, expecting a better economic future and an acceptance in the global socio-economic materialism.

This expectation need not necessary be the truth. Even if it is true, it may not lead to happiness, a greater individual good and overall social progress. Opportunities for a better life exist everywhere. It may not be overtly visible to the common people. It is hidden because of the fact that better education facilities, social and economic infrastructure and knowledge economy are polarised in the bigger cities.

In reality, back home in our villages and smaller towns like Jorhat, Dibrugarh, Tezpur, we have lesser competition, better scope in almost all businesses, familiarity of language / culture and home / family support. More importantly, there is a grand feeling of doing something for the greater good of the society, by bringing in the knowledge capital from bigger cities.

The world is becoming smaller with easier transportation, improved Internet and mobile connectivity, leading to wider access to information. Today is the best time to think about going back to our roots and implement whatever we have learnt in the bigger cities. Although, it would not be easy, yet if we persevere, we can bring the much needed development and progress to the rural neglected regions of our country.

Parents and the elders have a big role to play to bring in this change. We need to instill a sense of pride for the community and encourage kids to come back after studying outside the state.

I have been outside Assam for the past 15 years. Surely, I have done well individually, but there is a nagging guilt that I am not using my knowledge and skill for the people of Assam. I could have scaled up my father's school uniform business. I could have contributed in many other ways.

I have started hating being a migrant worker. I always used to hate the Mumbai traffic, but now I know that I am causing it.

I have made plans to contribute to my Assamese community. I have made plans to return to Assam. It was never a better time to go back to our native towns and villages. Lets start a revolution. Lets stop being migrant workers!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Lets Glorify Housewives!

For a change, feminists and modernists need to realise that the role of housewife is bigger in a family, as compared to earning money.

In the same breath, let us understand that the money earner is not the provider of the family. The housewife provides for the family as well. She provides for the smooth running of the house. She provides time to the kids, teaching them values, mother tongue, familiarity to ethnic and cultural roots, festivals and many such soft education.

In the guise of independence and equal rights for the woman folk, there is an increasing propaganda against being a housewife, and instead in being financially independent. There are visible widespread efforts to demean the aspiration to become a good housewife.

Even a lot of mothers, under the influence of television serials, women magazines, that glorify & glamourise working women,  indoctrinate their girlchild with ideas of becoming financially independent. The child is not given a choice by explaining both the sides. She grows up shying away from being a housewife.

I dare say that you guys are completely mis-directed, misled and therefore taking the wrong approach to the right objective. You will end up missing your objective by miles in the long run.

We need equal rights for women. Attrocities against women need to be abolished. Dowry should be insulting to the male ego. There are many other woman issues that need redressals.

All of the above can be fought without de-selling the concept of housewife. It cannot come at the cost of our families, which provide upbringing to the future generations.

Arguments like joint ownership of property, dividing the monthly net income on the salary date, education and awareness of the role of housewife among male kids as well as men should be taken forward.

In Assam, it is insulting to even think of dowry. The bride has to wear everything given by the Groom's family on the day of the marriage. Men only marry when they have the guts to take care of the housewife. Similarly, bloggers and media should stress on this fact, and make it shameful for men to demand dowry.

The moot point is that the glory of being a good housewife should not be sacrificed in the guise of women independence, safety and well-being.

Girls and boys, from an young age, should be taught about their roles as husband and wife. Boys need to appreciate the critical role that girls play and vice versa. At the same time, parents need to be told about their role of being a facilitator, giving the kids all options to choose from. They should glorify the role of housewife, husband and the institution of marriage.

Marriage is another system, which is in urgent need of councel, education and parental advice. Whatever I learnt about marriage was from peers, observation and my basic instinct. Quite obviously, I turned a rebel, not having any belief in the age-old institution, ultimately making a few grave life changing mistakes.

There are many educated women going through a chaotic phase, having not married beyond the age of 27/28 years, or divorced in their early years of marriages. The chaos is primarily due to the lack of clarity of purpose, focus and priority about their role after marriage. The chaos is also because of the dis-integration of joint families into nuclear feather-less, support-less families. Partly this is due to uneven economic development concentrated around the metros/cities, and partly because of the previously mentioned lack of clarity.

I am very clear that a good housewife makes a home out of a house, a family out of cousins, a community with a distinct socio-cultural-ethnic identity, with great civic values, with pride of their mother tongue, their state and their country.

Let us glorify the role of a housewife. She is the mother nature. She gives life and a meaning to it. Let men just earn some money and pay the electricity, gas and insurance bills.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Are we better Indian Citizens after Marriage?

Its about two very young foreign tourists whom I saw cycling through the busy streets of Andheri, Mumbai; and one answer to a question that I had asked one of my married friends, who is also a father.

These two random incidences gave me a flash, explaining one of the factors why things happen the way they happen, in India. It gave me some answers to my curiosity about our over-arching corruption debate, the in-decisions in public life, the in-numerous pending court cases, the infinite delays in various infrastructure projects etc.

My married friend, who is a father of a very beautiful 4 years old daughter had said, "I want my daughter settled happily with a good husband" to my question, "what is your sole personal ambition?" My first reaction was, "That is really sweet, but what is your aim either for yourself or for the society at large?" That left him thinking... Then I realised that this is not a singular emotion.

This is the generic emotion of an Indian father (and mother). Indian parents feel responsible to provide for their children for their lifetime. Even though, the responsibility decreases after their children marry, yet it might be a tad too late in the day.

Lets compare this emotion to a father's agony and embarrassment in the United States of America, when his children are staying with him even after they have turned 18.  Children are supposed to fend for themselves by the time they are 18. Parents don't feel the blame, if their children are taking loans or doing a menial job for their further studies. Parents don't feel the blame if they are not settled and married to a respectable family. 

This is a paradigm difference in the way Americans (most of the west) therefore perceive responsibility after they marry and have children.

Those tourist kids cycling through Mumbai or that British girl (I once met in Diu) travelling India for the past 11 months are the bi-product of that culture. It breeds an independent attitude and an ability to take risk even among children, unlike India where both parents and children are dependent on each other.

Parents' life revolve around trying to provide the best education (donations and dowry included) and children's life revolve around seeking permission and grants from their parents. It is their birthright to be dependent on their parents in India.

If we juxtapose this argument to the fact that married men and women manage India, its infrastructure, its corruption, and all the related decisions, we would be able to visualize why we are so lenient in our public lives. All decisions that affect public life are politically sensitive, involve larger than life egos and have multiple and dangerous impacts. They require one to be brave and take risks. Our culture and family responsibilities restrict us to take these risks.

Adding to that is the scientific fact, as mentioned in one of the most intelligent book that I have come across - Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, that both risk detection and risk avoidance are not mediated in the thinking part of the brain, but largely in the emotional one. The consequences are therefore serious. It means that rational thinking has very little to do with risk avoidance.

Which doctor would setup his practice in a village when he knows that he may have to pay huge donations for his son's MBBS? Which bureaucrat would risk his responsibility towards his family by going against a corrupt politician? It may even be true vice versa. Who would act as a witness to a crime? How can one let go of huge sums of money when a higher price can fetch a better husband for his daughter?

Even the corporate world faces the symptoms of this lack of risk appetite. Who would want to lose a promotion by disclosing the truth, or by accepting one's mistake, or by taking responsibility.

We have anomalies to this fact such as Mr. Narendra Modi and Ms. Mayawati, that further proves my analysis right. They are individuals and therefore have greater appetite for risks in their own rights.

If we look at the effective and popular social activists, we would see the same argument taking shape. Medha Patkar is divorced. Anna Hazare never married. I don't think Vinoba Bhave was married.

Baba Amte was married, but his wife Sadhana Amte actively participated in her husband's social work with equal dedication. Importantly, he belonged to a very wealthy family with different and evolved values system as compared to that of the masses.

My POV is that the ability to take risks severely decreases with marriage and children. Marriage and children make us selfish to our family, thereby detaching us from the responsibilities as Indian citizens.  It is ingrained in our culture in the way we perceive responsibilities, risks and therefore take decisions in life.

Government policies, judiciary and other administrative functions should take note of this understanding and accordingly write policies, make regulations and enact laws.

Large scale corruption, fear of tough decisions etc can only be managed with this POV in perspective.

Friday, February 03, 2012

We Parents!

We are at a annual day function itching to take pictures of the beautiful performances. But quite a lot of parents are clicking pictures left, right, centre, top and bottom.

What would they say when their kids would find out that they took photographs?

Yesterday, Ruhi was very specific reading the circular given to her by her school. Dont click photographs, she said. She knows me to be the passionate photographer and her mom to be trigger happy on her iphone. So she was more particular with her instructions.

I am sure every kid knows that photography and videography are not allowed in this annual day function.

But we parents rarely are examples to our kids. Who cares?